How Do Millennials Find Your Business? Traditional advertising and a smooth sales pitch doesn't get you far with this generation. They want to know you and engage with your brand.

By Matt Walker

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Peter Zelei | Getty Images

Information gathered by the 2015 Millennial Workforce study indicates that millennials are now the largest generation in the workforce. And by 2017, they're expected to have a monumental spending power of around $200 billion dollars a year. In other words -- if you want a successful modern business, you need to attract the millennial market.

Unfortunately, simply advertising your product, service or brand using the same methods that worked on baby-boomers and other consumers won't be enough. The habits of millennial shoppers are different, and these customers come with a whole new set of requirements when it comes to evaluating potential purchases and making buying decisions.

This generation doesn't respond to traditional marketing methods. Instead they're searching for authentic, local experiences with brands that share their values, encourage social sharing and listen to their customers. This is why many of the top 50 brands for millennials are experimenting with new ideas and concepts when it comes to reaching out to their consumer base.

If you want to take advantage of the lucrative millennial market, then you need to understand which resources they're using to find your business, how they determine who to trust and which marketing techniques appeal to their distinct set of values.

Social is everything.

Millennials don't want to simply purchase products and services from a brand. They want to engage with that brand, narrowing the gap in the consumer/company relationship. They won't be moved to buy a product based on a sales pitch. Millennials want to find new companies based on recommendations from friends. They want to interact with your website to learn more about your brand and share their own experiences online.

Because millennials have grown up in a more connected digital world than other generations, this sense of connection permeates everything they do. Millennials spend about 18 hours a day consuming online media. The majority of that media is created by their peers, in the form of YouTube videos, Facebook and Twitter posts, Snapchat feeds and Instagram. This means that if you want to help generation Y find your company, then social media is a good place to start. Not only do millennials expect brands to be available on social media, but they want to be engaged by them. In fact, 62 percent say that if a brand engages them on social media, they're more likely to become a loyal customer.

For millennials, social activity promotes buying activity, which is one of the reasons why it's so important to make it easier for this group to access and share your content -- both by making it mobile friendly and embedding methods for social sharing. Social media is also where millennials exert the majority of their influence over their peers -- another crucial factor in buying decisions.

Related: Why Your Company Needs To Be On Snapchat Right Now

Millennials trust authentic, user-generated content.

While older generations typically rely on traditional media like television and print advertisements, millennials look to blogs, videos and social media for an authentic insight into which companies they should buy from. In a survey, only 1 percent of millennial consumers suggested that a compelling advertisement would push them to trust a brand. The reason for this is that generation Y values authenticity above all else. They don't want to be "sold to," but instead want to research information about a brand themselves through social sharing, online reviews and blog posts.

While millennials don't trust traditional forms of advertising, they're particularly prone to influence from peer opinions on products. For example, around 70 percent of millennials use friends' posts on social media to help them decide whether to buy a product or service. And 84 percent of millennials suggest that user-generated content on company websites, such as forum comments and testimonials, has at least some impact on what they buy. It's no wonder that certain companies have started to encourage the creation of YouTube videos that review everything from cars to cosmetics.

To some degree, this reliance on opinion could mean that businesses may benefit by working alongside online influencers such as vloggers, bloggers and instagrammers, as a way of boosting the amount of positive authentic content they share.

Related: 4 Strategies to Connect With Millennials

Show your local roots.

One factor to keep in mind when customizing your marketing strategy to a millennial audience is that the new generation isn't keen on big business. This links back to the fact that millennials prefer to have a relationship with the brands that they buy from, and big businesses are less likely to engage in a two-way conversation with their customers. Millennials are drawn towards businesses that they can make a connection with; so they know where products are coming from and can experience a local brand. This is a great opportunity for small businesses to draw attention to their small town roots.

According to recent studies, around 78 percent of millennials are more likely to get involved with a brand if they have had a face-to-face interaction with it. This means maximizing your local experience by reaching out to consumers that live close to your physical stores and generating a more interconnected feeling with consumers through marketing that engages millennials on an offline and online level.

Studies indicate that millennials are more likely to share details online with local stores if this means they can access coupons and offers from nearby businesses. Using technology like in-store beacons, signing up for apps like foursquare and prioritizing relevant reviews on websites like yelp will help drive clientele into your store.

Related: 9 Things You Need to Know to Give Millennials Great Consumer Service

Be different and personal.

Finally, if you want millennial customers to not only find, but engage with your brand, then you need to give them a unique, personalized experience. When you're creating a user experience, focus on what makes you different to big box stores and connect with values that are important to your market. For example, linking your business to charitable events and showing you're willing to "give back," is a great way to boost your brand's image.

Start conversations with your target audience, and make sure that those conversations involve more listening than talking from your end. If you reach out to millennials where they live -- on social media sites and in offline mediums -- ask them what they need and want, then you'll get a response. That response will lead to results. Millennials want to feel as though they can connect with the brands they engage with, so focus on delivering a friendly, open experience.

The millennial generation.

While every generation is unique when it comes to buying habits and marketing, the digital age has officially changed the way customers find and engage with brands forever. Millennials won't be the last generation who tie their consumption behaviors to online relationships, so smart marketers need to embrace the new consumer-driven economy if they want to be heard, and appreciated, by the generations of the future.

Matt Walker

CEO and Founder of Main Path, Inc.

Matt Walker is the CEO and founder of Main Path, Inc. Walker leads the company's day-to-day operations and focuses his efforts on providing a best-in-class digital-marketing solution for Main Path's clients. Walker enjoys spending time with his family, golfing and networking with fellow entrepreneurs.

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