About this article: Independent Agent Mike Foy asked his daughter Lauren, currently in college, to comment on a recent Independent Agent article, “Marketing to Millennials,” by Michael Fleischner (MarketingScoop.com). Lauren provided a very interesting perspective as a future insurance consumer on how she views and uses social media, commercials and the Internet to shop. She also comments on the continuing importance of personal relationships.
About the Author: Lauren Foy is a sophomore at University of Rhode Island and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Lauren wrote this article for ACT and based it on an email she wrote to her dad, an independent agent, to assist him with the millennials’ perspective with regard to social media and marketing. The Agents Council for Technology (ACT) is part of the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America, Inc. ACT’s Web site is www.independentagent.com/act. This article reflects the views of the author and should not be construed as an official statement by ACT.
“Marketing to Millennials” by Michael Fleischner is a good article discussing the way my generation would look at media and commercials. As I discuss below, I think most of the article’s points are on target. Some, however, are less important than others.
Have a Social Media Presence and Make it Genuine
I think one of the better points the author makes is: “Make sure your company has a space among social media outlets. Keep in mind though not to be overly commercial. Millennials can see right through it. Rather, be genuine and let your prospective market understand what you’re really about and what you stand for.”
While I am not sure how you can be insincere regarding matters of insurance, I think that the author makes a good point to be sure your target really understands what you are marketing. One example would be to not make a company look like a friendly personal environment when chances are a customer would have to get through many automated messages or new employees each time they try to contact the company. This just makes people angry. This is common sense, but I do think it has become more relevant in the age of the Internet. Finding a company on the Internet is a lot more of a guessing game than getting personal recommendations or knowing the right people. If you are trying to attract people through this medium, it is much easier to do so when the message and the reality are matching.
Engage on a Personal Level
Another point the author made was to “Communicate on a personal level.” This is an easy thing to do with blogs or Facebook, etc. I have become a “fan” or “liked” a few companies that I never see again. I have done the same to others, which now seem to haunt my Facebook. I think a medium level of posts is good. If you are on someone’s Facebook home screen too much with uninteresting comments, you are more likely to get hidden. However, I can think of two companies that I see on my Facebook a lot and I am more likely to consider them when I am in the market. The way they do this is by posting relevant posts and doing it on a consistent, reasonable basis.
One company usually posts a fact, story or comment relevant to their product and ends the post in a question. This gets a lot of feedback and then is likely to show up on more people’s home screens. Don’t ask me how to take this skill from a sales company and make it relevant to insurance, but this is just one idea. My generation feeds on being “heard” and finds it so appealing that we give more attention to the social media sites that try to engage us.
I learned in my persuasive writing class that the best way to be effective in a blog setting is to use a question at the end so readers will feel like they have a say in your opinion and the topics covered. A good way to use this technique is by making a point with your question or crafting one that will get a lot of response from both sides. This will help to get positive feedback as well as some insight into the opposing side.
Be Consistent & Creative
Two additional points made in the article are also good ones: be consistent and creative. These qualities help capture the attention of an otherwise preoccupied generation. While we are always multitasking, it is hard to pay complete attention to the radio (online or live) or the TV while trying to do homework, or whatever we might be doing. So consistency and repetition are good tools to use. Creativity will always help a website when dealing with my generation.
Also, I am always drawn to the website that looks more professional and attractive. For a generation that has grown up dealing with the Internet, a functional and appealing website shows that the business is viable.
Info & Contacts Must Be Easy to Find
One point missing from the article, which is very important to understand when dealing with my generation, is that for the most part we expect instant gratification. Everyone grew up with the Internet getting faster and faster, providing answers to everything at our fingertips. With the invention of online radio, DVR/TiVo/Live Rewinding and Pausing features, the iPod and the prevalence of smart phones, my generation grew up having everything we wanted whenever we wanted it. I think this is a very important and sometimes negative aspect of my generation.
Since we are so technologically literate, we have access to hundreds of websites selling the same thing. We have the knowledge to navigate our way through a website, but I doubt most of us have the time/patience. We gravitate toward information, forms and products that we can find now. I think this is an important aspect to marketing, because you can draw all the attention you want to your website, but if it is not easy to navigate or to find a way to contact someone, I think a good many prospective customers will drift to their second choice.
How I Use the Internet to Shop
I use the Internet for almost all of my shopping. If I am at a shopping center and I need something, I will buy it there, but most other times, I will just rely on the Internet. I have always found it more convenient to go to a website for what I might need than to find a store. Websites usually are easier to navigate, have more options and are faster than traveling to a store. Generally I will start with a website that I have used before and have had a good experience with. If I have a longstanding relationship with a company, I usually will just trust that they have the best price and not look any further. However, if it is a new website or one I have not used a lot, I will tend to look around the Internet for a better deal, and if I can’t find one, I will come back to the first one.
I think that my generation would rather not take a day to travel around and price shop when they could just get the same amount accomplished in a much smaller period of time on the Internet. Many in my generation would rather do something on the Internet than pick up the phone and call. As a generation, we seem to be more comfortable with the Internet than with a phone call.
For the most part, I have found the Internet to be a reliable buying outlet, so there has been no reason to use another means of shopping. A few unappealing encounters can teach an Internet buyer to look into the company before buying from them. It is easier for a company to lie about their product when it is being presented on a webpage. This is where the relationship with a company comes into play. If you have bought a product with them that wasn’t what it said it was, then a bad relationship is created.
Growing up with the Internet makes it so much easier to use this resource to go shopping, do homework or anything else we might need.
Personal Relationships Are Still Important
Personal relationships are still important for some things. I look at these relationships in a similar way to a website, in the sense that if I had a positive relationship with a store or service, then I am more likely to return again. If the experience was negative, I will not return. There are a few things that I will never buy online, one of them being a cell phone. I got my first cell phone from a sales representative, Stan, and I have returned every time I needed a new phone or anything else cellular. On the other hand, there are companies I will never return to based on bad experiences. I am currently in the process of cancelling one of my debit card accounts because of such bad customer service.
Customer service is where people establish relationships, and if the goal is to attract Internet users to come into an office or even pick up the phone to speak with a person, relationships play a huge role. Going back to the example of Stan, I have many opportunities and online resources to buy a cell phone or accessories on a website, but due to the strong relationship with the store personnel, I am always drawn to return there rather than go to the Internet. These personal relationships give the customer a respect for the opinions and suggestions of the service representative that one cannot get from a website or a customer service representative in a call center.
In a perfect situation, there would be a strong relationship with the personnel of the business, coupled with the support of a functional website and/or mobile app. Providing that personal relationship enhanced by these online tools is the best way to get my generation off the Internet and into the office.