How to Market to Millennials, Really

Students Holding Question Mark

Like it or not, millennials matter and will make up a huge portion of your future business. But reaching this often coveted group isn’t as easy as sending out a blast email with a coupon inside or tweeting the current special.

“Millennials don’t like to be sold to and they’ve grown up entertaining and informing themselves instantly with the click of a button,” says Jonathan Sellers, a social media strategist at EMSI Public Relations. “Business owners who want to get their interest need to be creative in their messaging.”

So why should small businesses even care about this group of people born after 1980? According to Chris Rimlinger, senior vice president of marketing at Money Mailer, as a group millennials number over 80 million and have cash to spend. But their buying power doesn’t stop on themselves alone.

“Millennials are also still well connected to their parents,” says Rimlinger. “They are very influential on family purchase decisions – technology, cars, and what to have for dinner.”

Equally as important as the sheer size of this group is the fact that they are still forming brand loyalties and buying habits. Market to them right, and you can have a loyal customer forever. Do it wrong, and they may never purchase your product or service. Ever.

While it’s no secret small businesses are pressed for time, making it close to impossible to launch a huge marketing effort geared toward millennials, there are things you can do to reach this group without letting the primary focus—running your business—fall to the wayside.

Ignore mobile at your own peril

One of the worst things small business owners can do when trying to reach this group of potential customers is to ignore mobile and mobile apps. Millennials grew up with a mobile device attached to their hip and expect the businesses they interact with to support their mobile preference. Because of that, it’s important for small businesses to not only have a Website that is optimized for mobile search but also an app that makes their life easier.

“Up to 90% of the time for millennials is spent in an app versus a browser,” says Lance Brown, vice president of product development at Huzzah Media, the digital and mobile marketing company.  “Whether they are buying a home or looking for a landscaper, an app is the first place they look.”  A local landscaping business may scoff at the notion of having an app, but an inexpensive one that not only makes it easier to learn about the business but provides appointment scheduling, invoicing and can even send out messages about sales will win with millennials.

Test the waters beyond the big three

Everybody knows Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, but because of that, they may not be the best places to reach millennials. Yes you want to have a presence on Twitter and Facebook, but you can’t ignore all the new social media sites out there. After all millennials like to be unique, which could be the reason Twitter and Facebook are struggling a bit with growth.

Take We Heart It as one example. The social media site that lets people “heart” images has 25 million users and over 80% are under the age of 25. If small business owners just stick to the top social media sites they miss an opportunity to reach potential customers hanging out in places like this.  Because of that Ranah Edelin, chief executive at We Heart says small business owners have to test out different services to see what makes sense for them.

“It’s a really low cost of entry,” says Edelin. “All of these services of user-generated content are free.” Edelin pointed to one business that started adding images at weHeart to get the word out about their brand and quickly had over 20,000 followers.

Save them money

Small business owners may think it’s only the old or the struggling that want to save money, but millennials also want to get a deal and won’t think twice about scouring the Internet for a coupon or discount code.

“There is a misconception that millennials are only focused on the digital world and not interested in receiving print materials,” says Rimlinger. “The millennial generation is very interested in saving money and searches for coupons.”

Keep in mind that the messaging in any marketing material, whether it’s a print ad, online or a flyer sent in the mail, has to be clear, concise and uncluttered.

“Millennials have notoriously short attention spans – you’ve only got a few seconds to reach them,” says Rimlinger.