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Leslie Schiff

By: Leslie Schiff on August 24th, 2017

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Email Marketing: Bridging the Generation Gap

Email Marketing | millennial generation | Association Insights | Membership Growth

mailto:demo@example.com?Subject=HighRoad Solutions - interesting article
“In this age of digital marketing, sending one message to everyone is not at all effective. This is especially true in email marketing because email is one of the things that's consumed by everyone. It's seen as a mass vehicle, but there are a lot of subtleties amongst the generations that consume it.” Maneesha Manges, Director of Consulting with HighRoad Solution

You've designed the template, added the contacts, and curated the content. You may think you're ready to click “send”, but unless you've given careful consideration of your target audience, you could be pushing your message straight to the deleted bin.

Certainly, when it comes to an association's email marketing strategy, demographics count. All that writing, uploading, and preparation can be for naught if you aren't delivering content that aligns with your members' online habits.

Approaching emails through a generational lens helps to create messages that better fit with your recipient's lifecycle and how they use email as a channel. For example, while Gen'Xers, Boomers, and Millennials still prefer to build relationships with companies through email over other forms of social media, Millennials are far more likely to access those emails via mobile platforms. Therefore,  their messages must be designed and formatted with smartphones and tablet viewing in mind.

“Designing for mobile is very different than designing from a desktop, so you really need to think about that formatting and aesthetics, as well as what you're going to put in there,” says Manges. 

As for that content, she adds, Millennials are drawn to emails that demonstrate an intimate knowledge of their personalities and lifestyles. “For them, it has to be personalized and relevant to them. You aren't going to get away with the typical 'Hello FIRST NAME' emails; there's an expectation among Millennials that if you're going to send them something, you need to know who they are. That's not just their name or member type, but whether or not they attended a recent event in person,  the last product they purchased, or if they have expressed a preference for specific service.”

Baby Boomers may be keen to see their name in lights, but aren’t as likely to respond to social media communications. They are also less concerned about the overall look of a  template and still value their privacy more than Millennials and Gen'Xers. As such, Boomers may respond more to traditional messaging.

“We all know those letterhead-style emails with a message from the association followed by a picture of the Board President and an image of his signature. Millennials might roll their eyes at this, but Boomers don’t mind this type of formality,” notes Manges.

Gen X'ers, on the other hand, are a more easy-going demographic. They align with their peers in many respects, but are more likely to “go with the flow” with whatever comes in their inbox. Nevertheless, they share a preference for relevant content, meaning it's not enough to simply throw content at them without first understanding who they are and their engagement habits.

Understanding these generational differences can help associations craft more meaningful and engaging emails to their members. The good news, adds Manges, is most are already equipped with the data to make that happen: “Most associations have an association management system which contains a lot of useful information. They don't typically tap into all of the data or analytics though, so the challenge is to put all those pieces together.”

Data and analytics can no doubt be helpful in gaining a better perspective of one's members. So too can marketing automation, which can assemble those data points into a “digital footprint” which associations can use to tailor their marketing strategies.

“Before, it was the technical and design aspects of email marketing that used to be the challenge,” says Manges. “Now, the real hurdle is coming up with a compelling message that will really resonate with your target audience now that you truly understand who they are.”

It's not uncommon for email marketing campaigns to succumb to flat or declining open and click-through rates. It is, however, tempting continue with the same marketing strategies and simply hope for better results. To achieve real success, and grow members and customers in the process, it takes an appreciation for generational differences and willingness to use the data at your fingertips to be effective.

This article was authored by Matt Bradford, and originally published by the Canadian Society of Association Executives (CSAE).
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