Association Communications Benchmarking Series

Member Research is Important. So How Should We Do It?

By Larissa Flores • May 22, 2020

Associations are developed to bring like-minded individuals together to fight for a common cause. They provide members with education, professional development, industry information, volunteering opportunities, networking opportunities and more. In order to keep a group of people invested in an association and industry, it’s important to dig deeper and find out what makes them tick when it comes to association involvement.

Questions to Ask About Member Satisfaction

Similar to the many applications of machine learning, there are various ways to gauge for how satisfied association members are with their membership and involvement opportunities. Here are some questions association leaders should be asking themselves:

  • What is it that your members need from being a part of your association?
  • At what point in a person’s career would they be more inclined to join an association?
  • Does a member’s interest in an association increase or taper off the more they are engaged with association events?
  • What is your membership renewal rate?

These questions can be answered by conducting the right amount of member research, which can subsequently predict future membership trends, event attendance and overall engagement.

According to Association Adviser’s 2019 Communications Benchmarking Report, one-third of associations said that they have no process for measuring engagement. It’s time for all associations to take a quick step back from the causes they are fighting for and try to implement a system to research their members.

The Association Adviser report also found that the best way to gauge a member’s needs include:

  • Member satisfaction surveys
  • Social media conversations
  • Face-to-face interactions at meetings or events
  • Customer/member services

2019 BM Report Best Ways to Gauge Member Needs

2019 BM Report Tools Used to Determine Member Needs

Let’s dive into a couple of these specific topics for how frequently you should be using these types of research methods to make sure your current and future association members are the utmost satisfied.

Member satisfaction surveys

Member engagement needs to be measured all year long, not just on an annual, bi-annual or quarterly basis. To do this quickly, you can easily add surveys at the end of existing eNewsletters or other email communications you are sending out to members frequently. Questions could be placed at the end of articles so members can rate how much they enjoyed that particular article or section. A quick questionnaire can also be placed at the top of your eNewsletter to ask members whatever you want. Whether you need to find out the type of event they’re most interested in attending, or how they’re enjoying their other member benefits such as your magazine or directory, the questions you could ask are endless – and one you could ask of them is whether they would be interested in being a part of a social media committee.

Social media conversations

Social media is a great way to verbally and visually share information about your industry or association. Maintaining an active presence on all of your social platforms is vital to keep in touch with members. It may be difficult to ask someone from your board of directors or committees to take time out of their busy days to keep all of your social channels flourishing. So this is where member involvement can come into play. Asking members to volunteer to be part of a social media committee would be a great start. Put together a team that would be responsible for surveying members, posting event updates and posting industry updates on each of your platforms. These roles could rotate quarterly so not only are you keeping members up-to-date on your social media platforms, but you’re also getting members directly involved with the direction of your association. Such involvement could help members appreciate their membership more. The more input a member can give, the better.

The 2020 Association Communications Benchmarking Survey is now open, and we’re looking for association executives from organizations of all sizes, demographics, industries and budgets to tell us what their communication landscape looks like, what’s going well, and what needs improvement. Our annual survey, now in its ninth year, provides useful data about the state of association communications. It’s become a valuable tool for associations wanting to know how well their communications are performing compared to peer organizations, and what steps they should take to serve their members better through improved communication practices. This year, specific questions about the impact of COVID-19 have been added. Look for the results to be released in our annual benchmarking report this June.

Best Ways to Gauge Member Needs

Face-to-face interactions

You can spend countless hours online surveying your members, but nothing compares to the benefits of face-to-face interactions. Hosting association events, meetings and trade shows are important to increase credibility and allow your members to network with one another. These events give your staff an opportunity to hold focus groups with members where you ask for feedback/tips about everything pertaining to your association. You could offer a lunch or other benefit one of the conference/meeting days to ask them about their goals and how they are benefitting from your association. This will not only spark answers from that select group of members, but will also ignite conversations amongst themselves to help remember what’s important to them regarding membership. Your staff then takes all of these helpful notes from the focus group and bring it back to your board to discuss how you can improve your association. This will allow members to see how much they can trust your association to do what’s aligned with their interests.

Sometimes researching your members and their needs is time-consuming. It will be a lot of work to set up in the beginning, but once you have an ongoing research system set in place, you can build an association where your current and future members are appreciated and valued. An association taking the time out to research their members is not only beneficial to its members, but the causes they are fighting for.  In addition, you’ll ultimately be able to figure out what members prefer when it comes to their membership benefits so they are satisfied and continue to renew their membership year after year.

Tap into the minds of your members and find what makes them tick, today!

About The Author

Larissa Flores is a marketing account specialist with Naylor Association Solutions.