If you still think that the largest group of consumers is the Baby Boomer generation, you are wrong. Boomers have now been supplanted by Millennials. There are more Millennials generally, and more Millennial businesses specifically, than Baby Boomers and Boomer businesses. So, whether your business is b2b or b2c, the demographic group you need to be thinking about is the Millennial generation, some 77 million strong.
Here are some interesting facts about the Millennials to keep in mind (according to the Pew Research Center):
- 43% are non-white
- They are the most highly-educated generation in U.S. history
- 85% own smartphone
- “Just 26% are married, compared with 36% of Generation X, 48% of Baby Boomers and 65% of the Silent Generation at the same age”
What does that all mean for your business? It can have many implications, but one thing is for sure - this is a new, different generation with different experiences and buying habits and we as small business owners need to keep this in mind. This is especially true as Millennials are nearing their prime spending years; by the year 2020, Millennials will make up 1/3 of all retail sales.
The upshot is that if you want your small business to keep growing and stay relevant, you will have to realize that there is a new sheriff in town.
How do we do that? Keep in mind the following:
Old advertising is out: By far, Millennials respond best to personable authenticity from the brands they consume. This means that traditional marketing campaigns do not work as well with them. The traditional catchy commercials, big billboards, and sly slogans may not make the cut anymore. With Millennials, inauthentic is out and authentic is in.
Social is also in: Understand that Millennials are native to the digital world and social media. You simply must robustly enter that space and establish a beachhead there if you want to catch their eye or ear (or wallet).
Consider: According to SocialChorus.com, for 95% of Millennials, friends are the most credible source of product information. This means that Millennials love user-generated content – i.e. customers posting photos of your products to Instagram. This form of “social proof” gives the air of authenticity to your brand that Millennials respect. An example of how to achieve this is to invite your customers to share their experiences on social platforms with your business’ customized hashtag.
It makes a big difference for Millennials to see other people genuinely enjoying your products or services.
Influencers influence: Maybe paradoxically, Millennials pay a lot of attention to popular influencers on YouTube, Instagram, and other social platforms. One possible way then to reach a Millennial is to team up with an “influencer” to promote your product. These types of referrals play into the authenticity and trust that Millennials look for.
Ethics matter: Another way that Millennials are unique is that they will put their consumer dollars where they feel it can make a difference. According to Entrepreneur, “85% of Millennials correlate their purchasing decisions and their willingness to recommend a brand to the social good efforts a company is making”. Tom’s Shoes did not become the hit it did in this era by accident. The idea of correlating shoe buying with shoe giving works in part because Millennials loved it.
So consider how you can do the right thing in your business, and then let your Millennial audience know about it. Partner up with a charity, or go green, or donate, for example. These may seem like small changes, but in truth they can make a huge impact.
There’s a new frugality: Here’s a big one: Millennials are worried about money. Since 2005, the number of Millennials choosing to live at home with their parents has grown significantly. No, this is not because they necessarily want to spend more time with mom and dad, but because money is an issue. That also might be why value is a big factor in how Millennials decide to make purchases. Show sympathy for that fact and give them some extra love; a sale or a great offer will go a long way in making Millennials fond of your brand.
So there you go. As an old Boomer said (before he won the Nobel Prize in literature), “The times, they are a ‘changin’.”
About Steve Strauss
Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss.
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