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HOW TO SELL ANYTHING

5 Ways to Sell to Millennials

If you're having a hard time getting your message through to millennials, take a lesson from another group trying to crack the code: the GOP.
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There are 80 million millennials in America. They're the most important rising demographic and market in the United States--and yet, it seems that not a single one of them wants to hear you talk about your business. So how do you market to millennials?

It's a tough challenge, but some have it even harder than others. I talked with Tim Young recently. He's an old colleague from the National Press Club in Washington who is now director of marketing at the conservative media company Liberty Alliance (No. 1726 on the Inc. 5000). In Young's words, his job involves "selling the hardest thing possible to millennials: the Republican party."

If the GOP--or you, for that matter--wants to convince millennials to give your brand a try, what should your strategy be?

Here are 5 key things to keep in mind:

1.  Authenticity matters most.

Recently, the Republican National Committee revealed it was spending "six figures" to run a TV spot targeting millennials, but its commercial was picked apart in minutes. Why? Mainly because the messenger seemed inauthentic. Its star was a hipster-looking guy in tortoise sheel glasses, complaining about the economy while literally pumping gas into a $33,000 Audi.

"Millenials aren't going to listen to a super-rich Republican stereotype trying to 'play them on TV,'" Young said. "It's offensive and cheap to pander. Just present your brand appropriately. You look stronger and it's also playing to your authenticity."

2. Realize you'll be fact-checked--almost before you finish.

Millennials are skeptical and tech-savvy. They judge political candidates the same way they shop for electronics, meaning they fact-check every claim quickly, using multiple sources.

"The absolute worst thing you can do is to try to sneak things by them," Young said. While an audience of just about any demographic can now be counted on to snipe at tenuous claims, the difference is that millennials came of age with smartphones in their hands, ready to verify what they've been told.

3. Make your point, and then shut up.

Millennials were born busy, so you have to drive your message home quickly. If you have an online video campaign, for example, it can't be more than 2 minutes. Quick, brief and descriptive pieces that can be absorbed in seconds are "money."

During the 2012 presidential campaign, Young said, GOP candidates "talked at voters," by hammering them with numbers about the national debt and other issues. While those are important issues, millennials have been raised on soundbites and quick hits. If you want to reach them, you have to speak their language, and at their speed.

4. Make your message an emotional story.

If you want millennials to pay attention to something and share it on social media, you need to offer not just an authentic message, but an emotional one as well. Young acknowledged Republicans are way behind the curve on this, and could learn something from their opponents across the aisle.

"You'll see hundreds of posts on social media from The Daily Show, Buzzfeed, Gawker and Upworthy," Young said. "You really don't see much from the right. Think about the biggest song of the year: Royals by Lorde. Here's a millennial singing about how she'll never be rich, and making due with what she has, and it resonates. You can start with that kind of emotional message, and work with it."

5. TV? What's TV?

When you're planning your marketing budget, Young advises, skip television. Millennials simply won't watch commercials unless they're forced to--perhaps on places like YouTube and Hulu. This is a generation that grew up with DVRs and the ability to fast-forward on a whim, and so Young said he's pushing for a lot more budget to be spent on Internet marketing and radio.

"There's no sense in wasting your money on a medium that they can get around," he said, "especially in political branding."

Want to read more, make suggestions, or even be featured in a future column? Contact me and sign up for my weekly email.

IMAGE: Getty Images
Last updated: Mar 27, 2014

BILL MURPHY JR. | Columnist

Bill Murphy Jr. is a journalist, ghostwriter, and entrepreneur. He is the author of Breakthrough Entrepreneurship (with Jon Burgstone) and is a former reporter for The Washington Post.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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