I'll always remember the day a dear old client of mine got his first fax machine. He told me, "This is going to be the ruination of life as we know it, because from now on everyone is going to expect me to read things and sign them immediately."
It was an omen of things to come. Since then, we've become a culture of immediacy. As technology has advanced, more and more channels of communication have opened-- just as attention spans have gotten shorter and shorter. Today's average person has very little time and patience to wait for anything. Particularly our marketing and advertising messages.
Generations X and Y have given way to what I like to call Generation Now. This is a rapidly growing segment that has never known a world without immediacy. They're tech-savvy. They've grown up in a media-saturated environment, and they know how to navigate it well.
If they want a cheaper price for virtually anything, they can find it. If they have a question, they know where to go for an answer, whether that means going online, IMing a friend or text-messaging a colleague-- or all three.
This group has even changed the language. They LOL when they're JK-- unless of course it's NBD. They're incredibly difficult to reach: you not only have to crack the code, you also have to figure out where and when to speak this new language.
Experience has shown a few best practices for getting through to Generation Now. Follow them, and you've got a much better chance at eliciting a TY from this attention-starved group-- rather than a WTF.
1. Don't let your marketing underwear show
Having come of age in a world where they've been assaulted by media from almost every angle, this generation is incredibly savvy at seeing through traditional trickery. They like discovery almost as much as they detest transparency.
You shouldn't view this as a threat because it's an incredible opportunity. You now have the chance to beat the competition by out-thinking and out-executing them-- instead of just out-spending them. Develop strategies that are driven by Generation Now's needs -- as well as your own -- and you'll succeed.
2. Look at where they're going for information
Generation Now has more media at their disposal than any other generation has known. They're going to a diverse and highly fragmented range of sources that includes websites, search engines, IM, podcasts, blogs, video gaming, text messages and broadband video, and new communications technologies seem to be added every day.
This group is always on the lookout for the next new thing, and it's your job to keep pace with them. Stay current, keep your finger on the pulse of popular culture and follow the trends with an eagle eye.
When you're entering a new medium, don't take too long with your testing because there's always a chance the market will shift if you wait. I always tell my clients to get the first 80 percent right, then polish the rest. Keep the winners, and pull the plug quickly on the ones that flop.
3. Make your message relevant
Generation Now knows when they're being marketed to. To connect with them, you need to have a keen sense of why they're coming to you.
Their time is precious, so you have to quickly show there will be a reward for spending time with your brand-- whether it's information, entertainment, community, or simply a fun time. You can create interesting detours, so long as you respect what they came to you for in the first place.
Keep it concise, keep it to the point, and always keep your eyes open for sales opportunities.
4. Invite them to keep coming back
The new generation of consumers isn't like the old-school passive recipients of advertising and marketing. They're in control, and they know it.
You have to give them a reason to continue to engage with your brand. That means delivering more than just content-- it means delivering a rich, immersive experience that invites them to continue to keep coming back to spend time with your brand.
The "interruption model" is being replaced with an invitation model. It's our job to keep the door open for repeat visits-- and sales.
5. Get smarter with your analytics
If you want to get your message out across the mediums to reach Generation Now, you've got to convince the people who control the purse strings to shift more of the budget toward interactive projects. That means showing a clear path from your efforts to a return on investment.
Repeat after me: huge numbers of impressions simply do not matter any more. It's not enough to simply attract hordes of Generation Now-- you now have to show that those visits are worth more than just another impression.
This won't be easy. This group is getting their information from all over the place, which means your data is equally scattered. To continue to grow your online marketing efforts, you're going to have to aggregate your data, and then show the brand managers a clear path from the impression to the sale.
That means more sophisticated analytics modeling. You need to translate the short amount of time you have with them into dollars and cents-- and the more you know about your customers, the more relevant you are.
Implement a powerful sales database. Build tracking tools into everything you do. And make an investment in a great analytics or database marketing department. Because as I always say, if you can't measure it, you can't manage it.
Opportunity is knocking everywhere
The culture of immediacy has expanded opportunities for all of us. Not only are there an unprecedented number of channels for reaching Generation Now-- it's now possible for just about any start-up to reach them across the globe. Starting with day one.
Opportunity is knocking all over the world. Give this new generation of consumers a place to go, a compelling reason to come inside and spend some time with you, then leave the door open for return visits-- and see how a lot of little touches can translate into huge successes.
Gay Warren Gaddis is the CEO of The Think Tank (T3), an Austin-based interactive agency. .