Get More Meaning From Your Member Surveys

Surveys are often a routine, one-and-done reflex, when they could be providing actionable insights that improve an association’s value proposition—and more. Two analytics experts offer their tips for crafting a better survey.

Collecting member data from surveys is a no-brainer—and not in a good way. A little thought, preparation, and strategy go a long way toward gathering meaningful information that can be effectively leveraged to increase engagement and significantly improve the member experience.

An Associations Analytics webinar [sign-in required] from last fall, “How to Get Actionable Data From Surveys,” delved into ways to improve member surveys. I followed up with the hosts—Bill Conforti, senior vice president of strategy and solutions, and Greg Pollack, vice president of sales—to learn more.

In many cases, membership teams don’t spend enough time and effort thinking about why they are conducting a survey and what business goals they hope to accomplish. Too often, they ask the same questions every year, update a few, remove some, and then send the survey out again in a compartmentalized way, without taking into consideration how answers to the questions could be integrated throughout the association.

Focus on What You Want to Learn

Post-conference surveys are a good example. At the end of a conference, most associations send out a survey, look at the results, and then forget about them. What’s missing is intent.

“There should be more of a focus on questions you actually want answers to, like: How do we make a better product? How do we make sure more people participate in the new product? And how can we make sure this product is sustainable for everybody inside our ecosystem?” Pollack said.

Instead of offering deep insights, annual conference surveys often reveal that the food was good, but the room was too cold. “That doesn’t help me create a better product for next year,” Pollack said.

Surveys need to have a strategic focus that leads to actionable insights you can leverage effectively. This means taking a deeper dive into the results to see what they reveal about your members’ experience with your association. In turn, these insights suggest ways you can improve products, services, member benefits, and more.

Ask Better Questions

For example, associations often ask members to rank their member benefits. “That seems like an easy to question to ask,” Conforti said. But it misses an opportunity to step back and ask members deeper questions about what kind of experience they are interested in. Are they looking for education, networking, career advancement, certification? And how do they want to participate in those opportunities—at the local level or the national level, in small groups or large groups?

“As we dance around the actual question, we want to get to the answers that are going to give us the actions we want to take,” Pollack said. When you find out a member is interested in career advancement in small networking groups at the local level, that’s a very different type of program than education at a national event.

The idea is to mine for answers, but if a survey is too long, people will bail halfway through. The goal is to get as many people as possible to respond, which leads to more useful, unbiased results. “The better your questions, the better the quality of your responses,” Conforti said.

And keep it short. Surveys should take about five to seven minutes to complete, unless it’s the big annual survey. They should also be designed with mobile devices in mind because many members respond on their smartphones. “You want to have something you can scroll through, with one question per screen,” Conforti said.

You can’t get answers, however, if members don’t take the survey. Motivate them to complete it with an actual incentive, like a gift card. Or simply explain that their insights will lead to program improvements that will help advance their career, provide a better overall membership experience, or benefit the entire community. “Appeal to their sense of mission,” Conforti said.

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Lisa Boylan

By Lisa Boylan

Lisa Boylan is a senior editor of Associations Now. MORE

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