We live in a world where the individual has more power than ever before. The traditional super-power is not in control anymore. The power has shifted to an unmanageable network of individuals and the ones that can ride this rollercoaster-network are the powerful ones. Meet the Bright Young Things! Some of them are working for you today; some of them have worked for you in the past; perhaps you are one of them yourself. They are buying from you and their networks are buying from you and they have the power to influence others to buy from you, or not…
One email to a strong network can have a tremendous effect: “I came across this car-rental company in Cape Town. Their cars are not really any different in quality or price from other companies, but they are the funkiest bunch of people! The company was started by a guy…” And there follows a story that inspired one BYT so much that he is giving free marketing to hundreds of people who trust his opinion 200% more than they trust any advertising campaign. Of course the email could also read like this: “If you really want to buy from these guys again, don’t read further because after you’ve read this you will never want to come close to that place again…” The power of connecting to the Bright Young Things.
The irony is that many industrial-minded companies just don’t get this. They have spent so many years building their multi-national corporations that they cannot really afford to believe all this stuff about new generations, relationships and the future. Why? Because surrendering to this thinking will require them to change. And the more they are confronted by the demands of the future, the harder they try to fight it with the strategies and weaponry of the past. Almost like trying to catch a single terrorist by sending tanks, ships and fighter planes into another country…
So what am I getting at?
- First: I want you to understand that it makes absolute business sense to connect with your Bright Young customers. If you do, they (and their networks) will become raving fans about your business. If you don’t, they (and their networks) might become your worst enemies.
- Second: In order to connect with them, you don’t only need to do things differently, you also need to do different things. In fact, it is not even so much what you do than who you are that counts.
Of course you know your business and industry better than I do. I am therefore not going to give you a quick, generic 10 Steps to Connect with your Bright Young Things. I am only going to list a few examples of personal preference (amongst me and my network of 20-going-on-30-year-olds) and let you work it out for yourself… (Of course these are based on perceptions, but then, the buying decision is always based on perceptions). Read these stories and see if you can find the hidden messages regarding how to connect with your Bright Young Customers:
- 20twenty: What a great story! These guys had the nerve to challenge the very core of how banking is done. They survived the fall of Saambou, retained open and honest communication with their customers and are on the road again. They speak the same language as their target market. Will they retain this character within Standard Charter? Let’s hope so: we buy their story and their attitude, not their banking services.
- Virgin: Again a company and a personal story people buy into. Not afraid to take risks. They tackled one industry after the other and made one success after the other. They even stuck out their necks for hundreds of Health and Racquet Club employees.
- Discovery:The people who really care about my health. They encourage me to live a healthy lifestyle. They reward me for doing things that are good for me. They frequently and regularly communicate with me so that I’m never in the dark about claims. I don’t even know (or care) how their fees and benefits compare with other medical aids.
- Stuttaford Van Lines: Once while I was still a student, my university residence wanted to impress a ladies’ residence. Our plan was to load all 150 guys, dressed in black suits, into a truck, drive to their front porch and surprise them with candles and roses and music the whole works. We phoned Stuttaford Van Lines, explained our master plan, and they agreed to supply us with a truck and a driver at no cost. I mean, what more would we want to become passionate supporters…?
Hidden message #1: Be willing to confront the status quo.
Hidden message #2: Always remain open, candid and honest with your customers.
Hidden message #3: Stay true to yourself and your story. No fakes, please.
Hidden message#4: Word of mouth speaks MUCH LOUDER than advertising.
Hidden message#5: Care about your people and about the community. It shows and it counts.
Hidden message#6: Do something crazy for me and I will be mad about you.