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Guest Posts

Segmentation Recommendations For Membership Associations

I belong to a few membership-based organizations and nothing frustrates me more than getting too many emails from them. Often, they are about information, products or services that I am not interested in, or their timing between departments is way off, and I end up getting multiple emails in one day.

I belong to a few membership-based organizations and nothing frustrates me more than getting too many emails from them.  Often, they are about information, products or services that I am not interested in, or their timing between departments is way off, and I end up getting multiple emails in one day.

I am sure that I am not the only one who finds this difficult to take – and at times, I find myself shutting off and not even opening their emails.  What’s sad is that I am likely missing information that I should know, and want to know, all because it has become too much.


The idea of segmenting your membership is not new – and I am sure that there are several organizations that do it well. And, in the case of email and other communication tools, doing so can help your membership association gain better reach and traction with your audience.

Here are some recommendations of possible segmentation methods that may help streamline your association’s communications:

  • Determine the types of communication you send first. Make a list with the entire department of the types of information you are putting out there and who within your membership would be interested in it.
  • Corporate memberships: Those who offer corporate membership should know who within the company should be getting your information, and their job titles. If they are in the C-level suite, they may not be interested in the same information you would send to a marketing contact, a research specialist, a product designer, etc.
  • Offer industry & supplier memberships? Segment them. As a supplier member, I may care about governance issues – I may not.  Best to find out.
  • Events, Products or Services? Make sure that I am interested in getting information before sending me the email.
  • Special programs and events? If you offer special programs or information to select portions of your membership, do not send information to your entire database. Those who cannot access it, or will not qualify will only get frustrated that they are getting excluded.


There is several ways to segment your members. A best practice is not to assume, get them to tell you. Here are a few ways to help gather the information.

  • Send a communication, other than an email, advising that your organization is in the process of segmenting membership in order to provide effective, streamlined communication. In this communication, tell them to expect an email inviting them to provide their preferences. Utilize communication methods that resonate with your members; that may be Twitter and Facebook for Millennials, it could be a mailed letter for others.
  • Send the email and prepare a landing page with all of their options. Ask your members to select the categories that best suit their needs. Make sure that the information transfers easily to your CRM (customer relationship management) system.
  • Follow up. If you didn’t hear from everyone, don’t be afraid to follow up with a phone campaign to get their preferences captured.

Another idea is to incorporate the landing page into your online membership renewal process. Make it a mandatory page that members have to fill out in order to renew membership with your association.


Armed with all of the information you’ve gathered above, go back to your list of communications and come up with a calendar of emails (or editorial calendars for any of your communication channels) – knowing that there may be times when an unplanned email has to go out, but keeping as consistent as you can to the set schedule. Ensure that you are selective in the number of emails your members are getting from you.

All of this effort should increase member satisfaction, engagement and email open and click through rates. After all, keeping them happy will give you a better chance to keep them renewing, right?

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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