Over the past few weeks we’ve done an in-depth exploration of the strategies and tactics to making powerful surveys. We’ve offered tips on the best ways to design, build, deploy, and manage surveys to capture useful data and extract insights. But once that work is done – it comes time to actually use survey data.

For most membership managers, this means reports. Higher-ups want to be briefed on the insights you’ve generated, and you want to provide them with information that supports the efforts and campaigns you believe will create success for your organization.

Define Your Problems

A problem well stated is a problem half solved. When it comes to solving problems that require the buy-in of higher-ups, this is especially true. You might already have a clear understanding of exactly what needs to be done to grow your organization, but moving forward requires you to share your thinking in a way that will persuade your stakeholders.

You’ve poured through all the feedback you’ve received from your surveys. You’ve developed a keen understanding of the insights they reveal, negative and positive, but now you’ve got to make them clear and convincing to others who may lack your experience.

Consider starting by listing your problems casually. They might look like:

  • Low event engagement
  • High member churn
  • Declining member acquisition

Now, let us use data to explore those problems and flesh them out in a way that shows a path to a solution.

Present them Confidently with Data

What does, for example, ‘low event engagement’ mean?

Does it mean you had lower-than-average registrations? That attendants left early? That workshops failed to fill?

‘Low event engagement’ might be a problem you truly experienced, but stating it that way is vague and leads to a lot of uncertainty. The solution for ‘low event engagement’ will look a lot different than the solution for a ‘poor registration to attendance ratio,’ so you must look to your data for more in-depth insight into the nuances of your problems. Your exploration of relevant metrics across website, email, and survey analytics might reveal:

  • Lower than average open rates for invite emails.
  • A high bounce rate for mobile users on important event information pages.
  • Qualitative survey responses indicating difficulties with parking.

Improving ‘event engagement’ is difficult because the path to a solution isn’t evident. Improving open rates, mobile user experience, and event parking is much more clear. Finding solutions to these problems is comparatively easy because they are defined in a much more specific way.

More importantly, stating problems to stakeholders this way is a great tactic to build their confidence. It shows you have an understanding of the problems your organization is facing and builds their anticipation of your impending solution.

Attribute Problems to Actionable Causes

‘Email opens were lower than average last year’ is a great way to state one of the problems affecting our hypothetical event engagement problems.

But why were ’email opens lower than average’?

It’s difficult to know with perfect certainty, but listing a few of the most likely causes demonstrates that you’ve got a comprehensive understanding of the problems your organization is facing. You might say:

  • Subject line copy lacked adequate personalization.
  • Our email list is out-of-date, and contains many inaccurate or outdated addresses.
  • Email design and copy likely triggered recipient spam filters.

As we did in the step above, this approach is all about drilling down to the root of a problem to understand it as thoroughly as possible.

State Your Solutions in Measurable Terms

With a thorough understanding of the problems, you’d like to present to your stakeholders, proposing your solutions is straightforward. Having built stakeholder confidence with a comprehensive, data-based analysis of the problems you’d like to share, you’ve done the important work of securing emotional buy-in. With it, it’s time to translate it into support for the actions you’d like to take.

The best way to do so is to continue to stick to a data-based presentation. However, instead of using historical data to analyze the past, you’ll be setting goals for each of your important metrics, and stating the path, you’ll take to achieve them.

Setting goals for important metrics is straightforwards. If open rates for event invite emails were 8%, and your organization average is 11%, consider the impact of the likely causes for this variance. If you addressed each cause (better subject line copy, email list cleanup, better body copy), it is reasonable to expect you can boost opens at least to your organization’s average. You could likely do even better!

With this approach, instead of saying ‘we will improve email open rates,’ you can say ‘we expect email event invite open rates to improve from 8% to between 11% and 15%.

Methodically perform the same process for each problem you’ve explored, and buy-in will secure itself!

Rely on Data, Process, and Method

If you know how to let it, data speaks for itself and is near-impossible to argue with. Building a data-based case for any kind of change makes trust building easy – as it’s harder to doubt objective data than people.

Starting from the most general understanding of a problem (i.e. ‘low event engagement), you can draw from survey data, website analytics and more to ‘drill down’ to the specific sources of organizational issues. With a specific source identified, you can continue to drill down and attribute problems to directly actionable causes.

While the process might be laborious, performing it for each and every problem you believe to be affecting the achievement of your organizational goals can build an iron-clad case for the actions best suited to drive the success of your organization!