Over the last 5 years or so, associations as well as the corporate community, have been hearing from every media outlet, "Millennials are the next generation. Millennials are coming. We better learn how to find relevance among Millennials. Associations are in trouble because Millennials are not joiners".
While each of these statements hold truth for Millennials, these statements are 10 years away
from becoming reality at it's fullest.
Here is why: Millennials are without a doubt the largest generation in history. There are over 100 million of them. The problem is that they are only 6 - 32 years of age as of 2016. (See the graph of birthrates I've provided.) The data doesn't lie.
As I've traveled around, listened to associations, and talked with industry experts, I ask myself the question...
"When you look at the data, why isn't everyone going crazy over GENERATION X?"
They are the HERE and NOW! They are your potential members with money to buy...NOW. They are your potential leaders...NOW. They will fill the gap...NOW, while you wait for the Millennial market to grow up, and mature into joiners over the next 10 years.
Demographic data shows there are 13 million fewer Gen X'ers than Baby Boomers. That means you have to market smarter and harder to pull in a higher percentage of Gen X'ers as members because the pool of them is 13 million fewer.
Why aren't Millennials joiners? Because Millennials are not yet in their "joining years" of their professional lives since they are mostly in their 20's. They don't have the extra money to invest in association memberships, and all that comes with it like meetings, training, etc. We are at least 10 years away from half of the Millennials being in their high income earning years from 32 - 42 years of age, and another 10 years from all of them being 32 - 52 years of age.
Remember, no generation joined associations when they were in their 20's unless they were forced to do so...not Baby Boomers...not Gen X...none. Baby Boomers all began to see the true value of networking and access to resources with associations in their early 30's. Why? They had the money to do so. Guess what? Millennials just turned 32, meaning a record wave of growth is headed our way as associations. There are over 100 million of them!
GENERATION X is the LOST generation because no one is talking about them, but they are TODAY's generation...for the next 10 years. No one is writing or speaking about their power to join and make a different NOW. Associations who are bypassing Generation X are making a huge mistake, and it shows in the fact that they are having a tough time in recruiting them. They have literally skipped over them in building a membership strategy to recruit Millennial members...who are not in their prime "joining years" yet.
If you want to see your membership numbers thrive between now and 2025, it is imperative that you study the data in your industry and get to know your association's GEN X market. Understand what their wants and needs are. Many Gen X'ers I've talked to feel like the association community jumped right over them, and they are a little emotional about it.
They want to join, but many associations have skipped them as "not enough of them to worry about". That's wrong thinking. The associations who drive value, and build trust with Gen X'ers are going to draw them into their ranks and leadership, and see growth that will plug the gap that associations are feeling today with the retirement of Baby Boomers.
As for what Gen X is looking for in associations, well...that's for a whole other blog post and another discussion.
Don't let Gen X get away from you. Go right at their heart and engage them today while building awareness with Millennials. Your future depends on it.