Millennials (those born between 1980 and 2000) are the largest generation in the U.S. and will represent 50% of the workforce by 2020, according to a recent report published in Forbes. Today’s aspiring professionals will be future industry leaders and policy makers, and associations stand to gain immensely by having them on board.
Alarmingly, nearly 50% of associations feel a disconnect with this peer group according to Naylor’s Association Communications Benchmarking Survey and find it hard to engage them. The same sentiment is voiced by millennials who don’t find association events “cool” enough.
This does not bode well for associations that rely heavily on revenues from events to fuel all of their other programs and activities.
Since millennial perception and aspirations are quite different from those of Boomers and Gen X-ers who form associations’ core membership, associations need to develop a custom communications strategy that appeals to this hard-to-please demographic and motivates them to attend its events.
Of course, the best way to engage any demographic is to involve them in the planning of the event. The insights below will help to guide you on how best to involve them, but try not to create the equivalent of separate “kids’ table” events. Remember that this group represents the future of your association, so it’s important that changes are reflected throughout the conference or tradeshow with the goal of integrating millennials into the association.
The following are more things to consider as you develop your communications strategy for luring more millennials to your association’s events:
- Communicate your value: Millennials are action-oriented and understand that the world of work is changing rapidly. On an average, millennials change jobs four times by the time they are 30, according to a LinkedIn study. Since they are always on the move, millennials are looking for networking opportunities and personal/career development- services that most associations champion. So, millennials are a natural fit! They just don’t know it yet.
Associations can create a culture of engagement that millennials yearn for by encouraging high-profile members to share their career struggles and successes and to mentor younger audiences via blogs, webinars and events.
Content marketing (creating targeted online content and promoting it via social media and email) is the ideal way your association can engage and build relationships with this group. A blog dedicated to interviewing event speakers, highlighting sessions, and promoting social activities – that has conversion mechanisms for readers to register – is a good example.
Another one is online forums where attendees can interact with event speakers and network with other attendees.
- Meet millennials on their turf: Millennials live online and prefer “real time” and “always on” social media avenues. The first step to appeal to their digitized minds is to make your association website social and have an active social media presence.
To get their input on event planning, you can post online surveys on social media or conduct a millennials planning webinar. And don’t forget to tap into the ideas of your youngest staff members.
Aligning with influencers who have large, engaged communities of target millennials can extend your social media outreach. Influencer-created content will add extra interest and credibility for millennials who respond better to “one of their own.”
A mobile app that features “scoops” on upcoming events will help you reach tech-savvy millennials anytime, anyplace. Engagement should not be limited to promotional messages, however; they should be interspersed with content that provides immediate value.
YouTube video marketingis another great way to enhance visibility of your event. Designing short videos on what attendees can gain from attending — featuring lots of young faces, of course — can help motivate them to register.
Remarketing (sending ads and posts to website visitors while they are online elsewhere) can redirect attention to your event and remind them to register.
Email marketing that works with older generations finds few takers among millennials. Building dedicated communities on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter (where millennials spend an average of two hours daily) and sharing event updates there, have a better chance of success.
- Glam it up: Millennials are looking for fun and excitement, so this is an excuse to get creative. Invite a (young) celebrity speaker or DJ, serve themed cocktails or conduct tastings; hold the event in a hip location with good music, promote desired giveaways, etc.
- Brevity is another key. Millennials attain and retain information best in small, palatable chunks. If holding a conference, it’s best to limit session duration to 15-20 minutes, or have a one-hour session with 3-4 different speakers. Leave time between sessions for informal gatherings.
- Give “Young Professional” discounts: Many millennials are juggling student loans and mortgages and can’t afford to pay hefty attendance fees. You can encourage your member companies to send more junior level employees by offering discounts rates for them.
To sum up
Millennials have a lot to offer associations beyond event registration fees and membership dues. Their enthusiasm, ambition and new ideas can energize your association and provide insight into your industry’s future market. The sooner you crack the nut on attracting them to your events, the sooner you can begin preparing for Generation Z!