Ten Ways Association Surveys Are Like the Election Polls
Last month, we saw how far off the polls were in foreseeing the outcome of the presidential election. The inaccuracy of the polls got me thinking about the way organizations and businesses use trend forecasts and consumer surveys. Most companies use surveys to assess customer or member sentiments. When used effectively, surveys are a helpful foundation for strategic planning and innovation. However, in our work with organizations, we often see great opportunities in the way surveys are developed and executed.
Here are 10 of the most common mistakes in the use of member, trade show and conference surveys:
10. SENT TOO LATE: The survey must be conducted at the event itself (i.e. at a kiosk) or, at the latest, be in the inbox of every guest the day they return to work.
9. LACK AUDIENCE SEGMENTATION: It’s important to know who is telling you what. All associations and professional societies do some sort of segmentation of those who fill out the survey, but it’s likely not enough. It’s essential to look carefully and critically at the breakdown. Identifying critical audience segments will give you specific information that will allow you to better direct your marketing and events strategy for the future.
8. IGNORE THE OTHERS: Why didn’t a past-year guest attend this year? Why do others never attend? Your survey is an opportunity to ask these questions.
7. MISSING PRODUCTS AND SERVICES: What products are missing from the exhibition hall? Which service offerings could be better represented? Get ahead of the curve, and identify these directly from those who can tell you before they go looking elsewhere.
6. LITTLE FORESIGHT: While most questions are specific to the event, some questions should be dedicated to the future of the industry and how that impacts the show. There are many events and conferences that are trailing behind industry developments. The ideal show is a place where new ideas and trends are discovered and developed.
5. IRRELEVANCE: Ask the audience the question: “Is this show crucial to your business?” in ten different ways. If your event isn’t relevant to their business, it won’t stay alive for long.
4. NO CLEAR BENCHMARKS: Scrutinizing trends is essential. Some questions should be asked year after year to compare and contrast audience sentiment. Identify trends in your members’ expectations before they do.
3. SKIPPING OVER ADVOCACY: This is a commonly missed question (and opportunity). If advocacy is part of your association’s mission, did the conference or tradeshow further its goals?
2. LACK OF EMOTION: Questions are always asked about the city, location and exhibit hall (the psychical dimension); but what about the emotional, intellectual and physiological dimensions? Did the show feel lively, creative, new and futuristic? Did it excite you about your industry?
1. NO ATTENTION TO ANECDOTES: Traditionally, surveys are macro, whereas focus groups and interviews are micro. Your research strategy should include both in addition to informal, anecdotal information. Like investigative reporters, your team should be embedded in every aspect of the live experience to collect comments and feedback on the buses, within the food lines, in company meetings and even in the bars!