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Research by Design is the leading market research agency for membership associations in the UK.

We have a dedicated membership team who work with our membership, professional and trade association clients to deliver expert insight. Our breadth of clients in these sectors also means that we can benchmark performance through our normative database.

Our unrivalled experience in the membership sector has given us a deep understanding of the complex and unique challenges that membership associations face. This in turn means that we can offer tailored insight that not only gets to the root of our clients’ issues but delivers robust recommendations to help drive their strategy and future proof their organisation.

Understanding member loyalty, the drivers to member retention and attrition, and the importance of representation and different member benefits are key to building a strong, sustainable brand that members are proud to subscribe to. At Research by Design we help associations gain real insight into what matters to members in order to develop a compelling value proposition and optimise member engagement.

Member value proposition

As member organisations strive to optimise their offering to attract and retain members, it can be hard to truly understand what members want, get everyone on the same page internally, and articulate the value of membership in a compelling way. Value proposition design offers a powerful and proven methodology to address these challenges. Leveraging our extensive sector experience as well as our understanding of the value proposition design process, we can help to:

• Understand value proposition design
• Focus on member goals, issues and desires
• Build stakeholder alignment
• Identify opportunities to optimise the offering
• Develop a clear value proposition statement.

Find out more about our approach to the member value proposition.

Member engagement

Member engagement is one of the hot topics in the membership community. Based on our extensive experience in the sector, Research by Design has developed a clear, comprehensive definition of member engagement underpinned by a robust model. We are in a unique position to be able to:

• Define member engagement
• Understand member engagement
• Measure member engagement
• And help our clients increase member engagement

Read more about our approach to member engagement.

Royal College of Physicians

The Challenge: The Royal College of Physicians support their fellows and members during every stage of their career, which contributes to improving the quality of patient care. Our client also takes a wide role in public health and focusses its activities on campaigning for change, advising government and Parliament and taking...

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British Pharmacological Society

The Challenge: RbD was commissioned by BPS to help better understand the perceptions and needs of members and identify areas for improvement.

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Researching non-members

The Challenge: Recently, we have received several requests from membership organisations to help them with research on their non-members. Many organisations are familiar with researching their members or lapsed members, but when it comes to non-members or prospects that is a more uncertain area.

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The Royal Society of Chemistry

The Royal Society of Chemistry 2016 Member Survey - Getting everyone around the table at the onset of a research journey.

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We asked RbD to help us understand our members better, identify the keys challenges we face, and to inform our thinking as we develop our future strategy. Their professionalism, expertise, and knowledge of the professional membership body sector were all exemplary and helped ensure the programme rolled out on time and met our expectations. The RbD team was driven to ensure the quantitative survey was in an appropriate format and asked the right questions so that the resulting data would be appropriate and useful. Their help in translating the findings into strategic planning was invaluable. RbD see themselves as partners rather than simply suppliers, and that makes all the difference. 

Philip King, Chief Executive, Chartered Institute of Credit Management (CICM)
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Research by Design took the time to really understand our organisation and how we are trying to deliver our strategic objective to ‘greater match the Society’s activities to the needs of its membership’. They incorporated this knowledge into the research and suggested a number of areas we might have otherwise overlooked. It is often tempting to use an existing supplier, but this is the first time we have used RbD and we are very pleased with their work so far. In fact within the first day of the online survey starting they had exceeded our previous total response rates. The strategic thinking, enthusiasm and excellent communication has been invaluable.

Katharine Richardson, Head of Communications and Membership, British Pharmacological Society (BPS)
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RbD has invested a great deal of time and energy in understanding our research needs and ensuring that the surveys we send are both strategic and meet our overarching objectives and requirements. The reports they send are clear and the team do a good job at pulling out the important recommendations. RbD are also very flexible about coming up to London to meet with us in person, both as we start a project, during, and then at the point of project delivery. We talk through the findings in a very open, honest and relaxed way, and discuss how best to apply these recommendation going forward. RbD also do a good job at applying the learning from one survey when working on other projects, so that the benefits of working and developing an honest relationship with them is really evident.

Laura Fleming, Head of Membership Engagement, Royal College of Physicians

We used Research by Design for a number of projects at RICS and found them innovative and great value for money. What impressed me most was the time spent understanding our requirements and being prepared to challenge our ideas and come up with a better solution than we originally envisaged. I first used RbD after having devised a new inspection programme and I needed to ensure the Regulatory and Customer Service requirements were being achieved. The information gained helped me as a manager to review and amend the visit programme. In addition it provided valuable feedback for the Regulatory Board to ensure the regulatory objectives were achieved.

On the strength of this I used RbD on a number of other projects and always found the service to be consistent and effective.

Glenn Walker, Director of UK Regulatory Operations, Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS)
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The British Chambers of Commerce has worked with Research by Design on a number of membership surveys over the years. The results and analysis undertaken by RbD have helped us to greatly increase policymakers’ knowledge of the issues facing small and medium-sized businesses across the UK – and have contributed directly to some important policy wins. Without RbD’s forensic attention to detail, high levels of customer care and sheer hard work, we would not have been able to achieve such positive results.

