Depending on where you get your marketing advice, or if you pay any attention at marketing conferences or just about every marketing newsletter, you might be reading a lot about a newly discovered species called “Millennials.” We’re not sure what planet they came from, why they’re here, or what they plan to do with all of the shiny, high-tech gadgets that they’re constantly staring at. We just know that there are a lot of them, they seem to have disposable income, and we’d really like them to spend some of that income at our businesses. It’s just too bad that we don’t have any data or historical insight that might help us better understand the strange new creatures living among us.

If that sounds ridiculous, it should. Marketing will always evolve with the trends and technology of the times, but the core qualities of good business appeal to customers regardless of their generation (or their planet of origin). So lighten up… Millennials are not that scary!

They’re human, like you and me

There’s no doubt that Millennials, as a group tend to rely on social channels, research, reviews and each other when making a purchasing decision. The thing is, so does everyone else who owns a smartphone and has friends. How you connect matters, but it’s really just an introduction. The most important thing is how you treat them after you’ve made the initial connection. You’ve heard these tips before, but they bear mentioning again:

  • Be responsive. Please! You can produce great content and share it in all the right places, but it won’t make an impact if you’re not there to continue the conversation. Answer questions, respond thoughtfully to criticism, and don’t be afraid to have a little fun when the opportunity arises.
  • Encourage conversation, rather than waiting for it to come to you. There are plenty of people sharing content on your favorite social channels, just like you. Some of it is really great! Find it, read it and join the conversation.
  • Be human. Automated messages and cookie-cutter responses often come off as insulting to the recipient—no matter their age. Why should they take the time to learn about your business, if you won’t take the time to learn something about them?
  • When in doubt, #JustBeNice. Mistakes last forever online, but so do positive moments. Handle a difficult customer with grace in a public online space, and you don’t just get a chance to win over the customer in question… you make a positive impression on anyone who encounters that conversation in the future.

The World Needs Less Convincing, and More Conversing

In my opinion, I think we’re still too steeped in the old “convince and convert” mentality—even though the social world around us is swirling in conversation. People hate to be sold—yet we’re still selling them. Visit your favorite widely read blog, and scroll to the bottom of a post, past the comments section. No matter the quality and prestige of the blog, you’re nearly guaranteed to see some of this “convincing” advertising. These ads aim to convince you that someone has found “the one trick that insurance companies hate,” or that “you won’t BELIEVE the brilliant idea this guy found to pay off his mortgage in three weeks.”

I might be missing out on a lot of great secrets by never, ever clicking those links, but I’ll go out on a limb and say that most people are tired of being convinced… no matter their generation. If they want to see what others think of your business, they can check the reviews or social chatter. If they’re interested enough to engage you directly, that’s not an opportunity you want to squander. By all means, continue the conversation, but tap the brakes on the sales pitch. You have far more to gain in the long run by being responsive and conversing human to human.

So if anyone tries to tell you that they have the “secret” of marketing to millennials, just smile, nod and remember they are just people, nothing genetically different, it’s the environment that is different, and it is affecting us all.

Originally posted at The Future of Customer Engagement and Commerce

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