Strategies for building relationships with Gen Z customers

Mark Price This week, I read a post by Scott Zimmerman on Fast Company’s web site, talking about the differences between Gen Z customers and previous generations.

Understanding those differences can make that difference between companies that build relationships and those that will eventually be commoditized.

Gen Z customers, as Scott describes them, are “young, busy and often forgetful.  They are also worried about fitting in with their peers and put a value on being highly connected. They’ve grown up with the Internet, instant messaging, text messaging and mobile phones.  In fact, most Gen Z customers have their own mobile phones, and they spend their free time texting and communicating online.  As a result, they expect family, friends, and even businesses, to communicate with them electronically.”

Scott recommends several approaches to marketing to Gen Z customers, such as automated reminders, extended customer care using email and text messaging, and prompting customers with personal messages.

They all make good sense. But…

Tactics do not make a strategy. To build relationships with Gen Z customers, you have to use the same strategies as you would with any other segment. Develop a plan to: (1) understand historical behavior patterns and likely future needs, (2) create a content-based communications plan that anticipates customer needs and adds value to your customer beyond simply a transaction, (3) earn the right to suggest offers that are appropriate for the customer, (4) measure the results in terms of engagement and profitability, and tune to achieve objectives.

Finally, after you have done all that legwork, then you are ready to discuss execution.

Go mobile: speak softly, but carry a smartphone

And the key rule of execution is to permit customers to engage you in the channel of their choice, not yours. With Gen Z, you have to be ready to go mobile, and go mobile now. The good news is that smartphones can work with web pages that are optimized for mobile devices.  And software exists to facilitate obtaining text message permissions and then marketing to those customers.

Let’s say you have not done much mobile marketing or marketing to Gen Z in general.  Here are some No Excuses Marketing approaches to getting into the game:

  1. Figure out how many Gen Z customers you have. On your next web survey (I am assuming you do them frequently now), include a brief section on customer age and mobile device usage.
  2. Ask customers about text messaging. Make sure to highlight the benefits for customers beyond just sales (note that texting is also good for sales, but that should not be the only usage.
  3. Work with an outsourced software company to pilot a program that can give you a sense of the potential value of text message marketing (my friend, James Citron, leads a great company that offers such services, called MoGreet.  They are not the only ones, just the best I know.)
  4. Measure fanatically (I think I say that on every post!), to provide the company with real pilot measurement and a calculation of the potential opportunity overall.

You won’t be done, but you will have begun. Remember, above all, that Gen Z prizes authenticity above all things, so make sure to have the communication come from a person, with a real voice.

Speak softly, but carry a smartphone, I always say 🙂 

More posts by Mark Price:

Are you ready to defend your social media spend?
Do your customers think you are only out for their money?

Mark Price is Managing Partner at M Squared Group. He is a leader, writer, speaker and consultant on how to increase revenue by retaining and growing Best Customers by improving their experience. His particular concentration is “bricks and clicks” — businesses that engage their customers through the web and through a physical contact (retail or saleforces). Before founding M Squared Group, Mark was the practice leader for customer intelligence for Zamba Solutions. Mark also blogs on and is a father, husband, tennis player, skier and fanatic science fiction/fantasy reader.

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1 thought on “Strategies for building relationships with Gen Z customers”

  1. Solid advice, Mark.
    It’s really hard to understand the habits of another generation but it’s essential in becoming a part of their “communication life.”
    What do copywriters teach for ages now, “You have to get into the head of your prospect.” It’s not only about language anymore, it’s about tools as well.

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