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Why associations need to understand their member voice

Heather Nolan
August 25, 2020
Why associations need to understand their member voice

As an association, your job is to do three things for your members: serve them, offer connections and make them better at what they do.

To do that, you must have a keen understanding of what they need, what they want and what they want to work on.

An association that has tapped into their member voice and is able to serve the needs, wants and goals of their members will outperform others in the marketplace.

Defining who your members are and what they want is similar to the customer avatar exercise marketing professionals use to gain a sense of their target customers. You can use an adapted version of the customer avatar for your members.

Customer avatar worksheets are typically divided into several boxes where you list things including challenges and pain points, goals and values and sources of information.

Knowing what challenges your members are looking to overcome, their goals and how they prefer to receive information will allow you to create content, courses and events that appeal to them.

It will also ensure your members are satisfied because it will allow you to give them exactly what they want. Satisfied members will become your best marketing channel when they refer their friends and colleagues to the association. Nothing is more powerful than word of mouth.

Questions to ask in a member interview to help create an avatar include:

  • What stage of your career are you in?
  • What is your current job title? Or, if you are currently looking for a new position in the field, what is your target job title?
  • What is your educational background? Please list any and all degrees, certifications, and training.
  • What kinds of content would you enjoy seeing from the association? (Trade journals, videos, webinars, blogs, scholarly articles, etc.)
  • What sorts of events would you attend? (Conferences, keynotes, panels, training, courses, etc.)
  • Which topics do you want to learn more about?
  • What’s a problem at your association that you can’t seem to solve?

Since you can’t sit down with all of your members for a one-on-one interview, you’ll have to do your research in other ways.

Some tools you can use to discover important member attributes include:

  • Data collected from devices at conferences
  • Surveys
  • VIP groups
  • Special member groups
  • Panels 
  • LinkedIn
  • Association-tied groups on social media, like private Facebook groups
  • Data tied to what members read most on your website or interact with most on social media

Organize this data and look for patterns. Once you have a cohesive picture of who your members are and what they need from your association, use that data to inform your decisions and expand your offerings.

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Ashley Neal

Ashley Neal joined the Sidecar team as Community Coordinator in March of 2020, right as the COVID-19 pandemic began to shut down life as we knew it. Having to adapt, overcome and predict the changes needed to survive in the new normal, Ashley now has the skills needed to juggle any obstacle thrown her way. A soon-to-be graduate from Southeastern Louisiana University in the field of Strategic Communications, Ashley spends her days balancing her work and education with her love of dogs. Taking her three dogs — Scooby, Pipsqueak and Moose — to restaurants, hiking trails, vacations and even participating in dog shows and sports is the highlight of her weekends.

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