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5 Tips to Get Your Membership Organization on the Research Track

Like any company, a membership organization can’t be successful without high levels of membership (customer) engagement and satisfaction.

But when you expand the organization’s offerings with new programs or products to increase customer satisfaction and build market share, you can’t assume that members will happily hop on board.

Instead, you need to take the pulse of your membership base with research. The data will allow you to develop strategies and initiatives that maintain or increase levels of loyalty, improve member experiences, and add new customers. Here are 5 helpful tips to get you started.

1. Start with research

One of the biggest pitfalls for membership organizations is conducting research as validation that a concept works rather than doing it prior to actually implementing a strategy or project. Implement research as part of the evaluation process, not as a follow up measure.

2. Don’t get caught up in the negative

The basic ideal of customer satisfaction: don’t walk away from negative feedback when you get it.  Negative feedback means you’re giving your membership a chance to voice what they really think and feel. 

Expect to receive some negative response because you have members that are invested in your company and your strategies in some way. In fact, your current members can be more negative than the average person because their expectations of your company are higher.

That being said, take that feedback within the context of the overall data. It’s easy to get caught up in reacting to negative responses when those responses may in fact come from a vocal minority.  Before making any important business decisions, be sure to look at the big picture.

3. Consider a panel

One useful tool for membership organizations is a member-based panel.  Depending on the size of the business, a member-based panel is an extremely efficient way to make use of your research budget (as long as your membership is sufficient to support it) by providing a built-in sample base that you can screen by membership type or specific demographic.  

This panel allows you to reach out to your members quickly when a potential product or service offering is being discussed, get reactions to news stories about your industry, and conduct regular studies to monitor your members’ satisfaction over time.

It isn’t absolutely necessary for your panel to mimic your organization’s member composition.  To ensure that you can conduct the widest range of surveys possible, the panel should be open to all members for participation. Targeting to ensure your survey data mirrors your membership base can be handled through study-level sample selection. Note: it is necessary, however, that your panel be robust or large enough to support this level of sampling. 

4. Spread the word

Make sure that your internal organization is aware of the research you’re doing with your members. This will both legitimize the research you’re conducting (by keeping it all in one place) and also minimize the chance that members will be accosted by myriad simultaneous survey requests.   

Additionally, the panel is a valuable resource for the whole company, and educating your colleagues on the use of the panel may open up the opportunity for additional departments to get value from it.

5. Use your results

Listening to your members and asking the right questions can only take you so far. You have to do something with the data. Don’t let it languish and risk your members feeling ignored when they don’t see the changes they were just asked about.   

Keep your members in the loop on the research you do and how the results are being applied to the operation of your company, and they will truly believe that their voices are being heard.

Dino Fire
Dino Fire
Dino Fire

Dino serves as President, Market Research & Data Science. Dino seeks the answers to questions and predictions of consumer behavior. Previously, Dino served as Chief Science Officer at FGI Research and Analytics. He is our version of Curious George; constantly seeking a different perspective on a business opportunity — new product design, needs-based segmentation. If you can write an algorithm for it, Dino will become engaged. Dino spent almost a decade at Arbitron/Nielsen in his formative years. Dino holds a BA from Kent State and an MS from Northwestern. Dino seems to have a passion for all numeric expressions.