Reaching the Unreachable

What is the most difficult group of people to reach?

When it comes to buying Christmas and Birthday presents, is there a particular group or age range that causes you to really struggle to be inspired?

If we’re on the same page, I expect you are thinking of young people, aged between 13 and 24? If this is the case, then keep reading; today I’m talking about reaching that unreachable age group.

Many companies are trying to market to this age range and have to think of innovative and exciting new ways to reach them; I work for a training provider and we have to do the exact same thing to encourage young people to consider an apprenticeship. This could be one of the most important decisions they make, which adds even more pressure to the marketing process.

It’s no good just grouping them all together and calling them all millennials and hitting them with a broad spectrum advertising campaign with bright colours and flashing lights then expecting them to line up. This generation has more individual tastes, more individual options and choices and more influences than any other generation before it; therefore we need to consider a more personalised approach and go right back to the basics.

Let’s explore four simple ideas…

Knocking down barriers

The first point is more of an ethos and each of the other points I want to make are extensions of this. Whenever anyone is trying to work with young people, remember that they will likely have a number of barriers in place that they may not understand themselves.

These barriers apply to people from all walks of life and could include things like lack of exposure to life outside of school, lack of life experience, lack of confidence, lack of trust in others, a negative outlook on life, lack of aspiration, or perhaps they have had very little positive reinforcement or praise, or worse been mistreated.

These barriers can only be overcome by adopting an ethos where you try to identify the issues and deal with them honestly and directly. Invest time in researching what these barriers could be and do everything you can to reduce these barriers before you start, then make sure that everyone involved in the marketing process knows how to deal with any potential barriers that might arise.

Where someone may not trust others, show them openness, honesty and trust yourself. If someone lacks aspiration or experience, show them real and true examples of what could be; such as honest success stories. If someone has little confidence or doubts their own abilities, make your process as simple and user-friendly as possible, and offer rewards for taking part; even if that is just a simple, “Thank you for taking part and helping us” message when they leave their details.

Use friends, parents, youth workers and links.

We all have this in common: when we go to events, we usually go with somebody else, we rarely go alone. This means that when we market to one young person, we need to reach not just them but someone else close to them at the same time.

At careers events, the easiest young people to reach are those that have come with a parent, or a youth worker or careers adviser. I can relate to this as I had a youth worker take me to careers events, job hunting and to interviews. These are easy because the person with them already has an interest in getting the young person the best opportunity they can.

The first tip here is this: if you want to attract young people to your organisation, approach the parents and youth organisations first.

The second part of this is much harder, trying to reach the young person and their friends. Some organisations find this easy; companies that make computers games for example, just have to make something that is fun and young people will tell their friends so that they can all play or discuss it together. Easy.

When it comes to something serious like careers, health, education or in my case trying to promote apprenticeships, it is a little harder.

First of all; recognise that peer pressure is a real thing; if someone had a choice between a café with two tables to eat at, and another with 10, most people would choose the one with greater capacity; similarly if most people had a choice between two café’s, one which was completely empty and one that was half full, they would choose the half-full one.

This means that you need to have the capacity to deal with a group, and the ability to draw and keep their attention. Large groups can be unmanageable and you might not be able to reach each individual in the same way for something important, but if you can draw a small group where you can have an effective conversation and make a real connection then you have reached the unreachable. This is particularly important where a young person doesn’t have an adult support network.

In summary, people might not engage much on their own, but they might with a friend.

Meet them where they are

I only found out last year that my beloved Facebook was for oldies and that all the youth are on Instagram. This heartbreaking reality check made me realise that I wasn’t on the same page as my target audience.

Just like any marketing activity, invest in researching your target audience, their habits, their worries and concerns and where you can reach them. Only then can you make positive steps to engage with your audience.

As mentioned earlier, young people will have a number of barriers, and it is unlikely that they will engage on their own, so think about how you can reach a small group of young people on familiar ground or in their comfort zone.

Youth organisations such as cadets, or school careers events are nice easy options, but there are other places you can reach young people too, such as sporting clubs or in online gaming communities. There are also online platforms that young people might use more regularly than others and you might consider creating interesting content on YouTube, Twitch or Instagram. One of my own ideas is to release some free courses that would otherwise be included in an apprenticeship as a taster.

Personalised approach,

At the start of this article, I said that millennials were the most diverse generation of them all. I believe that this makes them immune to a lot of traditional advertising and that the best approach is to appear to personalise your message to a small group or demographic.

When I talk to young people I try to reach those who have a similar outlook to me; those who didn’t like school or didn’t like fitting into a system and wanted to go their own way. This means I can not only reach a small group but that I also have a bit of common ground which is also useful.

There are lots of opportunities to personalise marketing, if you are working online you might consider things like personality quizzes in which everyone’s results or feedback will be different. If you are producing videos, you could have links to related subjects, products or services you provide directly.

If you are at an event, think about how you can draw people in for some kind of photo opportunity. Remember that a lot of social media is image based, and a chance to have an interesting picture taken is more likely to end up on social media. I acknowledge that this is a bit gimmicky, but anyone who has been to Madame Tussaud’s will understand.

A final fifth tip…

There are only four tips, but each of these has come from trying something, reflecting upon the experience and refining the process for next time. Just because something worked well 2015, doesn’t mean it will work in 2018, even in such a short time frame it is important to keep improving and trialling new ideas.

Try, Reflect, Refine; do it all better next time.

After all, the people you are trying to reach are the ones no one else has, and if you don’t do it maybe nobody else will, and this makes it all the more important.

I would love to hear from others who have experience trying to reach young or unreachable people, please leave a comment below or contact me at: