Millennial Mayhem: How They Can Make or Break Your Small Business

Business.com / Sales / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Millennials are a finicky bunch. Targeting them with your marketing practices and product offerings requires knowing a few key things.

It's no secret that millennials are starting to take over the world, quite literally.

Research shows that the 18 to 34 age group are now the largest living generation in the United States, surpassing Baby Boomers by at least eight million, and the same trend continues in Canada and the UK.

It should go without saying then that as a small business owner, you would be foolish not to market to Millennials.

Know that if you haven't started already, you are behind the times. recent survey from advertising analysis firm Turn reveals that U.S. marketers spend five times more on Millennials than any other age group.

Capturing the mindset, interests and attentions of the "me" generation is not a straight-forward task.

Related Article: Who Are You Hiring? Meet the Millennials [INFOGRAPHIC]

Accolades of articles have been written on the topic with tips and tricks about how to appeal to a generation that many believe have the attention span of a skittish squirrel.

While you may not think of yourself as a traditional marketer, if you are going to be solely responsible for your businesses marketing efforts, you should at least try to reach this demographic.

Or alternately, hire a consultant who has a deep understanding of how to reach millennials for your particular product or service.

But before you actively target millennials, it might help to know the ways in which they can make or break a small business.

1. They Want Exclusive, and You Give Them Generic

Millennials have serious buying power and are particularly attracted to one-of-a-kind products. 

Even the younger ones who don't have much in the way of disposable income will eventually increase their buying power as they assume higher ranking jobs when Baby Boomers retire. 

As a general rule, Millennials are willing to spend more money for higher quality and unique products, which gives you as a small business owner a distinct advantage.

You have the opportunity to sell lesser known brands at competitve costs, appealing to their extreme price sensitivity and their desire to be the first to discover a new cutting-edge brand.

In particular, they are huge fans of organic foods, men’s grooming products, speciality coffee and craft beer, as indicated by soaring retail sales within those categories globally over the last 14 years. So if you sell any of those types of goods, know that you're in luck. 

2. You Aren't on the Right Social Media Platform

Newsflash. Facebook is dead, Snapchat is gold. Not all social media platforms are popular among this generation.

Depending on the size of your business, product offering and brand strategy, you may get a higher ROI on one platform over another.

Choose the right one for your target age group and be sure to keep your profile up-to-date with interesting content that isn't just advertising.

Much has been written recently about how Snapchat is a great social media platform to reach the 35 and under audience.

Related Article: How Companies Are Changing Their Culture to Attract (And Retain) Millennials

Assuming you aren't actively advertising on the platform, which costs at least $100,000, Snapchat is a unique way to engage in conversations with your target market using pictures and videos.

But beware, using Snapchat requires more creativity and time than Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Pintrest.

3. You Assume They All Have the Same Interests, Likes and Aspirations

One of the most common mistakes business owners make when targeting Millennials is assuming they fall into the same category.

Millennials have differing needs, wants and aspirations, and the sooner you can decipher what those are the closer you can aline your marketing campaigns.

Several companies have created their own Millennial categorizations that may help guide your business decisions.

  • Turn categorizes Millennials into four camps: Struggling Aspirationals, Comfortable TV Watchers, Active Affluents and Successful Homeowners.
  • Mint's groups include: The Boomerang Baby, The Perpetual Intern, The Grad Student, The Idealist, The Young Householder, The High Tech Multitasker and The Startup Kid.
  • Exponential has 12 categories: Bossy Babe, Brogrammers, The Underemployed, Shut Out, Nostalgics, Travel Enthusiasts, Culinary Explorers, The Exuberants, The Collectors, The Quarter-Life Crisis Millennial, Millennial Marthas and Millennial Moms.

Find a categorization system that is meaningful to you and resonates with your business plan, and then got nuts concocting ways to reach those millennials within budget.

4. You Don't Ask Them for Feedback

Millennials are a fickle bunch. They aren't simply interested in consuming your product or service, research shows that 42 percent of them want to help you create it. 

Getting a pulse on how they feel about your product or services through a survey is of utmost importance, if for no other reason than because they expect it.

They also want you to be highly visible on digital media platforms and are looking for online communities, especially blogs by their peers, that talk about your business before they make a purchase decision.

It's not enough to simply have a stellar rating on Yelp or TripAdvisor, why not create your own online forum with custom branding where customers can discuss your company? 

Related Article: The Science of Selfies: Why Narcissism Sells in 2015

Don't be afraid to go public. Millennials expect transparency at all levels of business. 

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