Research that helps member companies track their performance against their peers has long been a key benefit to association membership, but because of the changing business climate, it’s more important than ever that associations take steps to make their research stand apart in 2022.
Global disruptions are changing the way business is done across a wide range of industries, making reliable industry data from a trusted source more critical than ever. And, as companies reevaluate their operations and supply chain partners, many are being forced to tighten their budgets. As a result, research will be an even more critical value proposition for many associations seeking to retain or grow membership.
Below, we outline six key strategies you can leverage to maximize the value association research provides to members.
Traits of Successful Association Research
1. Ensure research is driven by members.
Your members know their industry, and the emerging trends and technologies to watch. Most importantly, they know what information they need to make association-driven research valuable to their organization. To get the results you need, a successful ongoing research program must be member-driven.
Before your next iteration, connect with members through the feedback loop afforded by periodic meetings. To guide future research direction, this is the time to gather member input about how members’ information needs may change.
2. Expand the research scope.
Baselines provide valuable insight, but if you’ve been asking the same questions of the same demographic for several years, now is the time to grow. Starting small is great, but expanding your scope likewise expands the value you can offer to members. This may mean tracking more categories or growing your base from a certain region to nationwide or global coverage.
3. Improve the quality of input data.
Having a standardized method for collecting information and clear and concise program rules and definitions is critical for ensuring accurate, useful information. To this end, many associations turn to third-party providers to automate data collection. While pulling member data into an association system through an application programming interface may be too costly for some associations to manage on their own, it’s a level of automation that can significantly reduce the risk of error. This is an area where an experienced partner can prove invaluable.
4. Personalize output.
If you’re still providing association research in a bound and printed format—or even a 200-page ebook—it’s time for a shift in mindset. It’s fine to start your research with simple output, including broad charts and infographics that present baseline data related to the industry as a whole. However, as programs evolve so too should the sophistication of the output provided. In today’s hyper-customized world, members want data that can be easily customized to help them track their performance against the industry norm.
A dashboard view of data provides organizations with a helpful, visually appealing way to filter information for exactly what they need, and even print or export data for their internal presentations. Customized reports may provide a direct click-through to key information or specific views. There are a million ways to present data, but it’s important to make sure your members can present the data in a way that works best for them.
5. Gauge external interest.
As the research approach is developed, explore if there may be ways to monetize the resulting data to your members’ benefit. It’s best to address this early because participating member companies should agree to provide access to this data in advance. Can the data be used to create high-level infographics that promote your organization in the media, perhaps through a revenue sharing model with a trade publication? Or are there external stakeholders that would be willing to purchase this research and, through this, fund future programs? This is another area where your output format is key to catching the attention of these other parties.
6. Prioritize security.
From the start, association research must have clear data security rules in place. This includes practices that ensure program output aligns with antitrust rules and safe harbor guidelines. This is an area where working with a well-known and respected third party may prove particularly invaluable, because the partnership can lend both security and credibility to your program approach.
For more ways to effectively position your research, watch Vault’s webinar on Association-Sponsored Research & Antitrust Laws. Or, if you’re ready to bring in third-party support to create greater value for your members, contact Vault today.