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Membership

Are You Walking The Tightrope When It Comes To Your Association's Membership Marketing?

We know that there are key points when recruiting new members to any organization that are crucial to survival. But focusing only on recruitment can be a big mistake if you are ignoring the qualities, characteristics and attributes that attracted members in the first place. And, if as a result, you’re unintentionally “ignoring” your current members, they won’t come back.

We know that there are key points when recruiting new members to any organization that are crucial to survival. But focusing only on recruitment can be a big mistake if you are ignoring the qualities, characteristics and attributes that attracted members in the first place. And, if as a result, you’re unintentionally “ignoring” your current members, they won’t come back.

Shelly Alcorn, an association blogger, describes this situation as follows:

“Leadership obsessed with recruitment at all costs will champion such things as running reckless membership promotion campaigns, offering deep, unsustainable dues discounts, offering commissions for new member sign-ups, or offering lavish prizes in member-get-a-member contests,” she writes. “They can even recruit more members than the association staff can adequately serve, leading to disappointment and low retention rates for new recruits.”

This can lead to existing members being confused on why all of these new members are joining and perhaps feelings of discontent may arise if your long-standing members are feeling ignored.

WALKING THE TIGHTROPE: RENEWAL VS. NEW MEMBERSHIP MARKETING

Last fall, the Greenfield Services’ Pulse Report pointed to a serious gap in Canadian associations’ member renewal marketing. The statistics in this report can be applied to associations in any area, really. For instance, 52.1% of respondents reported that they followed up with one to three touch points as renewal deadlines approached, and only 13.6% recognized that multiple touch points were likely required, following up seven or more times.

Current sales and marketing theory says that it can take up to 10 touch points to break through the noise and reach your audience. Yet, more than half of the respondents were only using up to three touch points for renewals!

And while member retention was a leading goal for nearly 60% of the associations surveyed, “fewer than half (48.5%) saw it as a top priority to demonstrate the return on investment (ROI) that would give members a compelling reason to renew, and fewer than three in 10 (27.2%) placed strong emphasis on new product or service offerings.” Two-thirds of the organizations invested less than 10% of their operating budgets in membership marketing.

If you’re not invested, why should your members be invested? Demonstrating the ROI and value you provide your members goes a long way in retaining current members and in obtaining new ones.

I am not suggesting that member retention should be your only marketing strategy. However, organizations need to find the right balance between recruitment efforts and retention efforts. Marketing content and social media communication should appeal to both current and future members simultaneously. That’s the key to building the deep pools of member loyalty and engagement that will keep your organization strong in good times and bad.

Zs came of age in an era of disruption

In many ways, it’s symbolic that Generation Z is named after the last letter in the alphabet because their arrival marks the end of clearly defined roles, traditions, and experiences. After all, Gen Z is coming of age on the heels of what has been referred to as the most disruptive decade of the last century. America has become an increasingly changing and complex place.

For example:

  • ‍Zs were born into a “modern family era” in which highly involved dads help out at home, and the nuclear family model (two parents, married, with children) represent only 46% of American households.
  • ‍Zs are the first generation to be born into a world where everything physical, from people to places to pennies, has a digital equivalent.
  • From the time they were infants, Zs had access to mobile technology. As a result, their brains have been trained to absorb large amounts of information, and Zs are especially adept at shifting between skills and subject matter.
  • Zs tend to have crystal-clear memories of sitting up for the first time at six months old because they can easily and quickly reference the photos and videos their parents shared on social media or saved in the “cloud”. 

Members of this generation have undoubtedly been shaped by crisis and disruption. This generation will largely be responsible for confronting the aftermath of the Great Recession, high youth unemployment, the effects of climate change, terrorism, energy sustainability, and more. These dark events have undoubtedly made this generation more cautious and pragmatic, but they have also provided this generation with the inspiration to change the world – and their grit will likely allow them to do it.

Coming of age during disruption means that most Zs will be comfortable being the disruptors. While Millennials tend to be collaborative and innovative, this generation tends to be sincere, reflective, thick-skinned, and self-directed, and will likely approach work in much the same way.

Zs were raised to be competitive

In the era following World War II, Boomers (1946-1964) were born and eventually became the wealthiest, most prosperous generation in history. Raised to aspire for the American Dream, this very large generation moved into positions of power and influence, and served as the workforce majority for 34 years.

With the American Dream alive and well, Boomers had no reason to teach their children, mostly Millennials, about competition. Instead, they taught them to focus on academic achievement and to be team players because if everyone works hard, everyone can win.

Enter Generation X (1965-1981). In contrast Boomers, Xers came of age during a time when change and economic and political uncertainty began to take root. They have lived through four recessions, struggled with debt and economic decline most of their lives, and watched the best educated and accomplished generation of all time (Millennials) graduate during the Great Recession and become the most debt-ridden generation in history.

Gen Xers can be defined by their independence and anti-status quo approach to life, and they have taught their Gen Z children to be competitive, believing only the best can win. They have encouraged their children to be realists, finding something they are good at and aggressively pursuing it.

Xers have raised their Zs with an intense focus on competitiveness -- in academics, sports, and other activities. This approach to parenting has many implications, but one stands out in terms of business: Gen Z is likely to lead.

Millennials in the workplace created and aggressively advocated for collaborative work environments. In fact, their aversion to leadership has been so strong, some Millennials sought out companies that boasted boss-free or team-managed workplaces.

In contrast, Zs have been raised with an individualistic, realistic, and competitive nature. They have been taught the skills to successfully defy the norm. This means we’re going to see the pendulum shift away from collaborative workplaces towards a widespread demand for, and pursuit of, leadership development.

Zs are career-focused.

While Millennials have been criticized for their “delayed adulthood”, Gen Z is showing signs of “early adulthood”. Educators and parents often describe this generation as being more serious and contemplative about the world. Zs are thinking about their career paths and exposing themselves to career training at an earlier age than Millennials. It’s probable that some of this early onset of adulthood is caused by parents, who are pressuring their children to be competitive and successful and to avoid the debt that plagued both the Gen Xers and Millennials.

The numbers from our global research found 46% of Gen Z said they know what career to pursue and 51% have taken a class at school focused on their career interests. Forty percent joined an extracurricular program (team, club) based on their career interests.

Zs are seeking financial security. 

Zs have been shaped by the aftermath of the Great Recession. They watched Millennials become debt-ridden and are concerned about falling into the same trap. XYZ University’s survey results show 66% of Zs said financial stability is more important than doing work they enjoy, which is the exact opposite of Millennial survey results.  Also, 71% of survey-takers have a paying job.

Zs value leaders who are positive and trustworthy.

When presented a list of leadership traits, Zs ranked positive and trustworthy the highest. While Millennials and Gen Zs both value trust in a leader, Millennials usually cite collaboration and vision as most important. In other words, Millennials focus on the outcomes leaders inspire, whereas Zs are more likely to consider leaders’ attitudes and personalities. To Z, what leaders encourage others to do isn’t as valuable as how they make them feel.

 

Zs want to be challenged.

Both Millennials and Gen Zs place a very high value on feeling challenged and appreciated in the workplace. However, according to our survey results Millennials rank appreciation slightly higher than challenge, whereas Zs rank feeling challenged slightly higher than appreciation.

Time will tell how Zs go down in history, but we know this generation’s influence on history will be unlike any other.

 

Does your organization have what it takes to engage the next generation? Take this quiz to find out.

 

Sarah Sladek is CEO of XYZ University. Our generational intelligence can assist you with engaging and retaining young talent and members.

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