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Making Email Work For Membership: Is It Generational?

According to Marketing General’s 2012 Membership Marketing Benchmark Report, email is a favorite marketing tool for associations, but is your association using it effectively? Are you reaching Millennials and yes, even Gen Z via email?

According to Marketing General’s 2012 Membership Marketing Benchmark Report, email is a favorite marketing tool for associations, but is your association using it effectively? Are you reaching Millennials and yes, even Gen Z via email?

When it comes to using email for business, a recent CareerBuilder study shows that there isn’t much difference between the 55+ crowd and those between the ages of 25-35 preferring email as a way to communicate (which surprised me a bit) but that doesn’t mean they’re using email in the same way.

Millennials on email

The purpose of email seems pretty straight forward: to get, give or confirm information. But Gen Ys (also known as Millennials) are looking for more than just that; they want the why. If they don’t understand why they should care about what your association is sending, then you might not be getting the response you want, even if your open rate is great. Great, everyone opened your survey, but no one was compelled to take it.

And giving Millennials a ‘why’ doesn’t mean creating a lengthy message or call to action. Your members are not only busy, their inbox is only one of many online sources they go to that is saturated with content. Maybe that’s why 41% of teens and college students feel that email is dying out.

So, is email dying?

I don’t think so, but the way associations are using email marketing might be. We’ve known since at least 2009 that traditional email marketing won’t work on Millennials. When was the last time your association updated your approach?

Gen Y doesn’t think of email as fun. Email is for “official” business. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t looking for your brand in their inbox. Email may not have the fun features of Facebook, but it still serves a functional role in their lives. Millennials aren’t looking in their inbox for socializing, and it’s not their go-to spot for information, but it’s still a backseat function that they rely on.

Gen Z on email

I was recently talking to a member of Gen Z (born between 1996 and 2009) about how he communicates. I wasn’t surprised to find out he was on multiple social media sites, regularly texted his friends from his smartphone and had an email address.

Wait, what’s he doing with an email address?

He uses it to communicate with his grandmother…because she doesn’t text. That’s it. I’m not saying he speaks for the whole generation or his use of email won’t change, but it made me wonder where email is going for Gen Z. And your association should be thinking about this too.

I know you like email, and it must be working for your association if it’s a top choice for marketing, but you need to make sure you’re reaching the younger generations in a meaningful way. Maybe that means creating more compelling messages that appeal to the Millennial and Gen Z crowd, or maybe it means reaching out in other ways. If you want email to work for your membership, you need to know how they use it and what they want from you first.

How we use email and what we expect from our inbox is changing. Is it generational? Perhaps, but as the email interfaces we all use evolve, your email marketing needs to evolve too.

Take the first step towards your future.

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