For those of us of a certain age, the non-stop media psychoanalysis of this demographic evokes strong emotions, including bewilderment, dismissiveness, ridicule, and if we are being honest, envy.
The root of these reactions lies in the fact that Millennials have expectations and standards which differ from those previously set by Baby Boomers and, to a strong degree, Generation Xers.
So why do Millennials have such different expectations? And what does it mean for investment management marketing to Millennials?
Millennials are "Digital Natives"
In other words, Millennials are the only generation for which internet-based technologies are not something to which they have had to adapt.
This is extremely important to understand because, more than any previous generation, their awareness about the world around them is unparalleled. Thanks to digital technology, Millennials have always had access to limitless information about… well, everything.
As a result, they know what’s out there, have a better understanding of their options, and are generally much better informed about the myriad of choices that are available than most of us were at their age.
And despite the caricature of the typical Millennial, nose buried in their phone, oblivious to the world around them, the fact is that while Millennials have embraced new digital platforms (the internet, mobile technology, social media) to construct their personal networks of friends, colleagues and affinity groups, they also maintain a strong prioritization of offline experiences as well… that can then be shared online.
To an important degree, millennial digital social networks are just as real as those in the physical world. As such, the social networks are one of the most important conduits through which they send and receive information. In other words, the digital isn’t an adjunct – it is a pillar.
Insofar as investment management marketing is concerned, what this means is that asset managers will have to better understand where these new core buyer personas are spending their time online, and develop a digital marketing strategy which delivers content that is relevant and helpful.
Millennials expect to access the information they want, where they want it, when they want it, and in the formats they desire. They assume the information that’s important to them will either find them, or will be easily accessed via a Google search.
So if an investment manager isn't using social networks to connect, amplify, and magnify their content creation efforts, if they aren't optimizing their content for search, they will increasingly be seen as out of touch - literally and figuratively.
Millennials are about to become the largest generation in the workforce
Here’s why this matters: In 2016, Millennials will comprise the largest segment of the American workforce.
Whether we like it or not, the implications are clear: Millennial preferences, proclivities, and habits, particularly in how they access information and establish relationships online, will quickly become standard.
Think about it this way: Boomers and Gen Xers aren’t getting younger. And as the Millennial share of the workplace grows, investment management marketers will have to approach their craft in ways that appeal to this emerging majority.
On the institutional side, this means as Millennials climb the ranks in consulting firms and those entities requiring institutional investing services, what they want is going to have to be what asset managers deliver.
For marketing purposes, that means generating consistent, relevant content that helps them in their professional lives.
The same goes for wealth managers and high-net worth advisors managing private client accounts.
Plainly put, this means that content marketing, social media marketing, and Inbound Marketing for investment management firms must become the norm, sooner rather than later.
Stick to the old ways, and the Millennial “worker bees” responsible for running the initial screens for manager selection will wonder: if you don’t “get” the marketing side of the equation, what else about your business don’t you get?
Those looking for investment and portfolio advice on the private side will wonder the same thing.
Investment management marketing to Millennials requires an approach that places a premium on listening over interruption; on conversations rather than lectures.
Workplace values are extremely important to Millennials.
According to a survey of Millennials conducted by Deloitte, 70% said the companies they work for share their values. Looked at from a different perspective, we can infer that Millennials seek out companies that share their values at the outset - it's not coincidence.
And when asked, “What are the most important values a business should follow if it is to have long-term success?” a combined 70% said that businesses should put employees first, have a solid foundation of trust and integrity, and have a customer care focus.
Among millennials that are department heads and higher, 64% said their personal values & morals were “very influential” when making decisions at work.
It's not a stretch to say that this focus on ethics and shared values would extend to firms with which they would like their company to do business.
An alternate way of thinking about this: Millennials don’t want a client-vendor relationship; they would prefer a partnership of equals working towards shared goals and for mutual benefit.
Generating marketing content that is helpful and relevant is a clear demonstration that an investment manager doesn’t consider itself a hired gun. Content marketing can help to show the myriad of ways in which a firm helps its clients, adding value beyond portfolio returns.
Conversely, marketing messages that emphasize investment performance and are highly self-promotional will increasingly fall on deaf ears.
Lest we resort to stereotypes, the Deloitte study also notes (page 14):
“Millennials are not naive, though. While they certainly wish to see a greater focus on the needs of the individual, whether employees or those who use their products and services, they simultaneously demonstrate an appreciation of business fundamentals. This generation is acutely aware of the impact of the Great Recession and closely attuned to changing economic conditions… They, therefore, recognize the importance of ensuring the long-term success of a business and its ability to support and create jobs.”
So while Millennials would prefer to do business with those firms whose values and philosophies are most closely aligned with their own, they are sufficiently practical to know how the world really works.
I’m acutely aware of the pitfalls of making generalizations about a cohort comprised of tens of millions of people. I’m also aware that I’ve chosen to focus on a narrow slice of the Millennial mindset, as I see it.
To really get a top-line, demographical understanding of Millennial priorities and what makes them tick, Pew Research has a number of interesting studies. I also recommend reading the Deloitte study I referenced above.
At the end of the say, it is important to note that Millennials have entered the workforce in massive numbers, and it is foolish to think they won’t have a significant impact on how the firms they work for do business.
Digital marketing plays to these developing trends. The Millennial fluency with a broad swath of digital platforms, combined with their preference for relevant content that’s conveniently accessed and created in the formats they prefer dovetails exactly with everything that Inbound Marketing for investment managers offers.