12 Rules to Engaging the Millennials

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The Millennials constitute a fickle generation, prone to rapid and abrupt changes in thought and behavior, preferences, expectations, and demand, and they are 80 million strong today. From a marketing point of view, they represent a nightmarish demographic, nigh impossible to target due to their age, diversity, and especially their tendency for being capricious. However, as difficult as it is for large businesses to engage them, the Millennials, or Generation Y, are a dream come true for small business owners.

The Millennial Market

Recent projections have suggested that by the year 2030, the Millennials – people born between 1982 [give or take a few years] to 2002 [give or take a few years] – will outnumber the baby boomers. It then becomes essential for small businesses and local enterprises to understand exactly the composition of their future target market, and how to target that audience effectively.

Explore: Profile of a Millennial for Small Business Enterprises

Local and Small Business Marketing Advantage

While large corporations have the distinct benefit of being able to spend massive amounts of dollars on market research, they are simultaneously hindered by their mass marketing methods. They target audiences, rather than individual customers, and as such, engage in impersonal marketing, which is detrimental, to say the least, when targeting Millennials. Here is why:

Millennials prefer unique and individual marketing messages, not ‘sales pitches’.

They tend to think of themselves as exclusive entities with distinctive perceptions.

These traits make the Generation Y the perfect customer base for small businesses.

Local and small businesses have a smaller target audience, and usually market to a specific demographic.

They know their consumers at a more personal level, and thus are able to create targeted, customized marketing messages which are tailored to appeal to the Millennials.

The Millennial Marketing Solution: Guerrilla Marketing

Guerrilla marketing is a term first used by J.C. Levinson in the 1980’s, but its scope can still be understood and applied even today to the current market scenario. The core idea behind guerrilla marketing focuses on a sparseness of budget, with a lavishness of ingenuity.

It is the great equalizer, allowing small businesses the opportunity to compete in the big business arena. It offers an innovative mode of marketing – one not about forcefully grabbing the customer’s attention, but a customer-centric one, all about creating marketing campaigns which prove to be irresistible at the lifestyle level.

The key is to create advertisements which capture audience interest by presenting products and services as the ‘chance of a lifetime.’ Most Millennials are versatile, ambitious, and forever looking for new opportunities. A look at the growing statistics suggests there are more entrepreneurs today than in any other generation before, proving their need for innovation and control.

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Creating a Guerilla Marketing Campaign

Millennials are motivated by the moment. They are products of a recession and have seen the faltering economic times. They want to live life to the fullest, and to have control over their own finances and future. They want a lifestyle they can enjoy, on their own terms.

So how do you create a marketing campaign for individuals rather than for groups or an audience?

1: Deliver a Human Experience

Find the connection between your product or service and the target audience, and use it to bond with your customers by offering a complete, human experience instead of a sales pitch. So if you want to sell a house to a Millennial, do not show them the picket fence. Entice them with a full bar and a furnished basement. Give them a glimpse of the good life, and create for them a path to adulthood which promises inspiration and adventure, not responsibilities.

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2: Be Creative

Most small businesses are constrained by budgets and limited spending power. So how do you step beyond those restrictions, and deliver a compelling, powerful marketing campaign? Why, by being creating of course. Millennials cherish creativity and innovation, perhaps above all else.

Cater to the absurd then, and be artistic. Blow their hair back with something they cannot see coming from a mile away. Personalize your business, offer memberships and tabs for the regulars so they don’t have to draw and carry cash all the time. Send them birthday cards. Give away free muffins. Show them you care, and the Generation Y will flock to you.


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3: Show Them How to ‘Life Hack’

The Millennials are not all like Peter Pan. Most of them are adults, with their own version of adulthood. They love hanging out with friends, creating connections, and celebrating life. They want to have adventure, experiences which are new, and yet nostalgic. Be a mentor, tap into their need for discovery, and create marketing campaigns which offer a way to improve life, to live it as they want to. Go beyond the routine, and make your business irresistible.


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4: Choose Custom Web Design

Millennials are great technophiles. They will pay premium prices to be early adopters of the latest technology. They want to search online, they want to research your business. So, make certain your website is not run-of-the-mill, but fluid, dynamic, and compatible with all the devices available to the Generation Y. Stand out, and the Millennials will come calling.

