Marketing challenges for
today’s professional associations

According to our research, some professional organizations are finding it harder to meet their membership and certification marketing goals today than it used to be. We looked at some of the possible reasons why; as well as what you can do about it.

1. Competition is growing.

Professional association memberships were a highly sought-after commodity following the economic collapse of 2008. However, now that the economy has begun to stabilize, many associations are marketing themselves much more aggressively. It can be challenging getting your message out in such a saturated market.

2. The millennial market is underwhelmed.

Millennials comprise a large percentage of your potential customer base. However, according to a June 2015 report from Buzz Marketing, significant numbers of millennials have chosen to leave their professional associations because:

  • They felt that membership was too expensive (45%)
  • They didn’t see the value in continuing their membership (37%)
  • They didn’t regard their fellow association members as peers (35%)
  • They perceived the association as not being tech savvy (31%)
  • They observed a lack of curation within the organization (27%)

Instead, many millennials have shifted their focus toward social media channels like LinkedIn and Facebook, which they see as a more effective, less expensive, and easier networking medium than participating in a professional organization.

With that said, 58% of those under 40 said they did belong to one, and 71% intended to stay for at least two more years. And of those who weren’t currently members, 77% said they intended to join a professional association in the future. With the right kind of appeal, you should be able to win over some of these individuals.

3. The “now” culture won’t wait.

Today’s professionals have been conditioned by social media, the internet, and mobile access to expect information on demand…and associations are struggling to keep up. Their bureaucracies can make decision making time consuming and difficult, and can slow the pace of information sharing. So, the whole organization suffers – especially marketing and branding.

What’s the solution?

There is no magic bullet. But in an over-saturated market, increasingly dominated by young adult professionals who question the value of membership, it’s more important now than ever for associations to know themselves…and to really know their target audiences. Then, they must be able to clearly articulate what makes them unique for those groups – including millennials.

There also needs to be a balance between marketing efforts focused on broad brand awareness, and highly-targeted campaigns with a differentiated message. Growth opportunities can often be found within niche segments that understand the value of an association to their particular career path, skill set, professional needs, and interests.

In short, it pretty much all comes down to brand identity and communications strategy. If you’re unsure where to go from here, drop us a line and we’ll be happy to help.

Stay tuned to Backe social, where we’ll continue to explore the challenges that professional associations face today and tomorrow – in our Professional Associations series.

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