Association Connect

4 Surefire Ways to Understand Your Members’ Needs

By Samuel Hoffmeister | April 20, 2021

It’s one thing to know what association members generally look for in membership—advocacy and opportunities for education and networking. But taking a thoughtful, strategic approach to understanding exactly what your members want can make them feel truly engaged and lead to long-term membership retention and growth.

Conduct Impartial Surveys

Not sure how to better understand your members’ needs? One of the easiest ways is to simply ask them. First, identify your survey’s focus; it could be as broad as membership satisfaction or something more deliberate, such as a publication readership survey.

Once you’ve set a clear objective, keep the survey short and simple with specific answer choices and give it a test run with your board or staff to ensure its potential effectiveness. After any refinements have been implemented, make it available to members and promote it on your website, through emails, on social media, in your newsletter—wherever you get the most member engagement.

Finally, share the results with your full membership. This creates opportunities for additional feedback and content for your next survey, and it provides members with a benchmark or comparison with what other members are looking for from you.

Spark Discussion with an Online Community

An online community is a group of people with a shared interest who use the internet to communicate with each other. Your association already has this group of people, so creating an online community can be an easy way to get your members talking about important topics in your industry.

Online communities can go a long way toward creating increased value in membership. Members are provided with an open forum to discuss topics with each other, rather than relying on your singular guidance or other one-way exchanges of information.

Platforms such as Higher Logic can give associations a unique place to encourage engagement between members, but why not just create a free Facebook or LinkedIn group for your members? First off, platforms such as Higher Logic afford you more control over how members access your community, providing an incentive to actually be a member to join the discussion. Additionally, you can create a more secure environment that better protects your members’ privacy; and within that trustworthy environment, you can gain access to specific data about your members to create a more tailored member experience. With a social media platform, you may not have access to that type of data.

Connect Content to Communities

One aspect of creating an online community that creates further engagement is the ability to tie your publication content to it. Your association likely has a print or digital publication or, at the very least, a newsletter that delivers pertinent content directly to your members. By having an online community, you can further leverage that content to spark discussions on specific subject matter.

Your association can also get a feel for which subject matter is most important to them. Is one article getting significantly more engagement and spurring more conversation than others? Perhaps that could lead you to explore the topic more deeply and create more curated content around that topic. Your online community can help you gain a greater understanding on what’s truly important to your members.

Online communities can also be great platforms to get direct feedback from members. You can survey your members through online communities to get real data about your content and its effectiveness. For instance, ask members directly whether articles in the latest issue of your magazine were useful? What articles left something to be desired? Your members’ direct responses can be key in creating more meaningful content for them in the future.

Offer Job Listings

If the last year-plus has taught us anything, it’s that unforeseen circumstances can render job security at risk and, thus, create hesitation as potential members look to join or current members consider renewing. So, to create another thread of value to those uncertain about being a member, list industry job posts on your website and/or in your online community.

Although member companies aren’t necessarily expecting you to promote their openings, your association can offer greater reach for them and help to attract qualified candidates. Say a member is looking for a new position in the industry. That person can get access to the right position at the right company through your job listings, which encourages buy-in from both that person and that company, leading to greater incentive to renew. You’d be offering greater value to multiple membership decision-makers and showing that you understand having a job may be a member’s greatest need.

Strategize and Deploy

Understanding what your members need is key to building—and maintaining—a robust, diverse membership. Offering varied ways to boost the value of membership can in turn improve how current and potential members perceive and value your association.

Working with a knowledgeable, experienced partner to determine which methods yield the best outcomes for you is an effective first step toward understanding your members’ needs. Connect with us to strategize and deploy these tactics today to build a stronger, more engaged membership.

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