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Three member research tools to supercharge your retention and acquisition

28.03.24Free ToolsAudience insight

Member research is incredibly powerful. Done right, it should give you valuable insight into what matters most to your members and target members - giving you a clear understanding of their priorities, needs and preferences. 

For member research to effectively shape your acquisition and retention strategies, though, you need to know where to focus your efforts. The data and insight you gather must be meaningful and documented in a way you can actually use.

By asking the right questions - of yourself and your members - you’ll gain a genuine understanding of what your audience is looking for, and be in a good place to make sure your value proposition is spot on. Here are our top three tools to set you on the right track. 

1. Assumption mapping 

Assumption mapping is a tool for organisations to identify what they actually know about their members, and prospective members, compared to what they think they know.

It’s a prioritisation grid where you plot beliefs on member activity and perceptions, like ‘it’s quick and easy to complete registration’ or ‘members are cancelling because…’, on a scale from known to unknown and high importance to low importance.

Then, you can work through each one systematically, looking at what you need to do to validate whether or not an assumption is true or not, and what that might mean for your acquisition and retention activities. Often the highest priority sits within your ‘unknown and high importance’ quadrant, but you also may be upcoming digital projects that are reliant on further key unknowns.

By getting clear with where you’re operating on assumptions and where you’re operating on knowns, you can be far more aware of the associated risk or confidence in investment and activities that depend on those.

Download your free assumption mapping template at the end of this article.

Case study:

One B2B organisation we worked with was presenting lots of technical information on their website, which was integral for audiences to access and understand. Because of the complexity, they slowed the pace of navigation and content to aid people digesting this, believing that made for a better experience. But after acknowledging this was an assumption, and not actually known, we conducted user testing to validate whether this was true. We discovered that their highly educated and digitally literate audience found this experience a hindrance, not a help. Not only were they frustrated in the slow pace of reaching what they were looking for, they were also starting to think this content wasn’t for them, but instead for others in less informed roles, and dropped out of the journey altogether.

2. Member value proposition canvas

A member value proposition canvas steers you towards the answer to two significant questions: does what you’re offering match what your audience needs - and are you really delivering it?

First, it’s a visual way of documenting what pain points your members experience day to day, what jobs they have to achieve, and what could make their lives easier. Next, it’s about identifying how your specific offering can relieve those pains and elevate the gains. If you can remove assumptions, and complete this based on intelligence directly from your members, you’ll capture whether or not you’re actually delivering on the necessary member experiences in practice. There’s no reems of report pages here, simply a single view of how well you’re meeting needs and addressing those member contexts.

Once you’re confident you understand what your members need and how those needs should be met, you’ll be in a position to clearly communicate, and then deliver on, that promise.

Download your free member value proposition canvas template at the end of this article.

Case study:

We worked with a professional membership organisation that invested time and money in offering a vast selection of discounts and subsidised benefits, like free coffee vouchers and access to venues. After completing a series of ‘Jobs to be Done’ research interviews and survey analysis, the consolidating member value proposition map highlighted a big gap in their offering. We identified that their members weren’t interested in discount perks, but were instead single-minded in wanting support, signposting and information that would better their career and personal stability in the workforce. 

3. Member engagement quality scoring

Too often when reporting on the member experience, organisations focus on unhelpful numbers. Isolated digital engagement stats, like session numbers or total visitor numbers, can feel good if they’re rising month on month - but they don’t give you a complete picture.

Member engagement quality scoring, on the other hand, looks at how to measure the quality of experience that your members have.

It works by assigning scores to different interactions - like signing up to webinars or accessing a member dashboard, attending a membership event or clicking on a newsletter - spanning both macro and micro engagements. The data can then be segmented based on those scores, or other core dimensions, to give a robust picture of what proportion are highly engaged, how many are at risk, and where there are opportunities to encourage greater engagement.

Taking this one step further, you can plug this into your membership CRM, to see who your least engaged members are. By reaching out to find out where things are missing the mark, you’ll be able to react and steer them towards greater value before they leave. This technique will put you on the front foot in spotting engagement trends, proactively rectifying issues with member experience, and really move the dial when it comes to retention.

Download your free member engagement quality scoring template at the end of this article.

Case study:

One organisation we work with found that rather than actively cancelling, individuals were simply leaving their membership to run out and not paying to renew it. This meant they were missing out on feedback about why members left, which was part of the cancellation journey not being taken. Member engagement quality scoring was then one of the only ways for them to capture reliable and informative quantitative data to understand where engagement dropped off.

Making member research work for you

Members’ expectations can and do change - but by understanding their needs and mapping your offering to match, you’ll see where the gaps lie. You’ll want to avoid having to be reactive or make decisions without informative data later further down the line, when a big gap in value has become declining retention or acquisition. You’ll also want foresight on the opportunities to grow value, that these tools will point to.

All of the above tools are designed to steer your knowledge of what your members need and how well you’re meeting that. To do this effectively, being proactive is key. When it comes to member insight, the best time to start was yesterday - but the next best time is now.  

Member research templates

Download all three member research templates in PDF format below:

  • Assumption mapping template
  • Member value proposition canvas template
  • Member engagement quality scoring template


Becki Hemming UX Strategist at Freestyle

Rebecca Hemming

UX Strategist

Contact us:

+44 1926 652 832

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