Hops and Handshakes Ep 7: How Businesses Can Successfully Bridge the Generation Gap

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The Purpose of Hops and Handshakes

Human conversation is filled with vital moments that are difficult to capture and easy to forget over time. Fortunately, today we have access to mobile video technology that allows for a much more personal connection when interviewing local business leaders and entrepreneurs. Using this medium, we want to capture the essence of the discussion, including all those hidden nuggets that may not make it into the text.

Oh, and we really enjoy checking out new breweries!

Episode 7: Harmony Hall with BBB Serving Western Michigan

The Place – Harmony Hall: Harmony Hall is a German-inspired Grand Rapids beer project filled with inventive brews catered particularly to those who enjoy darker, sharper beers (although they also have lighter honey and fruit-infused beers). Their brewpub is backed up by frequent live music and a casual German fare menu.

The Business Leaders –  John Masterson and Chris Palmer of the BBB Serving Western Michigan: John Masterson, digital marketing director at the Better Business Bureau Serving Western Michigan, is focused on guiding entrepreneurs as they build their own organization and social presence. John is joined by Chris Palmer, BBB Serving Western Michigan trust advocate, and together they are going to talk about welding the new and old together to keep the business community vitalized.

Bridging the Generation Gap 

1. Businesses Sometimes Have to Reinvent for New Generations

Reaching new generations can be a challenge: We're facing some of the sharpest generational divides seen in history as smaller companies try to seek out customers and employees from the millennial generation, when their past experience is primarily with boomers. These generations clearly divided by technology, entertainment, communication and perception of the world, so it's no surprise that companies find their old methods don't always work. One of the goals of BBB Serving Western Michigan is to work with businesses to find the right ways to reinvent, innovative, and reach a new generation.

2. Social Media is a Bridge – But Not a Standalone Solution

When many entrepreneurs think of reaching younger generations, they think of social media. And that's not a bad thing: Social media has an important place, especially when it comes to finding a millennial audience. But the mistake that some small businesses make is thinking that all they need to do is invest in social media. Social media is a great way to bring traditional marketing concepts into a new format and find new channels that can reach a large audience. But it still requires genuine engagement and involvement with customers – a willingness to talk, no matter the format. That brings us to...

3. No Matter the Generation, Trust is Key

Boomers want a brand they can trust. Millennials want a brand they can trust. It's a useful universal concept when you are trying to reach both generations at the same time. Whether you talk about phone calls or Snapchat everyone just wants a business that will get back to them with useful information. Use this as a foundation for your company!

4. Engage, Engage, Engage

Never stop trying to meet with people and engaging in new avenues of communication. Don't take your failures as a sign to stop – on the contrary, take them as a sign that you are learning a new skill. As long as you are reaching out to the community, you are doing the right thing. If a meeting, event or marketing ploy ends in disaster, don't miss a beat: Go right on doing everything you can to engage! Sometimes a few failures are exactly what you need to learn how to reach out the right way.

6. Hold Confidence in Your Value Offering

While we talked about the need to reinvent for younger generations, this shouldn't affect core offerings (unless you want to become a very different type of business). It's important to never lose sight of what you do well. If older customers benefited from your products and showed loyalty to your brand, younger customers can to! You may just need to change the way that you communicate that value, or the manner in which that value is transferred. So stay confident in the central idea of your company: If it worked before, you can probably find a way to make it work in the future, too.

To learn much more about Chris and John's current experience in marketing, management and how to deal with change, watch the full interview!

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Isaac Oswalt

Owner of 21 Handshake, a strategic marketing company, driven to grow relationship-driven businesses. Futurist in nature, Isaac displays a deep desire to preserve the human element in today's business. Trust being the ultimate currency, his clients appreciate that "new and stronger handshakes" is a success metric in their businesses.

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