Broad to narrow information showing a focus

"I don't think it's any mystery why people join," Matt said. Then he began ticking off reasons with his finger, "They join to improve their business network, make friends, see the speakers for Tuesday lunches, and engage in service."

I had just proposed that our Rotary Club membership committee gather data on our members to support future engagement and recruitment. 

Matt wasn't wrong. Those are the reasons that people join our club.

However, those answers aren't very useful. The problem is that they're generally true.

Imagine that you're trying to help your newly single friend re-enter the dating world.

You ask her, "What do you look for in a partner?"

She says, "I like tall guys who are interesting."

So you set her up with your 5'10 cousin who lives in his parent's basement.

Your friend isn't happy. "5'10!" She says, "That's not tall. I meant someone who's at least 6'3."

What's tall and why someone is interesting depends on who your friend is.... Specifically.

This pitfall with data that is generally true is something to consider when you go about surveying your members.

It's okay to ask general questions, like, "Rank our Benefits," with a forced ranking. But if your survey is entirely pre-determined choices, you're going to learn things that are generally true, but not that helpful.

Surveys should always have at least a few open-ended questions in the form of a text box about the member's problems and goals. E.g. "What are the biggest challenges you're facing in your current role?"

And surveys should always finish with a little checkbox at the bottom that asks, "Is it okay if we contact you to learn more about your answers?"

Open-ended questions and text boxes are decent at identifying specifics, but nothing beats actually getting on the phone with a member and doing a short interview.

The point of surveying isn't to run a survey because that's the right thing to do. It's to learn information that will change your choices. If the data you gather doesn't alter how you approach or speak to membership, you didn't dive deep enough into what is specifically valuable to different kinds of members.

"Don't become a wandering generality. Be a meaningful specific." - Zig Ziglar

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.