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How to Market to Millennials Online


Online Marketing

Do you know the best practices for marketing to millennials?

If your business isn’t marketing to millennials online you could be missing out on a massive profit generating demographic. Millennials, also known as Generation Y, were born throughout the early ‘80s right up to the millennium year, 2000. As a group, they comprise 28.7.% of the U.S.’s entire population, making them the single largest generation in the country. In fact, in 2014 they outnumbered baby boomers by 11 million. Marketing to millennials takes some finesse, though. These consumers can’t be won over with traditional marketing tactics, so get ready to learn more about what will win them over. Here’s how your business can capture the attention of millennials online. 

What doesn’t work when marketing to millennials?

Before learning more about exactly how to market to millennials, let’s take a look at what doesn’t work. According to Hubspot, you should nix these traditional tactics:

  • Direct Mail.
  • Pre-Bought Email Lists.
  • Cold Calling.
  • Print and TV Ads.
  • Sales Pitches.

Essentially, millennials don’t respond to traditional ads, a fact that small businesses and marketers alike need to keep in mind as they craft their campaigns.

Marketing to millennials demands authenticity

Remember when we mentioned that millennials aren’t responsive to traditional marketing methods? Well, 84% of them admit that they don’t like advertising. These buyers are more concerned with a brand’s mission, and they’re fiercely idealistic. They want to change the world, fix broken systems, and purchase products and services that they can feel good about.

Snappy ad copy doesn’t cause this group to automatically reach for their credit cards, because they’re more concerned with authenticity and connection. Millennials don’t automatically trust a brand, so it’s up to you to win them over.

So, how can you get the attention of millennials? By fulfilling that desire for authenticity, of course. Letting your company’s personality shine through is one way to show that you aren’t a carbon copy of every other corporate business. Stuck on how to get more personal and less business-like in your marketing? Try the following:

  • Think about your ideal customers beyond their demographics — who are they? What sort of tone would they be most receptive to? Where do they work, and what are their hobbies? Let the answers to these questions guide your brand’s personality, and then unabashedly infuse that personality into your marketing.
  • Millennials are incredibly skilled at blocking out unwanted, and not helpful, marketing messages. Create content and other materials that are specifically designed to provide helpful information.
  • Can you align your business with an ideological mission? Companies, like the “one for one” shoe company TOMS, have created hugely successful businesses by promoting their cause. By sticking to their narrative, they’ve managed to attract loyal brand ambassadors.

Simply put, you absolutely must focus on building authentic customer relationships if you want to appeal to millennials. One of the most popular ways of building relationships online is to use social media sites like Facebook, but your email marketing, website, and more can all serve as useful relationship-building tools. 

Encourage word of mouth sharing

More so than other generations, millennials rely heavily on word of mouth when making purchasing decisions. They don’t trust messages that come directly from the business itself, putting more faith in input from their trusted circles. This input can come from social media sites like Facebook and Instagram, online review aggregators, and even from direct, spoken recommendations (millennials may be online a lot, but they do step away from their screens!).

Why is this input so important? Because millennials like to do their research before making purchasing decisions, and word of mouth is an important part of that research.

According to Hubspot, 93% of millennials have purchased a product after hearing about it from a family member or friend, and 89% of millennials trust those recommendations more than claims made by the brand itself. This group also reads reviews online before making purchasing decisions, as evidenced by the fact that 93% of millennials generally read reviews online prior to buying.

How can your business get mentioned and reviewed positively to get the most out of this millennial purchasing preference? Try the following:

  • Showcase client reviews and testimonials throughout your marketing materials. Display these reviews on your product pages, throughout your website, and highlight them on social media.
  • Make it easy and worthwhile for customers to share their thoughts, specifically by offering special deals and promotions. 

Attract millennial shoppers with deals and coupons

Millennials love to score a good deal and are very financially savvy, a tendency they developed while growing up in the Great Recession. More than 90% of millennials surveyed said that they use coupons to help them plan their shopping lists. You can’t offer just any deal, though. Millennials look for deals that are, on average, 25% to 32% better than what Generation X’ers and Baby Boomers aim for when using coupons.

While you’re working to gather and display more reviews, spend some time thinking about coupons, deals, and promotions that you can offer customers. One tactic that’s bound to attract millennials is to offer a discount for customers who review your company’s products or services on social media sites or your own website. You can also offer incentives to shoppers who join your email list, which has the added bonus of helping you build a larger list of customer contacts for your email marketing efforts.

Focus on mobile with millennials

Millennials spend a huge chunk of their time online, and much of that time is spent on mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. 55% of millennials who own smartphones expect brands to have an app or mobile-friendly website, for example. Millennials will even pull up websites in-store so that they can compare and contrast prices across brands. If your website can’t be viewed perfectly across a variety of different mobile devices, it’s time for an upgrade.

According to Nora Ganim Barnes, Chancellor Professor of Marketing and Director of the Center for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, apps are exactly where businesses should be targeting millennials. When asked how significant apps are, she answered, “They are downloading apps at a furious level. They will download apps for everything. If there’s an app for—you name it—they’ve got an app for it on their phone. If I asked how many days are left in school, they’ve got an app for that. They’ve got an app for every store that they shop at. They have an app for spring break stuff, and who’s doing what, and an app for bands and an app for movies.”

In short, apps are important if you want to market to millennials. You might even consider creating your own app, or tapping into in-app advertising opportunities. 

Do’s and Don’ts for Marketing to Millennials Online

To summarize, here’s how your business should approach marketing to millennials online:

Do speak authentically and with an identifiable personality. It doesn’t matter if that personality is snarky, comical, no nonsense, or something else entirely. If a particular tone resonates with your target customers and fits your company’s personality, use it.
Don’t deliver your messages as though you’re talking at your potential customers.

Do create useful content that millennials want to share with their network. Share-worthy content will net you millennial shoppers, and when they share it to their own network your business can thrive.
Don’t rely on traditional methods like cold calling, because they won’t work. These buyers would rather choose when they hear about your brand.

Do incentivize them with deals and coupons. 
Don’t try to capture their attention with traditional print and TV ads.

Do meet millennials where they spend a large chunk of their time — on their mobile devices. At the minimum, a responsive website is a must.
Don’t “set it and forget it” with your mobile marketing. If you want to advertise in apps, test what works and what doesn’t. Test different calls to action on your mobile website to see which messaging converts. Essentially, continuously learn about and test your marketing initiatives. In a changing global marketing landscape it’s the only surefire way to find success… especially with millennials. 

How can you market to millennials online more effectively? Share your thoughts and ideas with other readers, and let’s brainstorm together!