Members Come in All Shapes and Sizes. How Do You Segment Your Membership Base?

Members Come in All Shapes and Sizes. How Do You Segment Your Membership Base?

When you conduct a member survey do you only look at the results in total or do you break out them down into meaningful segments?  In this blog post I look at different ways of segmenting your membership and suggest one powerful technique that you probably haven’t thought of. This approach will lead to crucial member insights. 

Demographic Segmentation

Typically the members of your association cover a broad demographic spectrum from millennials just starting out in their career to boomers who are nearing retirement. Given their age and where they’re at in the their career, they will have different values, interests and attitudes.

In 2016, Abila, a leading provider of software and services to associations, conducted an engagement survey of 1,000 members of professional associations. The primary area of interest was how different generations engage with their association. The results we’re clear… millennials, gen Xers and boomers all differ in terms of benefits they are looking for, the key reasons for joining and their communication preferences.

Based on the results of this study, it is obvious that knowing your members from both a demographic and attitudinal perspective can be invaluable. This information will help you target your members more precisely with products and services as well as communicate more effectively. While this knowledge might be more valuable if your members are individuals, for example, you’re an association consisting of professionals, it is still worthwhile for these trade/industry associations whose members tend to be organizations.

Let’s drill down into personal and professional demographics. Survey questions in this area will include age, gender, geography, number of years on the job, work setting and specialty area. Surveys often stop at these questions. I suggest that you also consider the following types of questions. What stage are they in their careers for example, are they new to the profession, mid-career, late career, nearing retirement or semi-retired? How do your members categorize themselves in terms of adopting new technology? Are they innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority or laggards? 

Psychographics

Next consider adding questions that relate to values, opinions, attitudes, interests and lifestyles. Collectively we refer to these as psychographics. These can be developed as a series of statements that your survey participants respond to using an agree/disagree scale. These statements may relate to attitudes towards new ideas, innovation, relationships with colleagues, collaboration, professional development and learning preferences. 

Analyzing the results and combining it with demographic information can help you see the clusters or segments within your total membership. This allows you to focus your attention on the needs of specific segments.

Some associations take this a step further and develop member personas. These are typically fully rendered characters that embody specific characteristics of your member sub-groups. For example, one can imagine having a profile of Nancy Networker or Victor Volunteer. The goal is to create a standard way of categorizing and thinking about the key traits of members so that their needs, motivations and preferences can be addressed.

Another key Segmentation Model – Likelihood of Recommending Your Organization

Now let’s consider another way of segmenting your members. This segmentation entails the likelihood of recommending the association to a colleague and reasons for their answer. Based on their responses, members are segmented into promoters, detractors and fence-sitters (passives). 

We can use this grouping to conduct in-depth telephone interviews amongst the three segments. In these interviews we achieve a deep understanding of what makes a member a promoter, detractor or passive. Importantly we also obtain insights into your members - their challenges and aspirations. We learn how the association can do a better job at helping them in their journey.

Why is this segmentation so powerful? It hinges on obtaining a deep understanding of the three segments. Your promoters are your evangelists and champions. They are key to helping you recruit new members and to sing the praises of your organization. You want to know who they are and what you can do to support their efforts. You also want to know how to move passives and detractors into the promoter category.

Your detractors will be less likely to renew their membership and they are undermining your efforts to recruit new members. Again you want to know as much about them as possible and the reasons for their dissatisfaction. What can you do to turn that frown upside down?

And finally, those members who are sitting on the fence…who are they and what can be done to move them into the promoter category?  In all likelihood only a small effort is required to turn them into evangelists.

In conclusion…

Segmentation is a powerful tool that allows us to be more member-centric. Segmentation techniques include developing demographic and psychographic profiles of our members. But it’s also crucial to know who are our biggest supporters and why they love us?  How can we collaborate with them to create even greater value? What can we do for our members who are critical of our efforts? How can we turn them into promoters?  

To learn more, please contact Bramm Research. 

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