What Seasoned Marketing Veterans Can Learn from Millennials

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A favorite topic in the business community these days is overcoming the challenges of teaching, training, and onboarding new Millennial talent. And that’s all well and good—after all, every generation has lessons to learn from those before it. But before getting too occupied with the real or perceived problems of Generation Y’s work ethic and aptitude, it’s a good idea to think about what you can learn from them.

After all, you’re going to be relying on Millennial talent whether you like it or not. They’ll make up about half the workforce population within five years. With that inevitablility, it’s far better to view Millennials not just as a problem to be overcome, but as a valuable resource to tap into.

All business leaders, and marketing veterans in particular, can find value in Millennials’ perspectives, digital nativity, and insider’s view of their generation. Wise executives and managers will take advantage of that insight and approach to improve their internal processes, the quality of their marketing, and ultimately better reach their audiences.

Targeting Millennial Audiences

Millennials consumers already control about $200 billion in annual buying power, and that figure is set to balloon to $1.4 trillion by 2020. If you want a slice of that pie, you’ll have to be able to offer them products they actually want and communicate with them in ways that resonate.

Attempting to tap into Millennial wallets without the input and guidance of an actual Millennial can be a costly oversight. Even if you find some success, your campaigns will never be as optimized as if you had guidance and refinement from some bright members of Gen Y.

Attempting to tap into Millennial wallets without the input and guidance of an actual Millennial is a costly oversight.

Sure, you have a tech-savvy executive marketing team. You have all the latest stats and demographic data about Millennials. Your latest consumer marketing executive search turned up an innovative leader that specializes in Millennial talent. That’s important. But it will never quite be able to match the hard-to-quantify perspective and small details that can only be provided by someone who’s actually living that life.

Staying Ahead of the Technology Curve

Excited to try a new initiative on a hot emerging channel or technology you just heard about?  Odds are good your Millennial staff has been hearing about it for months and already has its eyes set on the next big thing.

Millennial marketers have a strong sense for big tech trends and are plugged in to new media channels and personalities that talk about digital innovations.

Regular communication with the Millennials on your team helps keep your organization on top of trendy digital developments so your organization doesn’t miss out on a huge opportunity. They’ll also be the first to find ways to apply new technology to streamline their day-to-day work or enhance its quality—valuable processes that can often be brought to other parts of the company.

Finally, they can also help keep you from overinvesting in your “hot new thing” that’s actually already on its way to obsolescence.

Practicing Multichannel Customer Experiences with BYOD

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One big trend of the Millennial generation is the rise of the Bring-Your-Own-Device workplace. New marketing staff increasingly expect to be able to contribute to their work on multiple devices: working from home on their own laptops, replying to emails on their personal smartphones, and executing their work with the use of software tools that they find make it faster or better.

If you can’t sate the cross-device needs of the Millennial marketers in your own organization, how do you expect to deliver an even better experience to an increasingly device-fragmented audience with even greater expectations and less patience?

BYOD presents plenty of opportunities to improve productivity, but it also faces its own challenges: security, compatibility, hardware limitations, usage policies, and more. And it all needs constant updates.

Making BYOD work is no small feat. But that’s the world your staff–and more importantly, your customers–live in now. Just like your Millennial employees, your audience will increasingly demand that your brand be accessible on a wide variety of channels via any device. They expect your experience to be consistent, user friendly and compatible with the rest of the digital tools they use most.

If you can’t satisfy the cross-device needs of the Millennial marketers in your own organization, how do you expect to deliver a better experience to an increasingly device-fragmented audience with even greater expectations and less patience? Starting with an effective BYOD plan is a great way to learn important lessons to develop a strategy for a customer-facing counterpart.

Sensitive B.S. Detectors

Justified or not, most Millennials feel that the world they’ve grown up in is rife with empty promises, unfulfilled expectations, and people and companies looking for ways to take advantage of them.

As such, they’ve developed a strong sensitivity to dishonesty and insincerity. And empowered by social media, they’re more willing than anyone to call it out.

You can use this to your advantage, both to refine your marketing messages and improve workplace activities. Their skeptical minds, not yet saturated with your corporate 

Millennials have developed a strong sensitivity to dishonesty and insincerity.

culture’s Kool-Aid, can point out obvious fallacies or overlooked problems that get overlooked by more experienced marketers who take it all as just a matter of course.

Encourage your younger marketers to speak up when they encounter pulpy “corporate speak” that brings your organization nowhere and to point out when your messaging strays from the “authentic” into “no one’s going to buy that” territory.

Considering Millennial “Reverse Mentoring”

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Mentoring is typically seen as a way for a more experienced leader to share their guidance and expertise with a younger professional to mold them into a more effective employee. But that system can be easily reversed for great success.

Here’s what Carolyn Baird, Global Research Leader at IBM, shared with us about her experience with reverse mentoring when researching Millennial habits in the workplace:

Watch the full video on Millennials in the Workplace here.

Of particular interest is her anecdote that executives she speaks with are often reluctant to formally reach out to their Millennial staff for advice or education because “then people will know I don’t know.”

Consciously or otherwise, many marketing executives miss out on learning opportunities when they’re too proud to admit (or are altogether unaware) they need help. That’s a perspective that needs to be fixed if you hope to keep your brand relevant over the next decade. If that’s a problem for your organization, it’s probably time for a new consumer marketing executive search to bring some more receptive minds into the ranks of your leadership.

Need more convincing? Other brands have experimented with reverse Millennial mentoring to great success. Here’s just a few:

  • GE uses reverse mentoring to help its senior management catch up on technology. “GE is a 130-year-old company, and for most of [the leadership], technology is not a core competency — they use about 5% of the technology offered,” says Venki Rao, CIO of General Electric’s Digital Energy.
  • Cisco’s reverse mentoring program not only brings its management up-to-speed on Millennial perspectives; it also improves the company’s diversity and inclusion. “The mentee and the mentor share best practices, tap into each others’ expertise and support each other,” reported Executive Communications Manager Laura Earle.
  • Kona Ice hires young, creative talent to educate older franchisees about social media and online marketing through video tutorials and courses at the company’s annual convention. CEO Tony Lamb says he goes out of his way to find the “the best and brightest of the twentysomething crowd” to keep franchise owners modern and uses his leadership and authority to mediate between the two groups.

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