Catering to any demographic is difficult and often requires a change in marketing strategy. Millennials, in particular, prove enigmatic, with the constant need to be stimulated and entertained. But, as owners, you want that group to frequent your establishments. “The demographic is critical in this industry,” explains Dr. Steven Austin Stovall, associate professor of management at Wilmington College in Wilmington, Ohio. “You’re attempting to capture future customers for the next 10 years. Fail to reach them, and you’re going to find yourself with an older crowd—or worse—a smaller crowd.” Stovall provided five tips on how to engage, attract and create a home for Millennials on your bar stools.
1. Learn to entice Millennials, not market to them. Stovall said marketing to Millennials can be difficult, advising owners to look at their entire marketing plan with a different mindset for this generation. Millennials don’t want the mundane, they expect something exciting. Stovall recommends promoting “socially responsible activities you engage in. This generation is more socially conscious and volunteers more than any generation prior.” If Millennials know about strong programs you're involved in, they’ll “reward you for it,” he says.
2. Be savvy with social media. This younger demographic relies on social media for many things, including reading and writing customer reviews. You need to “realize that Millennials are looking for the next big thing. They want the latest and greatest, and rely heavily on online reviews and comments,” Stovall says. “This means you should be constantly monitoring how your establishment is portrayed in the online world and work to augment your positive online presence.” Stovall says that a mistake most people make with social media is editing what gets posted. “For Millennials, the attraction of social media is to be able to freely express yourself,” he explains. “When they see the negative posts are being deleted and only the positive ones remain, they’ll disengage,” and that’s not good for business. His one caveat. Vulgar posts should definitely be removed.
3. Earn their business. “The challenge is that Millennials are so fickle,” Stovall explains. “Brand loyalty is often fleeting with this group. You have to constantly earn their business. “However, the struggle to get them as loyal customers ultimately pays off. The benefit is when you do earn their business and keep them satisfied, they’ll tell their friends,” especially via online reviews, he says. Those can make or break a business.
4. Don’t try too hard. Stovall says it’s important to be “cool,” because that sells with any generation, but trying too hard may be a detriment. "Millennials like irony and humor, but sarcasm is a turn off,” he explains. “Avoid talking down to them. His other big piece of advice: Forget emails. “Millennials won't read them,” he says. “If you’ve been carefully building a database of emails, it is probably heavily Gen Xers and older. Get on Twitter and Facebook and other sites, and develop a marketing plan for social media just as you would for traditional forms of media.”
5. Brand yourself. “It seems so cliché, but branding is still important,” Stovall says. “You must have a consistent brand image that you use in everything you do—from your marketing pieces to your social-media presence to your traditional media to what customers see inside your establishment.” Cultivating the brand and focusing on it is a key to success. But knowing your brand is imperative. “If you’re no different from the place down the street, why spend money at your place? This is true for all generations of customers.”