If you're not already doing so, marketing to millennials – the 18-34-year-old demographic numbering well over 80 million in the U.S.--should be at or near the top of your priorities. According to the consulting firm Accenture, consumers in this age group make purchases totaling $600 billion every year – and by 2020, it's projected that "their spending in the United States will grow to $1.4 trillion annually and represent 30 percent of total retail sales." This is simply too vast a target audience for most small businesses to ignore.
So what's the best way to market to millennials? Here are five key tips for breaking through the noise and getting their valuable attention.
1. Digital is just the start, but mobile is where you'll find them.
Consumers in this age group live and breathe online, so your business must have a vibrant, informative, and compelling digital presence. More importantly, with so many millennials owning smartphones, your Internet presence must be optimized for viewing on their phone (or other mobile devices) or they won't know you exist. They do much of their shopping while on the go and rely on "cloud-based applications offering remote access and instant updates" in order to access the information they want. In other words, businesses must adapt to the ways in which millennials gather information, rather than the other way around.
2. Go all-out on social media.
This demographic thrives on social media, so your marketing efforts should include an active presence on--at the very least--Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat. But don't think of "having a presence online" as bombarding consumers with slick advertising. Millennials are influenced more by "opportunities to learn and be educated, and through these things [to] build a relationship with your brand that makes them more likely to be customers in the future." Tell millennials a story about your company and give them interactive opportunities to engage with your brand on various social media platforms.
3. Explore marketing through video.
While they're not the only generation to enjoy videos on their mobile devices, millennials respond favorably to getting your marketing message as told through images and emotions. Among other things, their purchasing decisions are often influenced by seeing how a product or service is used by others. Videos that depict "real" people enjoying your product has greater appeal than videos with costly special effects and high-gloss production values. Just remember, when it comes to marketing by video, short is a key virtue.
4. Authenticity counts.
Men and women in this demographic have grown up bombarded by just about every advertising and marketing technique imaginable. As a result, they have no patience for any marketing message that comes across as forced or insincere. Woe to any brand that oversells or fails to deliver on its promises. "If you misrepresent your product, they'll either know it immediately or they'll do their research to find out the truth," says marketing pro Gabe DiGristina.
5. Count for something more than just profit.
There's a deep, abiding strain among millennials to support causes that improve mankind and the world we live in. Look for opportunities to align with a cause you and your team strongly believe in, donate time and money to that cause, and then share news of your activities on social media and elsewhere. As long as you're sincere about the cause, consumers in this age group who share your specific concerns are likely to be more attracted to your products and services. Better yet, enlist their support by sponsoring non-profit events that benefit your favorite cause. Many businesses have gained enthusiastic followers by showing their concern about the world in which we all live.
Millennials can often easily be lumped together and described as easy-going, overly demanding, and only out for themselves. Avoid falling prey to these misconceptions and you'll find an exciting new market for your business as their buying power continues to grow.