Gen Y is lazy. They don't want to earn their own living. They won't listen to direction, have the attention span of a gnat, are anti-social, and don't have money to spend. So why bother marketing to them anyway?
If these statements ring true to you then you are missing the opportunity of a lifetime. The truth is Gen Y (born between 1982-1993 and also known as millennials) is the most highly educated generation of our lifetime. They seem to have a short attention span because they are busy doing so many things at once, and while many are not rolling in dough right now, by 2015 Gen Y's annual spending will amount to approximately $2.45 trillion, escalating to $3.39 trillion by 2018--significantly eclipsing Baby Boomers in spending power.
Still think you don't need to market to them? Good, because they aren't paying attention to your traditional marketing tactics anyway. Millennials were raised with a mobile device in each hand so they want information now and they want get it interactively. This generation needs to feel connected and involved. Marketing to millennials is no easy task but you will be rewarded for your efforts, as they are extremely loyal consumers.
Dan Schawbel, is the author of "Me 2.0: 4 Steps to Building Your Future," with a second book, "Promote Yourself: The New Rules For Career Success," scheduled for release this month. According to Schawbel most entrepreneurs are uncomfortable with trying to connect to this influential demographic. "Ads and email blasts aren't powerful like they used to be," says Schawbel. "Millennials want full engagement and customized solutions and products."
So how can a small business owner reach this generation? Here are Schawbel's tips for success.
1. Research how Millennials operate within your market. Understand them better and know what they want. You can do your own research through surveys and social media and there is a wealth of information online. You can also purchase the services of a survey company.
2. Turn your social media presence into a two-way conversation. Millennials love a cause-driven company. Share your mission and offerings and ask for feedback: what could you do better? Millennials want to have a say and are generous with feedback. You can take this opportunity to improve your brand, products, and services through them.
3. Engage them in what they are good at and enjoy. Come up with creative ways to capture this powerful audience, such as gamified applications and contests. Marriott International's Facebook page is good example. There you can take charge of a kitchen or download a free mobile travel game and have a chance to win Marriott Rewards Points.
4. Get visual with infographics, games, and videos. YouTube is the go-to site for Gen Y. Follow Macy's lead by creating interesting videos about the concept of your company. If you own a restaurant, for instance, shoot a video of your chef cooking a dish and ask what dish they want your chef to create for them in the next video. If Millennials influence what you do they will become more aligned with your product.
5. Partner with brands they already know and like. Last year Macy's partnered with 13 new brands targeting the trendy millennials. They introduced some tattoo-influenced designs based on the fact that 36 percent of millennials have at least one tattoo. Search for brands that are compatible with yours and look for an opportunity to partner with them.
6. Don't use generational stereotypes against them. Marketers get frustrated with this generation because they don't understand them and have to work harder to reach them. Move away from misguided stereotypes. Millennials are not lazy and inattentive; in fact, often they're trying to be attentive to too many things at once. When you understand the differences you will be delighted by these brand-loyal, conscious, and engaged consumers.
7. Take advantage of your size. Gen Y is looking for companies that make a difference, globally and in their communities. While some Fortune 500 companies are mission-driven, most of them are just trying to please shareholders by staying with old tried and true methods. The small business owner has an advantage here because they don't need permission to change and can make change happen faster.
8. Get expert and celebrity endorsements. While this generation seeks input from peers, they will listen to a high-profile individual more readily. Try to get interviews or mentions on blogs written by industry experts. If you have a product and can get it into the hands of a celebrity that's even better.