“If I hear one more thing about millennials….” an attendee quipped to colleagues, trailing off and shaking his head between sessions at LinkedIn’s Finance Connect conference earlier this month.
There’s a good reason money managers and marketers were avidly discussing this burgeoning group of teens to 30-somethings: It’s where the money is, and it’s where it will be in the future.
Millennials represent 22 percent of the world’s affluent, one exec from Citi said, and hold even bigger potential over their lifetimes if for no other reason than because of coming inheritances.
“There is going to be a massive intergenerational wealth transfer, and millennials are going to be the beneficiary,” Marty Willis, Chief Marketing Officer, OppenheimerFunds, added.
Millennials also have new behaviors that present special challenges for financial marketers. Luckily for finance content marketers, LinkedIn’s conference provided plenty of tips for engaging this valuable audience.
1. Be social
Saying a company needs a presence in social media might sound like saying they need phones and electricity. D’uh.
But financial firms are conservative and cautious by nature, and have only recently started to aggressively staff departments so they can quickly answer questions and join in the social stream, ending a frustrated era when it took days to approve and send a tweet.
In many finance companies, social responsiveness is now being championed by the c-suite. Bank of New York Mellon CEO Gerald Hassell and John Thiel, Head of Merrill Lynch Wealth Management, both discussed deeply involved in crafting messages through social and digital channels.
“The instantaneous feedback is fantastic,” Hassel said.
A few firms, including Wells Fargo, Transamerica and TD Bank have moved beyond Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, posting on Tumblr, Vine, Snapchat and Pinterest to capture the interest of young potential customers.
2. Don’t be afraid to be traditional
While moving to digital channels, banks, investment and insurance companies still need face-to-face communication.
One fifth of millennials believe “all their financial information will come from social networks in the future,” according to Donna Sabino, SVP, Ipsos, who was quoting a study. That means four-fifths do not.
And while 25 percent of millennials never go into a branch, 50 percent regularly do, said Leslie Gillin, Managing Director and Chief Marketing Officer, Citi Global. “It’s important not to think that because someone is a certain age, they want it all [via] technology,” she said.
3. Educate and empower
“Millennials are highly empowered to make decisions, but skeptical and less attached,” Richard Kirshenbaum, CEO, NSG/SWAT, said.
Sabino added that 49 percent want to “make decisions on their own” after doing their own research.
LinkedIn News Editor, Maya Pope-Chappell, meanwhile, quoted another survey that found 85 percent “are financially illiterate.”
Those data points indicate a great opportunity to educate and empower millennials through content.
Someone may be starting a job with their first opportunity to sign up for a 401(k) but “really have no idea why they would want to do this,” Ann Glover, CMO, Voya Financial, explained. She suggested firms give advice in “today’s language” that makes the process “painless and better” then congratulate them for signing up.
“If you’re going to talk to them, listen to them first, and deliver,” Sabino said. “You will establish brand loyalty, introduce them and be in control of your own narrative with these customers, and that is a really long lifetime value.”
4. Be authentic
Banks can have a personality in their media. They can appeal to consumers in younger age ranges without seeming artificial, the experts said.
TD Bank marketing officer Theresa McLaughlin gave the example of how TD not only talked about customer rewards but actually dolled out cash and gifts through ATM machines, launching a viral phenomenon.
“We looked through all the comments, and millennials said, ‘This is a brand I want to associated with,'” McLaughlin said. “We’re not going to be cool, we’re not GoPro, but [they said] this is a brand I want to be associated with.”