Your members are on a journey with your association. Some are taking their first steps with you while others have reached the end of the line. Others are prospects and they’re deciding whether to hop on board. Having conversations with your members at various points in their journey can yield valuable insights into member acquisition, engagement and retention.
Over at Bramm Research Inc., we recently conducted in-depth telephone interviews on behalf of an industry association who were having member retention issues. We spoke to five members who recently joined the association, five lapsed members and five prospects. Surveys should be concise and easy to answer, with minimal open-ended questions and terms that everyone can agree upon. Try not to exceed more than ten questions, and give interviewees an incentive for participation, and a deadline for returning answers.
Here are some insights into the specific questions we used to get the conversation moving at various points during their voyage.
Those who have recently joined will likely be the most eager to engage. Their ideas and queries will be fresh in their mind. Gain traction by finding out where their pain points lie and how they expect the association to help expand their professional world.
- Was there a specific problem or issue that you hoped the association would help you
- When it comes time to renew your membership, what considerations (will) come into play?
- Can you think of the last time that you contacted the association? What was the purpose of that contact? What type of information or assistance did you need?
Unfortunately, not everyone who joins will be a member for life. Perhaps they’ve changed career path, relocated across the world, or – worst case scenario – the association hasn’t met their needs. When contacting former members, don’t fall into the trap of using accusatory language to ask why they haven’t renewed their membership, even if that’s the central subtext of your survey. Try asking them:
- Why did you join the association?
- What were your goals as a member back then?
After prompting the interviewee to reflect on their intentions as a new member, get into the hard stuff:
- Can you take me back to the day that you decided not to renew your membership? How did you make that decision? What specific factors did you consider?
- What, if anything, would have to change before you considered renewing your membership?
A lapsed member taking the time to respond to a survey wants to help you to improve services. Take criticism as a gift.
These are folks on the verge of committing to their journey with an association. A survey can work out what will enable them to take the leap and sign up, and provide a sense of pre-membership engagement, as they feel their opinions are already valuable to the association.
- What were your initial impressions of the organization? What do they offer you and the industry?
- What does membership offer that would be of value to you? What aspects of membership are not relevant to you?
- What would have to happen for you to become a member?
These questions are samples of more thorough surveys and more suggested questions are available here. The telephone interviews we conducted using these questions resulted in a rich vein of member insights. Importantly, we learned that the association provided heightened value at specific occasions in the member company’s growth cycle. But on other occasions, their value waned. The conclusion was that the association had to do a better job of understanding the growth continuum and of developing valuable offerings for each stage of growth.