May 27, 2019

How to Improve the Membership Experience of Young Professionals

How to Improve the Membership Experience of Young Professionals

Millennials are the biggest generation in the workplace, but only account for 19% of association members, per the 2018 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report from Marketing General Incorporated. You can do better than this 19% benchmark by improving the membership experience for young professionals.

Millennials self-identify as “joiners” but only after doing their homework. 89% of them look to their peers for purchasing recommendations, instead of trusting a brand’s (or association’s) marketing messages. Take advantage of the power of peer reviews by keeping your existing young members happy. If you meet and exceed their expectations, they’ll stay with you and talk positively about their membership experience with colleagues and acquaintances.

Reassess Your Membership Value Proposition for Young Professionals

Young professionals (YPs) have different membership goals, interests, challenges, and preferences than older generations, so you need a different engagement and retention plan for them. The membership benefits that attracted older generations may not have the same magic for Millennials and Generation Z.

Do you know what young professionals in your industry/profession value? You can’t make assumptions or rely on what older staff and volunteer leaders think. Go straight to your targeted audience and talk to YPs—both members and non-members.

But talking isn’t enough. The old adage, “Actions speak louder than words,” is especially true when it comes to marketing. Learn from this segment’s behavior. Track and analyze email opens, URL clicks, event registrations, page visits, downloads, and other data you collect.

Learning about your members starts during new member onboarding. This is your opportunity to get to know them and better understand their membership goals.

  • Why did they join and what do they expect?
  • What topics are they interested in learning about?
  • What problems do they need to solve?
  • How would they prefer to access information and education?
  • How would they prefer to meet and interact with peers and mentor-types?

If you haven’t done this research yet, here are two strong value propositions you can try out in the meantime:

  • Help YPs find and keep a better job than the one they have now.
  • Help them develop a professional network of peers and mentors (or future employers).

Understand and Neutralize Constraints on Participation

To build a persuasive case for membership, you must help young members overcome the constraints they face in their professional lives.

Time: No one thinks they have enough time to do everything they wish—or everything they should do. Help members save time by:

  • Sending them a curated selection of industry news and information.
  • Offering online, micro-learning programs. Break information up into 8- to 12-minute chunks of learning that can fit into anyone’s busy schedule.
  • Promoting micro-volunteering opportunities so members don’t have to make a huge time commitment if they want to enjoy the benefit of contributing their talent and time.

Place: Members shouldn’t have to attend an in-person event if they want to learn or meet fellow members. They should be able to enjoy the benefits of membership from their desk or their phone. Everything—website resources, news and information, education, and networking—should be mobile-friendly.

Lack of employer support: Many employers don’t pay for membership dues, and some don’t provide a professional development budget for entry-level employees. YPs may not even get time off to attend events. Given this lack of support, how can you make membership a viable option for them?

Affordability: Young professionals are trying to manage student loan debt on entry-level salaries. Many of them are dealing for the first time with the expenses of independent living—rent or mortgage, social life or kids. How can you make membership and its benefits—education, networking, and information—more affordable?

Increase Opportunities for Young Professionals to Make a Difference

Volunteering, the sleeper of membership benefits, can transform someone’s professional and personal life. Micro-volunteering gives more members the opportunity to contribute and make a difference—without demanding too much of their time.

But some young members are ready for more of a commitment. They’re also seeking résumé-building leadership skills. Give them the chance to develop these skills by serving on a YP council that organizes YP events and advises association leadership on the needs and interests of YPs.

Include young members on other advisory boards and committees so they can help guide decisions about events, education, publications, and other content. Open up leadership training to them so you can start grooming future leaders.

Help Young Members Expand their Professional Network

Young members want to be part of your professional community. They want to expand their network by meeting peers as well as older members who could serve as informal or formal mentors.

Offer plenty of YP-only events, such as happy hours and educational roundtables where young members can relax and learn alongside peers. But also provide opportunities for YPs to meet older members, for example, at leadership training sessions, career-focused panels, advisory board or task force meetings, or service projects.

Offer Targeted Education for Young Professionals

Young professionals don’t need to be sold on the value of lifelong learning. They’re eager to acquire the skills and knowledge they didn’t get in high school or college but need now to move forward in their careers. But, this education has to be affordable.

  • Offer free roundtables where YPs can get together with peers to discuss relevant topics or listen to expert speakers.
  • Include education in a YP membership tier, for example, webinars and entry-level online courses.
  • Provide a YP discount for educational events.
  • Ask corporate members to fund scholarships for YPs who wish to attend association conferences.

Help Young Members Advance Their Careers

Although job boards are becoming standard features on association websites, YPs need more help than that. Make your member portal the gateway to a comprehensive career center for YPs. Offer discounted or free coaching services, résumé review, and skills self-assessments. Provide resources on:

  • Job-seeking etiquette
  • Social media presence
  • Cover letters
  • Resumes
  • Interviews
  • Networking events

Young professionals have unique and urgent needs. If you meet their needs and capture their loyalty, they will keep renewing. But that’s not all: they will share their experience and spread the word about your association with their peers.

To learn more about MemberSuite’s solutions to help you engage young professionals, like the member portal’s member directory, events, careers, certifications and more, download the Mobile Responsive Portal ebook.