We are continuing our two part series from our guest blogger Amanda Kaiser (@SmoothThePath). You can take a look at Part 1 here.

Amanda is the owner of Kaiser Insights LLC and author of SmoothThePath.net. She helps associations and member organizations grow membership.  She also assists in member engagement and non-dues revenue through member research.

Using Survey Monkey can be dangerous for your organization. What?!?! Sending out a survey seems relatively harmless. It is somewhat harmless unless you are using the responses to make some big decisions.

Starting member research with a survey introduces risk for your organization. This is because you likely don’t know all the forced choice answers members have. When a survey question does not have the perfect answer, respondents will pick the best answer, but not their answer. Some organizations try to hedge their bets by including in their answers – Other. But that doesn’t work because so few respondents take the time to write in an answer. It’s far more expedient to click the best answer (even though it might not be correct).

Depending on your data goals (refer to Part 1), here are three more ways to get the answers you need.

Mining your own data

Do you want to know more about trends? Are you wondering about member trends, financial trends, attendee trends or engagement trends? Look no further than your own database. The real magic happens when you view your data over time. Analyzing member growth by segment year to year may indicate that new initiatives are going well or in the case of a decline that there are opportunities to better serve your community.

Hosting focus groups

Focus groups are great for allowing staff to see or interact with members and attendees. Focus groups can provide the environment that allows staff to experience members’ worldviews. When you see who your members are, watch them think and listen to them articulate big issues, you find it easier to stand in their shoes – eventually serving them better.

Having one-on-one conversations

When you need to develop new innovative benefits, products, services or events. When your marketing isn’t working. When membership or attendance is down and none of the usual tactics help. Having lightly-scripted one-on-one conversations with members helps you understand your members’ goals, challenges and problems. This method can help you with better marketing, innovation and branding.

There are so many ways to get accurate member insights. Most organizations start with a survey. You can save more time and money in the long run by using the method that supports your goals.

Many associations are marketing in a way that doesn’t resonate with members but a very few have figured out how to create marketing that matters. Find out about modern member marketing on www.SmoothThePath.net where Amanda Kaiser also discusses story telling for members, innovation and member insights. Follow her on Twitter at @SmoothThePath

Photo By: imelenchon