Numbers tell the story*:
In business, no matter what the brand, service or product, knowing your target audience and understanding how to reach and connect with them is essential to converting prospects to customers, and ultimately—if we are really good at what we do and deliver a remarkable product or service—evangelists. Evangelism is the holy grail of business growth. That's the ideal stage in which our customers love us so much, they are willing, without our asking, to encourage—even persuade—others in their circles to buy, subscribe, follow, promote, join, etc.
Perhaps now, more than ever before, the ability of consumers to affect a brand's growth has changed the way marketers must think about their methods, communication styles, engagement investments and more. The good old days of creating a product and pushing our marketing messages out through TV, radio and newspapers is long gone. Now, consumers—especially millennials—create the message, move the message along, buy in or buy out, share brands they love (evangelize brands that make their lives better), help them navigate business and life successfully and do good in the world.
Millennials are no different than generations before them: they need to be understood and communicated to in ways that resonate and matter to them. However, they demand that brands demonstrate this true understanding by communicating with them in their language, in their space, in a socially-responsible manner and in the context of being friends. More importantly, this demographic demands brands take them seriously and realize the power they—and all consumers—have today to effect change, move products and elevate or dismantle brands, social causes, world events and more.
If we can do this, and do it well, we win. If we can't, we will fall behind competitors who can and do. The key is learning—embracing—all-things-digital.
Gen X started to change the way marketers marketed and the way organizations started to serve their audiences. Millennials take this a huge leap further, requiring those of us who built successful careers communicating and operating in a comfortable marketing environment to learn new tricks: the tricks millennials absorbed as youth in this "always-on," Internet-based world of content sharing, liking, vocalizing, following, pinning, and tweeting. And tomorrow? There will be more tricks for us to learn and master as the world of social media and methods of engaging our audiences continue to evolve at a pace that makes our heads spin, saying, "Wait, I just mastered Instagram. Now there's xyz?"
If growth is important to your business, learning to create products and services that millennials value and conducting business with them as they desire is no longer an option. Millennials operate in a collaborative world. Purchase decisions (or whether or not to support a brand) are highly based on what friends/family or online resources recommend. Although millennials are growing up, having kids and thinking more practically than emotionally, think Kindergarten: be nice, be thoughtful, create friendships, share, help each other, say "please" and "thank you." Develop relevant content, make it matter in their world, help them be successful, keep them "in the know," and keep it simple: all with the ease of a click or a swipe.
According to Harris Interactive, roughly 70% of millennials are at least "somewhat likely" to base a product purchase on their friends' social media posts, and will share and spread their own opinions across their social networks. It is estimated that, on average, millennials are 3.6x more likely to share product reviews and recommendations.
And, so what? In monetization terms, a 2014 ShareThis study found that shared online content (those friends, family and network members we're talking about) influences purchases more than price and brand, motivating buyers to spend 9.5% more for a product. Cha-ching!
The future is bright for businesses which choose to embrace, understand and engage this younger demographic by fully integrating business operations and marketing into the only world they know. Here's to success in 2015!
*Sources: AdWeek; Moosylvania 2015 Millennial Ranking Report; Yahoo/DigitasLBi/Razorfish/Tumblr, "Content Marketing Best Practices Among Millennials," 2014; Havas, "Hashtag Nation," 2014; ShareThis
Katie's work with corporations, small businesses, government entities, and nonprofit organizations has focused to strengthen brands and position them in the marketplace to connect and engage with their customers in authentic ways to maximize conversion and spend. The range of business strategies, branding initiatives, marketing plans and cause-related projects she has created and produced across the country is varied and extensive. Clients benefit from Katie's expertise in holistic brand development and integration at every customer experience touch point.
In addition to her years on the client-side (State Farm) and agency-side (air INTEGRATED), Katie created, managed and produced integrated marketing strategies, special projects, media campaigns, events, and social marketing campaigns as founder and owner of Event Sense, Inc. (event marketing, sponsorship marketing), Project Guru, Inc. (marketing consulting and project leadership), and as co-founder and owner of The Ready Group, LLC. Currently, Katie speaks and coaches groups of small business owners and consultants about business building, team development, marketing, branding, social media and strategic planning through Katie Coates Consulting.
An accomplished speaker specializing in Motivational Marketing, Brand Building, Marketing Trends and Social Media Integration, Katie has presented to groups of small business owners, team members and executive leadership throughout the U.S.