by Emily Enger
My husband and I have been blessed with several different couples who have befriended us despite the fact that they are the age of our parents. We have moved several times in our marriage and somehow, there always seems to be an older couple in our new location willing to reach out and spend time with us. We often joke that we must look like lost puppies, since everyone feels the need to adopt us.
Through these multi-generational relationships, our world and our daily habits have expanded. We attend events and go to places and meet new types of people that we probably would never have done with any of our other Millennial friends. And as I reflect on the amount of money my husband and I have spent doing these non-young-people things, it occurs to me how the best marketing is really just personal relationships.
There is a concept called “Friendship Marketing” that is similar to this. Although selling to your friends can sometimes be awkward, business owners from small towns already understand this by necessity: your best customers are people you know personally. They trust you and desire to support you because they sincerely like you. When they need something, they think of you first, because they have a relationship with you outside of business.
But when it comes to reaching younger generations, I am proposing going even further than friendship – mentorship.
Everyone is trying to target Millennials these days, but you can’t just take out an ad in the local paper and hope Millennials, who tend to not have subscriptions to the paper, will show. You can, however, be the type of person who consistently seeks out young people for other purposes. You can engage with Millennials through church or civic groups, you can attend events performed by Millennials, or frequent any start up business in your area that may be run by Millennials. You can hire Millennials in your own business. And you can regularly cultivate these relationships and share your wisdom with young people. In turn, they may reciprocate by supporting you and your place of business.
The benefits of mentorship marketing are more than just getting an occasional young customer. Immersing yourself in a group different than yours will unlock many business strategies and ideas you wouldn’t have thought of on your own. And it’s always good for business owners to spend time with people who live in different income brackets, to get a better pulse on the range of cost options they should offer their community.
Reaching out to young people may be intimidating. Millennials are often characterized as entitled and selfish – at the very kindest, we are called confident. It may not appear we need support. But don’t be fooled. It’s true that we have ideas and opinions on how things should be done, but sometimes our loudest bark is an attempt to prove our worth because we entered the working world fighting for a place in an economy that didn’t have room for our generation’s massive size. In truth, I have always found that beneath our un-teachable exterior, every young person still feels like the new kid at school. We need you to be the upper classmen who’s kind to the freshman, not the one who picks on us. In the end, all of us will benefit from your efforts.