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Personalization & Customization: Appealing to young professionals

Minnesota Society of Professional Engineers – Save the Associations Vol. 9

It’s widely known that society is changing more rapidly than ever before and in completely new ways. This has led the Minnesota Society of Professional Engineers (MnSPE) to reassess not only what they provide, but also how they provide it and how they communicate the value of being a part of MnSPE.

When Mary Detloff, Executive Director of MnSPE, and her team reassessed what they were doing to make MnSPE attractive to young professionals, part of the process was coming to terms with the fact that associations do not mean the same thing to the younger generations as they did to generations past. “There used to be a mindset that you owed it to your profession to join an association, but that is no longer what we see. Now people are interested in an association more so because of what it can do for THEM, not what they can do for the association or the profession,” shared Detloff.

To determine what the young professionals wanted and needed from their association, MnSPE did the simplest thing. They asked the young professionals.

A Targeted Approach

After working with a passionate group of young engineers, MnSPE discovered that young professionals want to be involved with their profession and have an opportunity to give back, but they do not like a one-size fits all approach. “They want to be involved in something targeted to them,” said Detloff.

This feedback from young engineers fits perfectly with what we already know about the younger generations; technology has made them accustomed to personalization and customization.  They grew up being able to customize products online to fit their needs, and they turn to online communities for tailored support. MnSPE decided to replicate this sort of personalization in their young professional programs to attract more participants.


Starting in August 2018, MnSPE is offering two categories of subscriptions designed to increase engagement and provide subscribers with programs to meet specific needs. Subscriptions differ from a membership in that they offer access to only select association benefits, not the whole package that comes with a membership, and are available at a lower price point more accessible to many younger professionals.

The “Basic” subscription is for professionals 1-5 years into their careers. Specific young professionals events, communications, and leadership programs have been created for these subscribers, and there is also an expanded career center with employment resources.

The “Plus” subscription is for more experienced professionals who are 5+ years into their careers. This offers similar programing to the “Basic” subscription but with a greater focus on sustaining a career versus starting one.


Personalization will not end with picking the right subscription. MnSPE wants each new subscriber to know that by signing up they have joined a group of like-minded people. “We want to put faces on these groups,” said Detloff.  “We want to create a sense of community.”

During the onboarding process, new subscribers will receive a personalized welcome video from the young professionals they will soon get to know through the association.

Advice for Other Associations

“Stop talking and start doing something,” advised Detloff. “Talk to younger professionals, find their need and build on it. Doing so creates value and gives younger professionals a reason to get involved with your association.”


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