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7 Ways to Market Your Small Business to Millennials

The right and wrong ways to appeal to America's largest generation


Part of the America’s Entrepreneurs Special Report

Millennials have overtaken boomers as America’s largest generation. They now number 75.4 million, compared to boomers’ 74.9 million.

What does this mean to you if you’re a boomer (like me) or a Gen Xer and you run a small business?

It means that you may need to rethink and adapt the way your take your products to market. You’ll want to accommodate the cosmic shift in how people in their 20s and 30s want to interact with your brand, your products and your services.

Pretending that everyone in a particular generation acts and thinks the same way would be a mistake, of course. And I’ve discovered that many of the things Millennials are demanding, boomers and Xers appreciate, too. Nevertheless, there are some common patterns you should consider as you try to create marketing and sales messages for Millennials. Doing so might even help you better reach your other customers, too.

Here are seven tips for getting started:

1. Don’t give ’em a sales pitch. The idea of slick salesmen selling ice cubes to Eskimos is a turnoff to pretty much everyone, but it will be especially disliked by most of your younger customers.

This media-savvy generation has grown up with advertising and doesn’t want you to sell to them. They want you to tell them what your product or service will do for them.

So answer this question: If they do business with you, what value will you add to what they’re doing? If you have a good answer, you will create new customers. If not, Millennials will be less likely to do business with you.

2. Your brand is important to them, but don’t make it all about you. Millennials like conducting business with brands they like and ones that reflect how they see the world. They also understand that your brand is less about what you say and more about what you do. Don’t allow the love of your business to turn your marketing and sales efforts into blowing your own horn.

This population doesn’t care about how long you’ve been in business, how big your company is or what you think is important. They care about how you treat them, how well you keep your brand promises and the value your brand adds to their lives.

3. Make it personal. Like everyone else, Millennials like doing business with other people. If you don’t remember this, you could lose their business. Take advantage of ways technology makes it possible to more specifically target and personalize your marketing communications.

Millennials like to be recognized and don’t like to do business with faceless corporations; they prefer transparency from companies they’re patronizing. If you do business this way, you’ll find more success with this generation.

4. Make doing business with you a good experience. If Millennials have a bad experience with your business, they are just as likely to post a bad review on Yelp! or some other review site as they are to tell their friends about it. And, because business is personal to them, it might not just be about your business — it may be about you.

Make customer service experience a top priority. Be sure you can answer this question: Do your employees know how you want them to handle customer complaints or problems? If not, it’s time to tell them.

5. Get connected. To reach the most connected group of consumers in the world, your business needs to be connected. That means you need to be mobile — offering an enticing experience through smartphones, tablets and social media.

Your website needs to be mobile-friendly, because many of these potential customers will find you by surfing on their smartphones. It also means you need to invest in social media and hang out where your customers do. Social media is how Millennials communicate with each other; it can also be how they communicate with you.

Don’t be afraid to interact with them. But remember: If every interaction with you is a sales pitch, you’ll turn them off and they’ll look elsewhere.

6. Presentation is important. Millennials consume media all day, every day. They’re used to seeing highly polished images, well-produced video and other visual media.

Don’t be afraid to incorporate video, images and audio into your marketing wherever it makes sense. It doesn’t need to look like it was produced in Hollywood, but it does need to look thoughtful and get to the point.

Fortunately, the tools to produce beautiful visual images are easy to find and relatively inexpensive today — and there are many social channels that make it easy to share your message visually.

7. Give them a reason to tell their friends about you. Although Millennials will likely write a bad review of your business if they have a bad experience, they’re likely to rave about you if you provide outstanding customer service or your product works better than advertised. What’s more, they are happy to share their great experience with their friends.

It takes effort to create the kind of experience they’ll talk about, but it’s worth your time, especially your business relies on referrals. It might even be worth your while to consider ramping up a loyalty or referral program that rewards your current customers for introducing you to new ones.

Rethinking and adapting to the Millennial generation will not only help you connect with them, it’ll strengthen you bonds with all your customers.

TyKiisel
By Ty Kiisel
Ty Kiisel is a contributing author focusing on small business financing at OnDeck, a technology company solving small business' biggest challenge: access to capital. With over 25 years of experience in the trenches, Kiisel shares personal experiences and valuable tips to help small business owners become more financially responsible. OnDeck can also be found on Facebook.@https://twitter.com/OnDeckCapital

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