Grandpa Looks at How (Not) to Market to Millennials

Grandpa Looks at How (Not) to Market to Millennials

By John McTigueDec 9 /2013

marketing to millenialsI'm a Baby Boomer, so I don't pretend to know much about Millennials. According to Ryan Donegan, who is one and blogs about his generation, there are 86 million in his peer group, and they are expected to spend more than $2.45 trillion by 2015. That's a lot of spending power and, eventually, corporate power. So, what do Boomers like me and Gen-X'ers need to know about marketing to these consumers as they penetrate the workforce and climb the corporate ladder (or whatever it is that they want to do)?

Throw Away the Rule Book

When I was a kid, we had this thing called "the Generation Gap." Our parents got stuck in a war overseas, and our Government didn't understand people under the age of 30. Sound familiar? I'm now, effectively, my grandfather, and the people who work for me are my parents of the '60s and '70s. Scary, huh? We now have a Generation Gap just like they did, only possibly worse. So let's listen to Ryan and see if we can't do a better job of reaching Generation Y.

New Rule #1 - Don't Insult Their Intelligence

As Ryan says, "We're quite possibly the most informed consumer generation ever to face marketing professionals." Millennials were born with a silver iPad in their mouths. If you assume they haven't already seen 10 things better than your crazy new startup idea, your goose is cooked. Think you know these buyer personas? Think again.

Solution #1 - Hire Millennials

Yep, this one's easy. Would you try to learn Japanese to market to Japan? I wouldn't. I'd hire a Japanese person to do that. Yes, hiring and managing Millennials is challenging for a Boomer like me. What's the solution? Hire older Millennials and younger Gen-X'ers to do that.

New Rule #2 - Don't Disguise Your Ad

Apparently Millennials aren't falling for our tear-jerking, tree-hugging attempts to grab them by the heart strings and nurture them into a happy customer with funny videos. It worked on the previous generation, but not these kids. They want to know the facts. Why does your widget do a better job than the one they're already using?

Solution #2 - No-Nonsense Marketing

Wow, we can do this. This is how we used to market to ourselves. Cool, we can dust of some of that product-centric stuff we used 10 years ago, only simplify it and use really big fonts.

New Rule #3 - Make it Easy to Purchase Online

OK, this one we knew already. These folks don't want a courtship, and they don't want any help making a purchase decision. Fine. Have it your way Millennials. We didn't really want that salesforce anyway.

Solution #3 - Be Amazon

We're all over this. Just about anything you can name, both products and services, can be bought online now. Companies that haven't figured this out are disappearing like the Dodo. The Web is moving from a learning and communications center to a transactional marketplace at a dizzying pace. Don't sleep on this!

New Rule #4 - Be Socially Conversational, Not Viral

Still looking at Twitter followers and Facebook likes as a KPI? Dude, that's so yesterday it hurts. You want to reach Millennials? You have to get to know them first. How do you do that? Start a conversation that matters. Express your opinion. Yes, that's right, you may need to jettison the corporate brand stuff and talk like a real person.

Solution #4 - Rethink Social Media

Start by listening to Millennials as they blog and post on their favorite sites. Better yet, have a real in-person conversation with one and ask them what they're looking for online and elsewhere. No, you probably can't have this conversation with your own kids, but maybe the ones you hire...

New Rule #5 - Quality and Service Matter Again

Looking for a competitive edge? Yep, it's reliability and fast, expert-level service. When these aspects are not in place, you're going to be hammered online. With Millennials, you're only going to get one shot at the apple. You need to get it right the first time.

Solution #5 - Elevate Customer Service to Priority #1

I'm guilty of this. We think about Marketing, then Sales, then Customer Service, in that order. Get the customer's attention, close the sale, then worry about service later. This is 100 percent wrong if you want to sell to Millennials. Get the order fulfillment and support piece down first. Don't even think about starting that marketing campaign until you've got this nailed.

Wow, that's a lot to think about...

Can't we just put this rethinking stuff off for a few more years? These guys are still pretty young. They aren't really the decision makers yet, are they?

See you in the unemployment/bankruptcy line!

Photo credit: TheeErin

john mctigue blog photoWith over 30 years of business and marketing experience, John loves to blog about ideas and trends that challenge inbound marketers and sales and marketing executives. John has a unique way of blending truth with sarcasm and passion with wit. Connect with John via TwitterLinkedIn or Google Plus.

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The Author

John McTigue

With over 30 years of business and marketing experience, John loves to blog about ideas and trends that challenge inbound marketers and sales and marketing executives. John has a unique way of blending truth with sarcasm and passion with wit. You can connect with John via LinkedIn and Twitter.