Business

Market to Millennials Like a Pro with These 6 Breakout Strategies

Millennials are the largest age group in history, have the shortest attention spans and are about to become your new customer base. Here's how to catch 'em all.

Market to Millennials Like a Pro with These 6 Breakout Strategies
How do you catch the attention of a Millennial?
Credit: The Washington Post

Chuck Schneider · October 7, 2016

In 1971, before the public Internet was even a gleam in Al Gore’s eyes, Nobel Laureate Herbert Simon predicted with regard to the coming of the mass Internet, “What information consumes is the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.”

Simon’s conjecture came at a time when most scholars thought opening the web to all would bring about not much more than email and reference reading. Even the most gifted intellectuals and engineers could not have imagined Facebook, Amazon, YouTube, Twitter or FarmersOnly.com.

So here we are, 16 years into the information century and there is nearly an entire generation that has grown up with the 'net while showing signs of severe attention deficit.

Last year, Microsoft Canada published a study on attention spans and consumer insights. Although all of the stats were compiled about Canadians, those living up there in America’s Hat really aren’t any different from folks who call most any industrialized country home, so they are likely valid for the U.S. as well.

The study opens with a quote from Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.

“We are moving from a world where computing power was scarce to a place where it is now almost limitless, and where the true scarce commodity is increasingly human attention.”

Then comes the red meat. In 2013, when the study was conducted, most Millennials (and even some older people who are digitally addicted) have an attention span of eight seconds, about as long as it takes to read a 140 character tweet and one second less than that of — wait for it — a goldfish. 

How Do You Reach Millennials?

There are nearly as many recent studies of Millennial attention span on the Internet as there are kitten videos on YouTube. Most of them discuss attention spans. You’d think by now we would know all this and be well on our way to either combat or take advantage of the situation.

Apparently not.

How do custom integrators — plus their vendors, distributors, buying groups and trade associations — get to this elusive generation that has less of an attention span than a goldfish, takes us for granted technologically and comparison shops us to the cliff of bankruptcy?

The Microsoft Canada study went deep into the permafrost (up there in America’s Hat there are no weeds, just permafrost) using individual neurological testing including electroencephalographs (EEG) to determine some of their conclusions on how to reach this bunch.

“The thrill of finding something new often makes connected consumers jump off one experience into another. The 'feel good' neurotransmitter, dopamine, is released when consumers are doing something they find rewarding. That said, nearly one in five of online viewers defect in the first 10 seconds.”

And how does a marketer prevent that defection?

“Get your message across, right out of the gate. They lose interest, fast. They’re suckers for novelty. It's more exciting to jump from subject to subject or device to device than to concentrate on a single thing at any one time. Hook them right off the bat with clear and concise messaging that’s communicated as early as possible.”

The study’s authors then show storyboards of Canadian TV commercials that we’ll never see. In the U.S. CE industry I can think of only two commercials that live up to Microsoft’s standard: the old Sonos spot that lights each room in a different color while the music gets louder and the current Ring.com spot where the thugs run off the porch.

Writing in the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal, Kristin Kelley, manager of strategic marketing and communications for international employment specialist Ramstad North America, concisely lists the takeaways she gleaned from the Microsoft Canada study.

  1. Short video snippets to tease them. In the Snapchat age, a lot can happen in just a few seconds.
  2. Bold, attention grabbing headlines to persuade them. Tabloids have been using this tactic successfully, for decades.
  3. Plenty of opt-in options so they can engage with you on their terms. Offer them something compelling that has real value.

Kelley concludes with the best quote I read while researching this piece, “The point is … you need to wow them before you can win them.”

If we wait for the vendors to do something for us in this arena, I suspect we’re in for a mighty long wait. That said, there are things that integrators large and small can do for relatively short money to catch a Millennial’s attention.

Make a Video

Put your projects portfolio scrapbook away in your desk drawer and start making videos of your accomplishments. And make the customers the stars. This might mean having a competent, if not professional, videographer on retainer to be at the site on significant days as the project moves forward.

Get your clients involved in the action. Make sure the crew members are decked out in their cleanest polos and jeans and make them a part of the production.

Have these videos on a loop in your reception/waiting area and in the demo rooms. Of course, keep copies on your laptop and tablet for showing in a prospect’s home.

Host a Party

Plan and promote a major “in-store” event. Make it exciting. Have not only those testimonial videos ready but the best videos that vendors may offer as well.

