One of the most common questions I get asked as a digital marketer, in one form or another, is, “How the heck do I market my product/service/organization to people like YOU?”
My response is typically: “Number one, how dare you?” Just because I’m a thirty-year-old male with pithy utterances such as “That’s dope!” and “What up, fam?” doesn’t automatically make me “one of them.” Sheesh.
The fact of the matter though, is I am, indeed, “one of them.” I am a part of everyone’s favorite generation: the Millennials (cue laugh track).
With somewhere in the neighborhood of 75 million of us in the United States, we’re unavoidable. We are quickly becoming the majority generation of workers, leaders and breeders in this country. And it’s hard to go anywhere or do anything without running into at least one gaggle of us huddled together with some craft coffee, talking about how “legit AF” it’s going to be when we change the world.
It’s also hard to market to us.
We are in the beginning stages of what is arguably the largest shift in communication since the invention of the Gutenberg printing press in 1450 (which revolutionized publication and print media), with a majority of communication going digital.
Traditional advertising methods such as billboards, newspapers, magazines, and radio are not nearly as effective in reaching millennial consumers, who, as of 2019, are roughly between the ages of 22 and 38. But it’s not because the content or methods of these advertisements are irrelevant in and of themselves; they are just irrelevant to us. Gone are the days when publishers could expect, like clockwork, for consumers to read their content in a newspaper or magazine, when businesses could rely on listing their information in Yellow Pages to easily get new customers, and when brands could interact with their fan base with little to no relational investment.
So, what does all this mean for today’s organizations trying to effectively market to and reach an increasingly digital, Millennial customer base, while keeping their core values and authority in tact?
Here are three techniques that you can use for marketing to Millennials without losing your soul.
As businesses, churches and nonprofits launch their new ventures, scale their existing ones, or, just look to refresh their marketing efforts, there is often the question of, “Should we use [Platform]?” Sometimes, that question is colored by not-too-subtle exasperation and angst: “Do we HAVE to use [Platform]?”
I almost don’t really care which version of that question is asked, nor what the platform is, because my answer is almost always “yes!” If people are there, specifically the kind of people you are trying to reach, then you should be there too, hands down. Because if you aren’t where the people are, then you can’t complain that you aren’t reaching the audience you want. That would be like an angler who complains there are no fish in his ice chest, when he didn’t go fishing in a spot he knows is teeming with the exact type of fish he wants to catch.
It’s important to remember, the digital world isn’t just a pathway of communication for us; it’s a permanent residence. We can get whatever information we want, whenever we want, from wherever we want; all from our phones. We get our news from sources like Twitter and Reddit, find places of interest to us on Google, discover recipes on Pinterest, trust customer reviews from Yelp, and get locale recommendations from friends and family on Facebook.
If you really want to get our money, attendance, and/or our loyalty, you’ve got to come to us, where we spend the most time. Unfortunately, companies who have failed to accept or realize this, and who have failed to adapt accordingly, eventually die a slow, painful death.
However, you don’t need to be everywhere, you just need to be somewhere. Start with one platform, and begin to expand after you are comfortable with its functions. Intentionally develop a strategy that will allow you to grow and expand over time, and will maximize your presence on popular platforms without wearing yourself thin.
One of the worst things that could happen to you is to try to increase your digital presence when you aren’t ready for it, and risk losing customers and credibility from not being able to give them the time and attention they need for you to succeed.
As communication has evolved and shifted to a largely digital culture, businesses and brands have tried to find the right approach to capturing the hearts of this new, constantly changing breed of humanity.
But, in the name of trying to “speak our language,” they have unintentionally repelled this target audience they are so desperately trying to attract. For example:
The key is this: don’t try too hard. We don’t need you to be like us. We need you to be like you. The reality is, a lot of Millennials are fed up with the antics of other Millennials, so don’t try to add to the noise.
Millennials value authenticity more than just about anything, and can smell fake, insecure, and manipulation a mile away.
A major aspect to your marketing success as an organization, no matter which industry you are in, is to find your “voice”, make it true to you as the owner and the values that you live by, and be consistent. You might not ever go viral, be endorsed by a celebrity, or be at the forefront of a movement, but its far better for you to be trusted as a source of authenticity and reliability than to try to fit in with the crowd, and lose your credibility in the process.
I’m going to let you in on a little secret.
Millennials don’t really care about what you do.
I know, that sounds crazy. “What do you mean you don’t care? How do I let you know what I do or offer, without telling you what I do or offer?”
