No matter what type of association you lead, your members have at least one key thing in common with members of all associations everywhere: They are seekers. They may not have come to you proclaiming such a thing, but they are. Fundamentally, people join associations because they are searching for *something* that they haven't been able to supply for themselves.
Tapping into this secret, unspoken thing which they seek and value above all else can create a complete turnaround in a struggling association. Provide seekers with what they crave and they will swarm around you like hungry fish waiting for you to drop breadcrumbs in the water. They can't wait to hear about your association's newest program or service because it is aligned so well with what they have been seeking.
The reverse also applies. People leave associations because: 1) the association didn't provide them what they were seeking; 2) the association was providing them with what they were seeking, but didn't adequately communicate about it, so the member didn't realize they could have found it there; or 3) what the person was seeking no longer holds the same appeal - their needs have changed, so what they are seeking has changed, too.
So, how do you find out what members (or prospective members) are seeking? You ask and you listen... in every possible way that you can.
You might be surprised how few associations actually ask in a way that actually elicits meaningful feedback. Author Jaynie Smith explored this phenomenon in her book, Relevant Selling, published a few years ago, but still completely - well, relevant. The underlying premise of the entire book is that companies generally get it *wrong* when they think they know what's valued by their customers. It's a thought-provoking read if you're looking for something new to add to your Kindle.
Jaynie's book touts the approach of a double-blind survey - customers don't know who's asking, so they are less likely to slant their answers based on what they think you want to hear - and companies don't know who is answering, so they are less likely to let their own perceptions color how they interpret the feedback.
So, I'm curious how YOU are listening? How would you uncover member concerns and aspirations? How would you learn about what keeps them up at night? How can you understand what led them to hit the "Join" button and send in their initial membership fee?
If you haven't thought about what your members are *truly* seeking, make an effort to do so. I guarantee that knowledge will pay off in a big way.