Everyone who markets to Millennials emphasizes that “Content is King.” If the vendor video is boring, overly out in the weeds or just poorly produced — don’t use it. Get vendors to come and speak but use the same criteria as you would for the videos. If they can’t capture an audience, don’t invite them.

Do some research to find a trendy eatery to cater this. No toothpicks of cheese and cocktail wieners on a plastic platter straight from Costco. Put someone in charge of the food or even hire a pro.

This entire event will (and should) take months to plan and execute properly. Tease it from your website and all your other social media platforms — i.e., “Save the Date."

Ask for Feedback

Put a Customer Feedback and Review section on your site and your other platforms.

Risky you say? Not if you’re confident that you’re good at what you do.

Embrace VR

Get involved with virtual reality. Imagine having a client don a pair of VR goggles and see what you plan for them in real time three-dimensionality. It’s already being tested by upscale architects and realtors.

This is too compelling a breakthrough technology — new to Millennials as well as Boomers — not to command attention that’s relevant to our business. You can be on the cutting edge today.

Create Incentives

Offer value propositions that are outside our industry as both calls-to-action and rewards.

The CI business doesn’t lend itself very well to promotions that work in other businesses like “Free Oil Changes for Life with the Purchase of a New Car." And many pundits feel that “free installation” by the big boxes hastened the demise of the small independent car stereo shops that chose to match or promote that offer. So that’s probably not a good option either.

Free headphones? Meh. Think outside not only the box but the business.

For example, many Millennials fancy themselves as "foodies" (heck, they take pictures of their food). A certificate from trendy gourmet cook-at-home companies like Blue Apron, Hello Fresh and Plated will run you less dough (pun intended) than a specific dollar amount restaurant gift card while making you look a lot hipper in the Gen Y’s eyes. Use them for any good purpose.

This is just a start. These tips should give you some food for thought (I know, I know, sometimes I just can’t stop) and keep you busy for a while. Build on these concepts. Make them uniquely your own.

Ask the Industry

At the same time, we should all start engaging the vendors, distributors and buying groups (plus CEDIA — for members) on how they plan to help capture the attention of the largest generation in the history of mankind.

There is little time to waste.

Eight … seven … six … five … four … three … two … one … click … poof…

Oh look at these kittens! Aren't they just adorable?



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  About the Author

Chuck Schneider is a freelance writer with a long history in consumer electronics. He started and restarted his award-winning manufacturer’s representative firm - Value Added Marketing - and was also a vice president and general merchandise manager for a multi-regional CE chain, as well as a buyer for Lechmere's (a division of Target). Today, he is a freelance writer. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Chuck at kschnei962@aol.com

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  Article Topics


Business · Sales & Marketing · News · Blogs · Millennials · Virtual Reality · All Topics
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Comments

Posted by BradYoung04 on November 7, 2016

Great post Chuck.In my experience it’s not just about engaging millennials but empowering them. No matter how small your business, it will always be worth investing in quality community management. Ultimately, if we want to be successful, we need to respond to our customers, whether they be Gen X, millennials or otherwise. It might be fine to prioritize other customer groups now, but if your competitors are embracing this new approach then it’ll be an uphill struggle when you do decide you want a slice of millennial pie…

Posted by RobMacK on October 10, 2016

nicko82: maybe they have founded startups or have high paying Wall Street careers but that doesn’t mean anything. Have you ever actually tried working with millennial clients? I’ve worked with 3 and will hopefully only ever have 3. Behold my stories of woe:

The 1st one was my fault: he asked for the sun & the stars- a full Crestron system with all the bells & whistles a young professional might wish for in his brand new 4 bedroom penthouse overlooking the city. I did my due diligence, informing him of projected costs, timelines, equipment needs, etc. When the estimate arrived he apparently either forgot or didn’t bother to read my estimate summary based on HIS directions. And then proceeded to shred my hard work saying words to the effect that he and his “tech buds” could do the same work for a fraction of the cost. I wished him good luck. Last I heard, nothing had been installed by anyone and he had coax and CAT cables running across the floor.

The 2nd: son of a good client who managed to somehow eviscerate a perfectly acceptable/reasonable “basic” integration proposal down to a few WAPs, 3 Nests and a few random IoT toys saying that’s all he wanted/needed. After 3 weeks of back and forth counseling with him that his choices would not be as functional as he needed, he decided to do it anyway. 2 months later, his father calls me up ranting and raving that “my system” doesn’t work. Well of course it doesn’t, it isn’t MINE. The father apologized profusely and there goes Millenial #2.

