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Aimee Pagano

By: Aimee Pagano on February 1st, 2023

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New year, new crop. It's time to level up to the Z.

Marketing Planning | Generation Z

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Every year, associations and nonprofits clamor to reinvent their marketing, programming, and member experience strategies. And while the table always turns with new technologies and approaches, in 2023 and beyond, new audiences are also entering the mix. 

That's right. Gen Z is slowly working its way into the workplace and the buying market. In fact, according to World Economic Forum, by 2025, it's expected that Gen Z will be taking up 27% of this space.

For organizations already looking to upscale growth and engagement to stay market-steady, this adds one more rung to the wheel of challenge. Associations and nonprofits now need to match their marketing, their brand, and their membership models with today's youngest crew.

This means, they need to embrace new tools, technologies, and approaches. They need to revitalize their work environments, hire new and specialized talent, and develop programs applicable and appealing to Z audiences.

Snapshot on the Zs 
Before we dive into ways to draw in the youngest bunch, here's some context around what makes them tick:
  • As part of Gen Z's inherent make-up, they're interested in philanthropic programs, cause-based initiatives, and socially responsible events. 
  • Gen Z's learning and buying expectations are different from their predecessors. Zs connect through web channels, make online purchases, and utilize subscriptions and sound bites for content and education.  
  • Gen Zs still have a need for connectivity. So being a part of something isn't going away for associations; it will just look different moving forward. In-person interactions will morph into chats, virtual, and even metaverse group experiences.

So yes, there are tons of opportunities for associations to meet the goals and values of incoming markets to grow their membership. Let's get into some ways organizations can square up their approaches to level up to the Z:

Top of the funnel social strategy wins: According to Insider Intelligence, 83% of Gen Z shop new products from social media. If you're an association acquiring new Z members, push social to the top of your demand gen plan. Don't just settle for the FaceBook, LinkedIn, and Twitter mix. Make sure to integrate YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram into your portfolio. Just remember that with every good demand gen strategy, you need equally strong lead gen so that you're turning those anonymous contacts into quality leads.

There's no stop button for "omni": If you're using omnichannel approaches and technologies to engage young members, by default, you're already reinventing yourself to newer markets. Still, remember that to stay truly omni-channel, your org needs to continue researching, assessing, and empowering itself with the latest and greatest channels. Aligning yourself with top marketing automation players in the association marketplace (for instance, HubSpot) takes the thinking out of this because the "shiny new toys" are already baked into their product roadmaps.

Single sign-on integration counts: Those leaning into new technologies and adaptive approaches are capable of tapping into the range of markets, entering and leaving the workforce, if used in the right way. Once again, omni-channel growth and engagement platforms that play well with others in the marketplace put you in a position to do this. Still disparate tools can be watered down without the right integration in place to centralize all data in a meaningful way.

Netfli-sized models will appeal:  Subscription-based, live and on-demand content with chat and other interactive options will go a long way with this group. Since associations need to balance the needs of existing members and incoming ones, these progressive models could launch as add-on categories alongside traditional membership options.

Let influencers do what they do: Influencer marketing has been somewhat of a fringe marketing effort in the past, particularly for associations. But over the years, it's moved from an isolated consumer-based approach (although non-profit and/or mission based groups have been early adopters) into the B2B halls, and now into the association and member-based sphere. In fact, according to Our Forecast, by the year 2026, almost 90% of marketers will rely on influencer marketing.
Since associations, by default, are all about community and influence, this is an easily attainable approach for associations. It's a great way for orgs to reach new audiences and liven up their brands through organic appeals.
Let's just get to the point: Younger gens, for the most part, absorb information through fast and easy content versus lengthy reads and viewing experiences. As such, carefully curated soundbites are becoming more and more the new norm with the younger generations. Whether thought leadership, education, or program visibility, it's about finding the balance between content salience and brevity
Cast a light on altruism:  Social responsibility, ethics, and transparency are all top priorities for this solicitous group. Since associations and non-profits inherently corner the market in philanthropic and mission-driven work, they should look for progressive ways to highlight the work they're doing to better their industries, and beyond. This means stepping out of traditional Annual Reports into more interactive formats like infographics and short videos. 
Bye virtual...hi-brid": Virtual event fatigue is a thing. Countless reports demonstrate that the pendulum is swinging to the middle this year. Yes, the hybrid event has taken first position in association event trends. Since association memberships and customers still span generations, tangible community value and in-person interactions still have a place, while virtual formats cater not only to the younger flock but to those multi-taskers, introverts, and quite frankly, groups with less schedule flexibility.
While metaverse and virtual events may be on the far horizon for associations, it's important for associations to keep a pulse on these incoming technologies now so that they're poised for the future.  This is where expectations will be from a Z perspective. From a marketer's perspective, delivering and capitalizing on these digitized experiences will help pave the way for more customized member experiences.
The proverbial 2.0 of radio—podcasts: Podcasts are rising overall given what it affords—flexibility.  It's the pinnacle of multi-tasking enablement. Through podcasts and audio-based books and content, members, customers and prospects can absorb content while exercising, running errands, and even working simultaneously on other projects. This low-cost content delivery channel is rising to the top across the generational expanse—gen Zs are no exception. 
Tap into the Z
The backbone of most associations and nonprofits are based on the three C's in terms of business models and, ultimately, value—Content, Community, and Communication.  As such, more than ever, associations must understand and adopt new ways of thinking, marketing, and delivering to the Zs and beyond. 
But adapting to this new breed of buyer preferences, expectations, and content consumption habits isn't an easy task. It involves gathering insights, empathy mapping to uptick member value, and delivering the right programs and content to the right audiences, and of course, through the right channels.

Ready to level up to the Z? HubSpot can help.
Book a consultation today to learn more about how this omni-channel growth and engagement platform can refurbish your go-to market plan for the younger generations. 

About Aimee Pagano

Aimee joins HighRoad Solution with 15+ years of integrated marketing and communications experience, primarily in client-facing roles within the association and SaaS space. Her specialties include persona development, content strategy/management, lead gen and awareness campaign development, and website development/optimization.