As millennials continue to grow in numbers in the workforce and gain more buying power, companies and organizations across all industries need to better understand and engage with this ever-influential demographic.
Professional associations are no different. But the problem is, associations can seem very “old school” to many millennials. From how memberships are set up to certification processes, the traditional ways that associations do business don’t exactly match up with how millennials function.
Fear not! Here are five tips that can help your association attract and engage this highly sought-after group:
1. Offer Monthly Subscription-based Memberships
Associations typically only offer annual memberships. But millennials don’t like long-term commitments–it’s a main reason why they’re not buying cars and homes. They’re used to month-to-month subscriptions like Spotify and Netflix.
Consider giving millennials the option to join on a month-to-month subscription basis. This doesn’t radically change your business – it should just be a quick tweak in the billing section of your association management software (AMS). And freeing them from a long-term commitment could actually increase loyalty because they maintain control of the relationship based on the value they receive.
2. Gamify Member Engagement
One of the biggest critiques of millennials is that they have short attention spans. Therefore, any engagement you have with them should be fun. Try to gamify member engagement by awarding them badges that track their relationship with your organization.
Some badge ideas include:
- Reaching a membership anniversary
- Achieving a certain number of continuous education credits
- Attending a specific number of meetings
3. Use Social Media
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat–it’s no secret that millennials love social media. They need to know what their friends are doing at all times and equally need to share their own activities. So, they’re likely checking their social media feeds more often than their work email. This makes social media a prime touchpoint for your membership department.
Why wait to promote your upcoming meeting in an email during office hours when you can reach them at any time via a social post?
Plus, you can’t forget the power of the group. 6 of your friends like La La Land. 12 of your friends like Taylor Swift. 15 of your friends like this association. If you build up your social media presence and get existing members to like and follow your page, their colleagues and industry friends will be apt to follow, too.
4. Use Millennials to Attract Millennials
“I can’t even.” “On fleek.” The aforementioned, “bae.” Trying to understand millennials can take some serious deciphering. So much so that Inc. magazine had to publish a guide to help. But you don’t need to put your staff through a crash course on millennial communication 101. Just hire actual millennials!
Younger staff members get millennials because they are millennials. They talk the talk and know how to engage with their own on social media. As your millennial membership grows, you can start a committee of younger members to help guide your organization’s appeal to the younger age group.
5. Bring the Education to Them
In a survey by Buzz Marketing Group, 45 percent of millennial respondents felt that association membership is too expensive. If they’re already hesitant to join for the membership costs, you can’t expect them to dish out more money to attend your annual meeting, which might be on the other side of the country (adding travel and hotel expenses).
You should provide more pocket-friendly options through the association website and online resources, like live webinars or downloadable videos. This way, they can get the continuing education they need, on their own time and budget.
Of course, the online experience won’t completely replace in-person meetings. But, you’ll need to bring your organization closer to the millennials. Instead of one annual meeting, conduct more regional meetings throughout the year and take the education to them. It’ll help them save money and they’ll be more likely to renew their memberships when they see ongoing value with your organization.
Engaging and increasing membership with millennials is possible if you follow the tips above. You’ll be able to make your organization approachable, accessible and fun and demonstrate its value to their budding careers. Better yet, it’s a great way to show millennials that, “This isn’t your grandfather’s association anymore.”
About Audrey Smilgys
Audrey Smilgys is a senior solution consultant at Protech Associates, Inc. Audrey comes from the association world. She has worked for the National Association of Realtors (NAR); an association management firm, Bostrom; and a nursing certification organization. When she works with Protech customers, she understands the unique association perspective because she’s lived it. She knows it’s all about the members.