Membership research: harnessing insight from your society members

Are we doing what’s best for our members?

This thought is never far from the mind of society staff the world over, particularly as associations struggle with recruitment and retention of new members.

Research is an important tool in addressing this question; it provides your members with the opportunity to feed back into your offerings, and for your organization to ensure that you’re demonstrating the maximum value for members’ investment.

There are some key points to bear in mind when approaching any market research project:

1. Is it focused?
The most successful research projects start with a clear goal. Are you looking to understand how your publications stack up against the competition in your members’ eyes? Do you want to know what makes for a must-attend conference? Or are you most keen to understand why members are – or aren’t – renewing each year? Knowing the key insights you want to achieve with a project will help keep things in perspective throughout, and lead you to the research tools that will be most effective at answering your key questions.

2. Is it realistic?
“Scope creep” is a frequent, and dangerous, element of market research. Various stakeholders in your organization will invariably want a research project to cover many different aspects of the services and benefits your society offers – but it’s better to have a narrow focus that results in insights you can use, rather than to try and cover all the bases with a single project and end up with results that explain the “what”, but not the “why”.

3. Is it actionable?
Whether you’re interviewing a handful of individuals or surveying thousands of members, the analysis and interpretation of research results is where the real value lies for your organization. But don’t forget to plan ahead: it’s all too common for clear findings to go unheeded because an organization hasn’t developed a plan for acting on the insights gained from a research project.

4. Are you ready?
Not all associations are in the position to undertake membership research due to lack of staffing or expertise. TBI can help you make the most of any research budget by:

  • Preparing research design in consultation with your key stakeholders, addressing the issues most important to your association
  • Developing and deploying the most appropriate market research tools for your needs, from focus groups through to online surveys and one-on-one interviews
  • Analysis of results and highlighting the key findings across all streams of research – for example, undertaking cluster analysis to segment respondents into needs-based groups
  • Translating the findings into an action plan to address membership feedback
  • Designing and implementing highly personalised and targeted communications for member segments that engage and inspire action.

If you’d like more information, or to get started speak with us about your market research needs, get in touch at, or call +44 (0)1865 875 896 to speak with our team.