The 3rd…well, let’s just say that after the 1st 2 failures I really wasn’t prepared to entertain a 3rd. Suffice to say that after trying more than a dozen times in 2 weeks to arrange a meeting with her, I gave up. If you can’t be bothered to return a phone call or an email then you’re pretty much off my list of priorities.

Obviously I’m presenting a v biased view but I’m hoping that millennials will eventually grow up and learn patience and begin to think that perhaps, just MAYBE, that they don’t know everything. Until that time, I’m more than happy to pass on them as clients. As I’ve said before, Gen X and older are my demographic. Our industry is changing in more ways than 1 and maybe the millennials will shape it somehow that we can’t see today (think more DIY and IoT playthings and new sandboxes/environments). For now, I’m fine with letting the millennials strike out on their own.

/rant over smile

Posted by nicko82 on October 9, 2016

For the negative people…I think you’re forgetting that some of these kids have founded startups that are worth much more than any integration company ever will. And some of the work at wall Street earning loads of cash. I don’t think these guys will be doing DIY smart home for their new mansions. Good luck trying to reach them with old type marketing, and no I don’t think you’ll deny their business

Posted by PaulRyanDesign on October 8, 2016

A large part of the problem as I see it, is integrators traditionally think of their websites as a digital portfolio to direct potential clients to prior to an in home consultation, during, or after…They haven’t used them as a tool to generate business, they haven’t invested in them…and they use social media even less.  So, to tell AV Entrepreneurs to make Compelling headlines, Opt-ins, etc.  is an exercise in futility, the vast majority of business owners, don’t have the time, or the desire to maximize the potential of their website.  There are a ton of tools out there that fit right into the wheel-house of the small AV business owner, they just need to know they exist, where to start, and how to use them.  You can start by checking out my website.  paulryandesign.com

Posted by homeproav on October 7, 2016

I think that a lot of integrators would be wise to do their own marketing videos.  We’ve not done enough, but this one was done for our website a while back. Pretty well received and a lot less expensive to produce than you would think. 

https://youtu.be/I56V7oQ5cpI
 
Great article, by the way.  Lots of great ideas. I’m not a big fan of millennials as a target demographic, but the slightly older generations are catching up in terms of their tastes in content.

Posted by RobMacK on October 7, 2016

Help me out here. We’re supposed to market our products/services to millennials who have an 8-second or less attention span? Who don’t even have (maybe) 20% of the purchasing power that their older (and wiser) boomer generation have? And who think that they know everything (already!) about tech? And who view our industry as a bastion of older, stuck-in-the-mud, foot-dragging Neanderthals? Somehow I don’t think that is a wise choice (at least for me). There will be plenty of boomers and Gen Xers who have the financial wherewithal and patience to listen to us and buy our systems. Millennials want to do it all themselves. Let them. I’ll still be happy to provide their parents with quality service and equipment while they go on YouTube, Instagram and wherever to complain that their new IoT toy won’t work with their expensive phablet they got off of Kickstarter that promised them the world. Millennial clients? No thank you very much.

Posted by Julie Jacobson on October 7, 2016

Great piece, Chuck. Thank you.

Posted by Julie Jacobson on October 7, 2016

Amen, Nicko.

Posted by nicko82 on October 7, 2016

I always thought integrator marketing was left behind. Why doesnt anyone in our industry make those cool startup 3 minute videos, fancy graphics and viral social media memes and funny videos with tech…

Posted by nicko82 on October 7, 2016

I always thought integrator marketing was left behind. Why doesnt anyone in our industry make those cool startup 3 minute videos, fancy graphics and viral social media memes and funny videos with tech…

Posted by Julie Jacobson on October 7, 2016

Amen, Nicko.

Posted by Julie Jacobson on October 7, 2016

Great piece, Chuck. Thank you.

Posted by RobMacK on October 7, 2016

Help me out here. We’re supposed to market our products/services to millennials who have an 8-second or less attention span? Who don’t even have (maybe) 20% of the purchasing power that their older (and wiser) boomer generation have? And who think that they know everything (already!) about tech? And who view our industry as a bastion of older, stuck-in-the-mud, foot-dragging Neanderthals? Somehow I don’t think that is a wise choice (at least for me). There will be plenty of boomers and Gen Xers who have the financial wherewithal and patience to listen to us and buy our systems. Millennials want to do it all themselves. Let them. I’ll still be happy to provide their parents with quality service and equipment while they go on YouTube, Instagram and wherever to complain that their new IoT toy won’t work with their expensive phablet they got off of Kickstarter that promised them the world. Millennial clients? No thank you very much.

