Many pundits are offering advice on selling to millennial customers, and having raised a small herd of millennials, I agree with much of the conventional wisdom around how they operate.  Where the experts (most of whom are millennials themselves) are wrong is in thinking millennials have cornered the market on skepticism, short attention span, entitlement, mission-based brand affection, value humor and sleep with at least one mobile device in reach.  Readers, even if you’re over 35, don’t these sound like you as well?  Perhaps it’s not just one generation but all techno-philes that will respond well to the rules of marketing to millennials.  As our B2E customer is more immersed in technology than their average age of 42 would reflect, let’s give our marketing a 21st Century tune up.

Here’s what is shaping the so-called Millennial Marketing approach and how we can borrow from it:

It’s all on demand.  They claim millennials have a short attention span.  Well who doesn’t nowadays? There is an overwhelming amount of content we need to skim constantly.  Take football. I looked at my husband and sons watching a game recently and noticed everyone was facing the tv but had their eyes on a small screen.  One stream of input feels limiting today.  We enhance our experience by checking our fantasy stats, expert blogs, record books and Instagram fan trash talk all as supplemental to participating in the event.  It’s immersive.  It’s omnipresent.  It’s largely free.  I don’t think that makes us all attention deficient, it means we are hungry for information, obsessed, dying to delve.  So give your B2E customers meaty web content to delve into:

  • Be brief in your messaging to accommodate the fly-by prospect
  • Your content has to be informative and original; self-serving or otherwise salesy is close to offensive now
  • Make sure your marketing content, preferably video, is share-worthy and easy to share
  • Make your content searchable on your site, and redundantly so (search bar, menus, drop downs)

References are not just for the persnickety. As we’ve already established, I’m a fan of online shopping which by definition means I read reviews.  Not media reviews, because they could be shills, but customer reviews.  I also post product reviews and other feedback as part of the online shopping ecosystem.  This is our B2E customer.  They are 100% guaranteed going to search your product name for online reviews, blog mentions, and may even use Twitter or Google + to call for a reference from their community at large.

  • Become a part of the online conversation about your product, but in a cool non-stalker way. For instance, solicit product ideas and use cases when a chat is heating up.
  • Privately thank your customers that blog, comment, review your product. They tend to repeat the experience when thanked.
  • Become a part of the EDUCATION conversation online. Use Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and Instagram to have a public presence on the on-going search for outcome improvement.  Your founder, chief academic officer, or content chief is the ideal human face for that social media presence, but it can certainly be a group effort to build and post the content.
  • And duh! Give insanely great customer service and a UX that your customers will brag about

You can be disrupted by a funny or emotional story.  Is there anything that stops your day and has you hitting “share” more than a story that touched your funny bone or your heart?  If you are struggling to create “share-worthy” content, try this:

  • Develop your content in story form when possible; use examples about real teachers, students, districts
  • Make them laugh. Great opportunities are in your subject lines, team bios, company blog.  Just keep the humor clever not sardonic, pointing at yourselves not at the expense of others, and on topic—it’s not an audition for The Tonight Show.
  • Make them cry. Great opportunities are case studies, blog posts that look at heart-warming (not tragic!) stories from your POV, and warm and fuzzy direct emails to your teachers – back to school, Teacher’s Appreciation Day, make up your own holiday.

Face to face is suddenly the awkward way to meet.  I go way back as a field rep, so the web meeting was a teensy bit (actually a lot) awkward for me to get used to at first.  Now I am so comfortable I don’t even insist on a quick primp before I video chat.  I notice that the reluctance for virtual meetings on the customer’s part has gone steadily down over the past decade as well.  Some virtual meeting tips:

  • If you are using Google Hangout or Skype, be sure to “connect” prior to the meeting. You won’t waste time from the meeting just finding one another.
  • If you are using screen share or web meeting services like Go To Meeting or Join.Me, likewise all parties should download the necessary apps ahead of time.
  • Slow down. Use slow mouse clicks, say everything you are doing as you do it, and pause frequently.  Those pauses give your prospect a chance to say, hey my screen is black.
  • Be interactive. Even when you add video to the meeting, you are going to lose a lot of body language and visual cues to let you know when the other party has something to say or is losing interest.  You must ask a lot of questions, give a lot of pauses—almost unnaturally so, and keep checking to see “would this appeal to you?”  Keeps them from looking at other screens and their texts while listening to you drone on.
  • Be cautious of playing video. I don’t care what WebEx and Go To Meeting say, playing a video is unpredictable in a webinar or web meeting.
  • Team up. For a larger meeting or webinar where participants are muted, I’ve found having a partner to moderate is awesome, but also having a co-presenter to play off of makes it a piece of cake.  It cures the awkward talking to yourself feeling.

My last piece of Millennial Marketing advice is one I feel I repeat often, put yourself in your buyer’s shoes.  If we sales people lack one thing it’s objectivity.  You may have gone “sales blind” to your own online presence. Get a friend of average tech-friendliness to shop you for 10 minutes.  With no prompting they will tell you if you are visible or invisible to a millennial-like buyer.  It doesn’t matter here if they are an educator or a teenager.  Shopping is that universal now.  If you can impress anyone, you can impress everyone.

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