Contributed by Laura Gayle
The vast majority of the millennial generation is now old enough to be out of school and in the workforce, adding a new and sometimes complex dynamic to the traditional office environment. As many employers have noted, hiring and working with millennials isn’t always the same experience as working with Gen Xers or Baby Boomers. From the advent of the internet in early childhood to a coming of age during the Great Recession in the late 2000s, many societal and cultural influences have shaped the way millennials see and experience the world.
However, having millennials on your team and in your office can be a significant advantage. No one knows how to reach millennial customers like millennial employees, who offer unique and personal information into the psyche of consumers in the same demographic. Here are several ways millennials can improve your business strategies in targeting what will soon be the largest generation.
Take a New Approach to Marketing
Historically, marketing and advertising have been relatively straightforward. Businesses create advertisements designed to convince shoppers to buy, and, traditionally, they’ve worked. However, millennials are proving to be a different breed, and what worked for previous generations is failing to strike a chord with millennials. Why? Millennials don’t like to be sold to.
Millennials are, by all accounts, the most educated and proactive generation to date. They value the message behind advertising content rather than what’s presented on the surface, and they like making their own decisions. As such, advertising feels to them more like manipulation than a presentation of information used to make buying decisions. When marketing to millennials, it’s important to make advertisements not look like advertisements. Instead, they need to be messages that are compelling and creative in a way that evokes emotion and invites critical thinking. Millennials often prefer to come to their own conclusions, so your company’s job as a marketer is only to move this process along – and young staffers can vet the approach and response.
Embrace the Strength of Social Causes
For millennials who have grown up hearing about the perils of climate change, the importance of eco-conscious decision-making, and the critical nature of equality, it’s no surprise that social causes resonate with millennials. Philanthropic causes are a financial priority for millennials, and companies that can’t display some sort of social responsibility are likely to lose ground to those who can. While social causes aren’t universal to all young people, things like civil rights, employment reform, immigration, climate change, and healthcare reform mean the most – and your millennial team members can help you isolate which ventures, charities, or organizations fit best with your corporate objectives.
87% of Americans are willing to spend more on a product or service if a company advocates for a cause personally important to them. While millennials are the most likely to take these positions, using your business resources for good can resonate with other generations as well.
Millennials love tech. As a generation, they grew up with access to computers from early childhood, cell phones from middle school or earlier, and online networking long before entering the job market. This created a long-lasting reliance on technology that previous generations didn’t experience. In order to appeal to many millennials, old-school analog techniques will no longer work; the opportunities your company offers to consumers need to fit within the new digital norms – whether that means mobile apps, online registration or scheduling, or completely virtual access to a product or service.
In the technology space, millennials are more likely than other generations to have smart homes or apartments. They appreciate devices that serve multiple purposes, like the Apple Watch – a device that tells time but also allows access to apps, texts, calls, and much more. When creating products or services targeted at millennials, strive to add maximum value in as many ways as possible. If your millennial employees aren’t enthused about your R&D endeavors, your millennial customers aren’t likely to be excited, either.
Design Millennial-Friendly Spaces
If you have physical premises associated with your business, it’s important to create spaces that appeal to millennials, not just spaces that are convenient or cheap for you. Cubicles, closed doors, and cramped quarters, for example, have proven to be unpopular with younger workers. While most millennials dislike so-called youth-friendly concepts that companies frequently employ to save money, like mandatory hot desking, many Gen Y workers do appreciate spacious, modern offices with room for collaboration, relaxation, and recreation.
Making these kinds of adjustments in public areas also can be beneficial for customers, but making them in your workplace can help attract and retain millennial employees. If you don’t have millennials on your teams to turn to for fine-tuning your marketing, R&D, and sales tactics, it will likely be an uphill battle to make connections with younger consumers.
Create a Customer Journey
Millennials aren’t like other customers. While buying products is certainly a necessity of normal life, for large purchases, millennial consumers want a journey, not just a transaction. Social media and influencer marketing both play a role in this – two elements of modern marketing with which millennials are very familiar and have come to expect from the companies with which they do business.
A customer journey is defined by six phases, all of which are important in creating consumer relationships and cultivating loyalty: awareness, acquisition, onboarding, engagement, retention, and advocacy. With millennial employees on your side, you can figure out how best to relate these points to your audience, from targeted social media posts and incentivized landing pages to email or text promotions that encourage a perceived bond. Millennials want to feel valued as individuals, and it’s important for your customer journey to reflect this.
Why Millennial Influence Matters
As millennials grow more secure in adulthood, their influence on the world becomes greater and greater. With an estimated buying power of $200 million, the most of any current generation, ignoring the millennial consumer means intentionally cutting out the possibility of significant profit. However, marketing to millennials means more than touting products meant for young adults and hoping things just work out.
It’s important to get into a millennial mindset, and in most cases, that means going right to the source. Using the input of employee members of millenials, your business can take a firsthand approach to targeting millennials, utilizing employee experiences and personal beliefs to send messages that pack a punch. With millennial input on everything from marketing to technology, there’s a lot your company can do to make your wares more millennial-friendly.
Laura Gayle is a full-time blogger who has ghostwritten more than 350 articles for major software companies, tech startups, and online retailers. Founder of www.BusinessWomanGuide.org, she created her site to be a trusted resource for women trying to start or grow businesses on their own terms. She has written about everything from crowdfunding and inventory management to product launches, cybersecurity trends, web analytics, and innovations in digital marketing.