There’s been no shortage of articles in recent months about the millennial generation, their approach to technology, and how your business will have to reach them on their mobile devices if you want to succeed in the coming decades.
Like this recent one on Wired, most articles of this nature go a little something like this:
“Millennials are immersed in their phones and oblivious to the world around them. They demand that products and designs be bonehead-simple, because they’re too impatient to learn anything else. They have some cute, somewhat redeeming qualities in regards to their connectivity to one another and passion for social justice. Yet, overall, we will have to deal with their inability to focus and work hard. You must fear the millennial, because they are coming of age, and there appears to be nothing that anyone can do to help them mature. You’ll need to adapt.”
And, if you think that thinly-veiled condescension is exaggerated, let me assure you that it’s not off by much. From the article linked above:
You’ve seen them walking around shopping malls, college campuses and summertime social gatherings — those packs of sleepy-eyed teens with their heads down and eyes glued to their smartphones. Even though they cluster together in groups, you notice they don’t make direct eye contact or utter any sounds to each other except to share a video or Tweet, since each is immersed in his or her own text message conversation or social media exchange. One might even be sending a text to another only a few feet away. Whether we like it or not, the zombie apocalypse is upon us and unlike the movies dedicated to this popular genre, the millennial generation will prove to be the most influential, distracted and finicky demographic in history when it comes to technology use.
I use hyperbole and sarcasm with the best of them, but I’m seeing a pattern emerge: contempt for millennials.
Contempt for your target market will sink your business.
Does it not take tremendous value to look past rude customer service at a store you walk into?
Or, put another way: do you love to give your business to people who think you’re dumb, but will take your money?
That’s just the outer layer of the onion, my friend. You can’t just attempt to deal with it because you want to grow your business and a generation is coming up you don’t like. You can’t just fake a smile and friendliness. It’s deeper than that.
Grok Your Users and Their Motivations
There’s endless exploration that can be had when we talk about understanding users and where your product or service or content fits in, but the point here is that assuming Millennials are impatient, aloof, uncaring, lazy, or shallow simply because of their age is unhelpful. This is the same trap we fall into when we overextend the utility of marketing personas and use them to assume how people will act based on demographics.
You have more in common with people who have the same motivations you do than those that are just your age, your ethnicity, in your field, or who live in the same area you do.
For more on this concept, read up on job stories, which help us understand people on a deeper level. In short, job stories help us explore a users’s circumstances, motivations, and expected outcomes. Getting in touch with users on this level is what creates raving customers.
People called millennials are no different. Their circumstances, motivations, and expected outcomes are different than yours, but that doesn’t make them nonsensical. You’re going to need to understand your target audience no matter what decade they were born in.
So, if you want to reach anyone in that age group, the first step is not attributing behavioral tendencies to all of them.
The second step is finding your target market within that age group by looking for problems you can solve.
It’s no different than traditional ways to find product-market fit—unless you bring an attitude of prejudice along with you. You’ll just need to have more conversations with customers, read more of what they read, go where they go, and validate your assumptions.
Write off an entire generation at your own peril. Millennials have a nose for businesses that do.