by Emily Enger
It’s a common refrain I hear while on the road, interviewing farmer after farmer: young people don’t support my business. Millennials aren’t part of my customer demographic. No one under 40 hires my services.
The Millennial demographic, sometimes called Generation Y, refers to people born roughly between 1980 into the early 2000s. They are today’s young adults. They are characterized as being very socially-conscious but also convenience-minded. Meaning, their collective conscience may hurt Wal-Mart, but it doesn’t benefit the small businessman as much as it benefits Costco and Amazon.com.
Full disclosure: I’m a Millennial.
Figuring out how to market your business to Millennials is difficult. My generation is so different from previous ones that the dollars spent trying to win us over may never be ones you recoup.
Millennials are already making notable shifts in economic expectations. For example, home ownership among this demographic is down. According to the Washington Post, homeownership among young adults is at its lowest point since 1982. This is due to equal parts housing economy, student debt and a cultural attitude.
That cultural attitude is one of minimalism. The Millennials who are homeowners aren’t landscaping their property or planting many bushes or flowers. The generation is also filled with ‘Do It Yourselfers’, who tend to turn to Google and YouTube instructional videos instead of hiring professionals.
If you are in the business of plants, this can be discouraging. But the tentative good news is that the writing isn’t on the wall; the jury is still out about Millennials. And you can help sway it.
Currently Millennials are the largest generation in the U.S., making up one-third of our country’s population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. However, keep in mind that this number is slightly misleading. Since the generation is defined as people born from 1980 to around 2004, some Millennials are in their mid-30s and should be a current target audience for your business, but others are only 10 years old. You have some time before my generation becomes full economic drivers. But long-term business planning means you’ll want to reach them before that inevitable day comes.
Aiming a full-blown target campaign at Millennials may not be wise budgeting, but neither is completely ignoring such a large demographic. Instead, target Millennials in a way that is proportional to how many participate in your local area. Start small, in a way that whets their appetite, and do it with campaigns and ideas that can grow and increase as the generation expands into adulthood.
You can’t have a business that one-third of the population is uninterested in — especially if the children of Millennials end up following suit. It is very likely you will have to make some notable shifts in how you operate in order to attract Millennials. But marketing to them is the smarter gamble. To start now means to be part of the transformation of that generation and is part of a bigger-picture business plan.
Yes, but how…? Tune in next month for specific tips and concepts that will attract Millennials.
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, e-mail the writer at firstname.lastname@example.org.