Millennials, the coveted under-30 market, are highly discerning and tough to attract, unless you know how to reach them.
"[Millennials] are extremely impatient with irrelevant information, and they have no tolerance for unwieldy experiences." says Michele Serro, a former associate partner at IDEO, a leading design and innovation consulting firm, and founder of New York City-based Doorsteps, an online tool for prospective homeowners that targets young buyers. In both roles, Serro did extensive research about millennials's preferences.
She found that reaching them effectively requires a holistic approach to marketing -- one where the message is inseparable from the product design itself. "The product is everything," Serro says. "You don't slap marketing on afterwards."
Related: Millennials and Money: A Look at How Young People Shop and Spend in America (Infographic)
Here are four tips for marketing to that elusive Millennial generation:
1. Align your product and message.
When you're marketing to millennials, authenticity is key. "Millennials can see when they're being marketed to or told a story," Serro says. False messages make the company seem untrustworthy, which is often a dealbreaker when so many companies are vying for their attention.
The best way to craft an honest message is to really look at what your product communicates and offers. "[Your product] should be telling the story,” Serro says. For example, Zappos' tagline is "powered by service," and they have the customer service policies and practices to back it up.
Related: Zappos' Secrets to Building an Empowering Company Culture
2. Show that you're listening.
Understanding millennials doesn't require guesswork -- it takes the patience and humility to listen. Serro has found that young people are often happy to share what they want or need, especially if they feel that their input will help you personalize their experience of the product.
As you talk to consumers, use their own words or sentiments to craft your marketing messages. "What you've heard from the consumer from the start should be what you repeat back to them," Serro says. For example, if your customers are most concerned about convenience or reliability, then emphasize those qualities in your marketing. "You're not telling them a story about what they should want or need,” Serro says. You are simply showing that they’ve been heard.
3. Make your message human.
Millennials have grown up immersed in social media, so they're used to interacting directly with brands they use. To reach them effectively, treat all of your communications, from social media to your landing page and ads, like a real conversation. "Just talk to people like people," Serro says.
Making your brand's messages more casual might seem unprofessional or vulnerable, but it allows you to build a relationship with your consumers. "It should feel like a dialogue that honors real human emotions," Serro says. That emotional connection ultimately motivates loyalty and trust.
4. Tell a story of possibility.
In a world advancing as fast as ours, the status quo is awfully uninspiring. Millennials look at companies like Time Warner and wonder why they still need an eight hour window for house calls when FreshDirect can offer a one hour time frame for deliveries. "We've taught [millennials] what is possible," Serro says, so they've come to expect excellence.
When you message your product, communicate your vision for a better world. For example, Simple turned a messy banking system into one seamless experience; Square made credit card payments elegant and accessible; and AirBnB made travel more communal. That vision drives a great product, and a powerful message to match.
Related: How Retailers Can Recruit and Retain Millennials (Infographic)
Nadia Goodman is a freelance writer in Brooklyn, NY. She is a former editor at YouBeauty.com, where she wrote about the psychology of health and beauty. She earned a B.A. in English from Northwestern University and an M.A. in Clinical Psychology from Columbia University. Visit her website, nadiagoodman.com.