A recent consultation in a client’s slowly dying community showed members wanted the community to remain exactly as it was.
This makes sense, if they’re participating they’re usually somewhat happy with the community. It’s hard to imagine something better. They might want a few small tweaks, but small tweaks won’t drive the community forward. Worse yet, it won’t change the trajectory of the community’s downward direction.
This is the problem with asking members what they want, they often describe what they already have (with a few minor tweaks)
The problem, of course, is you’re researching the wrong audience. It’s not your (happy) members you need data on, it’s the audience you want to expand into.
If you want to grow beyond your current audience, your research needs to go beyond your current audience. Find the people who have left the community, people in the sector who never joined, and people from related sectors who might be good members.
Uncover their problems, wishes, and concerns. Look specifically for rapidly rising trends. If 1% of members were using a new technology last year and 4% are using it this year, that’s a 400% increase. It might be worth paying attention to that.
If you want incremental improvements, ask your active members what they want.
If you want to increase the number of members who participate, ask inactive (or less active) members what they want.
If you want to expand, ask non-members what they want.