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Beating Survey Fatigue: How Much is Just Enough?

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The best associations are serious about listening to their members, and listening usually means producing surveys. But here’s the tough question: How do you generate enough research to understand your members’ needs and wants, without giving them a bad case of survey fatigue?

When I talk to association executives about their member research, they usually rhyme off a familiar list: the annual satisfaction survey, a follow-up after every conference, event, or networking opportunity, possibly a needs assessment every two or three years. If your organization produces more than two events per year, that’s a lot of surveying, and without a healthy dose of advance planning, your research program may not be performing as well as it could.

The best way to maximize member participation in your survey program is to plan the series in advance. You don’t have to decide the specific questions, but you should lay out your goals for each set of data, and space the surveys at regular intervals.

Here are six tips to help you along the way:

1. Plan your surveys in time to start your fiscal year. Talk to all the departments involved, to make sure you gather the information they need to keep your members satisfied.

2. Reach out to your members before launching a major survey to let them know it’s coming and why it’s important to participate. You won’t have time to phone them all, but consider announcements on your website, over your private member network, and in your newsletter. Tell them what you’re looking for and what you will do with the information you gather.

3. Take a close look at whether you can combine questions or whole surveys to reduce the load on members.

4. Be careful about survey timing. Try to send one every few months, to give your members a break from providing their feedback.

5. Share your results, in as much detail as possible! For bonus points, tell members what you’re doing as a result of the information you gathered. You can distribute survey findings as a downloadable resource attached to your e-newsletter, or send out a special email to thank people for participating. Either way, surveys are a great source of current, compelling content that can help you keep your members engaged.

6. If you can offer an incentive for survey participants, even a small one, you’ll probably get a higher response rate in return.

What are your favourite tips for making surveys shine and combatting survey fatigue?

Are You Retaining Your Members? Engagement Matters!

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I sit on a Membership Committee of a local chapter of an association – and as a result of this, and the various conversations I have been having lately, it seems that we can all be doing a better job of engaging members – right from the beginning.

Sending a satisfaction survey should be part of your communication strategy, but it should not be the only way you are measuring engagement.  Typically, the response ratio to a survey is 25-30%, and comprises of those who are REALLY engaged (who are on the committees, volunteering, attending your events, recommending the organization to their colleagues), and those who are REALLY not (they have become dissatisfied with their membership for whatever reason, and this is their forum to say something about it).

Where you are missing the mark is with those members who sit on the fence – the ones who come to some of your events, who may respond to an occasional request, but from whom you never really hear from on a regular basis.

Based on my experience both with my clients and with my local membership committee, here are some tips that I have found useful:

Immediately After Joining:  Send the new member the collateral they should have.  I have found of late that it has become an ad-hoc process; at times associations just send a welcome email and advise that the website has all of the information they need.

At the Two Week Mark:  Make a follow up welcome call.  Ask them questions about why they joined, and if they need help finding anything. The welcome calls I have made to the new members of my association were very well received, and people thanked me for taking the time.

Check in at the 90-day Mark:  Use this as an opportunity to get a fresh perspective on the association – they may have suggestions on what to improve/add/remove as benefits or other offers.  This can be done by email, by phone or in person (if the member is local), or at a networking event.  Have the conversation in whatever means you can.

At the Six-Month Mark:  Take a look at the member’s purchase history.  Are they purchasing any research that you have conducted, taking your professional development courses, attending local networking events, or registered for your national conference?  Purchase history is not the only measurement of engagement, but it is a place to start.  Based on what you find, you have to think through what is your next step.  Should this member be contact personally again to see what is going on?

At the Nine-Month Mark:  Its getting close to renewal time, so it is the perfect time to start re-marketing to these individuals.  Send them the renewal material, and check-in to ensure it was received.

At the One-Year Mark:  Many of these members will likely renew.  Those who do without further intervention should be rewarded – recognize them in some way (on your website, in a newsletter, or do something fun and send them a certificate of appreciation).  Those who do not should be contacted right away, versus waiting to see if a late renewal will be coming in.

How are you currently maintaining a relationship and understanding the needs of your members?  I would love to hear your thoughts.  If you are looking for tips, please click here, and download our Member Retention Tips Sheet.

Your Non-Member List May Need More Help Than You Think

Mountain of paperwork
I got an email the other day from an organization inviting me to their upcoming summit.

I had looked at this organization back in 2010, for my previous role with Greenfield Services Inc. At the time I was interested in obtaining a designation to increase my knowledge and expertise base in project management.

There were two things about this recent email that made me laugh:  First, when I contacted this organization back in 2010, I got a very abrupt response regarding my membership inquiry (something along the lines of “all of the information you need is on our website”…), and so I never joined because no one was interested in talking with me.  The second thing that made me laugh is that this communication arrived two years later – I have not heard from the association since my initial inquiry and now they are reaching out to invite me to a conference?

Yes, at least they are reaching out now – but it is clear that they have not done their research in quite a while to determine who (if anyone) on their non-member list is still worth marketing to.

It may be relatively inexpensive to send a text-only email out to a list of contacts, but at what cost to the association’s image and reputation?  The same goes for the course catalogues I receive offering me courses in Project Management, Employee Engagement, and other Operations functions.  Since these topics applied to my former role, the company sending these to me is wasting a lot of money!   I do not even take them out of the plastic packaging anymore; I just toss them in the recycling bin.

There are several lessons here for associations, but here are my top three:

Know the Statistics:  In working with data cleansing, we’ve estimated that data becomes obsolete at a rate of 30% per year (or more in some cases).  This ratio is very industry dependent, but knowing what your industry or profession’s average turnover is very important.  Your prospective member or conference attendee may still be in the same job function, but what if they transfer departments, or move to different cities/companies?

Do your research:  Whether it is internet research to find if the person is still at the company, or if it is a call that needs to take place to update information, it needs to be done.  No matter what amount of money you are spending on marketing to your non-members, a lot of what is being allocated is being wasted if you cannot keep your list up to date.  We recommend that this is done annually, and that it is consistently planned for in your budgeting process.

Take the Leap:  A prospective member is more likely to provide you with their updated contact information if you demonstrate that you offer them some value.  As an example, if the association I reached out to for my initial inquiry had provided me with the assistance I was looking for, or even bothered to follow up on a regular basis, I would be more likely to have told them by now that I have completely changed roles and as a result am no longer interested.  I may have even given them the name of my replacement.

If you are looking to improve your numbers – whether it is for courses, conferences or membership – you need to know who you are marketing to – and that starts with a clean list (additional tips can be found here).  From there, you can assess the real costs of creating a strategic marketing plan.

What have been your experiences with your non-member list?


Greenfield Services Launches Free Resources on Website

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In an effort to share more valuable, the Professional & Trade Association section of our website now offers a Free Resources section for Association Executives.

On a regular basis, we come across Associations who have really stood apart from others in increasing member engagement (through recruitment & retention practices, as well as increasing the number of delegates at their annual event, social media practices, etc), and, with their permission, we gather the intelligence so it can be shared with interested parties.

Our goal is to ensure that Associations (in Canada, as well as North America) are aware of what industry peers are doing, to assist in reviewing and possibly updating their own practices and procedures.

On this page on our website, you will find exclusive interviews with industry executives, as well as tips & best practices we have compiled to assist with government and industry standards and association management in general.

As we compile additional information, this page will be updated.  Please check it out (and check back often):

If you have particular areas that you would like to see covered in this section, please reach out and tell us!

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