Posted by homeproav on October 7, 2016

I think that a lot of integrators would be wise to do their own marketing videos.  We’ve not done enough, but this one was done for our website a while back. Pretty well received and a lot less expensive to produce than you would think. 

https://youtu.be/I56V7oQ5cpI
 
Great article, by the way.  Lots of great ideas. I’m not a big fan of millennials as a target demographic, but the slightly older generations are catching up in terms of their tastes in content.

Posted by PaulRyanDesign on October 8, 2016

A large part of the problem as I see it, is integrators traditionally think of their websites as a digital portfolio to direct potential clients to prior to an in home consultation, during, or after…They haven’t used them as a tool to generate business, they haven’t invested in them…and they use social media even less.  So, to tell AV Entrepreneurs to make Compelling headlines, Opt-ins, etc.  is an exercise in futility, the vast majority of business owners, don’t have the time, or the desire to maximize the potential of their website.  There are a ton of tools out there that fit right into the wheel-house of the small AV business owner, they just need to know they exist, where to start, and how to use them.  You can start by checking out my website.  paulryandesign.com

Posted by nicko82 on October 9, 2016

For the negative people…I think you’re forgetting that some of these kids have founded startups that are worth much more than any integration company ever will. And some of the work at wall Street earning loads of cash. I don’t think these guys will be doing DIY smart home for their new mansions. Good luck trying to reach them with old type marketing, and no I don’t think you’ll deny their business

Posted by RobMacK on October 10, 2016

nicko82: maybe they have founded startups or have high paying Wall Street careers but that doesn’t mean anything. Have you ever actually tried working with millennial clients? I’ve worked with 3 and will hopefully only ever have 3. Behold my stories of woe:

The 1st one was my fault: he asked for the sun & the stars- a full Crestron system with all the bells & whistles a young professional might wish for in his brand new 4 bedroom penthouse overlooking the city. I did my due diligence, informing him of projected costs, timelines, equipment needs, etc. When the estimate arrived he apparently either forgot or didn’t bother to read my estimate summary based on HIS directions. And then proceeded to shred my hard work saying words to the effect that he and his “tech buds” could do the same work for a fraction of the cost. I wished him good luck. Last I heard, nothing had been installed by anyone and he had coax and CAT cables running across the floor.

The 2nd: son of a good client who managed to somehow eviscerate a perfectly acceptable/reasonable “basic” integration proposal down to a few WAPs, 3 Nests and a few random IoT toys saying that’s all he wanted/needed. After 3 weeks of back and forth counseling with him that his choices would not be as functional as he needed, he decided to do it anyway. 2 months later, his father calls me up ranting and raving that “my system” doesn’t work. Well of course it doesn’t, it isn’t MINE. The father apologized profusely and there goes Millenial #2.

The 3rd…well, let’s just say that after the 1st 2 failures I really wasn’t prepared to entertain a 3rd. Suffice to say that after trying more than a dozen times in 2 weeks to arrange a meeting with her, I gave up. If you can’t be bothered to return a phone call or an email then you’re pretty much off my list of priorities.

Obviously I’m presenting a v biased view but I’m hoping that millennials will eventually grow up and learn patience and begin to think that perhaps, just MAYBE, that they don’t know everything. Until that time, I’m more than happy to pass on them as clients. As I’ve said before, Gen X and older are my demographic. Our industry is changing in more ways than 1 and maybe the millennials will shape it somehow that we can’t see today (think more DIY and IoT playthings and new sandboxes/environments). For now, I’m fine with letting the millennials strike out on their own.

/rant over smile

Posted by BradYoung04 on November 7, 2016

Great post Chuck.In my experience it’s not just about engaging millennials but empowering them. No matter how small your business, it will always be worth investing in quality community management. Ultimately, if we want to be successful, we need to respond to our customers, whether they be Gen X, millennials or otherwise. It might be fine to prioritize other customer groups now, but if your competitors are embracing this new approach then it’ll be an uphill struggle when you do decide you want a slice of millennial pie…