Saturday, May 22, 2010

Member Value is Something You Talk About ... AND Measure

It's becoming far more common to think about our value proposition in associations, yet these discussions often seem to debate qualitative issues. To me member value is primarily an empirical thing—something we can measure.

Certainly, guiding the activities that generate member value requires a strategic mindset, and tactics drive the success of the activities that 'feed' value, but measurement is not tough to do or to interpret. Data analysis is a nice way to disarm some of the ambiguities and unnecessary level of navel-gazing that often seems to accompany these discussions. ('Values' on the other hand are relative, and the basis of one's perceived value varies by person, but this is irrelevant to our ultimate goal.)

Thinking very directly and simply, I summarize and understand value with very simple premises:
- You use things you need and like.
- If you like the experience, you'll like and probably need the thing more.
- If you don't like it, you won't use it.
- If you don't use it, you won't value it very much.
- If you don't like or use it, you probably won't tell people unless they ask (since it's not polite to complain).
- If you don't know what something is, you can't use it.
- If you don't know much about it, you're unlikely to use it.
- To figure out what it is, people talk to each other before they'll ask you. Then they will complain.

This isn't much of a framework, but it gives a very practical and easy to understand way to process your member/customer experience metrics regarding awareness, satisfaction, importance, and usage. So often I see research done to collecting data that collects new findings, compiles data that's been collected previously, then reports them in a 'sports story' format without actually guiding the analysis creatively to help us understand and influence our value chain.

If we do ask our audience these basic questions and really work with the resulting data, we shouldn't have to worry much whether we're serving the profession/industry at large or our members; defining success only by membership and/or revenue, operating more like a non-profit or a business, or if we're measuring success by inputs and outcomes. Either way it's key to collect and work with this data; if we're not, that's just bad management, period.  - Kevin

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