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Marketing to ‘Millennials’

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If you believe the hype, the people categorized as Generation Y—also called the Millennial Generation—aren’t into e-mailing. Yet a study from the Participatory Marketing Network (PMN) and Pace University’s Lubin School of Business Interactive and Direct Marketing Lab found that 28% of Generation Y recipients found e-mail received from companies to be relevant, while 32% had no opinion.

Respondents also said they would potentially welcome direct brand interactions via e-mail, but want more control over what and how much they receive. The message for marketers is clear: Figure out how to market to Gen Y, and you’ve got a 70 million- strong pool of potential customers. Jeannette Kocsis, VP-digital strategy and media at Harte-Hanks, and Joey Wilson, VP-marketing strategy at Sapient, provide a little insight on doing that.

  • Create “automated relevance.” Behavioral marketing works, but when you’re marketing to Millennials, you’ve got to be faster and more precise, Wilson said. “Millennials are almost wired to block out advertising and marketing. They are capable of finding what they want when they want it, so you have to be fast and give them something relevant as soon as you see a specific ‘hand-raising’ activity,” he said. “With Millennials, we see traditionally shorter buying cycles, even in the b-to-b market. So if someone goes to a monitor page three times and I send them an e-mail of that activity within four hours, they are going to be more likely to open that e-mail.”

    In fact, according to Sapient research, messages sent after a “hand-raising activity” have a 30% higher chance of being opened

  • Don’t stop e-mailing. As a marketer, you might think that if Millennials don’t love e-mail you should be sending less-frequent messages. That’s simply not the case, Kocsis said. “You don’t want to be communicating every day, but you definitely need a cadence strategy so you’re touching your list more often than once a quarter,” she said
  • Get personal about the right things. There are differences in what you’ll need to know to market to Gen X, for example, and Gen Y. For one thing, Gen Y is less likely to answer personal questions about what they buy and why, Wilson said. “I’m amazed at how often marketers ask people about the wrong things,” he said. “If you can ask questions in a genuine way, you’ll get answers, though.”

    Instead of asking how Gen Y thinks about and uses your products and services, Wilson said, ask about what’s important to them instead. “Instead of asking which products are important, ask what’s important to them in the buying cycle. Is it having a personal reference? Ask how often they purchase rather than what they are purchasing.”

  • Avoid the one-off e-mail. Relationships are important in marketing, and even more so for Millennials, Kocsis said. “Instead of sending a promotion, send advice. Something meaningful and smart and educational,” she said.
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