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Why and How to Market Your Small Business to 77.5 Million Millennials

Millennials, that giant generation of young people, 17 to 34 years old, make up a major consumer group — 77.5 million strong, with $1.7 billion in spending power (so far). But what does that mean for small businesses? A lot, actually. You and your small business have more in common with (and more to say to) millennials than you might think. Here are the major intersections and how you can capitalize on them:

Entrepreneurship is a shared value. Three-fourths of millennials want to work for themselves one day — meaning that they see small businesses as entrepreneurial kindred spirits and want to support their “peers.”

Millennials want to shop and invest with people they trust. Thanks to the recession, this age group just doesn’t trust “big business” as much as they used to, according to a research study by Randall Research. In fact, they prefer knowing more about where their products and services come from and who’s behind them. Small and authentic rules the day.

Pressed Juicery in Los Angeles publishes The Chalkboard, dubbed “a study in living well.” The blog isn’t about promoting the brand’s products; instead, it focuses on shareable content that helps consumers live better.

Millennials like to shop local. Some 40 percent of millennials claim a preference for buying local, even if the goods or services are more expensive than mass-market alternatives. Why? They like feeling connected to the products they buy, and no purchase connects better than one from the merchant just up the street.

Millennials crave customized products. Small businesses can capitalize on that preference by emphasizing unique (versus mass-appeal) offerings that let millennials express themselves.

These shared traits mean that small businesses can directly target millennials by doing the following:

  • Make it easy to share. Make it as easy as possible for millennials to share their small-business success stories — a Facebook page with a Like button, a Twitter feed they can “favorite” or a simple “Share This” button. Millennials will recommend their experiences to friends and family, but the easier you can make it for them to do, the better.
  • Emphasize local connections. Millennials are community-oriented, both online and off, and want to find ways to make the most of their community. From local events to local merchandise, small businesses can play up their community cred to get millennials to keep returning. Tell the stories behind the local artisans, manufacturers and service providers to make that connection even stronger.

La Bella Box, a start-up out of Chicago, is all about discovering and supporting other small businesses. The subscription service ships artisan products to subscribers nationwide, delivering samplings of boutique products to far-reaching geographic locales.

  • “Gamify” their loyalty. Make it fun for millennials to keep coming back by rewarding their loyalty, game style. Whether it’s a loyalty program that tracks achievements (e.g., purchases and visits) or a promotional contest with prizes, millennials love a good game and want to keep on playing.

For example, Parc Boutique in Minneapolis has gone beyond just retail into lifestyle, hosting “sip and shop” events that encourage community and build loyalty.

Small businesses can target millennials because of their mutual interests: entrepreneurship, individuality and a focus on community. What are you doing to appeal to this giant generation (and their ever-growing spending power)?

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