The Brexit vote shows clearly that we can’t take for granted anyone’s views of what constitutes value.
For industry associations and membership bodies, the management’s perception of what constitutes value for membership is not always shared by the people who write out the subscription cheques.
For industry associations and membership bodies, the lesson from Brexit is ‘always ensure you understand members’ value propositions’. If you don’t prioritise and invest in that process you run the risk of a ‘mexit’.
1. The profiling audit
Most industry associations run membership surveys, but rather than just testing satisfaction levels, consider a demographic or profiling audit that will paint a clear picture of who your members are, what interests and drives them, what their hot buttons are, how they perceive their profession/industry, what challenges do they see on the horizon for them professionally and for the sector, what are their training and education needs etc.
Political parties do this kind of profiling regularly, as do advertising agencies. They do it because it’s imperative they understand their audiences sufficiently well to engage them effectively. Industry associations and membership bodies are no different. Their most important audience is their members and in order to engage them effectively they need to understand them.
2. The focus group
Another tool beloved by advertising agencies and political parties, the focus group is a wonderful initiative that will provide detailed qualitative data on a range of issues that will underpin and support effective engagement.
We recommend using focus groups as a follow-up to a profiling audit or a satisfaction survey. This helps associations to gain context and to add the all-important colour to what can sometimes be a black and white survey response. Focus groups also allow you to explore in more detail what different membership sectors or demographics think and why they think it.
3. Using ‘connectors’
In his great book The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell explains the roles of ‘connectors’, ‘mavens’ and ‘salesmen’.
Connectors are the people in a community who know large numbers of people. A connector is essentially the social equivalent of a computer network hub.
They usually know people across an array of social, cultural, professional, and economic circles, and make a habit of introducing people who work or live in different circles.
You will have connectors within your membership. Because they are so well networked we suggest that associations cultivate them. Establish a formal process for engaging with and using these people regularly as sources of reliable information about the mood and mindset of the membership.
The better you know your members, the more effectively you can engage with them.