It used to be that for small businesses, teenagers were a liability. According to popular business mythology, they loved to loiter, were prone to shoplifting and were far more likely to make a ruckus than to make a purchase. Today’s business owners know better. The savviest among them are able to recognize true market potential when they see it, and to disregard stereotypes in order to seize opportunities. They look at teenagers and see not troublemakers, but rather a powerful group of American consumers.Here are four good reasons to market to teens:1. There will be approximately 33.5 million teens in the United States by 2010.2. The Millennial Generation averages $158 billion per year in disposable income.3. Seventeen percent of teenagers are “influencers” that set trends and whose opinions matter to friends and family.4. Nearly four in 10 teens have a checking or savings account in their own name. Study the market Before launching a marketing campaign for teens, you’ll need to find out how best to reach them, including what media they respond to, what products they’re drawn to and what messages they’ll listen to. Up your “cool” factor To be popular among teen consumers, your business must have not only the coolest products, but also the newest ones. Succeed by being the first on your block to adopt and sell the latest technology and toys. Go to where they are To successfully peddle your wares among teenagers, you’ve got to market to them in their own space. Consider advertising in teen media, for instance, or marketing inside teen destinations, such as skateboard parks and concert venues. Tap into social networks Teens are incredibly chatty, and enjoy sharing information—including product recommendations—with their friends and family. Take advantage of teens’ natural inclination to talk by starting conversations with them online. Embrace promotions Discounts, giveaways and contests are magnets for teen consumers. Increase traffic and purchases by young customers when you organize a cool promotion to generate enthusiasm and excitement among the teen demographic. Support a cause Research has shown that teens appreciate companies and products that support good causes. Tap into teen activism—and give back to your community—by embracing philanthropy. Know the rules Before reaching out to minors, protect yourself by researching the latest standards and best practices. Marketing to teens often means marketing to their parents, too. Appeal to both by offering cool products at reasonable prices. When targeting teens, make customer loyalty your goal. If you make them happy when they’re young, you’ll keep customers coming back well into adulthood. Speak to teens as if they were adults. They’re smart and respond well to mature messages, but are turned off by companies that talk down to them. When marketing to Millennials, keep authenticity top of mind; teens can smell phony advertisements at the first hint of insincerity, and are likely to reject businesses that they perceive as fake. Don’t assume that your teenage customers are identical; the teen market is incredibly diverse, and successful businesses are able to acknowledge differences among peer groups.