Study: Tailor Message When Pitching Association Members

Just 1 percent of membership organizations consistently target messaging to members based on age. With different generations of membership valuing various perks and communication channels differently, more targeted messaging could improve recruitment and retention.

There are also discrepancies between what members look for and what organizations think members want, according to Amanda Myers, director of member strategy for the Austin, Texas-based tech company, Abila. Myers authored a report that drew from the surveys of more than 1,000 organization members and 150 professionals working at membership organizations.

Organizations place more emphasis on conferences than members do, according to Myers. Codes of ethics and standards might be viewed as dry, but rank among the top five priorities for Millennials, Gen Xers, Baby Boomers and Matures. Credentials are the only other priority shared by each generation. Other key findings from the report include:

* The majority of members (62 percent) join as students or within the first five years of employment. Job opportunities, at 50 percent, hold the greatest appeal among current students and early professionals followed by code of ethics (47 percent), credentials (46 percent), training (46 percent), and, networking (43 percent);

Seven out of 10 members think organizations provide the right amount of communication, while 44 percent of organizational professionals think as though that is the case. More than one-third of organizational professionals (36 percent) think there is too much communication while only 19 percent of members see it that way;

* Updates on industry standards (77 percent), upcoming meetings or conferences (73 percent), upcoming networking events (70 percent), job opportunities (66 percent), and recent or upcoming regulatory, legislative or lobbying efforts (65 percent), are the preferred content subjects of members;

* Email messages are the preferred mode of communication among Millennials, 58 percent, and Gen Xers, 61 percent, and rank second among Baby Boomers, 60 percent, and third among matures, 56 percent. Baby Boomers prefer email updates and newsletters, 61 percent, while Matures like printed newsletters, 61 percent, and email updates and newsletters, 58 percent;

* Across age ranges, members have preferences in terms of how often they like to be contacted. Emails, newsletters, printed newsletters and direct mail are preferred monthly. Updates on mobile apps, social media and texts are sought more frequently, particularly weekly; and,

* Cost was a factor for 32 percent of individuals who either cancelled or let their membership lapse during the past year. Change in employment (21 percent), seeing little value in membership (19 percent), forgetting to renew (16 percent), finding similar benefits elsewhere (13 percent), declining benefits (12 percent), and an employer ceasing to pay for membership (12 percent), were among other reasons.

Appealing to the preferences of different sects of members doesn’t have to be as difficult as it sounds, Myers said. “It can seem really daunting to try to be all things to all people,” she said. “It’s easy enough to start off by thinking about the value proposition to the individuals and what matters to them.”

Credentials are an example of this concept in practice, Myers said. It might be ideal to have credential programs tailored to various audiences, but if that is not possible, tailoring marketing will do. A Millennial might be interested in credentials to boost job prospects, while Gen Xers are likely interested in taking their career to a senior-level role. Older members might simply want to participate in a credential program to stay connected to the field.

Organizations can appeal to all age groups with the same credential program by simply presenting it differently to each group, highlighting how the program can help them achieve their goals. Creating segments based on age and other data might be labor-intensive, but can prove to be an effective way to utilize data such as birthdates that organizations already have on file.

Doing any level of targeting is a step in the right direction, Myers said. Targeting based on age is a bonus. “I think a lot of associations, if they do it at all, target by membership type,” Myers said, referencing the 24 percent of organizations that consistently target by membership type and 57 percent that do so occasionally. “Sometimes, that’s a good corollary. But seeing those preferences [among generation groups], it presents a lot of opportunities for associations.”

To view the full report, visit: http://www.abila.com/memberengagementstudy.