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Membership 101: Data, Data, Data

If you’ve been following this series – and I hope you have! – you’ve probably noticed that I cartoon man filling out surveytalk a lot about data.

You need data to calculate LTV.

You need data to construct your ladders of engagement.

You need data to personalize effectively.

You need data to run an effective welcome series.

You need data to understand why people joined in the first place.

You need data to know when prospects are ready to join.

You might be thinking: “That seems like a lot of data. How am I going to get it?”

I’m glad you asked!

You can collect data actively AND passively. You can collect it formally AND informally. You can collect quantitative AND qualitative data.

Ideally, you’ll do all of the above.

What do all those options mean?

Active data collection is when you intentionally and purposefully ask for feedback through something like a focus group or an online comment form.

Passive data collection is when you use technology to record what your members and other audiences do, like what emails they open, what links they click on your website, what they purchase from you, what conversations they participate in on your white label social network, and what events they attend.

Formal data collection is when you’re collecting data in a time-bound, structured way, like an annual membership satisfaction survey.

Informal data collection is what you learn from your day-to-day interactions with members, like your email and phone exchanges with them, or talking to them at in-person events.

Quantitative data is stuff that can be reported on with numbers, charts, and graphs, like a Likert scale asking attendees to rank your conference.

Qualitative data is freeform or unstructured data that can be highly illuminating but challenging to share, like the results of interviews.

We tend to do a good job with active, formal, quantitative data. Not that constructing an effective survey is easy – it is definitely not – but we know how to run surveys, our members know how to respond to them, and we know how to report on and disseminate the results.

We tend to do a good job with passive data, as long as we put a little thought into what we should be collecting and how we intend to use it, set up the systems to do so, and remember to go look at it and report on it periodically.

Dealing with informal qualitative data is a lot more challenging. First of all, it’s distributed, and we usually don’t have a good means of collecting and sharing it. I guarantee there are staff members on your team who know all KINDS of interesting things about your audiences that you don’t know, just because you’ve never asked them and there’s no easy way for them to share what they’ve learned.

Unstructured data is hard to report on. You can’t make a dashboard or a pretty graph of the results of interviews. Even identifying themes requires us to use our words. And, to quote my Getting to the Good Stuff co-author Peter Houstle, “the plural of anecdote is  not data.” Qualitative data gives you stories and opinions, and can get at the “why” of what your members are thinking and doing better than almost anything else, but you still need to go out and validate those stories and opinions.

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