Marketing is a difficult thing to accomplish no matter what your business or which group of people you are trying to reach. There’s never a guarantee that the correct eyes are seeing your message or that they relate to or are intrigued by it. Typically, business owners market to a culture similar to their own because customers naturally seek out a business that they relate to. But if you’re marketing to a different generation, one who’s lifestyle and needs are not the same as your own, marketing becomes even trickier.
In his book, Friendship Marketing, author Gerald R. Baron reminds readers about the tough balance of pleasing customers. “Most problems with relationships, including important customer relationships, are caused by a competition of needs,” he states. How well business owners know this! Pleasing one customer can often mean disappointing the next one. But Baron continues on to encourage business owners, reminding them, “The more needs there are in the world, the more opportunities you have to fill them.”
Figuring out what Millennials need must always be balanced against what people in other generations need. But don’t get so discouraged trying to please everyone that you stop inquiring as to what you can do to help more people. For Millennials, their primary needs all come down to convenience.
Your Millennial customers are most likely young professionals. Many have two-income homes and possibly young children. Whatever you can do to get them in and out your door – while still spending money at your location – will be in their best interest. That could mean extended business hours so they have time to stop in after work or on weekends. It could be utilizing technology, so they can order items from home, or at least learn about sales or coupons ahead of time.
It could mean offering delivery services or having something fun for kids at your location. I once saw the owner of a greenhouse surprise a child with a popsicle from his freezer in the back. That little girl’s mother stayed and shopped for a while; I wouldn’t be surprised if they became regular customers!
Millennials also need social interaction. They want a break from their daily lives. Many Millennials are single and are looking for ways to meet people. Have you tried hosting events at your location? Include one or two specifically aimed at a young person’s interest.
These ideas are very general, based on broad generational statistics that cover Millennials from across the country. The Millennials in your hometown may have entirely different lifestyles. Start your own list that is specifically aimed at the young people in your vicinity. Ask a few what needs they have that your business can help fulfill. Once you have a list compiled, see how many ideas are feasible for your business to execute.
Sometimes, these ideas may be at odds with what other customers need. For example, the music you play hoping to attract young people may be a turn-off for other people. You will have to decide what healthy balance is most appropriate for your business.
But you will also find that there are needs that overlap, spanning generations. Delivery services will be an aid to the elderly man who’s been a customer for decades as much as they’ll help a young mom who’s never been to your store before. There are certain things we all need. The classics are usually the best place to start: affordable prices, convenience, and friendly customer service.
Emily Enger is a Millennial farm kid turned farm journalist. She also works in marketing, serving as communications director for a nonprofit that covers nine rural counties in northern Minnesota. These opinions are hers and should not take the place of legal or professional advice. To comment or pitch future topics, email her at For reprint permission, email editor Joan Kark-Wren at