Now, hear me out. Back in technique number one, I described several ways that communication has drastically shifted to digital avenues, and listed several platforms that we use every day to find what we need.
The fact is, we can literally find 17 other businesses exactly like yours within a 10-mile radius in less than 3 seconds flat with a quick Google search. So the key to winning my business is not by describing what you can do for me. I want to know, specifically, why I should go with you over anyone else, and how it is going to benefit my life to do so.
I’ll give you an example.
One of my clients and her husband are 60-year-old health/mind/finance transformation coaches. Many of their clientele are 60-year-old men and women looking for transformation in these areas. However, she wants to reach a larger, and hopefully Millennial, audience. I asked her how she typically sells her service offering to prospects, and this was the gist of her response:
“I help men and women take control of their finances, develop healthy eating and exercise habits, and find ways to strengthen or renew their negative mindsets.”
Okay, that’s not too bad. But I was honest with her and told her that that pitch wouldn’t sell me, although truth be told, I could probably use those services. In an age where I have endless articles at my fingertips about “5 Weird Tricks to Save Money,” “The Celebrity Diet That Makes Doctors Mad,” and “A New Study Shows Adult Depression Is Linked To Crappy Upbringing,” I needed to know “why should I choose you to help me with these areas?”
This is the most important key to marketing to Millennials: it is not about trying to sell us on your services; it’s about selling us on your value.
How do you do this? Keep in mind these three things:
Be intentional. Be specific. Be consistent.
As business owners, our job is to solve people’s pain points, by providing solutions in the form of products or services. But we can’t just rely on generically throwing our services out there and hope that they land on a few people that we can draw in to us, like a net in the water, to use a fishing analogy again.
We must be intentional about knowing our audience, what their pain points are, and how we can solve them.
Believe it or not, we Millennials have a lot of problems we need solved, although we might not either a.) Recognize them right away, or b.) Be willing to tell people what they are, unless trust has been built. Without intentionally taking the time to talk to potential patrons or customers, get to know them, do the appropriate market research, and get feedback about what is working and what isn’t, then Millennials will remain elusive to your goals.
You also need to be specific with your offering, in regards to the value you are looking to provide. “Do you wish to be healthier?” is much less effective than “I know you are a dad-to-be, and your wife isn’t working right now, so you are probably working extra, and my guess is you aren’t able to go to the gym as much. I can help you find a good work/life balance, create a system to help you keep track of your diet, and avoid a dad bod.” See how specific that was? Much more effective.
By the way, that was what I told my client would work on someone like me, because that is my exact spot in life at the time of writing this blog. And to link this back to the first piece of marketing your value, about being intentional, it wasn’t until we had had a good amount of dialogue that I revealed this information to her.
And finally: consistency is crucial.
Millennials are finicky creatures. We scare easily. Come barging in with your offering and we will run away, but approach too softly and we’re oblivious. Luckily, neither of these approaches are cardinal sins. The key is not to be pushy, but not to give up too quickly.
Just because we tell you no the first time, doesn’t mean that it’s a no forever.
Sometimes we want to evaluate our options, check our financial standing, or talk with our significant other.
Sometimes we’ve been burned by someone in your industry before, and it’s harder for us to trust you.
But I promise you, if you consistently reach out, follow up, and check in, eventually, we will probably use you.
The reason why this is a critical part of communicating value is because you are building trust with us, and showing that you are not just trying to get our money, like all the other guys. You will be distinguishing yourself through the personal relationship you build with your prospects.
And ultimately, this is what helps you to be uniquely you, and help you avoid becoming just another one of the crowd in your industry.
Clearly, marketing to Millennials is not for the faint of heart. But as we are now considered to be the largest population in the United States, you can’t afford NOT to adapt to the culture that we have propagated.
Whether you are a health transformation coach, a roofer, a pet shop owner, or a baker: I believe that you’ve got what it takes to stand out, and be successful in your marketing efforts without running the risk of becoming irrelevant to the culture.
However, if you find yourself having a hard time wrapping your head around these concepts, you are overwhelmed by some of the technology meant to expand your reach, or, maybe you have tried some of these methods without much success, then you’ve come to the right place.
With over ten years of digital marketing experience, I help new, growing, and stagnant businesses establish a meaningful and measurable online presence, to help them increase visibility, generate profit, boost engagement, and scale objectives. And, perhaps most importantly, to have fun again!
Set up a time with me today for a free 15-minute Discovery Call, and let’s see how I might be able to add value to your business!