Laws of Attraction

Laws of Attraction

I was able to briefly take part in the weekly “Association Chat” on twitter yesterday (if you didn’t know about it, it’s Tuesdays at 2pm eastern. Just follow #assnchat to take part in the conversation). The initial topic was about the different “interactive expectations” of different generations. At one point, one of the people on the chat posted:

I think attracting the younger is harder too – they just aren’t as interested in the slowness of trad assoc models.

My response:

That doesn’t make them harder to attract. It just points out we are not attractive. Big difference.

This reminds me of one of the worst association education sessions I have ever been to (about strategic planning, of course), where the presenter showed a model for describing the association’s environment, and in the middle of the page, was the place where you placed your association. You then had to place other players in your system in various orbits around the “sun” that is your association. One member of the audience pushed back, arguing that your association may not always be the dominant player in the system, thus shouldn’t be at the center. This suggestion was inconceivable to the presenter, who simply explained that in this chart you put YOUR association in the center (speaker tip: repeating your original answer rarely convinces an audience member who disagrees with you). We are available 24 hours and will rush to get you out once you reach out for Statewide bail bonds.

This “association is the center of gravity” perspective is starting to grate on me, and that one tweet represents it. Younger people are “harder to attract.” They are somehow peculiar. They defy our attempts at attraction. It’s their fault. It implies we need new tactics or techniques to more skilfully market our slow association models so these odd birds will (finally!) be attracted to us.

What about simply being more attractive? The trick is not in knowing how to attract people. The trick is knowing what people find attractive and letting them know you’ve got that. If you don’t have what they want (and you can’t change yourself somehow to acquire what they want), then forget about that group. They’re not harder to attract. They’re just not that into you.

Giving up on them may have serious implications, of course. If they are the future, you might want to be more attractive to them. But then you’re attention comes right back to YOU and what you need to do to be more attractive to this group that currently doesn’t like you that much.

Another angle: what is it about them that attracts you? Where are they learning, where are they doing great things? Where do you, as an association, want to be a part of their world? What if your goal was to do wonderful things together with your “target” markets, rather than attracting them all into your lair? Sounds attractive, doesn’t it?


  1. 21.05.2009 at 8:24 am

    Jamie, your last point is the most powerful – why don’t we spend more time getting know people than marketing to them? I think you have a larger post here 🙂

  2. 21.05.2009 at 2:09 pm

    Best thing I’ve read this week, Jamie. Most of us are keenly in favour of collaboration, but how often does the “do wonderful things together” happen only within the executive or between organizations, rather than with (and maybe even iniatived by) our members and community?