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Follow the Data

Years ago we led a massive membership survey for a large national sports organization.  The survey had over 100 questions, which as you can imagine was quite labor intensive to build and also very time consuming for the individual members to sort through.  We put forth a bunch of cool prizes for those that finished the survey, which helped us get some good results in the end.


As we were going through the survey development process, we wanted to pressure test many of the assumptions the organization held true about their members.  We wanted to either validate or challenge the things staff thought about their membership, their families, their preferences, their demographic make-up, you name it, we asked about it.  After all, the goal is to gather information that can make your business (or sports organization) stronger, right?


When we launched the survey link and sent it out to the target audience, we hoped to get 500 responses over the course of a few weeks.  The survey (and the prizes we offered up) was so well received, we had to turn the survey link off after receiving 2,500 responses in only a few days.  In the end, we had captured more data than we really knew what to do with.


After analyzing the responses it was evident that we had information that contradicted what the organization and its staff thought about their membership.  Given this development, we had to create an engaging way to roll out the findings that wouldn’t come off as threatening to the belief system that had been in place within the organization for many years.  So how did we do that?.....


We made it into a trivia game.


We asked the staff to gather together and we handed out a piece of paper with 25 multiple-choice questions on it.  We then asked them to write down their answers.  The top scorers would get a prize.  We asked about demographics (how many members were male versus female, what is the family’s household income?).  What beverages they liked best and what kind of pets do they have (for sponsorship solicitation). What social media channels they used.  What other sports they played beyond the one tied to the organization.  What brand of car was in the driveway?  You name it, we probed it.


As we started going through the answers for each question, there was some push back from the staff.  Some responses were in the realm of “that isn’t true” or “I don’t believe that.”  The problem was that we had the data, they did not.  We had 2,500 fresh surveys that gave us the answers to the test so to speak.  So we decided to counter with, “If you have more current data than what this survey provided all of us, let’s talk about it and how to use it.  If not, this information is the best we have to go on moving forward.”


In the end we did some good things with the survey results, however there was a significant amount of resistance internally.  Which brings us to the major lesson learned.  If we have a trove of good information, why wouldn’t we use it to our advantage?


If you knew a basketball player can’t dribble left, would you let them go right?


If a football team had a tough time stopping the run, would you have your offense come out throwing the ball on first down?


If a tennis player had a poor backhand, would you hit it to their forehand side?


Of course the answers to the previous three questions should be a resounding NO.  Okay, so data isn’t always perfect, however it is information that in the absence of better intel, should be put to good use where possible.  If the data gives you a competitive advantage, strategize around it and take action.

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