Paper, Phone or Web Survey: Which Do I Choose?

Paper, Phone or Web Survey: Which Do I Choose?
Web surveys have surged in popularity in recent years, and for many associations, they’ve become the go-to tool for measuring member engagement.  So when and why is it appropriate to choose good old paper or phone-based surveys over electronic?

A lot of organizations automatically opt for the cheapest and easiest method, but it’s more important to consider which tool will help you get the information and insights you want to get out of your survey.

Response rates and the size of your membership are two of the key factors to consider when choosing your survey tool. In a recent 123Signup webinar with Matt Braun of Loyalty Research, he estimated that response rates for phone interviews are the highest (50-60%), paper surveys tend to get a response rate of around 20%, and web-based surveys get the lowest response rates of 8-12%.

A web-based survey sent to 10,000 people with a response rate of 10% gives you 1000 responses – a big enough sample size to give you good insights on your members’ attitudes and behaviors. But sending the same survey to 100 people would result in only 10 responses, and that’s just not enough to give you reliable, actionable data.

(Read The Right Questions to Ask on Your Next Membership Survey for ideas on putting together an effective questionnaire.)

For smaller organizations looking to get more detailed information, a phone survey may well be the way to go – there’s more to think about before choosing your methodology. Here are some of the pros and cons of each survey tool to help you choose the right method for your next research project.

Paper Surveys


  • Easy to design as a Word document.
  • Can be easy to collect by mail or if handed out at an event.


  • Entering data from the back end can be time consuming and result in error.
  • People can write in answers that are difficult to interpret and categorize.
  • May get a lower response rate among younger members.

Phone Surveys


  • Information quality is the best of all the methods because it captures the true voice of the member. Phone interviewers have the ability to probe respondents and get them to expand on their answers so you get more in-depth answers and insights.
  • Better participation than paper or web-based surveys, and a good choice for smaller memberships.


  • The most difficult method to get right.
  • Cost is high as it may require that you higher an external company to help to design and implement it.
  • It takes longer to collect information.
  • Can be difficult to reach people at a convenient time for a 10 to 20 minute survey.

Web Surveys


  • Highest value for the cost.
  • Inexpensive applications make it easy to design and collect information.
  • Can be distributed through various channels, including email, social media, and on your website.
  • Many applications offer basic analysis and reporting tools to help you get insights from your data.
  • Gives every member with access to the web the ability to participate.
  • Allows for longer surveys, and give respondents the ability to save and continue.
  • Gives you the ability to assign a unique identifier to each respondent for tracking purposes.


  • Have lower response rates than paper or phone surveys, which may not be ideal for smaller organizations.


Growing Membership by Working Smarter, Not Harder

Growing Membership by Working Smarter, Not Harder

Think about the old 80/20 rule – you get 80% of your results from 20% of your effort. As an association with limited resources, you can’t be all things to all people. So it makes sense to be strategic about where you’re investing your time, energy, and resources when working on growing membership.

If you survey your members and conduct ongoing research, you should be able to segment them by their perceived value of your organization, and then by how much they are investing on an annual basis. You’ll want to group them by:

Members who have low perceived value of their membership, but are making large investments in your organization.

This can be the attrition danger zone, and there are countless reasons why these members don’t value what you are offering. Unless you want to risk losing them, you’ll need to figure out where your organization is falling short and take action quickly.

Members who have high perceived value and are making large investments.

Look at your membership survey responses to identify the benefits that are most used by this group and determine if there are any shortcomings or areas of improvement that could enhance the benefits that matter most to them. The name of the game is keeping this group engaged. Making small changes and additions – and then communicating the improvements you’ve made – can go a long way to keeping these members engaged.

Members who have high perceived value, but are making small investments.

The key for this group is to identify value-ads that could generate additional revenue streams. These kinds of members have staying power, but you’ll want to be careful not to neglect them. As you have the resources available, adding and bundling products that appeal to lower-level members can help you retain, and even upgrade these members.

Members who have low perceived value, and are making small investments.

If this is a small group in comparison to your overall membership, you can focus on these members last. They may fall off eventually, but if that happens, you stand to lose a lot less from this group than you do from your higher income generators. If this category comprises a large portion of your membership, this could signal a big problem in your membership strategies.

If you’ve come to the conclusion that certain members just aren’t a match, that’s not necessarily a negative thingIt’s better to focus on keeping and attracting the right kind of members than to stretch your resources too thin in an effort to cater to everyone.

Now that you’ve classified your members into these groups, it’s time to dive a little deeper into figuring out what makes them tick and identifying the kinds of members that will help you build your organization.

Stay tuned for our next post on creating member profiles to determine your “perfect” members.


Member Retention: The First Step Toward Growing Your Association

Member Retention: The First Step Toward Growing Your Association

The best way to grow memberships is often debated, and many believe that driving new sales is the way to go. However, keep in mind that “an association that adds 5,000 new members a year and maintains a 75% renewal rate will grow to 20,000 members. While an association that adds the same 5,000 new members but maintains an 85% renewal rate will grow to 33,000 members.” (T. Rossell, 2012)

Here are some member retention ideas for keeping your members, and keeping them happy:

Spread the News of Your Improvements.

Communication is one of the key pillars of retention. When you make improvements, achieve big milestones, or have new information that will be helpful to members, be sure to share it with the right people. Wherever possible, segment and personalize your communications so that your members get the information that really matters to them.

