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Blog: Leverage Primary Market Research to Drive Membership, Engagement, and Growth

Leverage Primary Market Research to Drive Membership, Engagement, and Growth

Professional and trade associations can benefit a great deal from conducting primary market research (PMR). Director of Research at Vault Consulting, Laura Clark, helps professional and trade associations accomplish their research goals every day. Her day-to-day consists of helping Vault clients develop research plans that will tackle business goals and then synthesizing the results of those research initiatives to create actionable briefs. Clark claims that primary market research doesn’t just act as a revenue generator but rather, “a valuable tool for any association to understand their membership, concerning what they want, need, and why or why not they choose to become members.”

According to Clark, along with direct revenue, membership associations can benefit from primary market research studies through indirect revenue, membership engagement, and association growth. There are two categories of data that associations can aim to collect, which are qualitative and quantitative. For either method of data collection, Clark thinks it’s best to start by working backwards or employing a reverse engineering strategy, “we encourage our clients to think about where they want to end up and to think about the actions and decisions they want to make out of the research.”

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While some clients conduct primary market research studies to create a source of non-dues revenue, Clark also recommends research for the sake of strategic decision-making. The Director of Research adds that there are several ways to gather data that appeal to different demographics among one membership including bulletin board focus groups, traditional focus groups, or even phone surveys.

In a recent experience, Clark found that younger professionals prefer the flexibility of bulletin board focus groups because participants are given a time duration to log into a platform and participate in an online chat community. She also finds that an online option of a traditional focus group, which can be taken at a prescribed time on an online ‘Brady Bunch’ video conference tool, is a popular choice among participants for its accessibility.

But however associations decide to collect data from their membership, Clark states that it’s important to present the data in an efficient and succinct manner, which will make it easier for board members or staff to extract vital information that will inform future strategy. Once the results have been synthesized, she advocates for simplified and summarized results to put out to the decision-makers, “people want easily digestible snippets of information or infographics.

Whether your association is looking to generate revenue, expand membership, or engage and retain current membership, Vault’s research team is ready to help you throughout the entirety of the process: from developing a research goal to planning and executing a study.

Want to learn more?

Contact Laura Clark at to learn more about your market research options with Vault Consulting.

Laura Clark, IPC
Laura Clark, IPC
Laura leverages nearly 20 years of market research experience to design custom market research for each client. Clients come to rely on Laura as she places them first and never fails to deliver...
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