by Emily Enger
Last month we discussed how difficult it is to market to the Millennial generation, those born between 1980 and 2004. How do you get these young customers into your door or farm stand? How do you convince them to spend money? As a member of this generation, I have provided a few tips this month that tend to attract my elusive, 20- and 30-something friends.
1. The Internet. You all know that “kids these days” are attached to their smart phones. But they aren’t just texting. They’re getting the news, watching advertisements, doing online shopping and much more. It’s common for them to do spur-of-the-moment searches for things to do or places to go in their direct area. You want your business to pop up when they do those searches. If you aren’t online, Millennials don’t know you exist. Even if your business is seasonal, it’s still important to have a permanent website. And spend a little money to design a nice website. This is your first impression. For the same reason that you put up nice displays at your business entrance or a big print ad in the paper, you want to put effort into your website. If your website appears cheesy, Millennials will bypass your business and spend time elsewhere.
2. Humor, creativity and pop culture. Every generation appreciates when a business can add personal touch. The green industry is naturally set up to benefit from this, as we are all small businesses and not corporate conglomerates. So have some fun. Millennials love humor and satire, but they don’t necessarily need everything catered to their era. In fact, Millennials are very educated on pop culture of previous generations. If you construct a Star Wars theme display at your farm — and post pictures of it on your website or social media — Millennials will show up just to take their picture with it. Likewise, label your largest tomatoes “Arnold Schwarzenegger” or your small Christmas trees “Tiny Tim.” It’s funny and Millennials will lap it up!
3. Minimalism. Millennials are not their parents or grandparents. They hate clutter and extra stuff. If what you’re selling seems like it’ll take too much space, they won’t buy it. When advertising towards them, advertise smaller items. The same goes for landscaping. Most Millennials can’t afford an entire yard makeover — and often don’t want it. But pitch them a couple of smaller updates that are spacious and artistic in design, and they may consider it.
4. Open-ended coupons. I’ve shopped with people who stop in a store just to use a coupon before it expires. But none of those shoppers were under 50 years old. Very few Millennials will go out of their way simply to use up the piece of paper you mailed or emailed them. If you want to attract young people, only offer deals you’re willing to honor at any time — then when they do need a product, they’ll choose your store over the competition. But sending anything with an expiration date is just asking for a Millennial to delete it from his or her inbox.
5. Social Media. This is another well-known Millennial obsession, but it’s become too big to ignore: You have to have your business on some form of social media! Many businesses miss out on how to effectively use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. Don’t just post dull business-oriented announcements. Millennials are very tech-savvy. If your online presence is boring, they will hide your posts from their feed without ever officially unfollowing you. This is especially true for seasonal businesses. No one is thinking about Christmas trees in March or fresh produce in January. And once they hide your posts, they may easily forget about you when the season starts up again. So post funny jokes or short, sentimental stories or photos of something cool that happened to your family recently. Keep your online followers intrigued and on their toes; don’t just give what they’re expecting you to post. This cultivates both loyalty and respect among Millennials. If you can start a laid-back, virtual friendship with them, you will have their patronage for life.
6. Be cool. My friends spend more time telling me about where they bought something and who they bought it from rather than describing the product itself. It’s all about the experience and the story they get out of it. This doesn’t mean you should be “hip;” in fact, it means the opposite. Be something different than what they see in their daily lives. Go ahead and play to stereotypes. Be the farmer who always wears a plaid shirt and bib overalls. Millennials love that. Or tell your young customers about something daring or adventurous you did when you were young, something completely irrelevant to your current business. In a very non-literal way, sell yourself as much as the product. Millennials feel obligated to support whatever is cool. And if they think you’re cool, they’ll buy stuff they don’t even want simply to support you.
The above column is written for educational purposes and should not take the place of legal business advice. To respond to these ideas or pitch future column topics, email the writer at firstname.lastname@example.org