Research is a core value offering for many associations, but not all research has to be in depth to be useful. Many associations are finding that quick, inexpensive membership research polls are an excellent opportunity to engage members—and they can provide a valuable gauge of key industry metrics.
However, it’s important to remember that quick doesn’t mean unstrategic. To maximize the value of these quick polls, associations should follow a structured format and a clear plan for how to utilize results to achieve their goals.
The value of taking a pulse
Brief membership surveys can take a variety of forms. Some are opinion-based, and aim to capture association members’ sentiment on key issues. Others might be based on tightly honed members-submitted sales or benchmarking data. In either case, these surveys provide timely insight into how survey respondents’ organizations compare to the industry. It’s a chance to see whether everyone is struggling with key challenges or riding the same wave of strong sales. Over time, the accumulation of historic data can identify trends. Short surveys can provide a sounding board in between the more in-depth association reporting that can drive decision-making.
For associations, these brief membership research projects provide an excellent opportunity to build up engagement with a broader swath of the industry and your membership base. Because these surveys should take only a few minutes to complete, they tend to get responses from a wider audience. Not only does this provide a better data set, but it begins to build up engagement that can translate into greater participation in events and future research.
Industry sentiment surveys also provide an opportunity to engage with different groups and different people at the organizations with which you may already be working. While in-depth member surveys may require input from certain industry positions, these short surveys tend to seek input from a more diverse group. This is an opportunity to take the pulse of the industry not only from the perspective of senior leadership, but also of sales reps, marketing, and mid-level positions. It’s also an opportunity to connect with customers and other partners, such as distributors or certain supply chain partners.
The quick polls also provide an opportunity to engage with different groups and different people at the organizations with which you may already be working. While in-depth member surveys may require input from certain industry positions, quick polls tend to seek input from a more diverse group. This is an opportunity to take the pulse of not only senior leadership, but also sales reps, marketing, and mid-level positions. It’s also an opportunity to connect with customers and other partners, such as distributors or certain supply chain partners.
How to structure and use quick membership research
Industry sentiment surveys should not demand much of your members’ time. These surveys should be no more than 10 questions, and take no more than five minutes to complete. Overall, they should require little time or cost to set up and manage. Many associations launch these as quarterly offerings before ramping up to monthly surveys.
To maximize the value you receive from these short surveys, keep the following in mind:
- Target your questions. Although simple to set up, associations must take time to focus questions around topics that matter to your members. Your biggest key to success is knowing the main drivers of your industry, as well as your members’ successes and challenges.
- Keep it consistent. Trends surveys can be useful as a standalone offering, but you’ll receive even greater value once you get to the sixth or seventh iteration and are able to build off of the data history.
- Check hot button issues. Adding a question from time to time to dig into current challenges provides insight that can guide the creation of future event topics, articles, and other narratives.
- Keep it separate. These short surveys should be built as standalone research, rather than bolted onto existing reports or research, especially if it’s planned as an ongoing offering. However, industry sentiment surveys can be used to supplement a broader annual report.
- Build a narrative. As mentioned above, these short membership surveys present a perfect opportunity to create a narrative around the results. Because their focus is so tightly honed and timely, these types of bite-sized reports often gain traction in the press more easily than more in-depth reports.
As but one example, the Electronic Components Industry Association (ECIA) has built a robust story around its monthly survey on product delivery lead times. The ECIA narrative connects this single data point across a few product lines to the challenges impacting elements of the supply chain. With this information, ECIA creates a press release that is carried by several industry publications but also ties the survey to a complete members-only sales report.
Plan to maximize your value
As the saying goes, less is more, and that can be the case with these industry sentiment surveys. Because timeliness is central to the value of a short membership research survey, it’s important to have a set process within your association for rapidly gathering and analyzing data, comparing it to previous comparable data sets, and taking control of the narrative you wish to share. By planning in advance and using appropriate resources, you can gain tremendous value from short surveys.
This is an area where Vault Consulting can help. For support in maximizing the value of your membership research initiatives, contact Vault today.