Who are millennials, and what do they want? It may be the question that’s keeping your whole marketing department up at night. The millennial generation is tricky because it’s a big, diverse group of people — and it’s not easily defined.

Millennials can’t be ignored, either.

Millennials make up 25 percent of the U.S. population. There are more of them than baby boomers, and they wield over $1 trillion in buying power. You definitely can’t afford to leave them out of your marketing mix.

Although millennials are tough to pin down, they do share some strong commonalities. When you know those, it’s easier to incorporate millennials in your strategies and campaigns. This millennial marketing guide includes our top tips for connecting with this generation.

Who Are Millennials?

Millennials were born starting in the early 1980s to the mid to late 1990s. Some like to stretch it from the late 1970s to the early 2000s. However you slice it, this group spans roughly two decades, making them a very diverse lot. The youngest are recent high-school grads, while the oldest are turning 40. Nielsen also identifies 42 percent as multicultural, so this is an ethnically rich group.

What impression would a millennial make if you sat down over coffee? Here’s a snapshot of a generic millennial (take it with a grain of salt, of course):

  • They’re well educated; over 30 percent have a bachelor’s degree or higher.
  • They’ve got an entrepreneurial spirit and aren’t crazy about traditional work environments.
  • They like to be on the cutting edge of technology and are never far from their smartphones.
  • They have a soft spot for charitable causes.
  • They can sense phonies a mile away.

Top Tips for Millennial Marketing

What are some key things that marketers need to know about millennials in order to reach them? Here are our top tips for connecting with this generation and meeting them where they are.

Advertise with Authenticity

A whopping 84 percent of millennials don’t trust traditional advertising. They’d much rather see companies use social proof to showcase products and services. The following resonate much better with a millennial audience, as opposed to conventional ads:

  • Case studies: Show how a real person benefited from your company’s product or service. These make great storytelling videos.
  • Customer reviews: Ask customers for reviews that you can feature on your website, or go find existing reviews on Google, Facebook or other niche-specific platforms.
  • User-generated content: In addition to straight reviews, consider a hashtag campaign to drum up images and posts from customers who love your company and products. Millennials rely heavily on friends for buying advice.
  • Influencers: Even though influencers are compensated, an influencer campaign is going to feel much more appealing to millennials. That’s because they value the endorsement from a trusted source. Forbes says that 58 percent of millennials will tolerate ads from their favorite digital stars.

Get Mission-Minded

If your company supports some type of cause or charity, then you can use that to appeal to millennials. Fifty percent of millennials are more willing to buy from a company that supports a cause. They may even pay extra for something if it comes from a company with a socially responsible mission. TOMS and Warby Parker are renowned in this arena.

Many companies avoid politically charged causes, but others have found success in standing for edgier issues. Find a cause that aligns with your company’s morals, and it’ll ring true with the millennial audience you’re trying to reach.

Relate to Millennials on Their Terms

This generation doesn’t want companies to talk at them; they want companies to relate to them — but on their terms. It sounds complicated, right? How do you get on a millennial’s good side?

First of all, millennials value quirk, pluck and individuality. They can tell when a company or brand is trying too hard to be cool, so don’t fall into that trap. Just be who you are and let your brand personality shine, and they’ll respect your company more.

Millennials love it when brands speak directly to them. Respond to them directly on social media. Personalize your communication with them as much as possible. Remember them on their birthdays, and ask them specifically about their past shopping experiences with you.

Finally, entertain them. Videos and images go over big with this group. Stir their emotions or get them laughing, and you’ll be off on the right foot.

Stay a Step Ahead on Social Media

Because they’re such a huge group, millennials are active on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. The most-used platform for your target audience will still depend on your company’s niche. And it will most likely change over time because millennials are quick to adopt the next new thing.

Do the research you need to find them on the right social media channels, and then don’t forget to actually engage with your millennials. Here are some tips for doing so:

  • Personally thank followers for positive comments and reviews.
  • Answer customer service queries, and address complaints that come through on social media.
  • Incentivize your loyal fan base with social media-only promos, VIP groups and reward programs.

Offer Them Experiences, Not Just Products

Turns out, millennials crave in-person connection, too. Around 72 percent want to invest more money in real-life events versus products. Think about how your company can branch out with event marketing. Here are some ideas to consider:

  • If you do business primarily online, think about hosting an event related to your business in a physical locale where you have a presence.
  • Invite customers to attend social gatherings, classes, art shows, networking events and concerts if you have a brick-and-mortar presence.
  • Host a live fundraiser or charitable event, such as a 5k or gala, and invite your customers to lend their support.
  • Become a sponsor of a large-scale event that aligns with your business.

Help Them Learn (and Buy) on Their Phones

Millennials aren’t afraid to give you the hand if you hit them with a hard sales pitch. They much prefer when you provide quality content that helps them learn more about your products and services or your industry expertise. This cultivates that all-important relationship that millennials want to establish before they pull out their wallets.

Determine which of your company’s solutions best meets the needs and pain points of millennials. Then, create content that explains how your company can help. Make sure there’s a clear call to action in your content so that millennials can act when they’re ready — on their own terms.

Also, make it easy for them to consume your content from their mobile devices. It helps if they can make purchases from their smartphones when that time comes. That’s where they make 40 percent of their purchases, after all.

When it comes to millennials, don’t hard sell; just relate.