It all begins with an idea.
You’ve conceptualized a product or service that your friends and family love. You believe your idea could eventually disrupt an industry. Now what?
Turning an idea into a successful startup hinges on a number of variables; mainly a product-market fit. You may love your idea, but it won’t go anywhere if there isn’t a market for it. Prove they want it.
The only way to prove this is to first understand who they are. So who is your target market, your unique tribe? If your answer doesn’t include Millennials (and there’s an actual fit), then you are missing out on the largest and most influential demographic in history.
Not only will Millennials outnumber Baby Boomers in the near future, Millennials (anyone born between 1981 and 1996 (ages 22-37 in 2018)) are the most informed, tech-savvy people on the planet. Your business may not directly meet the needs of this generation. However, if it does you will need to consider millennials as a key part of your brand and marketing strategy. And if you’re planning to raise capital, the investors you plan to pitch already know this.
Millennials are tribal to the core
Every generation is unique, and Millennials are no exception. In fact, they are the exception to nearly every traditional marketing and advertising rule, ever. So throw away your 1960’s playbook, it won’t do you much good here.
Assisted and influenced by the tribal nature of Millennials, culture is now permeated by how they consume information and connect. For example, this is why social media is at the forefront of every marketing conversation. Savvy marketers must evaluate how Millennials consume media so they can target their efforts accordingly.
Consider Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Amazon Reviews, Yelp Reviews and so on — this is tribal behavior to the core. They’re asking themselves: “Do I want this? What do my peers — even ones I don’t know — say about this?” Think of their information consumption habits as digital word-of-mouth and digital brand storytelling. As Millennials evaluate your brand story through these channels it can literally make or break your chance for long-term success.
Millennials move in packs
Embracing this fact is key to your success. Where do they shop, talk, hangout, and spend their time? What are they listening to, what events do they attend? What main channels of communication do they use? What are their preferred social media weapons of choice?
Most importantly: Does your brand communicate with the same level of passion Millennials are known for?
When you have a keen grasp on the answers to these questions you will be a step ahead when it is time to execute on targeting opportunities or pitch investors. Investors, for example, understand that your success hinges on rapidly building brand awareness within your largest target demographic, which translates to customer traction.
Measuring customer traction and Millennial footprints
No matter what industry verticals you serve, demonstrating customer traction is the gateway to financial backing from investors and venture capital firms (if you don’t plant to bootstrap your way to success).
“Customer traction is the way companies show they’ve created something the market values,” says Nathan Klarer, Senior Digital Product Manager at HypeLife Brands and former Founder/CEO of Ability Wearables, a wearable data company which raised over $1.4M in capital and was later acquired by a private equity firm.
Investors want to see people liking, buying, using, and sharing your product with others before they commit. In other words, you may think you’ve made the best surfboard on earth, but the real question is: Will surfers use it? Will surf culture embrace it?
So how can you measure and gain customer traction?
Customer traction can be demonstrated by tracking consumer data both before and after the sale. You can start tracking it long before your startup is ready to launch. There are many key performance indicators (KPIs) a startup can measure, and they will vary depending on the habits of your unique buying tribes. As you track their habits, you can turn that data into a picture of your startup’s momentum.
Indicators of customer traction, especially early on, can be found in even the smallest conversions, such as email list (or waitlist) sign ups, landing page click throughs, email blast engagement, or social media sharing stats, etc.
Millennials leave their mark at every click, swipe, hashtag, like, and share. Tracking and interpreting this data will show investors you understand your product better than anyone, and most importantly, that you understand your customers.
Build a community, culture and brand Millennials can count on
Authentically demonstrate why people want your product. Millennials are keenly sensitive, and can smell an inauthentic brand before they even click on Google search results.
Millennials also live and die by the group — remember, they are tribal in nature — so fostering a communal atmosphere and culture around your business will help you attract a large following to your brand’s community.
Strategically build your brand. Consider what people say about you when you’re not in the room — this is a part of your brand journey. So an effective brand strategy is key.
Create a where, when, and how game plan for your Millennial marketing and customer traction strategy. A healthy, diversified marketing mix is another key to your success. And if you have someone, or a team, to help you develop it – even better!
Millennials love to optimize their lifestyle and engage in powerful experiences–they live for it. Any brand that can embrace their way of being, become a part of it, and help them enhance it, will firmly set itself up for success.
Curt Cuscino is the Founder & CEO of HypeLife Brands, a progressive brand development & marketing agency helping disruptive B2C lifestyle brands engage the Millennial generation. Connect with @curtcuscino on Twitter.