Keeping Up with the Connected: 3 Steps for Marketing to the Millennial Generation

Though their social sphere may be broad, Millennials seek an individualized customer experience that solves their problems and puts their personalities on display.

Millennials have grown up alongside the continuous evolution of technology, but this generation's innate connectedness can often make them even more difficult to reach. Many companies treat Millennials as an enigma, but their greatest mistake lies in their tendency to view this emerging generation as one entity, not like the array of unique individuals that they are. While brands across industries constantly seek the 360-degree view of the customer, companies constantly treat Millennials as one giant jigsaw puzzle they must slowly piece together. But, as marketers begin to better align their strategies with the behaviors of today's young consumers, they're starting on the path to fostering trust and cultivating loyalty.

Brands know that Millennials hold their company's future in the palms of their handsas well as in their smartphones. This young group of consumers is the one companies must court today if they hope to succeed tomorrow. But if they hope to lay the solid groundwork for trust and loyalty, they must first learn to embrace the individual.

It's not business; it's personal

With numerous channels at a consumer's fingertips, it's easy for companies to lose sight of the individual. Though most brands strive to achieve a 360-degree view of the customer, when it comes to Millennials, understanding the target audience means catering to the demographic's stereotypical narcissism. Millennials are often characterized for being egotistical, so companies must develop engagement strategies that personalize and cater to each customer's individual experience. In addition to being self-absorbed Millennials tend to have a shorter attention span than many of their older counterparts, so they hate to feel like they're wasting time. If companies neglect to personalize their communications approaches based on customer behavior, they risk losing these potentially high-value consumers to the competition for they can easily access the information they seek quickly via computers or their mobile devices. Jill Rowley, regional sales manager at Eloqua, notes that companies must work to better target and segment their customer bases so they may send personalized communications in ways that are relevant and timely.

"What hasn't changed is the need to be personalized and relevant, and companies now have the greater availability to do so," Rowley says. "With the volume of data coming in, brands are tracking digital body language, providing marketers with a greater amount of information about the buyer's activity, and targeting the buyer with more relevant offers."

By observing how millennials interact, these brands can then target these customers via the very channel they prefer. Through digital body language, companies can easily pinpoint how these young customers choose to interact and offer them an experience that reflects that behavior. From social networks to advertisements, the Millennial generation has proven to be much more web savvy than those that came before them, making the need for companies to reach these buyers online throughout their buying journeys even more important than ever before.

Teach them a lesson

While many Millennials are still in high school or college, others have barely just emerged from the confines of their textbooks. They have spent the majority of their lives learning, but as technology has evolved, so has their techniques for gathering information. Those before them conducted research by reading books and sifting through physical encyclopedias. But, because Millennials had access to the Internet, social networks, and mobile technology at such a young age, they've become accustomed to finding the answers they seek constantly at their fingertips. And, when it comes to purchase behavior, product information travels with them wherever they go.

According to Tim Riesterer, chief strategy and marketing officer at Corporate Visions, Millennials expect immediacy. Their actions are driven by the technology at their disposal, meaning companies must grab hold of this opportunity to communicate with these customers using quick, visual methods via the channels they are already comfortable with in order to attract their short attention spans. But to truly cultivate loyalty, brands must make sure to develop an intelligent approach to content development.

"People have figured out how to create viral visual material, but that doesn't necessarily engender loyalty," Riesterer highlights. "Their approach must make someone smarter by telling them something they didn't know in a memorable way-they must look at the situation in a way they didn't before."

Though Millennials are notably visual, often preferring images and video to the written word, positioning your brand as a thought leader, and offering information in an unforgettable way has the power to provide fresh insight and garner loyalty. These Millennials may not be little anymore, but just as young children learn best when they're having fun, Millennials develop the strongest connections when they learn something of value that they didn't know before.

Express yourself!

Brands and marketers can be rather self-centered themselves, often focusing on their value promise and why consumers should choose them over the competition. But, if companies take a moment to strategize from the outside-in, they will find an opportunity to not only define their brand promise, but also facilitate the average Millennials' quest for self-discovery.

Flora Caputo, vice president and executive creative director at Jacobs Agency, a creative marketing firm, emphasizes how Millennials wish to express themselves and their individuality in all they do. Millennials have been players in the social revolution since its inception, and they have grown accustomed to sharing every little detail of their lives in an attempt to express their thoughts and personalities, but most companies have yet to capitalize on their journey toward self-discovery.

In the automotive industry, Mini Cooper has embraced the Millennial generation in a way that caters to their desires without alienating its older client base. When customers look to purchase a Mini Cooper, they are presented with numerous customizable options that enable them to turn their vehicle into representations of their personalities. From customized rooftops to side view mirrors, these personalized options allow Millennials to express their individualities, while older age groups can still opt for a more straightforward car buying experience.

"Make sure your brand is doing something to help achieve that level of self-expression," Caputo notes. "If your current line doesn't create something that will allow it to happen, make it happen. Most brands think about themselves too much. The focus must be more about your target and how you can help Millennials find who they are."

By allowing Millennials to experience their brands through individualized expression and discovering who they are along the way, companies inevitably benefit because this generation is eager to share their ideas and provide feedback that can help marketers do their jobs better. This input helps marketers understand what truly resonates with others within the demographic.