Computer programmer in start-up company coding, co-worker is looking over his shoulder

If you think that you can market your product or service to a Millennial the same way that you have marketed it in the past, you are mistaken. Millennials have a very different set of requirements for evaluating potential purchases than their parents and grandparents.


If you’re tempted to overlook that fact, consider this: Millennials will spend about $200 billion dollars a year by the year 2017. And where they will spend those billions will very much depend upon the experiences they have with the companies that want their business. If you want to be a part of the $200 billion in sales, you will need to incorporate these five strategies into your marketing plans.


  1. Market Value Through Relationships and Stories

Gone are the days of the sales pitch. In fact, Millennials would just prefer that you get out of the way and let them interact with your site, look at what you have to offer, check with their friends, access your social media platforms and decide if you are worthy of their business. You become valuable to them for more than just having a product they may want. You become valuable to them if you are willing to take the time to establish a relationship with them first, if you are willing to entertain them and if you are willing to incorporate their values as a part of your business brand.


So, how do you market value to millennials?


  • Begin by creating engaging content that will attract their attention. Have a great website, of course, but court them on social media with a lot of unique and entertaining content. Engage them in conversations, interactive games, activities, contests and great stories – all of which they will want to share with their “tribes.” The relationship must come before the sale. If you push sales first, you will lose.
  • Ensure your conversations with millennials involve listening more than talking. Ask them what they want and need, and you will get responses. We have become so accustomed to telling consumers what they should want and need in our marketing –– we need to start asking rather than telling. And we need to learn to listen in on their conversations on social media as well. You will gain lot of insight about what they share with one another. If you know what they find shareable, then you can create “shareable” content for them.
  • Tell your stories. Millennials want to have a personal relationship with the companies they do business with. If they get to know your team as real humans who have fun at work, who both play and work together, who have pets and hobbies, then they will develop that needed personal connection with your brand.


  1. Be Socially Responsible


Millennials know that they are inheriting a planet with problems, and it bothers them. They want to do business with companies that are doing their share to improve society or the planet in some way. If you go “green” by installing solar panels, advertise this profusely all over social media and on your website. A competitor may undercut your price, but if you are the more “responsible” organization, you will get the business.


The other way you can demonstrate social responsibility is to support a cause. Millennials love doing business with companies that engage in charitable work or activity. Toms Shoes is a favorite among this generation, because it donates a pair of shoes for every pair it sells. Headbands for hope donates a headband to a little girl with cancer for every headband it sells, along with $1 of the purchase price going to cancer research.



Find a worthy cause, find some way to support it through sales, and publicize how that cause will be supported by each sale.


  1. Let Millennials Be Collaborators in Your Business


This generation loves to be asked about products and services companies offer. They like to be included in some of the business decisions that are made. When you are considering an expansion of a product line, ask them what they would like to see you offer. Ask them how you can improve your current products or product line.


ModCloth does an exceptional job of including its customers. First, features its customers as clothing models by soliciting and then publishing those customers sporting the clothing they have purchased from the company. ModCloth also lets its customers vote on whether it should carry a new item. Finally, customers are asked to “name” new items of clothing, with the winner’s prize being that clothing item.


  1. Be High-Tech and Fast


If you have not adapted your site for mobile devices, then you are already in the dust. Millennials’ devices are not PC’s or laptops – they are tablets and phones. If your site is not easy to load and navigate on mobile devices, you will not get any part of that $200 billion.



And your site, and every page on it, must load within 3 seconds. Millennials are not patient people when it comes to getting the information they want or need. Every time you change even the smallest element on your site, test it.


If you have to supply instructions for the use of a purchased product, do it digitally. Create a video or a slide presentation. Millennials do not want to read instructions – they want to see them.


  1. Look for Long-Term Relationships That Will Spread Your Brand for You


You are not Coca-Cola, and you are not Geico Insurance. These companies spend massive amounts of money advertising. But look how these “big boys” have changed their advertising in order to appeal to Millennials: Geico’s lizard has experiences and episodes. The Aflac duck crashed and broke a wing, and customers were given continual updates as they watched his physical therapy progress. Jack Daniels invited customers to submit weird bar stories as a part of a contest. These are not companies looking for a single quick sale. They are looking for long-term relationships with their customers and so should you. Create engaging experiences for your millennial customers, involve them in your business by getting their feedback and input, give them entertainment that they will share with their communities, and when Millennials and their friends need or want what you are selling, they will come to you.


Every generation is unique. But the digital age has transformed marketing forever. Millennials won’t be the last generation whose consumption behaviors are so tied to online relationships. Smart marketers will embrace rather than fight this new consumer-driven economy.


P.S. If you’re looking for more information about the millennial consumer, check out this entertaining video.



Bio: Julie Ellis is a content strategist, passionate traveler and the co-author of the Unrivaled Guide to Developing Effective Communication Skills. Follow Julie’s Twitter to find more!