Five key steps for marketing to millennial homebuyers

Millennials are engaged, entrepreneurial and socially conscious.

“We’ve heard both,” said Tod Maffin, president of engageQ Digital, an agency specializing in social media, in a presentation on marketing to millennial homebuyers during Homeownership Education Week. “They take a lot of selfies and post them on Instagram, but this is how they connect, this is how they communicate. It’s not about self-absorption.”

He cautions against falling for myths about the so-called Me Generation. “Some are good at technology, some are not. A few want to start start-ups; most do not,” said Maffin. “Contrary to popular belief, not all of them pose in duck face.”

Brands are in a panicked state trying to figure out how to market to millennials. “Social media has become their newspaper,” he said. “They’re getting their news from Twitter.” We’re seeing a movement from print to Facebook, television to YouTube and Twitch, and traditional marketing to guerrilla events. Millennials are creating and not just consuming; likes and comments are becoming social currency.

Many realtors are still relying on traditional methods of marketing that aren’t reaching this demographic, said Maffin. “The ‘four P’ model of marketing — product, price, place and promotion — is completely out of date.”

Here are five key steps for marketing to millennials:
  • Trust: “Millennials have an innate distrust of marketers,” said Maffin. “They have been subjected to heavy doses of mega-marketing their whole life. Do you sell homes or build long-term relationships? Maybe you spend your time educating them on the process even if they’re not ready to buy.”
  • Friends: Millennials need to feel they are part of the participatory economy. Social proof is currency; they trust the opinions of their peers and even strangers. While Google searches for realtors have steadily declined over the past decade, searches for realtor reviews have skyrocketed. “If you’re not all over these review sites, if you’re not advertising on Facebook to the friends of people who like your page, they won’t recommend you — and you won’t capture this market,” said Maffin.
  • Story and voice: “To sell without selling is to be a storyteller,” said Maffin. You’re not selling a condo; you’re selling a home. Most realtors have a photo of themselves (typically in a cross-armed position) all over their marketing material. Instead, they should feature happy, young clients — and tell a story.
  • Participation: Storytelling on its own isn’t the full equation, said Maffin. You need to be “share-worthy.” In the past, people hired a realtor and let them do the marketing. Nowadays, “millennials have better channels than you do and they’re better at using those channels than you will ever be,” he said. By building a trusted connection and helping them find a home, they’ll do the marketing for you.
  • Mobility: “Please for the love of everything holy, knock it off with the PDFs,” said Maffin. If your website is not compatible on mobile phones, you’re already losing a big slice of the pie. “Learn to text. Documents should be viewable on cell phones. Turn photos into short 15-second videos,” he said. “This is not a nice thing to have, it’s mandatory.”

Show them they can