You invest in events, send out emails, educate them, certify them and collect their dues. But how well do you really know your members, both potential and existing?

Beyond the basic demographics, perhaps not as well as you might think. Test yourself: Do you capture the answers to these 10 questions?

  1. If asked to describe your association to a potential member, do you know what they would say?
  2. If asked to describe your service quality, do you know how they would respond?
  3. Do they view you as strategic, or merely a "cost" they must grudgingly pay each year?
  4. Are they open to engaging at a higher level, or do they see you only in the narrow context of your current interactions?
  5. Do they know the importance of membership and sponsorship referrals?
  6. Do you know specifically how often they may wish to hear from you personally over the phone? Or via email? Or in person?
  7. Do they prefer to read content, listen to podcasts or watch video?
  8. Do they prefer a weekly newsletter, a monthly one or perhaps none at all?
  9. Do they prefer long-form content (books or white papers), shorter articles or perhaps just 140 character snippets?
  10. Do they want to receive information about your events, industry news or just action-focused bulletins (or maybe all)?

Too often, we make assumptions about our target audiences: everyone thinks the same, they have identical needs, and they can be served in the same way.

What else explains the ubiquity of the monthly newsletter? (Does everyone really prefer to read monthly?) Or what explains why so many organizations provide zero social media interactions at night or on the weekends? (Does every target user really stop using social media at 5 p.m.?)

The truth is that each member typically thinks of themselves as unique: they have a unique history, unique outlook, and unique-to-them needs.

For those you know well, answering these 10 questions is not that difficult. But for newer members or prospective members, it is almost impossible.

The only thing you know is that (for example) some may be attracted to a daily tip sheet, a weekly newsletter, a monthly newsletter, a short YouTube clip or one of the other many formats of communication. And if you don't have what they need in the format or frequency they prefer, they will not see "value" in a membership: they likely give you pass.

This week's action plan: Just because you have always done something one particular way, doesn't automatically mean it suits your members today. Capture the answer to these questions in your database, and then use the data to plan how to deliver what your members want. (Hint: Marketing automation and content strategy is the only way to make this happen efficiently.)