Tim Ebner is communications director and press secretary at the American Forest & Paper Association in Washington, DC. He is a member of ASAE’s Communication Professionals Advisory Council and a former Associations Now senior editor.
Member surveys are essential, and can tell you a lot about retention and engagement tactics. But, membership teams can often overcomplicate the questionnaire or fail to put the data into action.
The American Chiropractic Association recently deployed a communications survey to members and discovered an interesting dilemma: While membership has held steady these past few years, many respondents said they didn’t fully understand the association’s benefits. That was an eye-opener for ACA, says Anne Marie Munson, senior vice president of operations.
“Sometimes when you do a survey, you get responses that you never intended,” she says. “And for us, the question that was really answered was that people don’t really know what their benefits are.”
The survey helped ACA to realign its messaging to members and gave shape to a new communications campaign that launched in May. “This is an eight-week campaign that will be targeted and tracked carefully,” Munson says. “We’re messaging it as, ‘This is your ACA.’ ‘Get to know your benefits.’ And, ‘Take advantage of them today.’”
Member surveys are an association staple, but Munson says it can be easy to overcomplicate the questionnaire or fail to put data obtained from the survey into action. “Keep in mind, people get survey fatigue,” she says. “You want to ask direct questions that help to define a value proposition for your members.” In 2015, ACA used a survey to identify member segments, including new members who had joined within the last year and belonged to groups with a historically high attrition rate. From that survey, the association devised a strategy for creating a positive first-year experience through routine communications and one-on-one conversations. Tactics included a signed thank-you letter mailed on day 14, a member check-in call on day 30, an explanation of benefits emailed on day 60, and a follow-up call on day 90.
ACA also focused its retention efforts on longer-term members—those who were members for 10 years or more and were considered to be high risk for nonrenewal. Messages to those members communicated why their support was essential to the advancement of the industry. As a result of this strategy, ACA saw a strong 93 percent retention rate in the first year after rollout.
“Where the member was in their career and lifespan really mattered,” Munson says. “The survey helped us to better understand who the members were, what they were looking for, and—while you can’t be all things to all people—it helped us to understand our members’ needs better.”
[This article was originally published in the Associations Now print edition, titled "Survey Surprise."]