Posted on: 3 March 2014
Top Four Member Research Tactics
Member research is an often-overlooked element in the growth of an association, however, when used effectively it offers value far beyond simple feedback.
Good member research can identify expectations and market needs while providing insight into creating sustainable membership growth. It also demonstrates a commitment to providing continued value and builds trust within the membership.
Effective member research includes the planning, collection, and analysis of relevant information. To help in this process, here are the top four member research tactics to keep your finger on the pulse:
Member Research Surveys
Member research surveys are a fast and easy way to get to know your members and can be conducted at low cost using tools such as Survey Monkey or Google forms. The use of member surveys is also a good way to keep your members involved and allow them to feel that their input is valued.
Basic survey questions can serve as a good starting point to learn about your members, but surveys can also be used to research the impact of decisions (past and future), and market changes, and help document the evolution of the association over time. It should also be noted that surveys are not a perfect tool. Factors such as response rate, leading questions, and interpretation of written answers leave room for errors and bias.
The key to a successful member research survey is to focus on member behaviour, instead of asking about their suggested improvements; what members think they need and what they actually need in terms of support can often be drastically different. As Henry Ford said, “If I asked people what they wanted they would have asked for a faster horse.”
Task Analysis: a Breakdown of your Members’ day-to-day Needs
The second member research tactic you can use to understand member needs is using a common research technique called ‘task analysis’. This technique involves precisely documenting the critical tasks that your members perform on a day-to-day basis. Including a detailed description of both manual and mental activities performed, task durations, frequency & complexity of tasks, environmental conditions, and any other unique factors involved.
This is a fantastic way to identify the type of support that members need most and will help you, as a service provider, to better support your members’ goals.
Random Sample Interviews
Member interviews are another useful member research tool that can be utilized to better understand the needs of your users. Members are usually happy to have a quick phone call to discuss the utilization of membership resources. The key here is to make sure that interview candidates are chosen at random to ensure that the views of those you are speaking to represent the general consensus.
A common mistake is speaking exclusively with members who are outspoken and forward with their opinions, as this introduces bias to your sample. They say the squeaky wheel gets the grease, but you want to ensure that the needs of all members are being met.
Develop Profiles of your Users (a.k.a. personas)
Finally, the knowledge gained through the above member research techniques (along with many others) can help you create a set of profiles that identify the common characteristics of your users, also known as personas. Personas are fictional characters created to represent the different user types within a targeted demographic. Member personas are useful in considering the goals, desires, and limitations of your members and will help to guide decisions about the services and products that you offer.
The member research tools outlined above are just a few examples of ways to connect with your members. Remember that the ultimate goal of your research is to help you better understand your members, because the more you know about your member’s behaviours the better you can support them and ultimately keep them engaged and happy.