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Depending on your age, or taste in music, Beatlemania signified something: either the end of music as we knew it, or the beginning. Technology and a different outlook by Generation Y has brought us to the brink of that type of phenomenal change again, and associations have no choice but to roll with it.
That was the message of Sara Sladak, the general session speaker on Wednesday at ASAE's Marketing, Membership & Communications Conference in Washington. This year's conference attracted 800 preregistrants, 200 of which were first-timers, and the exhibit hall sold out at 40 booths.
Sladak, CEO of XYZ University and author of The End of Membership As We Know It, said that "generations matter more than ever." In large numbers, baby boomers will retire (or die out, in one of her examples) leaving Generation Y to become the largest generation and therefore the largest pool for members. (A startling fact she mentioned: the average age of an association CEO is the oldest of all executives.)
She said Gen Y was brought up to expect access and action. Plus, this generation has always had technology. This combination has produced an impatient attitude: if they can't get information from you right away, Gen Yers will go somewhere else to get it (the Internet). They don't want to sit on a committee and discuss things; they want action and they want to be a part of the result. In short, "they want their associations to be fabulous."
The key today, she said, is "to do something different and eliminate the competition. It's not enough to be mediocre anymore. You have to create your Beatlemania."
Some tips to be relevant to younger members:
- When discussing points to join, don't hype networking, the association's history or mission. These are no longer benefits.
- Be needs-based. Members join because they believe the association can help solve a problem. They renew when they believe you're helping and that they, as members, are making a difference in your community.
- Build an online presence.
- Redefine your membership. Types that are gaining popularity today, she said, include customized; electronic/virtual; international; tiered; and open/free, in which revenue is generated from sponsors.