How to Properly Engage a Millennial Audience

By John Rampton

Millennials are said to spend approximately $200 billion per year, leading marketers to view this large, influential group as a key segment that they need on board with their products or services. A 2014 Brookings study also concluded that by 2020, millennials will make up one in three Americans, and by 2025, will make up 75 percent of the workforce.

I market to millennials as part of my audience segment, and as a millennial myself, being on both sides -- a business owner and a consumer -- gives me a unique perspective. As I get older and my experiences change in my professional and personal life, I can better understand how other millennials feel about money, their careers and their lives.

Unique Values and Economic Position

While it is true that millennials have unique values and economic positions, they also have a very different mindset that you must address to avoid losing their interest. This unique set of values contrasts with all the generations that have come before them. According to the Brookings study, they feel that work should be more about connecting to a larger societal concern and emphasize social responsibility and ethical causes, respect for the environment, experiences over material things or money, and community and interconnectedness.

Besides values, millennials also have a different type of economic position guided by various trends and the environment they grew up in. The Council of Economic Advisers noted that millennials came of age during one of the most intense recessions in decades and entered the job market when jobs were few and far between. This put them in a unique position that shaped their opinions about education, work and money. It made them a more creative, savvy and resourceful group, even after the recession receded and the economy bounced back.

How to Engage Millennials

As a millennial, I have a unique understanding of how a company might engage with me as a consumer in relation to these values and economic position. Focus your messaging and content around:

  • Family and community
  • Work/life balance
  • Social assistance and good deeds for those in need
  • A human dimension to what you offer
  • The value of getting more for what you are spending
  • Environmental sensitivity
  • Depth, substance and authenticity to what is being offered
In addition to this messaging, reach out to millennials on their preferred channel of communication. Because they are accustomed to social media, expect to have an equal part in whatever conversation you want to start with them. That means you will need to listen -- maybe even more than you talk. If not social media, make sure your engagement activity includes a mobile approach. And whatever you do, don't make it look like you are selling them something, as millennials don't want to be sold to.

Beyond talking, engagement also stems from the actions you take and what you offer your millennial audience. This means providing continual fresh content, fast checkout, and a wide range of purchase options.

Research also illustrates that millennials value brands that reflect their interests when enhancing their product or service. This means that, outside of creating a product or service, you're taking actions that benefit the environment and your community. This is not about lip service, but actively being out there and showing that you mean what you say when it comes to corporate social responsibility. Participate in community activities, charitable giving, and philanthropy to win the hearts and minds of millennials.

Engage, and Engage Some More

Your words, actions, context, values and tone all contribute to the engagement process with millennials. Be prepared for the challenge and rise to the occasion. Don't forget that millennials will be raising the bar on their expectations, so don't rest on your laurels once you engage them. Instead, continually work for that engagement and prove that you are worthy of their loyalty.

John Rampton is the founder of Palo Alto, California-based Due, a free payments company specializing in helping businesses bill their clients easily online. You can connect with him @johnrampton.