Turn Up Your Reminder Frequency.

You don’t want to annoy your members, but it’s a fact that a lot of people simply forget to renew their memberships. Experts are now suggesting that seven is the most effective number of renewal reminders. If you don’t have good membership management software this task can be difficult – a good reason to look into low-cost technology options that will enable you to automate your renewal reminders.

Offer Online Membership Payment Options.

If you haven’t started accepting online member payments, you should make this a priority. It is becoming the preferred method of payment for many people, and user-friendly processes are great for member retention. As a bonus, it will cut the time you spend manually processing payments down significantly.


Offering a discount for early membership renewals can give your members a good reason to submit payments right away, instead of pushing the task to the bottom of their to-do list.

Use Multiple Marketing Channels.

Don’t rely on email or your website alone. Send your members news and information through your website, social media, postcards, newsletters, and even contact key members by phone to remind them of deadlines. To keep your members engaged, your marketing strategy should include multiple tactics.

Highlight Non-Member Prices.

On all of your products, events, and services, make it a point to remind your members of the value of their benefits by publishing non-member prices.

Partner Up.

Keep your eyes open for potential partnership opportunities with other organizations that will be mutually beneficial. Often, you can tee up arrangements that will bring added benefits to your members, and make them more likely to value their memberships.

Review Your Member Welcome/Orientation Program.

Inviting new members to free orientation events where they can meet their colleagues is a great way of building the sense of community that is necessary for member retention. If you don’t have the time or budget for that, send them a welcome pack or give them a personal welcome phone call at the very least.


The Keys to a Good Membership Pricing Strategy

The Keys to a Good Membership Pricing Strategy

How confident are you in your organization’s membership pricing strategy? Are you doing everything you can to generate the most revenue while satisfying existing members and drawing new ones in?

Promoting the right membership packages and add-ons to the right people at the right price is fundamental to both member acquisition and member retention. Once you’ve taken the time to understand the needs of your members, you can develop more flexible pricing strategies to generate reliable revenue streams.

It’s important to consider your overall business objectives before setting prices and packaging benefits. Is your goal to capture more market share? Are you looking to expand into new markets? Do you want to encourage your lower-level members to upgrade?

Review and Revise your Membership Structure

Every association is different, and there is no concrete formula for effective membership structures. The key is to cater to the kinds of members you want to appeal to.

First, you’ll want to compare your organizational assessment with the member profiles you’ve developed. Analyze each member profile, and make a note of where your organization is falling short of delivering value. Then, you should think of ways that you can enhance your current offerings or introduce new benefits to fulfill more of your members’ needs. This is particularly important for members who make a large membership investment but have a low perceived value of their membership.

Look at which products and benefits could be bundled together to match the needs of each group, and then see if you can put a value on the total package. You may just need to tweak your current membership levels, but if you find that your current membership options don’t align with your key targets, overhauling your membership structure might be your best option.

It’s not realistic to make your membership packages meet every last need of your target audiences. Even within your segmented groups, interests and needs will still vary. Try to balance price and perceived value, and leave room for purchasing add-ons separately to account for these variances.

Ideas for Developing Your Pricing Strategy

Many associations use a cost-plus pricing model, a simple method in which a markup percentage is added to operational costs to make a profit. This is by far the easiest price structure to calculate, however, it is often not in an association’s best interest. Many associations purposely try to keep their costs low for members, but this thinking has its downsides. For example, in cases of unforeseeable economic downturns, it can cause members to drop off when times get tough.

Value-based pricing has emerged as a much more effective way to set membership prices. It enables an association to set prices based on the value it is offering members, instead of the actual cost.

“Because members and prospects vary in their price sensitivity and preferences, you should consider a variety of pricing strategies to enhance your marketing efforts and sell memberships and products.” (Jacobs, 2014) Here are just a couple ideas to consider …

1. Price for value. Don’t undervalue what you are offering, particularly if it’s a need-to-have product, your competitors can’t match it, or there is prestige associated with being a member. This rule is especially important when determining the price differences between your membership levels.

2. Increase dues by a small percentage each year rather than making infrequent large increases. Many members already expect incremental increases, and they are much easier to swallow than large increases that come as a surprise.

3. Offer VIP options. Add an additional layer to your pricing, and additional revenue, by allowing members of any status to register for events or programs under a VIP category. Added benefits for VIPs might include reserved seating, invitations to cocktail receptions, or special gifts.

4. Build perceived value. You can do this by offering add-ons without charging more. Examples might include free professional advice or free publications for certain types of members. With this strategy, you’ll need to price your other programs, products, and services so that they cover the cost of the “free” offering.

5. Offer monthly memberships and billing. Many associations are already starting to offer monthly installment options on annual memberships. Why not consider taking that one step further and offering a monthly membership option? This strategy could help you attract some of your on-the-fence prospects and eventually sign them as long-term members. To them, it’s a low-risk way to try out the benefits of membership.

6. Create urgency. Think early-bird special. This strategy works well for events and other programs. Combine limited quantities with special pricing that expires at some point to encourage your members to register quickly.

7. Attract with high-value, low-cost products. For example, you may offer a large discount on the price of your annual conference to draw members in, and then subsidize the cost of the event by charging for related events and activities on an al a carte basis.

8. Offer discounts for group members with high participation. If you don’t already have a group membership option for corporate and other industry organizations, now is the time to think about putting one in place. You could offer these members generous discounts for enrolling a certain percentage of their employees.