Membership is about the value, what the experience of belonging, offers. To recruit members, associations need to focus on the value when pricing and marketing their membership.
This is not business as usual. Even if your association has been using cost-plus pricing for years, as interest in joining associations declines, pricing structures need to change. Pricing needs to be based on a willingness to pay.
Pricing is important; it’s also difficult. Senior vice president at Marketing General Inc., Tony Rossell, says that “proper pricing has a huge influence on the viability and success of any product or service.” That includes your association membership pricing, and you have complete control over it.
What you are selling is an experience. And that’s what you should focus on when planning your pricing–what that experience is worth.
Members join for all different reasons; not all of them value networking or conferences. You need to know why your members are there and what your association offers. Every member doesn’t appreciate everything your association can offer. You may offer 10 valuable services, but each member might only value two of them. In that case, it doesn’t matter what it costs to provide 10 services, it matters how much your members are willing to pay for two of them.
Your future members, the Millennials, value experience over price. It’s obvious in the way they shop retail, and it’s the same when they shop for professional associations. You might be the cheapest organization on the block, but if you can’t offer them a rewarding experience, they won’t be buying. And they’re not the only ones.
Let’s face it, if low prices trumped experience, Disney World would be out of business. But, Disney is selling a dream, the opportunity for dreams to come true. You can’t put a price on that. Customers pay, a lot. Cheap beer brands like Miller also do very well focusing on the experience of the product over the price, even though the price is low. Customers are buying into the value products bring them, expensive or cheap; it’s about the experience.
Your membership dues need to reflect value. However, if you aren’t offering much, cheap dues won’t drive membership. You’re better off increasing value and increasing prices. It’s about personal identity. People identify themselves by the way they spend their time, not on how much they spend on membership.
If your association is focusing on the value, the experience of being a member, not what it costs you, your prospective members will be thinking about the same thing. You want your prospects thinking of the value; it’s the only reason they’ll be willing to cover the cost.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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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