These days, developing your membership-building strategies around data is paramount. Knowing who your members are, how they interact with your organization and its offerings, and why they stay (and go) is key to developing effective and cost-efficient campaigns.
Before you launch a successful campaign, however, you must have solid data. Collecting the right data–and in ways that do not put barriers in front of members or prospective members–is where the entire process starts.
By the time a prospect becomes a member, you probably have at least some information about her. She subscribed to an e-mail list or is on a prospects-campaign list. This is your foundation–a solid start. The goal from here should be to build on it carefully and consistently as you interact with her.
The first major opportunity to collect data is during the sign-up process, when your prospective member is making the transition to active member. It’s the ideal time to grab most of the data you need, right?
Not so fast.
Your new member is excited to be joining your community, and something you offer–likely a few things–is what pulled her over the line. One thing you can bet on: the sign-up process is not one of them. Sign-up and on-boarding should be as painless as possible. This is the time to stoke that enthusiasm by fast-tracking the process, so she gets to what she wants, as quickly as possible.
Once your new member is in, she should be experiencing a different level of engagement. This is an ideal time to build on your data foundation. Among the tactics we’ve seen work: ask simple questions in email newsletters and ask the members to respond directly, or by updating a profile. For example, you can customize the question using your member’s profile information, such as her employer’s name. Cross-reference this information with something relevant about the member’s employer–such as the number of employees it has–and you can ask, “We have that your company has X-XX employees. Is this still correct?” An accompanying link takes her to her profile, and that helps update your database. Similar questions can be linked to different fields in the member profile. Before long, you have a robust data set.
Some other ideas to consider: website pop-ups, self-service member directories, and, of course, the time-tested survey. Take care to not overwhelm your members with too many queries to complete these, however. Pop-ups should not be on every website page, and preferably not the home page. Again, think about why people are visiting that page of your site. Odds are experienced members have bookmarked internal pages and are going directly to them, while prospects are starting at your virtual front-door.
As for survey frequencies, annual member survey, or perhaps two shorter surveys spread out every six months, is not too much to ask.
Don’t forget about the renewal process, too. This is an ideal time to have your members confirm basic details.
Regardless of which tactics you use, remember to remind the members how collecting (and verifying) data will help their membership experience. Nobody likes to input data, but everyone will welcome the outcome: a more valuable experience for them, and a better association overall.
The takeaway: Yes, collecting data from your members is the foundation of a successful, sustainable membership-development plan. But it doesn’t have to happen all at once. Every department thinks its data is what moves the needle. Establish a consensus among internal stakeholders about what needs collecting as well as a steady plan to get it done. Your members will welcome the more subtle approach, and you’ll still get what you need to succeed.