The way that you’ve been doing business is on the verge of one of the biggest changes you could ever imagine.
The millennials are coming, and now they’re the ones with the money. As you’ve probably already begun to notice, the baby boomer generation (those born between 1946 and 1964) are purchasing homes and making home improvements less and less. Taking over for the baby boomer generation as the primary buyers in some markets are the millennials (those born between 1981 and 1997).
This year marks the first time in which millennials will outnumber baby boomers. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the largest population segments are 22, 23, and 24-year-olds. Inevitably, these population segments are going to advance in their careers and start buying homes, and when more people buy homes, the home improvement market grows.
So how is the millennial market different from the baby boomer generation? Here are a few things that you need to know when trying to sell to millennials:
Millennials are accustomed to having Google at their fingertips. As a result, they’ve grown accustomed to having any question they have be answered instantly. Your sales team needs to keep this information in mind when speaking to millennials as potential customers. If they ask you a question, they expect you to have the answer right away, and can get irritated if the information they want isn’t readily available either from a website or a sales representative.
According to one Professional Remodeler article, “Chris Behan, founder and president of Socius Marketing, a Tampa, Fla., business that manages the internet marketing for several hundred home improvement companies, says 70 percent of prospects research a home improvement company before the sales appointment ever happens. And the younger they are, the more likely they are to have done that research. Some have already made up their minds about whether or not to do business with your company before your sales rep has even arrived. ‘They’re definitely more decisive,’ Behan says.”
The wit and charm of a good salesperson is slowly becoming less and less important. Gone are the days when the salesperson was the only way to get information about a company. The millennial generation would much rather get pricing or service information from a website than they would a human being. So invest some time (and where necessary, money) in giving yourself a clean, simple, yet informational online presence.
This statement is ironic considering most of us have our phones with us at all times. To a millennial, a phone’s primary purpose isn’t for verbal communication. Sure, confirming appointments by phone call is acceptable every now and then, but after a while, phone calls get annoying. Confirming an appointment via text message or email is preferred. Even millennials who aren’t your customers yet would rather speak with your representatives electronically than verbally. Have you ever seen websites with built-in chats that say something like “speak with a representative?” That’s because those companies know that electronic communication is preferable for a millennial than any other type of communication.
The term “friends” is used loosely here. To the baby boomer generation, a friend is a person with whom they have frequent verbal and visual contact. To a millennial, a friend is more like someone they “know of” versus someone they actually know. For example, a millennial will turn to well-known bloggers and celebrities who have used and reviewed products or services in order to make a purchasing decision. Likewise, they will trust the word of their actual and virtual “friends” over any salesperson or company. This leads us to the next point.
This may be a hard pill to swallow, but millennials have a difficult time trusting. They’ve been exposed their entire lives to frequent barrages of advertising and marketing, and as a result, they’ve become numb to most conventional forms. So how do you set yourself apart? The best tip we can give you is to make sure you speak to their needs in a language they can relate to. Millennials can see right through overused sales pitches. As is the case with any positive customer service experience, millennials are much more receptive when they feel they are being heard and understood. So talk with them, not at them.
According to one Professional Remodeler article, “‘What Millennials want,’ Brock says, is ‘straightforward pricing, time to think, and the best bang for their buck.’”
“‘Don’t play into tricks, gimmicks, or the hard sell,’ he adds. ‘Do that, and you instantly lose credibility.’” (Brian Brock is the General Manager of Hullco Exteriors in Chattanooga, Tennessee).
Millennials are interested in the environment and “green” projects. One recent article states, “Millennials are jumping onto the smart house bandwagon … rightly so, for a number of excellent reasons: 1) comfort, 2) environmental friendliness combined with budget-friendly savings on utility bills, and 3) security.” With that in mind, research your options ahead of time and make sure you offer green alternatives and upgrades to the more traditional, energy-expending choices.
Millennials consider social media a primary method of getting in contact with and learning about a business. Social media can become less scary when you think of it as a customer service medium rather than a demographic research and advertising tool. When you post something on social media, think to yourself, “How will this help my customers?” The millennial generation spends lots of time on social media, and since their attention spans can be short, you have to put yourself where they are already focused.
For many companies, the millennial generation poses a daunting challenge—one that could involve changing the very foundations of how those companies do business. But you don’t have to be overwhelmed. Embrace these demographic and psychographic changes in your markets, and once you gain the millennial generation’s trust, you’ll forever have their loyalty, making them customers for life.