Selling Tomorrow’s Ideas to Yesterday’s Generation


“How do I convince my boss to try new ideas and technology?” That is  one of the most popular questions I get during my speaking engagements. It’s often the young staff from businesses, churches, and organizations wanting to venture out into a social media campaign or a dynamic new mobile tool or app who face push back from leaders who don’t understand or are threatened by the new and unfamiliar. So how do you get your point across to yesterday’s generation without frustrating them and getting shut down?

If I have learned anything in 20 years of marketing is this: you must speak the language of your target audience. And that goes for the people you have to help adopt a new vision or strategy.

Often you have to use yesterday’s language to sell today’s idea to accomplish tomorrow’s mission.

Church marketing is a perfect illustration for this principle. While some  leaders might argue whether or not churches should be in the marketing business, most will agree that every church should be in the evangelism business. Often in my conversations with church leaders I speak of an outreach, or an evangelism plan instead of a marketing and branding campaign. At their core they are the same–how can we reach more people with the message of the Gospel–but language makes a huge impact in the way an audience responds to them.

If you’re having a difficult time getting buy in for your idea, try rethinking the way you’re communicating it. Describe your new concept in a way that resonates with your audience. Use a frame of reference that makes sense to them. While you might need to revamp your website, what you are ultimately trying to do is to reach and connect with more people. It’s hard for someone to shoot down “digital evangelism” or the creation of a stronger “sales channel,” as you make the  case for an e-commerce site. In certain circles, a social media campaign, might be framed as a “new acquisition strategy.” Don’t underestimate the power words have to persuade.

What has been your experience in selling new ideas to an older generation?

  • Mark Taylor

    I have a tough time trying to convince my company to use social media as a business tool. Most people here just don't get it.

  • This is a tough subject. Even if people "get it" they see it with their own perspective. Even those who join Twitter today, have a very different understanding than those who joined a year ago. There is an ever evolving learning curve and nobody is the expert.In my 10+ years of marketing experience, not only do I agree that language is important, but you have to show proof of results. Don't just tell someone that it works, prove to them with story that it really does. When I tell people that I've troubleshooted and scheduled an appointment with Comcast to fix my internet, all over Twitter, almost always, their interest is piqued. There are tons of stories like that that will help propel your cause forward. Find them. Create your own. Do something to help show that a difference can be made.I'd highly recommend the book Trust Agents by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith. It's a great read on this very topic.

  • My grandma is a prime example for this. She is my ONLY supporter that does not have email (or a computer) and REFUSES to get one. Therefore, I have to print out my newsletter every month and send it to her. I've tried so many times to get her to invest in one, with MANY different angles, but she just wont. Some people are like that! hehehhe(but I sill love her deeply, cuz shes my grandma after all)

  • @Kyle,If we were 100% rational a lot of these issues would be resolved quickly with proof–which I agree needs to be given. Often, however, it's the trust factor or emotional factor that rules the day. I've heard it so many times "I like you. Let's work together." That translated into, I like you; therefore, I trust you and I'm allowing you to talk me into moving forward together. @moweezle, Grandmothers can be tough, but I guarantee that if the only way for her to hear back from her favorite grandmother was through a computer, she'd find a way to get one. Just a hunch.

  • spending money! many have not had large marketing/pr budgets and now more than ever, it's critical to have one. Not just set for proactive, but also a budget for reactive – since all businesses and organizations are more vulnerable with the viral media spread.

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  • Mark Jeffress

    Years ago I was in a board meeting and a board member asked “why does a church need a laser printer?” Those where long and difficult days working in a small church environment where every decision had to be vetted by a volunteer, often from a earlier generation, that did not understand current communications. I can see how the language of comfort for them was important. You’re right on this post. Language is important and it truly matters. 

  • Sally Smith

    My boss still thinks that social media is a waste of time. He says that’s a fad for teenagers.

    • There’s enough quantifiable evidence that a successful social media campaign can be quite lucrative.

  • ann

    how about selling yesterday’s ideas to tomorrow’s generation? some things are tested and tried, like social courtesy, human dignity, sharing….ways of life, I call them.

  • ashleydg995

    Lovely article – one of the best things I’ve recently read, and by far the most useful. I need help with this too! I’ve found some decent tutorials on how to fill Parental Consent Forms out online here .

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