Imagine a member’s entire experience with your organization as a timeline. 

At the start of the line, they hear about your association for the first time from a coworker.  In the middle, they’re active members, perhaps attending your annual conference. At the end of the line, they mention to a peer that they were a member several years ago. 

What is the specific second on that timeline where you can find out the most about what they value?

I sat in on a conference session for association executives a couple weeks ago and someone asked the speaker, “When should we survey members? Six months after members join?  I mean… there’s no point in surveying members immediately.”

This exec was 100% wrong.  

The second someone hits “Pay” on your website to become a member is the exact second when you can learn the most about what they value.

At that second, they believe that you have the solution to specific problems and desires that they are experiencing.   

  • It’s a moment of clarity because options are being evaluated and a decision is being made.  
  • It’s an assignment of value.  It’s where a person says, “This is important enough to pay money for.”  Because there are 10,000 "needs" that people have that they won’t pay money to address.
  • It’s also when they’re most energized and are most likely to respond to queries for feedback.

The further you get from that moment, the muddier the water.  You’ll get more noise about needs that aren’t truly valuable. You’ll get more noise from a vocal minority that like answering questions, but don’t accurately represent their peers.  You’ll have members that have lost track of the problems they signed up to resolve- because they’re not actively experiencing the pain that caused them to seek you out.

Whether you follow up with them with a short survey, a phone call, or an email with a question depends upon your circumstances.  But if you’re not following up with them, it’s an enormous missed opportunity to find out what they truly value.

What Should You Ask?

Designing effective research is the subject for another article, but at a minimum, you should ask, “Why did you sign up?  How will membership improve your situation?”

This is a power question because in any transaction, the buyer pays not for the “thing” purchased, but for transformation: from their present situation to an improved future.  

It will help you identify not only the aspects of membership that appeal to new members but the underlying needs that they truly value.  When you know what those underlying needs are, you have powerful intelligence to improve membership and sell it effectively.

John Hooley
President, Steward

John is a graduate of 10,000 Small Businesses, a certified Customer Acquisition Specialist, and a Zend Certified Engineer. He speaks and writes on connecting digital strategy to association goals. Outside of work he's an avid traveler, climber, diver, and a burgeoning sailor. He also volunteers with Rotary and Big Brothers Big Sisters.