When you plan your marketing do you consider generational differences in consumers and how to appeal to people from different age groups? For years, the primary driver of revenue in professional photography has been Generation X and the baby boomers, people born between 1965 and 1980 and between 1946 and 1964, respectively. These generations have been looked to as the established, mature consumers who hold America’s purse strings for family purchases as well as business expenses.
But it’s time to also consider millennials, who are coming into their own as consumers. Defined as those who came of age around the turn of the 21st century, millennials are those born between 1981 and 1996, putting them at 22 to 37 years old today.
Myths about millennials have caused businesses to discount them. Stereotypes in popular culture portray millennials as broke, unemployed, lazy, living with their parents, and surrounded by participation trophies. The reality is that millennials are a much larger economic force than many people realize. And they’re much more driven. And much more family oriented. And much more prosperous. In fact, the fastest-growing group of people making $250,000 or more in the top five urban markets in the United States is millennials.
“There is an emerging affluent class, and they can afford to act on the things they want to act on,” says Jeff Fromm, president of the consumer trends consultancy FutureCast and an Imaging USA 2019 speaker. Fromm boasts 25 years of experience studying complex cultural trends, consumer behavior patterns, and the influence of emerging technology. He’s authored several books, including “Marketing to Millennials,” “Marketing to Gen Z,” and “Millennials with Kids,” and is a regular contributor to Forbes.
Fromm believes that all businesses should be working to win over millennials. After exhaustive consumer research, he developed a series of recommendations for marketing to millennials and building a pipeline of future customers that can sustain a business for years to come.
For decades, family and business structures have largely been hierarchical. The parent or boss made a decision, and tasks were passed down the line. Today, both families and businesses have become more decentralized. “Millennials expect to have a voice. Whether they have a vote or not, they expect to have a voice,” Fromm says. This applies to their interactions with employers as well as their interactions with the businesses they patronize.
The millennial life path tends to be less linear than that of previous generations. Traditionally in America over the past 50 years at least, people went to school, landed a job, got married, bought a home, and started a family—pretty much in that order. Millennials don’t feel they have to make their life journey in that sequence. They’re more likely to mix it up, start and stop, and veer off the traditional path. What does that mean for businesses like photography studios? It’s harder to predict when millennials will need certain things in their lives, so it’s more difficult to strategize marketing around life stages. The traditional customer flow from wedding client to maternity client to family portrait client may not be as relevant to this group. So think about how to appeal to millennials in a broader sense and then adjust your offerings to match what these consumers need.
Studies have shown that around 75 percent of a company’s financial performance is based on key industry norms. For example, a food company such as Kraft will derive 75 percent of its business based on the taste and price of its products. The other 25 percent comes from more amorphous perceptions and mindsets. This is where businesses have an opportunity to set themselves apart through factors like branding, innovation, and client relations.
Here’s a key takeaway for photographers: If you compete based on differentiation from your competitors, that 25 percent tends to go up. If you compete based primarily on price, it goes down. In other words, if you’re working to creatively differentiate yourself from the competition, you have more control over your business development. If your main method of gaining clients is undercutting competitors’ prices, then you have less control over your business development because you’re treating your business as a commodity rather than a unique service.
Fromm breaks out six mindsets, which he lists in order of priority, that are important to millennial-focused marketing:
With the six mindsets understood, Fromm offers five strategies to drive growth in your business.
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