Bridging the Generational Gap
Five Ways to Reach the Younger Consumer
By Cheryl Draa
A few years ago, I attended a seminar that reflected on the future of interior design. The speaker noted that most interior designers in that very audience were conducting their interior design businesses in an archaic manner. We had been working with our clients, who were of similar age, for quite awhile, doing things the same old way. This ensured we could keep that age bracket (40+) as a consumer. However, the speaker stressed, if we wanted to take our business to the next level, we would have to adapt to a new concept of communication in order to reach the younger generation. Some designers would learn the new technology that younger designers were already adept at—and some would not. The speaker warned that if we weren’t the ones adapting, we probably wouldn’t be in business five years from now.
I took this advice to heart. After 17 years in business (and approaching my late 40s in age), I began my quest to become more computer savvy. I bought a camera that would allow me to download photos onto my computer; my college-aged kids taught me how to attach files in an email; and (gasp) I opened a Facebook account. As I attracted younger clients, I had to adapt to the way they wanted to communicate with me. A few years later, 45 percent of my clients are under the age of 35, and I am surviving in the recession. Here’s five ways you can, too:
1. Facebook: Get On It
I asked one client in particular why she liked to use Facebook—she said there is something about having your designer as a “friend,” sharing bits of our lives together. This is key with the under-35 age group.
I also change my status update two or three times a month, just to keep my name in front of them. I ask questions to stimulate conversation—questions like “What is your favorite room in the house and why?” or “What is your favorite paint color?”
2. Network Through Organizations
Many of the younger members of these organizations feel “out of place” as they’re surrounded by older, more affluent people. I seek them out and say hello, introduce them to the other members and make sure they don’t feel left out. At our next meetings, they seek me out. And when they need design help, they call me or refer me. Through this kind of networking, I’ve become friends with people in the younger generation who have taught me new computer and messaging skills that have benefited my business.
3. Host Seminars and Luncheons
4. Stay Current on Trends
5. Never Stop Learning
Then, immerse yourself in social networking. You can take college classes in interpersonal communications, or download lectures from teachers for no cost. But don’t just take the class, apply it to your life. (For more on social networking, revisit Melissa Galt’s article on social networking in the July/August issue of Vision.)
Cheryl Draa has been an interior designer for 17 years in the Atlanta, Ga., metroplex area. She recently won an award for 2009 Best of Marietta by the U.S. Commerce Association for achieving exceptional marketing success in the local community. Draa is a member of WFCA, NFIB, Cobb Chamber of Commerce, various local civic organizations and IFDA. She has two children—a son who is a Ph.D. student at the University of Florida and a daughter who is a senior at Auburn. She credits her Facebook and internet skills to them.
Cheryl Draa Interior Designs