The workforce is changing. Generation X is slowly but surely handing over the keys to the finally-come-of-age Millennials. These young professionals now make up a full third of the workforce – and this percentage will only continue to grow as Gen Xers retire.
But even though this generation will soon constitute the majority of American workers, they are often still treated as a mystery to be solved. The truth of the matter is, Millennials aren’t some enigma that needs decoding. They’re a young, vibrant community that wants to be heard and engaged, and they have a host of gifts to offer if they’re given the opportunity to express them.
This being the case, why do associations have so much difficulty appealing and increasing their Millennial memberships? They’re the largest living generation, most of them are in established career paths, and they actively look for ways to advance in those paths. Millennials are perfect candidates for joining in with their peers in a network of professionals, yet somehow they tend to shy away from associations. Why is this?
To understand the reasons behind this problem and how to overcome it, we first need to take a closer look at who Millennials are and what drives them.
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Who are Millennials?
Anyone born between 1980 and 2000 is considered a Millennial (or Gen Y). This is a wide range of ages, but there are a number of generalities that carry across this span.
Millennials are tech savvy. Millennials had the advantage of growing up during one of the biggest technological advancements of all time. Most of them remember the birth of the Internet and the subsequent technologies that spawned from it, so they are generally very adept at using technology and incorporating it into their personal and work lives.
Millennials value work/life balance. Putting family or friends on the back burner in order to work more is simply not an option for the average Millennial. This crowd desires a healthy work/life hierarchy in which their employment falls below loved ones and experiencing life. For many this means seeking flexible jobs, like with the option to work remotely, that they can work around their other activities.
Millennials are frugal. Growing up during economic straits has an impact on people, for better or worse. Millennials experienced the Great Recession firsthand, which created a very practical and frugal mindset in this generation.
Millennials value personal fulfillment. This is a unique generational trait, and perhaps the one that gives us the most insight into who Millennials are. They tend to place a high premium on feeling fulfilled both at home and at their job, and they will even change career paths to find a place of employment that engages them.
Millennials care about connection. This cohort is one of constant interaction, as they connect with peers via social media on a variety of platforms. It is estimated Millennials spend an average of 18 hours a day consuming media, including texting and social media. Essentially, the majority of their day is spent in some type of communication with people and media.
These factors help paint a well-rounded picture of the average Millennial: plugged in, practical, driven, and people-oriented. Unfortunately, their skepticism, individuality, and tendency to network via social media rather than in person keep them from seeing the need to purchase a membership.
This is where the challenge comes in. It’s time to reinvent your marketing tactics to help Millennials see how they fit into the professional association world, and how it can benefit them not only in their career, but in their pursuit of a well-rounded, balanced lifestyle.
Capturing an elusive generation
Gaining ground in the Millennial sphere means knowing how to appeal to them – what messages will resonate, which platforms they can be found on, and what media channels are most influential. After all, if you’re not tailoring your messages to your market, who are you reaching? Understanding what they want to see is the only way to increase Millennial memberships.
When it comes to marketing to Millennials, there are a few general rules that can help you form the perfect campaign:
Tell a story. Millennials love stories. This is rule number one of engagement. Keep their attention. Give them a reason to keep reading – an emotional pull that explains how what you do is worthy of their attention. Inbound marketing like blog posts and other content relevant to your audience is an incredibly powerful way to get stories out there that not only engage, but also boost your SEO to create more online visibility for your association.
Sell the idea of togetherness. As you probably noticed from the above list of Millennial traits, this generation values people and relationships very highly. One of the best assets of joining a professional association is the networking it offers.
But it’s not just about networking – a savvy Millennial can build a network on LinkedIn. It’s also about relationships: real friendships with real people that share a common goal and want to make a difference.
This is the kind of connection that digs in deeper and goes further than anything found on a social network. It’s essential that this perk comes across in your messaging.
Get in touch on social media. That being said, knowing how to appeal to Millennials is certainly important, but first you need to know where to find them. Social media is a useful and powerful tool and you can tell a lot about your target audience just by which platforms they spend the most time on.
LinkedIn will help you reach those forward-minded individuals seeking to advance their careers. Facebook and Twitter will help you reach a wide audience of individuals who may be more relational and less career-oriented, but still need the guidance that a professional association can offer. Remember that your social media posts need to invite engagement and contain visual content that attracts viewers and gets them to click through.
Appeal to education. If there’s one thing Millennials understand, it’s the value of an education. Most of them have the student loans to prove it. But, Millennials also understand that learning carries beyond the classroom, and they enjoy discovering new skills and deepening the knowledge base they already possess.
You, as a professional association, have expertise that they don’t, and you’re ready and willing to offer it to them. Extend the invitation to learn something new.
The more (Millennial memberships) the merrier
All this information is only scratching the surface of who Millennials are and what influences them. But to keep it simple, let’s boil everything down to a few takeaway points.
Refocus your efforts on messaging. If we distilled all of the traits about Millennials down into one point, it would be that the message matters. Paint a picture of your association that shows connectivity and your broader purpose. Show this generation they can be part of a bigger whole, and one that exists to advance not only their lives but the lives of those around them.
Use the technical tools at your disposal. All the messaging in the world is only as good as the tools you use to have to disseminate it. Obviously digital marketing is one of the most influential ways to reach this digital generation, but Millennials are also surprisingly tactile and respond well to unique direct mail campaigns.
Retargeting via search engines and social media is another incredibly useful tool, as it helps you nurture a potential member who may not have actually joined yet. Remember that lead nurturing is just as important as lead generation, and retargeting is nurturing at its technical finest.
Engage, engage, engage. This is a word we keep coming back to – but there’s a reason. 60% of Millennials say they would leave their job if it didn’t engage them. But, what does that mean for professional associations? If a Millennial doesn’t feel they’re benefiting or being fulfilled, they will leave or not even join your association.
This means, on a practical level, you need to offer them new experiences, solid tools for advancement, and the opportunity to learn. Keeping up with events and activities is a prime way to build up engagement and ultimately increasing Millennial memberships.
With these guidelines in place, you can build a solid relationship with the Millennial generation – and in doing so, you stand to gain a more vibrant and impactful professional community.