Dr Adam Marshall, Director of Policy & External Affairs, British Chambers of Commerce
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BASW and Research by Design worked closely together to undertake market research with UK members to establish the future direction of the organisation. The research outcomes have formed the strong foundation of our forward planning. The flexibility, commitment and skills of RbD staff meant this was achieved in a very tight timescale. We are looking forward to continuing to work together.

Bridget Robb, Chief Executive, British Association of Social Workers (BASW)
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Our experience of working with RbD on a comprehensive member and customer research project has been very positive, meeting all our objectives, but in particular, providing us with invaluable input into our strategic planning process. The team provided expert guidance throughout the project ensuring we achieved the best possible outcome – something we couldn’t have done on our own. Their extensive knowledge of the membership sector and benchmarking data sets them apart from other agencies. The work was planned and delivered to a very high standard. The presentations, analyses and communications with ourselves and our stakeholders were clear and relevant. They came across like they really cared about our organisation and we look forward to working with them again.

Ria Robinson, Director of Membership & Company Secretary, Association of Corporate Treasurers
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8 ways to check whether your Member Value Proposition is fit-for-purpose

2017's Digital Excellence Research Report[] highlights a worrying trend: less than 4 in 10 associations believe that member value has increased over the past year. This is despite rises in member engagement and increased member levels. Why...

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Digital Excellence 2017

With the MemberWise Digital Excellence successfully delivered this week, it is timely to reflect on the key goals of membership associations and how these goals will continue to be realised into 2018. Most commonly,...

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Member engagement: why one size doesn’t fit all organisations

*The top goal for member organisations in 2017 is increasing member engagement.*  Engagement matters. Engaged members are more likely to renew AND they are more likely to advocate. The value of engaged members is...

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The benefits of a regional presence for membership organisations

Lack of a regional presence seems to be a reoccurring theme that comes up time and time again in our research with membership organisations. Many membership organisations, as well as big businesses and institutions,...

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Why is it crucial to segment your members?

Within membership organisations, the database is one of the most valuable features. It usually shows an endless list of names (sometime thousands and thousands of members) with contact details, grades, career status, etc....

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"I don't have time!"

One of the questions membership organisations ask is why attendance levels are so low at their events or how they get members to be more *actively engaged* with the organisation. The common answer...

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How to reach out to your members?

Members are often at the heart of membership organisations, but keeping current members engaged or reaching out to them in addition to new potential recruits is not always an easy task. For a...

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Ensuring organisational buy-in to research

An important piece of research we do is ensuring that we have organisational buy in from the start of a research project. Without this we can end up with results that do...

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Member benefits – Why less is more

Offering a benefits package is crucial to members as it provides them with a return on their membership fee. However, over the years our research has identified that members cannot always recall the...

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Memberwise - Harnessing the Web 2016

Our team at Research by Design recently attended the Harnessing the Web event organised by Memberwise. As an active supporter, we are very proud to take part each year in the highly stimulating...

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Client support really helps boost response rates for online surveys in the membership sector

Proverbs and phrases aide, the sentiment is true – when we work together, we are undoubtedly stronger. This is definitely the case for boosting response rates for online surveys undertaken amongst membership organisations,...

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Member experiences that result in advocacy, or not

What is it about the member experience that results in members advocating, or not, others to join their professional association? For many it’s a culmination of experiences, though there can be just one...

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5 top communication tips for membership organisations

Research by Design often undertakes research with prospective members of an organisation as the results can help guide strategy planning in a number of valuable ways. Communication is always key so we have...

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Top tips on membership retention

The key to understanding membership retention is to take a step back, put yourselves in the shoes of your members and really reflect on what is important to them as individuals. There are...

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Memberwise - Membership Excellence 2016 Conference

On 21st April 2016, RbD’s membership team attended the 2016 Memberwise Conference in London, dedicated to membership organisations and associations, with a focus on insight into member experience, value, engagement and growth. Team membership Our...

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The quality of qualitative research

As we enter another busy phase of qualitative research here at Research by Design, it’s really encouraging to see how much emphasis our clients are putting in the strength of insight delivered by...

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Mobile madness or throwback to traditional surveys?

Mobile is important in research – but don’t forget about traditional survey platforms! We are already glued to our mobiles in many walks of life; we call, text, search, tweet, like, comment, navigate,...

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How to make an audience feel special

I recently took a bag of clothes and books into a Barnardo’s charity shop, and upon handing them to the volunteer who was manning the desk, she asked me to register my details...

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The truth behind databases used for market research

Recent research by Verve has found that consumers are deliberately giving false information to brands, such as fake addresses, date of births and email addresses, concluding this is devaluing the databases brands work...

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Use of social media by membership associations

Almost all membership associations are using at least one form of social media. Twitter is the most common followed by LinkedIn, Facebook and YouTube. Almost two-thirds of membership associations would describe their social media...

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How has Google's mobile algorithm impacted membership organisations?

I can’t help wondering how Google’s recent algorithm update to boost the ranking of mobile-friendly pages on mobile search results is impacting membership associations. I specifically mention these associations because many of them are...

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The Power of Google

Have you ever asked a question and had the response "Just Google it"? Don’t worry you’re not alone, according to internet live stats, since its creation Google has become an ever growing behemoth with...

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When actions speak louder than words for membership organisations

One of the issues that constantly raises itself in Research by Design’s projects with membership organisations is the need for strong and relevant representation. Representation can be the primary motivating factor for some people...

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