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How can associations attract younger members

Young person wondering whether to join

Increasingly many established associations are hitting a ‘wall’ when it comes to growing their membership beyond the regulars who’ve been there for years. In many cases associations have become comfortable old clubs where the members are growing old together. In short, they are no longer attractive to a market that’s changed around them and moved on.

Most have a commitment in their strategic plans to recruit younger members but many are unsure about how to go about this and what will need to change to make it happen.

Associations have now adopted social media, but most have merely continued with their old broadcast style marketing. The result is that platforms like Facebook and Twitter have become content dumping grounds where associations are talking to themselves and followers have stopped listening.

Regardless of demographics, interests, occupations and goals young people have a high expectation of organisations when it comes to the communication experience. They’ve been conditioned from an early age to expect instant, relevant and customized responses to their problems and needs.

The way information is sourced and consumed has changed; the way the emerging digital generations go about making connections, collaborating and solving problems has changed. It’s no longer good enough to wrap up the same old offering in a clumsy attempt at ‘youth speak’. So, what should associations be doing differently?

The right approach

First: ‘Know thy customer’.  This actually applies to any target market you’re going after. One of the best ways to do this is to draft-in people from this group, not just as paying members, but also to contribute on advisory committees and even at board level. Give them a ‘voice’.

At the very least, associations need to get out and talk to these people. This can be done via ambassador programs and personal approaches from more senior members. In an increasingly digital world, the impact of traditional, face-to-face and phone contact shouldn’t be underestimated.

Second: Develop a properly structured content and digital marketing strategy to attract, engage and recruit. Armed with a deeper knowledge of what younger industry players are looking for, develop relevant content, services and activities.

The right tools

There are three cornerstones of an association’s brand and marketing platform: a website that delivers the brand and messaging correctly to each target audience; an association management system (AMS/CRM) that provides the functionality to use and manipulate data once people have signed up; and a digital marketing platform to run inbound strategies to attract, nurture and on-board prospective members and subscribers.

To better engage younger people associations need to use multichannel media in the same way as their audiences.  This means making their online platform the central hub through which their services, communications and operations are delivered.

How many ‘cornerstones’ does your association currently have in place?


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