Thursday, August 21, 2008

Your Toughest Customers

This is an awesome crosspost from Sarah Sladek's eblast she sent recently. I believe this is valuable insight for people in a variety of industries (e.g., educators, youth pastors, business people). Let me know what you think.


They're growing up on the wired alphabet: PC, CD, PDA, DVD and CUL8R. They average $100 a week in disposable income, spending a stunning $150 billion a year. And they influence another $50 billion in family purchases, bumping the total to $200 billion.

Say hello to Generation Y (ages 13-25), also known as Echo Boomers or Millennials. For sheer spending power, this consumer group is unrivaled in American history. If your organization hasn't thought much about how your wares might attract this cohort of big spenders — who are savvy and wary in equal parts — start thinking.

Gen Y is savvy because they were weaned on technology. These days, many youngsters are busy creating their own social circles by blogging about the Jonas Brothers, updating their social network profiles, and uploading videos of their latest dance party on YouTube.

Gen Y is wary because they were raised in the midst of some rather nasty national traumas, including the O.J. and Monica scandals, the 1999 Columbine school shootings, and a presidential election that failed to pick a winner. All before Sept. 11.

Reaching today's teens poses both a great opportunity and challenge to your organization. The organizations that succeed will be able to balance the benefits of attracting the younger market against the difficulties of embracing alternative business principles.

Here are a few tips:

Use technology. This generation wants rich media, gadget ads, customization, and expressive ad copy. Companies targeting America’s youth need to take a long hard look at their current marketing plan and allocate the necessary time and funds into new mediums. The days of simple keyword searches and text ads on Google are numbered with this group.

Build relationships. Like Gen X, Gen Y relies on peer recommendations. In addition to using technology to build relationships, find ways to be present where teenagers want to spend time (malls, skate parks, concerts) and deliver value to them (discounts, free merchandise, movie tickets, jobs, etc.). Establish meaningful relationships with them and they will return the favor.

Be giving. Gen Y is far more socially conscious than any generation since World War II. They believe in giving, volunteering, and donating time and resources. In fact, a Cone/Roper survey discovered that 91% of teens value companies and products that support good causes and 89% would be likely to switch brands to one associated with a good cause.

Be honest. When pitching Gen Y, keep in mind that they've grown up on slick ads and commercial messages. Any whiff of over-promising or false advertising will send them running. To appeal to teenagers is to be genuine and to deliver consistent, excellent service.

Understand Y This generation is well-educated. Their awareness level is very high and they loathe being treated like young whippersnappers that need to be managed or kids that don’t know anything. Don’t assume you know what’s best for them. Ask them for their feedback or assemble a team of teens who can be trend-setters and trend-spotters for your organization.

Gen Y spends $150 billion per year. Furthermore, attracting a teen customer is like triple dipping: First, you get the youngster. Next, you get the parent. Third, you get the loyal customer that a teen grows up to be.

That’s a whole lot of revenue that your organization can’t afford to lose.

Sarah L. Sladek, President & CEO

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