By Deb Flomberg
There used to be a few finite rules in business, but times are certainly changing. Today, consumers are smarter and more engaged than ever before. People are tired of being sold to, and the old “tried and true” tactics of marketing are not as effective as they once were. The most successful business tactics these days include ones that aim to connect with consumers, not to sell to them.
As proof, look at some of the top performers today: Uber is quickly becoming the largest taxi company in the country, yet it doesn’t own a single vehicle. Facebook, the largest media company in the world, doesn’t create any of its own content. AirBnB is now the largest accommodation provider in the country, and it doesn’t own a single square foot of real estate. Postmates is quickly gaining steam despite the fact that the organization doesn’t sell a single product; it simply connects users to the products they want by offering delivery wherever they may be. The world’s top-performing companies are focused on connecting with their customers, not selling their products.
Wondering how you can get in on this new, modern business world? Read on.
Bottom line: Companies need to embrace Millennials. According to the Census Bureau, this group of 18- to 35-year-olds now represents the market’s largest group of consumers and employees. Millennials are also quickly becoming one of the largest segments of business-owners, replacing the Baby Boomer population that once reigned supreme. If you learn to embrace the Millennial population, you’ll find these customers don’t fall easily for traditional sales tactics. They thrive on connection, story and purpose behind products. Simply stated, you’ll have more luck if you focus on telling a story rather than on selling a product.
The easiest way to start connecting with your customers is through social media. If you don’t have a strong social presence yet, you’re missing the boat that connects you to the Millennial population (and a surprising amount of the Gen X population, to boot). That doesn’t necessarily mean you need to sign up for every social networking site under the sun and hire a social media team to manage 20 different accounts. Depending on your product or service, there may be a few specific social platforms that will support your new goals better, so do the research and look at Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn and even SnapChat and Instagram. Consider what you do and how you can best utilize these networks; but use them to connect, not to sell.
Another rising trend that the Millennials are loving? Gamificiation. Today, the average attention span is growing shorter and shorter, and people are more connected to their smart phones and mobile devices than ever before. This means that businesses need a quick and effective way of grabbing potential consumers’ attention – and holding it – and gamification is the way to do it. The idea is simply to make the connections and activities you’re working on fun and engaging. Use games to develop skills with your employees and find creative ways to use gamification for your customers. You just might find this to be an exciting new way to connect with your intended audience.
Research, research, research. Today’s customers do it on their own, and they do it fast, thanks to the highly connected world in which we live. If you want to hone in on the research being done by consumers all over the world, then you’ll find the quickest way is to provide smart, well-thought-out articles and advice online in the form of content marketing. If you provide valuable content to support potential consumers’ research and allow those customers to get information from anywhere they see fit, then you’ll make an instant connection by simply providing information. When it comes time to buy your product or service, the customer is naturally going to return to your business because that is where he or she feels connected.
Truly – everything businesses do today should find some way to enhance personal connection.