Wednesday, August 3, 2011

6 Tips to Make Membership Research Work.

Dr. Adina Wasserman, Director of Research for Marketing General Incorporated, is a very talented and experienced researcher whom many associations owe for their success. She is also the talent behind MGI's Membership Benchmarking Survey, an annual study conducted by MGI of what is working and not working in association marketing and membership development. The results of the 2011 MGI Membership Benchmarking Survey will be released at the end of this month. Let me know if you'd like a FREE COPY and I'll be sure to send it to you. For those of you attending ASAE later this week, an Executive Summary will be available at the MGI Booth or email/call me and I'll be sure to email it to you. 

Dr. Wasserman just sent me a few insights for associations who are considering conducting research and I wanted to share them with you. If you would like to discuss these ideas with Dr. Wasserman, you can reach her at (703) 706-0373 or

1. Use your budget wisely. Research is often the first thing to get eliminated in a downturned economy. This is the wrong direction to take. Research is important in a good economy, but it is imperative in a slow one. Maintaining or increasing market share, renewing members, and slowing attrition, becomes more difficult when the economy is slow, making it that much more important to understand your members’ needs. The association which can successfully meet their members needs and provide professional assistance in a challenging economy will be better able to stave off the effects of an ill economy.

2. Negative is sometimes positive. Don’t be afraid to hear the “negative” feedback from your members. How can you fix a problem if you don’t know it exists? Having your head in the sand will not make the problems go away. Welcome any negative feedback as an opportunity for guided improvement. Have your members lead you directly to your problem areas. X marks the spot, right?

3. The Board can be blind. We often hear that the BOD knows their membership well, and knows what their members want. This may be true, but there are often gems of information that the BOD is unaware of that can only be elicited from member feedback. While it is certainly useful to gather Board members’ perceptions of what their members want, do not use this information to the exclusion of member feedback, as there are often times when the BOD is out of touch with what the members really want.

4. Don’t under-survey. When conducting an objectives meeting with a client, we often hear that they have never surveyed their membership, or that their last survey was four years ago. It is impossible to stay tuned to your members’ needs if you don’t ask what they want. We recommend at least a yearly membership survey to understand member needs and challenges. Furthermore, a yearly (or at the very least, bi-annual) survey allows an association to also see if priorities and needs have shifted among members or member groups within the association. Being able to react to shifts in an appropriate timeframe lets the members know you are listening.

5. Don’t over-survey. On the flip side, some associations are almost “too in-touch” with their members. Survey fatigue can be a problem when members are inundated every month or every other month with surveys, resulting in reduced response rates and member irritation. This often happens in associations where many different departments work independently of one another and do not share their survey schedules. One way to combat this is to have departments make their survey efforts known to all the other departments so everyone is aware of who is doing what research and when. Another suggestion is to randomly survey different blocks of members so that every member doesn’t receive every survey.

6. Timely incentives are key. If you are offering an incentive for participation in ANY research, make sure that the incentives are sent in a VERY timely manner. For drawings, congratulate winners on your website to let members know that the incentive drawing has been completed. Late incentives can cause resentment and irritation among participants.

Experts in Membership Marketing is written by Erik D Schonher, Vice President for Marketing General Incorporated, who can be reached at (703) 706-0358 or at

1 comment:

  1. Surveys are not great for ideation, deliberation or learning exercises and they also aren’t the best way to collect geo-spatial information.
    Survey Fatigue