I recently witnessed two examples converge regarding a problem we all face with age: letting times change. I listened with interest as one of my favorite talkradio hosts explained how Donald Trump is running rings around the Washington, DC, political circus, mainly with social media. While I listened, I received word from a disappointed underwriter with whom I’d worked on a quote, which the client turned down because the carrier insisted on full payment upfront. It was a last-ditch email, saying. “We can make an exception!” But it was too late.
In summary: The aged political expectations of decorum and civility toward politicians and the press ring about as hollow as the rotary telephone to new American generations, as does a company with much greater resources insisting that people with limited resources pay top dollar – that’s a very efficient way of making sure you get outfl anked by your competition.
It stopped me in my tracks. There’s a profound change among the current crop of elders – the very same generation that once told each other not to trust anyone over 30, and to whom Bob Dylan gave such voice with his folk anthem “The Times, They Are a-Changin’.”
The Baby Boomers are not the first American generation to insist on decorum in politics, nor are they the last that will demand unreasonable terms of payment for services they provide. They just happen to be the current dominant slew of retirees or near-retirees now drifting into old age with little aside from senior citizen cliches to mutter – the very same cliches for which they once mocked their own forebears.
What does this mean in practical business terms? An example: Many Baby Boomers I know who are still running businesses have Facebook pages, Twitter feeds and YouTube channels for their companies. But they do next to nothing with them, except post ads that nobody reads and upload content no one fi nds interesting.
At its root, this approach indicates a recurring failure to deal with the reality that Facebook is the ‘meeting place’ of Generation X and millennials, and that they go there to socialize, not to shop. Confused Boomers mistake social networks for radio airtime or billboards. For the marketing professional and business owner, this presents us with a challenge. We know that the times are a-changing, but do we understand that change is about timing? Do we resist in the interest of a fading generation’s fi nger-pointing, or do we move toward it? And how soon do we make the decision? For sure, we do not want to spend years playing catch-up.
My insurance carrier will lose many more potential customers before they get the hint. Similarly, the political parties in Washington will lose many more donors and supporters before they figure out why Trump is taking them to the woodshed.
But here on the ground, we embrace building the new realm. I’m running as fast as I can in the direction where business flows, because I couldn’t care less if my clients approach me via Facebook or not.
And because this is about timing, I’m making myself ubiquitous in the collective mind of my market. I do make personal appearances at networking functions and lunches, but the rest of the time, I’m working my way into their consciousness by interacting with them where they are and when they are. The refusal to do so by so many elders in business – the resistance to the culture of millennials – is an about-face for the generation that told us not to trust anyone over 30.
The principle I’m following is no different than when Madison Avenue advertising fi rms recommended to clients that they advertise on TV, radio and in print, all at once, back in the 1960s. It’s the same
idea: maximum saturation to produce maximum return.
But what do people say? “Oh, I don’t do that Facebook stuff; it’s so shallow and fake.” I disagree. The real shallowness comes from people who refuse to learn, who put up a pathetic, minimal effort at reaching their marketplace because “it’s just not the way we did it back in my day.” They give up on it, citing their own failures as proof of what they suspected at the outset. It’s not even close to being a valid excuse.
Paul Edwards is an independent property & casualty broker in Washington state. A military veteran and graduate of Pacific Lutheran University, he writes about marketing and business relationships.