6 Rules for Engaging Younger Customers or Members


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If only it were that easy…

If only you could pick the right technology and young people in their twenties and early thirties would flock to your organization, starting lasting conversations out of thin air, and become the future leaders of your customer or member community.

If only Twitter was the solution to getting younger customers to use your products. If only your organization’s online community software platform was the sole key to grooming the next generation of advocates. If only your $10,000 mobile app could get and keep the attention of Millennials.

If only it were that easy.

While Millennials do believe that their use of technology sets them apart from other generations, that characteristic is not necessarily going to lead to higher engagement. Often times the pace of technology adoption at established companies and membership organizations leads to frustration among younger members and customers.

Online & Mobile Technology: Does More Usage Mean More Engagement?

The population of young professionals in the United Stated is almost completely saturated with technology use. In numerous studies, this age group is pushing over 90% in usage of social networking sites and mobile devices.

It is commonly thought that communicating over these channels is the way to connect with this younger generation. However, without the right plan and value behind the communication, your message may get lost in the noise.

How Can More Technology Usages Mean Less Share of Their Attention? (hypothetical example)

Rules for Attracting and Engaging Younger Customers or Members

The point is that simply using a specific social networking or mobile channel does not guarantee engagement by younger members of your target audience.

So, what does work?

Just like engaging any customer or member, your success comes down to value. While making your messages and engagement opportunities worth your target audience’s time does not change across age brackets, motivations and the other media and content that your organization’s messages are competing against are different with younger generations.

How to Engage Younger Customers or Members

Rule #1) Pump Up the Value

Due to this demographic’s heavy use of technology, they have a lot of information coming their way. It can seem like a fire hose at times from the outside, but this level of “information overload” is normal for most Millenials.

Companies and membership organizations really need to think about where younger members are in their lives and careers. Then, align their messages with what is important to people at that stage of life, as well as where they want to go.

Example: According the Pew Research, just 31% of Millenials say that they don’t make enough money to live the way that they would like to live, but they are more optimistic than past generations that they will have enough money in the future. Highlighting a path to get there faster might be an attractive message to Millennials.

Tip: Assume that your messages and engagement opportunities don’t carry enough value to cut through the noise. Continuously push the envelope in regards to making your communication important to your younger customers or members.

Rule #2) Make Messages Actionable

Why do we check out cell phones 15 times an hour? The same psychological drive that causes us to check Facebook multiple times a day or scroll through our Twitter stream every time we pick up our phones can play to your advantage when engaging younger members or customers.

Information alone does not lead to engagement. Shape your engagement communication around a desire engine, like the one outlined by Nir Eyal. Once you find a trigger where your message will penetrate this audience, it is important to provide some type of variable reward and an action where customers or members can make a small commitment (usually of time and attention), like leaving a comment, rating something, viewing a video, or sharing a photo.

Rule #3) Empower New Leaders

Many younger members or customers already have leadership experience. In college or in their personal lives, they have lead membership organizations of dozens (maybe even hundreds) of people. Many younger customers or members have gotten a taste of leadership and they like it (and many are very good at it too). However, when they enter the workforce, they are back to the bottom of the ladder.

Their hunger to lead and make their mark is a great engagement opprtunity for your organization. Identify leaders among your younger constituents and empower them will some level of responsibility. Examples include:

  • Writing a column for your customer community’s blog.
  • Running a group in your online community.
  • Hosting a video show or podcast.
  • Planning an event (Tip: Try partnering with a group of younger customers or members to plan an informal “meet and greet” for other younger people.

This empowerment shows them a path toward further participation, gives them visibility into the organization, and provides recognition by veteran members. It also positions them as a model for other younger customers or members to get involved.

Rule #4) Make Participation Easy and Accessibility

There is a large portion of your customer base that doesn’t have much experience in your field or with organizations like yours. Unlikely customers or members that have had a relationship with your company for a while, younger customers or members don’t have a deep understanding of the value of engaging your customer or member community.

In addition, these younger customers or members have a low tolerance for poor customer experiences. They are likely to “change channels” if engaging your organization is difficult to process mentally or takes too many steps accomplish physically. Avoid burying the actions that they can take and rewards that can reap from small amounts of engagement.

Rule #5) Leave Your Salesperson Hat at Home

There is a time and place to push your products and services. However, when you are trying to spur participation from a generation that grew up online and is accustomed to free information, tamp back your need to sell.

Millenials can smell a sales pitch from a mile away and will steer clear of veiled marketing messages. They also have long memories, so a little sales messaging can hurt engagement for an extended period given all of the other information sources coming at your target audience. Talk about them and what they will get out of participating, rather than talking about your organization and your offerings.

Rule #6) Test with Personas

Develop a composite profile of your typical target customer or member in their twenties or early thirties. Include data like:

  • What are their short-term and long-term goals?
  • What does their day look like (think about commutes, workdays, evenings, and weekends)?
  • Who do they interact with and report to?
  • How do they spend their time online?
  • Where do they get their information?

Then, test your communication and the value of your messages through the eyes of your persona.

Customer or Member Engagement Takeaway

Each customer segment has their own set of priorities, goals, and communication preferences.

Younger customers or members are no different. Whether it is a seasoned executive or a group right out of college that you are trying to engage, it all comes down to value. How strong a reason are you giving for them to devote time, money, and attention to your message and your organization?

If you can get the value equation right, then you will find success engaging younger members or customers in a variety of communication channels – from private online communities on your website to public social networks to mobile devices.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Joshua Paul
Joshua Paul is the Director of Marketing and Strategy at Socious, a provider of enterprise customer community software that helps large and mid-sized companies bring together customers, employees, and partners to increase customer retention, sales, and customer satisfaction. With over 13 years of experience running product management and marketing for SaaS companies, Joshua Paul is a popular blogger and speaker on customer management, inbound marketing, and social technology. He blogs at http://blog.socious.com.


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