Those are the words you never want to hear when you’re talking to members about the services or opportunities they would have liked to see. Or when you’re asking former members why they never renewed.
The right series of questions is one of the simplest, most powerful tools for turning your member database into your best source of strategic intelligence. If you know what members need and want, you have a far better chance of delivering it. If they've spotted a new opportunity, you’ll want to tap into it. If they've got their eye on a trend that could be threat to your sector, you’ll want to know about it.
And at the most basic level of all, if they can see that you care enough to ask those questions, they’ll be more likely to pay attention when it’s time to renew.
The Art and the Science
An effective member survey is part art, part science. The best surveys:
- Have a clear purpose and focus on a specific set of programs, services, or issues
- Give members a compelling reason to respond, backed up by even a small incentive if possible (a $5 gift card is enough to boost participation rates)
- Involve a first announcement and at least two reminders (as long as you take care not to keep promoting to members who've already responded)
- Have been field-tested before they’re deployed
- Are built on survey tools that make it easy to track individual responses
- Are distributed by multiple methods, from e-blasts to social media to sample telephone outreach.
Striking the Right Balance
Associations have to value their members’ time as well as their opinions. That means striking a fine balance by asking enough questions, frequently enough to take the pulse of your membership, without making people feel they've been surveyed to death. But the right survey strategy will keep members engaged and deliver the unmistakable message that they matter—which really is the cornerstone of the relationship you want to build with them.
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