If you want to build your association membership levels, start by looking at your members. Why? Because, barring any major shifts in your association’s benefits or brand character, new members will tend to “look” like your existing members.
To build a useful profile of your existing association members, you must have more than just the basic contact information for each member. If you don’t have that information already, your association will need to start asking some questions.
However, before your association begins rolling out a large new demographic/psychographic survey of the membership, the association first needs to determine what is actionable. Put another way, the association should ask “Can we do anything with the answer to this question other than create a report?”. Or more pointedly, “Will this information help us gain new members for our association?”
For example, the association could ask its members where they were born. While it might be interesting to find that most of your members were born in the northeastern part of the United States, unless your target audience for new association members consists of infants between the ages of 1-6 months, the information is not actionable. That is because a large percentage of the population moves between the time they are born and the time they become association members.
While having the association ask a question that is not actionable might seem harmless, it does cause two problems: 1) Depending on how the survey is delivered and tallied, it may increase the association’s costs. 2) The more questions your association asks of the members, the less likely they are to complete the survey.
With this in mind, what types of questions should your association ask? Associations vary greatly in terms of company versus individual focus, so specifics may not be useful in the context of this answer. But with the intent of marketing the association to similar types of members, be they individuals or companies, the following principles may be helpful:
– Ask for information that can, in turn, be looked up or purchased as part of a list of non-member association prospects. If you cannot find companies/individuals based on a piece of information that you would gather, it probably isn’t actionable. The exceptions to this rule are below.
– Ask for information that will provide insight into why your members joined the association. This will be useful as you develop your marketing message for non-members.
– Ask for information that will provide insight into why your members renew their association membership each year. This will be useful as you develop your marketing message for prospective members. Of course, it will also be useful as you develop your marketing message that encourages renewal among existing members.
Your association’s database may not have everything you need to effectively market to non-members, but that doesn’t mean you can’t ask for it. With the right information in hand, your membership marketing can be much more effective. Just be certain that you don’t waste your association’s resources or your members’ time by asking for information that isn’t truly useful.
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