Do you know…what your members and customers are thinking about your association and its benefits, products and services?
Isn’t it amazing when Hollywood spends millions of dollars producing a movie that is an absolute flop? And you think to yourself, “I could have told them that a story line like that would never make it.” Most likely the producers didn’t do their homework to find out what moviegoers wanted to see, or the film was produced by someone because the subject matter was important to him or her.
ASSOCIATIONS AND NONPROFITS ARE NOT MUCH DIFFERENT
Associations often pour money into a new service or product line because someone on staff thinks it’s a great idea. Or the senior management team comes up with a five-year strategy based solely on what works economically for the association regardless of past performance or market conditions. What fails to happen most often is that we forget to ask our members, customers and prospects what they really want, and asking them just once is never enough, as people are fickle. You can be sure that what they wanted or needed two years ago is most likely not what they want or need now.
STAYING IN TOUCH
Keep in touch with your customers and members through surveys (online or by phone) or through well-planned focus groups and intercepts can really help to drive the strategic direction for an association. Such communication also serves as a great retention tool, as it makes members feel appreciated, included and considered.
- Annual benchmarking and tracking is essential to ensure that your association remains relevant and has the true plus of the profession. This is especially true if your association is attracting younger individuals or anyone who is new to the profession.
- Some associations conduct annual surveys. It is important to be sure the questions are unbiased and easy to follow, and that they will ultimately address the issues that are most important to your association.
- Adding focus groups in addition to the annual survey (which could be conducted any time members, customers or prospects gather in a group) can really add a level of qualitative information that could never be gathered from a paper or online survey.
- Feedback from surveys and focus groups can really benefit an association that may be considering dues restructuring, introducing a new product or service, or making an associational change that would affect the majority of its members.
- Engaging your members and gathering information about what they think of your association could be the most important thing you do. Doing your homework on a continuous basis ensures that your association is providing the types of services that your members expect and want.