By 2017, Millennials – those consumers now in their mid-teens to mid-30’s – will have more spending power than any other generation in history.
This came from a recent Forbes article, How Small Businesses Can Build a Relationship with Millennial Customers written by John Mason, GM of IBM's Midmarket business unit.
As one of the youngest baby boomers, thinking my older peers would rule the roost for a while longer I was pretty stunned. 2017? It is almost 2014. That’s right around the corner.
What’s troubling is that many business models have not changed to respond to a digitally raised generation, and some companies seem to be moving so slowly to where the buyer wants them to be. It is time to start strategizing for the future if you have not already.
For starters, customers want to be engaged.
How do you engage through your website?
Do you have offerings that are bite-sized rather than huge?
Until five years ago we offered two-day training sessions on sales basics, and one day leadership and advanced sessions for sales teams at their company’s location. The writing was on the wall when leaders would ask me for the “one hour” or “90 minute” version of those programs.
Maybe because we work with the tech sector we’ve seen the move to shorter, “just-in-time” training and the need for web-based solutions. The more you can offer buyers small ways to get engaged and get nuggets of information, the sooner you build trust. Trust is needed to do any sort of business other than transactional.
Do you attract a younger demographic for employment, partnering, and as new customers?
Think Frequent Short Interactions
You need to find ways to be relevant in short, quick interactions. Twitter has taught us to work to shorten our messaging. While you don't need to talk in 140 character bursts, you do need to be more concise and clear - whether to a prospective buyer or to a peer. Long gone is time to sit back and have lengthy conversations. I know for some long-winded folks this is disappointing. The question really is, can you embrace the evolution of your audience, clients, and employees so that your messaging strategy is a company asset to build an audience for the future?
Here are some ideas to think about, and some “homework” to do.
If you are over 40, go out of your way to find someone in their mid-late 20s for an upcoming position you’d not normally hire a younger person for.
If you are in your early-mid 20’s, find a mentor who can teach you what you have gaps in – very likely in some aspect of personal communication skills that build long-term relationships. If you happen to be brilliant in this area then teach your peers, because an ongoing issue with young sales reps I see is lack of strong written and verbal communication skills.
60 percent of millennials produce and upload online content, including photos, videos, wiki entries, blog posts, micro-blog posts and product/service reviews, compared to just 29 percent of non-millennials. Is your business becoming a publisher? If not, how will you attract a content-rich customer base later?
In the Forbes article, Mason wrote,
Millennial consumers are better informed than previous generations, and expect to find relevant, engaging and actionable information wherever they are and at any time. Perhaps for the first time ever, consumers are both willing and able to tell marketers exactly what they want. It’s now up to marketers both to provide the information these consumers need to make decisions, but also collect and interpret the deluge of data through which these desires are expressed.
The choice is yours – start now and transition easier or wait and be stunned when your customers suddenly change their minds, you have fewer new hires, and market share starts to decline.
Any of that happening now? Take it as a sign.
This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I've been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.
Lori Richardson is recognized as one of the "Top 25 Sales Influencers for 2013" and one of "20 Women to Watch in Sales Lead Management for 2013". Lori speaks, writes, trains, and consults with inside and outbound sellers in technology and services companies. Subscribe to the award-winning blog and the “Sales Ideas In A Minute” newsletter for sales strategies, tactics, and tips. Increase Opportunities. Expand Your Pipeline. Close More Deals.