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5: Have a Responsive Website

Most of the Millennials spend a majority of their time on mobile devices, and consider themselves connoisseurs of technological innovations. In order to leverage this trait, create a responsive website design which recognizes the device and adapts to it. If you market your business to your audience and adapt to their traits, they will definitely become clients. The key is to keep innovating.



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6: Dominate Social Media

75% of the Millennials use Facebook, and every 1 out of 5 uses Twitter. So, if you do not have a strong social presence, you may as well give up in the race. Create business profiles on all popular social networks, and ensure they are both active and original. Promote your business not only at a commercial level but at a personal one too. Create a distinctive personal identity, which can easily be associated with the company, and lends a face to the brand. By all means, hire a Millennial to help your business dominate social media.


Dominate Social Media
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7: Promote your Business through Digital Video

Promote your business by creating digital videos, since 40% of all digital videos online are watched by Millennials. By offering reviews of your business, creating fun videos of your employees at work, or even a 360 degree view of your store will help your marketing efforts.


Promote your Business
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8: Engage in Live/Video Chat through Your Website

Millennials are said to be the ‘me’ generation. They are projected as selfish [false], and slightly narcissistic [which may be true in most cases]. If you provide the impression of every customer being worth a million dollars though, you will have successfully engaged the Millennials. The best approach is to offer live/video chat on your website, so when a potential customer arrives, they get immediate attention.


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9: Provide Exceptional Customer Support

The purchase process has become more complex than ever before due to the rise and proliferation of social media. Online forums, social networks, information portals, and other such websites provide business reviews and product reviews which allow users to make more informed choices. When a Millennial shows up at your website or storefront, the customer service you provide should be exceptional, as this customer thinks they are the center of the world, and as such, must be treated like royalty.


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10: Informational Content Marketing

Millennials do extensive research before making purchases, and yet they dislike direct marketing. If your business promotes content online through advertisements or promotional ‘pushes’, you will push the Generation Y away. The content being provided online must be informational and educational. Use social media to leverage the purchase process and strategically promote your business by answering industry relevant questions on social media platforms while simultaneously creating a brand presence on your blog.


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11: Talk Less – Listen More

Millennials have high expectations, but are realistic in terms of their lifestyle experiences. They will splurge on products and services but they will also make stingy decisions based on research. They make decisions on values like personal satisfaction and discovery of shared passion. Don’t market to this audience. Identify the audience and then listen to what they are talking about on social media. Find your niche and begin a strategic content-based marketing campaign which caters to that conversation.


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12: Go Viral

Generation Y sets the social media trends, and in turn, can be influenced by them as well. Guerrilla marketing creates a form of viral marketing campaign which can be highly effective. Do not force your marketing efforts through paid advertisements, rather continue to be consistent and imaginative with digital and social media. There is a pretty good chance that the campaign will go viral spontaneously.


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Profiling the Millennials and Marketing
Millennials are a highly misunderstood audience. Deborah Kaye wrote a great article in Entrepreneur Magazine, Marketing to Millennials? Make It Personal and Customizedwhere she outlined some characteristics of a Millennial. Though she made a good presentation, Millennials are even more complex than what she portrayed. The core of her article embraced the notion of ‘One Size Does Not Fit All’ marketing.

In her words, “The look and feel of a customized product is important to members of this generation who are growing up in a society far more diverse and embracing of diversity than preceding generations. This affects their taste in consumer goods and how they are marketed to.

It will not be easy for small businesses to tailor their marketing for the Millennials, and yet in doing so, they can reap great rewards. To be successful, it is essential to create a combination of traditional and digital marketing efforts. Millennials are the products of helicopter parents and structured group play. They have a social dependence, crave communication, and value the opinions of their peers. To establish an effective marketing campaign, the essence of the message should be social, and perhaps even sagely. Understand the Millennial mindset, and the marketing you need to do will become simple.

I am a digital marketing consultant with a focus on small and mid-sized enterprises. I believe the focus of every business should be on creating a consistent brand identity online and offline.

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