As I mentioned when talking about being disruptive, the past is a great teacher, but a terrible predictor of future success. Too many times, people attach themselves so firmly to the past that it impedes progress – you know, the ones who say “that’s the way we’ve always done it” whenever new ideas are presented.
Some promotional product veterans lament that working with millennials is both painful and demanding and would prefer to sell the way they’ve always sold. Most of the comments fall into one of the following categories:
“They don’t value relationships at all.”
“They would rather just buy from the internet.”
“They want everything yesterday!”
While it’s true that millennials buy differently than previous generations, that doesn’t mean it’s bad or wrong and we can learn a lot from them if we are willing to open our minds. Us folks from Generation X and above need to remember that growing up in a millennial world was a vastly more technologically advanced experience. Something as simple as a missed television program brings very different memories to the groups:
People from Generation X remember the days when if you missed a television program, you missed it. Too bad, so sad. On the other hand, millennials grew up in a world where all media is recorded and available digitally. You forgot to record your favorite program? Don’t worry, it’s available on demand through a variety of devices.
Different experiences mean different perspectives. One of the reasons I like working with generations other than my own Generation X – especially millennials – is that they continually challenge me and my way of thinking. I firmly believe that one of the quickest ways to irrelevance is to surround yourself with people exactly like you.
Over the past year I’ve had the pleasure (at least on my end) to collaborate with several different millennials in different capacities. Their energy, innovative ideas, and different perspectives didn’t threaten me – they energized me. Whether it was shifting the way I communicate or understanding how they want to be treated when making buying decisions to create loyalty, I now have a much better grasp on their generation. In the end, I believe we learned from each other and are all better off.
Instead of assuming millennials, “don’t get it” or “don’t value relationships,” shift your thinking. Engage them where they want to be engaged using communication methods they prefer (text, social media, no “fluff”, etc.). Just as in the past, it’s up to the world to adapt to younger generations, not the other way around. As for me, I can’t wait to see how this group will continue to push our industry forward.