Day 4 of idea a day: Mystery shop
It's a simple idea, so simple that nobody does it. What a shame.
In a lot of ways, I agree with Ben Martin's previous post that association staff are like their members. But one significant difference I can think of is that the staff is much closer to the association's products and services. Sometimes too close. You know the reasons behind how you organized your website or your conference. You know how you marketed your products and how you thought customers would buy them. You know why you chose A and not B.
So my fourth idea is to establish a mystery shopping program. Depending on the size of your association, you may need to enlist others in the program â€” membership to establish a phony member, IT to help monitor what happens, etc.
Because association staff is too close to the organization's products and services, a true mystery shopping program should use outside help. A few ideas of how to design it:
Find someone in your industry or profession who has never been a member and tell them you'll comp their travel and participation at your conference.
Find a member who has not been particularly active, and tell them you'll give them a whole selection of your products for nothing if they will be your accomplice.
If your areas are not technical, get a neighbor or friend to place a few orders.
And of course, plenty of consultants will be happy to help you out.
Be sure you design it as a program. Do not go into thinking you know the answers. This is research, and if you go into research with a preconceived notion of how it will go, you are liable to unconsciously design it to meet that end. In addition, give it a budget. And most important, use the results to design the next study as well as to think about how you can create a better experience for your members.