Adapting Your Communications to Appeal to Millennial Customers
Advocate changes in communication style to speak to this informed and influential generation.
You’ve heard these terms before, Millennial generation, Gen Y. Who are they and what can we do to engage this vast market of franchise candidates, franchisees and the customers they serve?
There are varying definitions and markers for where a generation starts and stops. Generally, the Millennial generation is considered those born between 1977 and 1995. Larger than the baby boomers’ 76 million, there are an estimated 80 million Millennials in this group of 18 to 34-year olds, which includes college students and young parents.
Communication strategies for Millennials are largely based on technology. Unlike baby boomers and Generation X, they did not need to learn to use technology. No, in fact, they “cut their teeth” on technology and as such it is a natural second language.
Millennials are technology dependent, using it as an integral part of daily life. As franchisors, it is our responsibility to adapt our organizations to meet the needs of our franchise candidates, franchisees and their customers. This large segment of our population has begun to drive how we interact and market our brand. Without innovation and adaptation, businesses may lose market share and market reach very quickly.
Four areas encompass working with the Millennial/Generation Y consumer. They are confident, connected and essential to encompass into your brand. For franchise candidates, existing franchisees, their employees and customers, consider these areas and how your brand is responding to this generation that is creating the future.
Ease of Access to information: “My time is short; let me find what I want easily.”
- Utilize responsive website design. This allows your website to change scale/size based on what your viewer is using. Consumers on a mobile device want the same ease of access to information as on their desktop.
- Provide rapid access to the information they want. Sales information, support for your franchise and cost for the customer, all should be readily available on your website. Customers will leave frustrated and go elsewhere if they can’t find what they are looking for.
- Publish your support materials online for your franchisees. For example, operations manuals should be online and searchable.
- Offer live help options and chat for franchise candidates, franchisees and customers. Franchisees of this generation appreciate being able to use Google Chat, Google Hangouts or other interactive platforms to interact with staff to assist them with a challenge.
- Deliver a mobile business for your Millennial franchisee. Owners want to run their businesses on their mobile devices. Email, support, point of sales, reporting and inventory management should all be accessible on a mobile device.
Engage with Me: “Talk to me, find out what I think. It’s my world.”
- Utilize video content in all areas of your business which speaks to your franchise candidate, franchisee and customer.
- Use webinars to engage franchise candidates as a group to introduce your brand and answer questions. Online interaction helps them feel connected to you.
- Show franchisees you want their opinions. Host regular forums/chats to engage with them. For example, host a monthly coffee chat with your CEO, open to franchisees on Google Hangout.
- Provide a forum to engage with your brand on social media through Instagram photo sharing, Facebook posts and so on. Encourage Instagram users to use a Hashtag so they can see nationwide or worldwide brand posts. For example, FIT4MOM used Hashtag #FIT4FALL in a photo sharing contest which allowed customers to see photos brand-wide.
- Ask your franchisees and customers what they think; their loyalty depends on it. They want to feel a part of your brand. Have live focus groups or engage a larger audience and demographic using Google Hangout, Skype or another online platform to hear from your franchisees and customers.
Brand Involvement and Purpose: “I want to be part of a movement, something larger and something good for the world.”
- Promote the core beliefs of your brand. What is your purpose and why should they join you as a franchisee or customer of your brand? Don’t just be an “industry leader.” What do you do for the world, why do you exist? What is your culture and why does it speak to the Millennial consumer?
- Show how you are part of something larger. What does your company do to make the world a better place? Do you promote local volunteering with your franchisees and employees? Do you help educate your community about environmental toxins? For example, Maid Brigade has a consumer health advocate who helps educate its customers through blogging, videos and interactive chats.
- Encourage franchisees to innovate your brand for you. Listen to them and involve them in the brand movement. Encourage submission of ideas online or start an online discussion forum to share ideas. Naming contests for new initiatives, new product ideas and partnership suggestions are great examples.
Peer Value: “I’m never alone; my friends are always with me.”
- Use video testimonials to provide validation for your franchise opportunity. There is tremendous value in “seeing” and “hearing” someone talk about their experience with your franchise.
- Engage your franchisees with an online peer network, such as the International Franchise Association’s FranSocial forum provided by Higher Logic.
- Use social media to provide peer endorsements. Decide which social media outlets are most brand appropriate for the segment of Gen Y that your business targets.
- Teach your franchisees how to engage their customers locally and provide that peer brand endorsement. A great example is Yelp. Millennials care what their friends think and go to their peers to find out what is “hot,” whether it is a restaurant, product or service.
These are exciting times in the making with Gen Y! Innovating and adapting business is key to a successful franchise. Millennials are allowing our culture to examine what we do and why we do it. It is no longer enough to being an industry leader. It is about creating and reinforcing the experience that each person has with your brand in a concise and engaging way. Take a hard look at what your brand is doing across departments and continue to advocate changes in communication style to speak to this informed and influential generation.
Susan Glosby is vice president of operations for FIT4MOM, Stroller Strides LLC. Find her at fransocial.franchise.org.