7 Underemployed Strategies to Attract Millennials

Millennials seem to be the inspiration for endless articles when it comes to culture and employment, but for many business owners they're an overlooked audience. Part of the reason for this is the youthful nature of the demographic, which renders them inaccessible and, all too often, misunderstood. The reality is that millennials are growing up fast. Typically pegged as those born between 1980 and not long after the turn of the century (hence the name), that puts the oldest of this group that supplanted Generation X at 35 years of age. While that's still young from many perspectives, it's an eternity for anyone who wants to sell things to them. By that age, a person has typically carved out a career direction, built a base with a spouse or partner, perhaps even started a family. Most importantly for marketers, older millennials now have significant earning power and influence over purchase decisions, and there are many more graduating to this level as the years fly by. If you've ignored millennials for years on the basis that they're a tough-to-reach niche too new for your business, it's time to take another look. Bride using mobile phone Millennials are much further along in the game of life than many businesses allow for.

Some Stats About Millennials

In conversations about vanity number marketing, we like to say the stats speak for themselves. The same is true of marketing to millennials, as a government study released last year demonstrates. Some choice cuts from that report:

  • Millennials became the largest segment of the U.S. population all the way back in 2013, with around one-third of the population in that bracket.
  • The demographic is culturally and ethnically diverse, with 15% of Millennials born to immigrant parents or direct immigrants themselves.
  • They are tech-savvy and digitally connected, with 75% having a presence on some form of online social network.
  • While the unemployment rate is higher among millennials (8.4%) than the overall national average (5.9%) - September 2014 rates - many Millennials are leveraging the economic downturn as an opportunity to pursue extended higher education or develop technology start-ups with the potential to generate significant incomes.

The upshot is that this generation of potential customers has come through one of the worst economic crises in modern memory and has started to build a new way of working from the ground up. A significant proportion have found their fortune, or at least high salary employment in the resurgent tech sector, further shaping the economy as many everyday activities move online. Such a transformative, increasingly influential generation of customers cannot be ignored. That's why even those who question the ethics of millennials have to start connecting with them, and why it's important to make that connection before your competitors figure out how to get there ahead of you. 

7 Strategies to Attract Millennials

If we've convinced you that it's right for your business to start attracting the attention of buyers in the millennial bracket, it's time to get to work! Here are seven ideas you can add to your marketing strategy with that objective in mind:

  • 1. Use a Suitable Social Network - Most of us are now maintaining a professional Facebook page, often alongside other social networks like Linkedin and Twitter for business. To reach millennials, however, your business must reach outside of its comfort zone and explore new, more visual social spaces. Snapchat, Instagram, and Periscope or Meerkat are all newer networks that are attracting younger audiences. For example, there are now more than 100 million active users on Snapchat and 71% of them are under 25, a user base that effectively makes the service future-proof for years to come. Although brands are less firmly established in these spaces, that's actually where your opportunity lies. Get in early, experiment with different types of content, and use the less-crowded environment to develop a relationship with followers that will pay dividends in the long run.
  • 2. Embrace Emojis - It might seem an alien, possibly even childish element to include in professional marketing, but for some businesses there will be a lot of value to incorporating emojis. The flourishing offspring of the old-school smiley/emoticon is proving especially popular with millennials and those following them, so an investment in understanding emoji now should again pay off in the long-term. To that end, email marketing platform MailChimp conducted some interesting research about the most popular emojis to use in subject lines, which should help you get to grips with the phenomenon.
  • 3. Optimism (in Adversity) - Despite all that they have faced in the past 10 to 15 years, millennials remain a remarkably optimistic bunch. Part of this no doubt stems from the fact that they have had to find their own way among chaotic world events, from the fallout of 9/11 to the economic collapse towards the end of the decade. It should go without saying, but your business message will need to match that spirit of optimism through adversity if it is to truly connect with this young and enthusiastic audience. Consider creating marketing copy specifically for millennials to test the water, including concepts such as the next big hope for your industry and the social problems you see yourself trying to solve. Case studies and personal testimonials can work especially well in this area, as telling a compelling story is also at the core of marketing to millennials.
  • Millennial workforce stat Image Credit: Everwise4. Speak Straight - As much as millennials live life online, it's important to remember that they still have that basic human need to connect and speak to a real person from time to time. Give them an easy way to get in touch with you one-to-one, like a memorable phone number or a live chat feature on your site, as an alternative to branded social channels that inevitably lack the personal touch. When you hear people saying they're fed up of call centers that cross international borders or auto-responders that inevitably keep them on hold for ages, that's the instinct you're speaking to with a commitment to speak straight to your customers when they want it. Millennials are especially responsive to this, given the personal disconnects that arise from being a digital native.
  • 5. Become a Publisher - If you've heard the term "all brands are now publishers," it's with good reason. Content has evolved into the life blood of the Internet, and creating your own original content is a great way to stay alive in this competitive online environment. In terms of connecting with a younger audience, you must customize that content further still. Take your lead from popular millennial content providers like Buzzfeed, Huffington Post, and even offbeat sites like The Onion; learn the art of aligning your company and industry news with wider trends and topics that are attracting attention. Use eye-catching imagery and intriguing headlines to capture millennial attention, then keep them coming back with subscription options and regular, engaging content. If this sounds like a lot of work, it is! The good news is that there are wider SEO benefits and your content will catch the eye of other demographics as well, so this particular tactic is about more than millennials!
  • 6. Consider Cause Marketing - This idea applies across generations, but social responsibility is particularly important to millennials. Finding a relevant cause and orienting your business transactions to support it offers both an incentive for millennials to buy from you and a bridge to communicate with them in future. You might have seen big brands embracing this idea on an international level with Superbowl ads - think Coca Cola, IBM, Microsoft... the list goes on - but appealing to millennials means living it, as well as showing love for it. Donating to a cause is one thing, establishing a long-term partnership that ensures their survival is another level entirely. If you have an organization in mind that would be a good fit, and the dedication to support them on an ongoing basis, this could be the right approach to bring your business to an entirely new audience.
  • 7. Practice, Don't Preach - Adverts are everywhere and there is no generation more adept at tuning out commercial distractions than millennials... after all, they've been doing it all of their life! For that reason, you'll need much more than just words to win their business. Your company should not just be clear on its values, culture, and unique selling proposition, you should be open about how you strive to achieve them and honest about the times you fail to do so. A little transparency - mixed with a lot of humanity - goes a long way with a millennial audience (and it's a heck of a lot cheaper than blanketing the airwaves with 30-second ad spots!)

 To summarize, millennials are an increasingly important marketing demographic whose spending power and influence is only going to grow for the next decade or two. As such, it is crucial to get ahead of the trend, understand what motivates them and where they gather, and craft communications that meet their needs. Because it is so early in the day for many of these strategies and the platforms they employ, now is the time to run through the learning curve and understand what works for your business. Attracting millennials is a tougher task than simply advertising, as has been the case in the past, but traditional marketing tools are still valuable and the effort to learn what works now will mean significant savings of time and money, if you're in it for the long haul. Pick the ideas that seem right for your business and let us know how you fare attracting your next generation of paying customers!

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