The Millennial generation has an undeservedly bad reputation. Every time I hear about them, it’s the same story – they’re entitled, they’re lazy, they’re all special snowflakes who can’t work in the real world. Every time I encounter someone from that generation, I see something different. This is a generation that works hard, but doesn’t always see the fruits of their labor. It’s a generation that certainly wants to be rewarded, but that is willing to sacrifice for those rewards. More than anything else, millennials are a generation that wants to do things their own way – but they’re fiercely loyal to those who will work with them.

For businesses, millennials can be scary. Because they don’t fall into the patterns of previous generations, it’s easy to dismiss them. After all, it’s hard to capture that millennial dollar and many businesses just don’t want to put in the work. That’s a shame, because millennials represent a huge chunk of the adult population – and their spending power is continuing to grow. If you want to succeed in the future, you’ve got to respect this generation. You also have to know what they want. The four steps below can help you understand the millennial generation and help gain their business at the same time.

1. Be Honest With Millenials

I care about honesty. I’m sure you do, too. You probably don’t care as much as the millennial generation, though. This is a generation that came of age during an era in which almost everything has been called into question. The world around them seems to change by the day and they’ve become incredibly aware of the fact that some people want to take advantage of them. If you don’t believe me, take a moment to look at the internet – there are a million articles about how to take advantage of millennials and trick them into loving your business. Millennials don’t just know this, by the way – they’ve got an almost instinctual ability to sniff out fakes.

What does that mean for you? It means you’re going to have to be honest about what your business does and how it accomplishes its goals. Don’t go for spin – go for honesty. Don’t hide behind marketing language or false promises, but rather be genuine in your advertising and your communications with your customers. Millennials know when they’re being pandered to and most respond to it with disgust. You can’t afford to lose their business, so it’s time to pull back the curtain of marketing and deal with this generation in a fair and equitable manner.

2. Millenials Are A Mobile Generation

Most online traffic now comes through mobile devices. It doesn’t matter if it’s on wi-fi or using precious data, more people are looking at your business on mobile phones than on traditional computers. Millennials are driving this trend, and for good reason – they’ve grown up with mobile phones. Even the oldest of this generation have had cellphones since high school and they were among the earliest non-business adopters of smartphones. If you can’t keep up with them, they’ll find someone who can.

So, what do you do? I’d recommend making sure your site is optimized for mobile. I’d also look into building an app that rewards customers for their loyalty. Millennials are frugal and they love loyalty programs – combine that with an app, and you’ll definitely go far. Don’t make the mistake of marketing towards outdated technology just because you’re more comfortable with it – millennial visit your business through mobile browsers, so get used to it now.

3. The Social Connection

There’s probably nothing more cliche than saying that millennials like social networks, but it’s true. Honestly, everyone likes them and everyone uses them. Millennials have simply grown up with them and understand how to use them a little bit better than their older counterparts. As a business owner, you’ve got to jump on the social bandwagon so you can benefit from the millennial love of social networking.

Once you’re on there, you’ll be walking a fine line. Like I said before, this is a generation that craves authenticity. They’ll know that if your’e pandering and they’ll know if you’re just using ad-speak. If you can make a legitimate connection, though, you’ll gain a group of followers who will stick with you through thick and thin.

4. Millennials Care

While there’s always a lot of noise about this generation being disaffected or selfish, that’s not something I’ve really seen. Millennials tend to care – maybe not always about the same things, but they’ve got a general care for humanity that’s admirable. Millennials care how you treat your employees, how your business functions in the community, and the overall impact of what your business does. If they don’t believe you’re acting in good faith, they won’t want anything to do with you.

The fact that this generation cares about how your business works is a fantastic opportunity for you. Think about all the times that sticking to your guns about your principles has caused you to miss opportunities or make less money. Imagine, now, that your customers actually care about those choices and will reward you for them. This is what millennials bring to the table – rewards for acting like the kind of business owner you’ve always wanted to be.

Millennials are already changing the way the world works. Whether you want to admit it or not, your business is going to live or die by how well you interact with them. This generation of change represents an incredible opportunity on your part, especially if you want to stick to your own principles. If you can be honest, embrace technology and make a real effort to be one of the good guys, millennials are going to be interested in your business

  • Phil Fisk, President Coastline Marketing Group, Inc.