When’s the last time you heard a board member say, “Members want…” followed by an aggregate of the last five conversations they’ve had.

While anecdotal observations can be helpful, there’s often an unseen gap between what members say and their actual behavior (like when you tell your friends you mostly watch documentaries on Netflix but you’re actually watching reality TV). That’s where data can come into play to help you make better decisions (Netflix data knows exactly what you’re watching!)

Data analytics helps you to uncover insights that are otherwise hard to see or understand. And the more you’re able to understand member behavior, the better able you are to create an experience that meets their needs.

Let’s break down several scenarios to show how data analytics can help improve the member experience.

Dig Below the Surface to Find Gaps in Member Retention

It’s likely that your organization measures retention rates, but are you looking at the surface or digging in below the aggregate level?

Once you look beyond a single number that represents retention, even organizations with strong and steady retention rates will likely uncover important insights and opportunities for improvement.

For example, you may have an impressive 80% retention level, but with a little digging find that there’s a 95% retention rate among your executive-level members and a 65% rate among your manager-level members.

This analysis reveals an insight you can now act on to improve the member experience – consider reaching out to manager-level members to find out why they’re not renewing, or perhaps develop content specifically around their pain points and target them with personalized messaging during renewal period.

Know What Educational Content is Worth Creating

Analyzing data can help associations identify dead-end courses – or courses members take that don’t result in a secondary action – versus courses that lead to a track of other courses or the purchase of a product or service.

You may hear the familiar “members want…” phrase pop up during educational content planning, but with a deeper dive into the analytics, discover that only a small fraction of members will be served by that specific course or content.

It can also be helpful to use data to determine programs that your association may want to sunset, versus when to invest in a program that is more relevant to your members.

We all have pieces of content or courses that we continue to update just because, “that’s the way we’ve always done it.” Using data, you can drill in to see if those updates are actually worth the resources you’re putting in to ensure you’re focusing your efforts on what members truly want most.

Segment Members for More Relevant Renewal Messaging

Similar to retention rates, it’s important not to stop at the aggregate level when looking at your member renewal rates.

Membership Overview

Investigating the renewal status by member segment can help you uncover important insights into which members will and will not renew.

Using data, you can update your one-size-fits-all approach to messaging when it comes time for membership renewals. You can break down and identify which members are not engaging with your association during the renewal period. Once you’ve identified which members are at risk, you can do more targeted outreach designed to help renew members.

Key ways to segment your audience may be by demographic, length of membership or by behaviors such as engagement, certification activities and event attendance. This information can help you send more targeted, relevant communications as opposed to one email blast to the entire membership base, providing members with an improved, personal experience.

Cut “Sacred Cows” that Members Don’t Care About

Every organization has at least one or two “sacred cow” activities that they continue to nurture with no insight into the actual return on investment.

Data analysis can help lead to changed behavior, helping you put a finger on what’s working and not working, without emotion clouding your association’s decision making process. You’ll come away with a better idea of where opportunities exist for pruning and provide better, more relevant content for members.

Even a simple revenue analysis can be helpful in identifying an event or course that members are no longer interested in. Looking at what sessions your members are actually attending at your conference, versus the content they ask for when you survey can give you important insights into the type of content that will attract and retain.

Your survey may have been right for the 200 people who took it, but not reflective of what the other 2,500 attendees actually want from their member experience.

For example, one association hosting an annual banquet at its conference asked members if they were interested in attending the event. While a decade ago 1,500 members said they wanted the banquet, in 2022 only 300 members were interested. Ending the banquet saved the association around $70,000 and members were happy to enjoy dinner elsewhere.


Turn Lower Registration Numbers into a Well-Attended Event

Using data isn’t just for planning long term, it can also be used to help teams make quick pivots when members don’t react to programming or unexpected outside influences come into play.

Keeping an eye on registration numbers gives you the opportunity to determine whether or not your messaging is landing with members and make changes when numbers aren’t where you expected.

If numbers aren’t where you expect, it may be a good time to survey your members to find out what’s going on and use that data to pivot as necessary. While it can be problematic to rely on surveys alone (as we read above), survey data can still help inform decisions when you use them as part of the full picture.

For example, AANA when began promoting their first paid virtual event they were able to see early on (inside our analytics platform, Acumen) that their marketing campaign had no traction. They surveyed members to ask why, realigned their messaging, and ultimately exceed their sales goals for the event, profiting $70K on a meeting that wasn’t originally looking promising. Read about AANA’s analytics journey.

Once you know where you’ve missed the mark, you can focus on changing messaging so it resonates with members.

Analytics Is the True Voice of the Customer

There are so many interesting ways to use data to bring the voice of the customer forward as the leading indicator on the health and direction of your association.

While it can feel daunting to get started, promoting the use of analytics for improved insights and team work often comes down to encouraging data exploration and curiosity.

Analytics tell the true story of your association, but remember that spreadsheets are not easy to consume. Wherever possible, consider providing visualizations in the form of graphs and colors as you use analytics to move away from one-size-fits-all to personalized and predictive experiences.

Bringing the voice of the customer to your association through data helps ensure that you’re providing the experience that members actually want.