How to Market Your Small Business To Gen Y Consumers

We hear it all the time: Customers expect more from brands than ever before. And if their expectations aren’t met, they’ll take their business elsewhere.

But what does this mean for small businesses without a household name? Do their size or limited resources prevent them from competing with larger competitors, or is it an advantage? What do small businesses need to do to stand out?

To find out, we surveyed 1,000 US consumers and 1,000 small business owners.

Big fans of small business

Our findings paint a positive picture for US small businesses. All consumers plan to shop more at small businesses this year, but millennials are at the forefront of the shopping small movement. Nearly two-thirds of US millennial (61 percent) plan to shop more with small businesses this year, compared to 15 percent of baby boomers.

Not only are younger Americans planning to shop more with small business, they are already spending more. The average millennial spends twice as much as boomers with small businesses on an average month ($197.32 vs. $85.99). Not only that, nearly half of millennials (45 percent) would spend more on a product or service if it meant they were supporting a small business, compared to just 27 percent of consumers aged 55 and older.

So, why do US millennials prefer to shop small?

Community commitment comes out on top. Supporting the local economy was the main reason this generation prefers to shop small.

How to Market Your Business To Millennials

While the millennial dollar presents a huge opportunity, US small businesses have an Achilles Heel: their online presence.

Nearly twice as many Gen Y shoppers say it’s important for small businesses to have a website compared to boomers (85 percent vs 51 percent), while nearly three times the number say small businesses need to be active on social media (83 percent vs 29 percent). These figures are cause for concern for small businesses, as over half (56 percent) don’t have a website, while another four in ten don’t use social media at all for their company.

Vistaprint focuses on helping small businesses look professional across all their marketing. Even with limited resources, business owners can differentiate their brand online.

So, the question is: How do we market our business to millennials?

We’ve pulled together three practical tips on how you can market to millennials online without blowing your budget:

Make it personal

There are a lot of assumptions about Gen Y, but with the number of US millennials expected to reach 73 million this year, small businesses need to personalize, not generalize.

You need a clear picture in your mind of who you’re speaking to. Start by observing your customers. See what types of customers come into your store, otherwise take note of who follows you on social media. Facebook provides detailed behavioral and demographic insights about your millennial audience, which you can draw on to create personas.

A typical customer persona for a small smoothie shop may look like this:

Samantha is 28 years old. She is single, has one dog, and is a fitness instructor living in New York City. She is always on the go and looks for healthy food options she can pick up in between yoga classes she teaches. She primarily uses Instagram to follow her friends and fitness/wellness accounts. Due to her busy schedule, she typically is online late at night.

Having one or two personas in mind will help you create content tailored to the lifestyle, behavioral traits and social media usage of your millennial customers.

Share your expertise

Once you’re clear on who each audience is, define how you’ll speak to those people.

Disruptive and impersonal methods of advertising may not cut it, as McCarthy Group research reveals that 84% of millennials do not trust traditional advertising.

Instead, millennials spend a lot of time researching products and services and seek helpful advice to guide their decision. They are 44% more likely to trust experts, who happen to be strangers, over advertisements.

The knowledge, skills and experience you used to create your business mean you are well placed to become that expert. To build on the previous business owner example, someone who built a successful smoothie shop will likely have insight into the latest health trends, as well as useful advice on nutrition and wellbeing.

This can be turned into content that provides value to your customers by answering their common questions, for example:

  • Blogs – informative blog posts on improving wellbeing
  • Social posts – nutrition tip of the day and inspirational posts
  • Videos/stories – showcase healthy recipes that go well with a smoothie

If you can help customers solve a problem, they’ll be more likely to trust you when they’re ready to purchase.

Manage your reputation

As well as proactively engaging with your audience, keep a close eye on what people are saying about your business.

Online reviews and comments are a powerful source for customers. Research by Bright Local shows that 91 percent of 18-34 year old consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. But what should you do if you get a negative review or comment?

It’s always best to thank the customer for his or her feedback and sincerely apologize for their negative experience. Follow up with an honest statement about your continued intent to provide a high-quality product or service to your customers.

Offer them an opportunity to discuss their concerns further in private either by email, direct message or phone call. If the customer responds, listen to their thoughts, apologize directly and offer a solution. Your public response will reassure future customers you care about their experience.

Final thoughts

While some small businesses struggle to bridge the digital gap, marketing to millennials on a budget can still be highly effective. Make sure you know your Gen Y audience well, create content that adds value to their lives and act on their feedback.

Start Shopping