Stevie Carpenter is an experienced writer and editor with over 10 years of experience. Passionate about marketing and developing profitable side hustles, Stevie specializes in writing about business and entrepreneur-related topics.
6 min. read
Updated October 25, 2023
Targeting is a core concern for small businesses. Some are just getting started. Trying to figure out who they are and what their audiences should look like. Others are somewhat established but struggling to gain ground with so many rivals crowding the market. While there are many factors worth addressing (brand identity, content marketing, value propositions, etc.), targeting a specific audience underpins them all. If you’re not addressing the right people, you’re wasting your time.
So who are the right people? This will vary somewhat, naturally, depending on the products and/or services you offer. But there’s an audience segment that every small business (at least, those that don’t focus on age-related products like stairlifts) should target: young people. Age has wide-reaching implications that make it just as significant as income or location — if not more significant.
But what makes young people so important? Well, they’re the future, but that basic observation lacks compelling detail. In this article, we’re going to make a compelling case for making younger consumers priority targets, setting out the three key reasons why every small business should focus on them. Let’s get started.
The older you get, the more firmly you become set in your ways. The views and convictions you hold wear grooves in your mind until they’re all but impossible to dislodge. You get cynical, too. You’ve heard all the sales pitches and lofty claims before, and you’ve developed a snap reaction of disbelief. Try to explain to a grizzled adult why your brand’s core values are worthwhile. You’ll likely come across as a naive fool.
Younger people, though, are far more open-minded. Even if they come across as confident in their views, that doesn’t reflect reality. They’re growing, changing, and adapting how they see the world. Note that they’re far more willing than older people to try new things and look for guidance through new or unconventional means. Had it not been for young people, social media would never have become the behemoth it is today (more on this later).
Older people cling to the notion of listening to their elders and getting advice through traditional channels. Younger people listen to influencers and brands alike, going to wherever has the most buzz at any given time. Older people learn through set systems, turning to formal academia and textbooks. Younger people know how to exploit the power of the internet. They’ve flocked to the online learning platforms that have made education so much cheaper and more accessible.
In short, you can persuade them that your product or service is uniquely positioned to change the game. You can also focus on your brand mission, nonprofit efforts, the people behind your business, and even the way you make your products or services. For younger consumers, you not only have a greater opportunity to change their minds but can focus on things outside of your sales to do it.
We touched upon how younger people embraced social media, and that remains the case today. In fact, prospective employers may find it odd when job candidates don’t have rich social media histories. This may not be great for society as a whole, but it’s great for marketers.
Small businesses that choose to target younger people can choose from a range of viable digital channels for their promotional efforts. They can email them, of course (email hasn’t gone anywhere), but they can also advertise to them through social media ads, contact them directly through social media messages, run entertaining social accounts, and even reach them through forum sites like Reddit.
This means you have options. If you happen to hire someone who knows a lot about Snapchat, you can actually draw upon that expertise in a productive way. And if a campaign on one channel flops, you can start fresh on a different channel without so much baggage. Ultimately, you cast a broader net without broadening your target audience.
You also get to take advantage of the sheer efficiency of cross-posting. Given that content for social media often overlap, you can devise an advertising campaign that goes active on several social media channels at the same time. There are software tools (like Agorapulse, for instance) that make it relatively straightforward to queue up posts for multiple channels. You can start by writing a blog post, condense it for a Facebook post, then condense it further to suit Twitter and Instagram. This provides a tremendous return on your investment.
There may be billions of people in the world, but there are only so many people in your target audience at a given time. Bringing in new customers to replace those dissatisfied with your service is time-consuming and expensive. It’s far better and more sustainable to retain the customers you already have. In short, every business should aim to bring in long-term customers.
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We talked about how older people are stuck in their ways when it comes to the brands they trust. They’re also far less valuable long-term. It may be tempting to target an older audience as they tend to have more disposable income. But, remember that younger people have years of spending ahead of them, and one loyal customer can return remarkable value.
Additionally, you must factor in the prospect of winning over brand evangelists. Anyone can be a brand evangelist, of course, but an older person in that position won’t have as many avenues to have their voice heard (unless they happen to be a luminous industry figurehead, which is unlikely). A younger person, on the other hand, is more likely to shout about their new favorite brand across social media. Their perspective will be seen as more valuable by many of their peers who aren’t yet convinced that age brings grand wisdom.
Wrapping up, let’s recap the three core points we’ve covered in this piece. Younger consumers are more open to changing their minds when it comes to the perspectives they hold and the brands they buy from. This empowers small businesses to compete on relatively even ground with much larger and better-established brands.
They’re also easier to reach because they use so many social media platforms and use their smartphones so heavily. There’s even the option of advertising through popular video-streaming platforms like YouTube and Twitch. Spreading promotional content throughout social media is efficient and effective, making it extremely easy to justify. Lastly, they’re simply more lucrative long-term investments, with years of spending ahead of them and opinions that their peers will listen to.
Before you pivot your audience to the younger generation, be sure to run through your current messaging and business model. Are you already set up to pursue younger customers? What changes will you need to make to compete?
Start with a market analysis, explore the needs and wants of this younger generation, and review how this adjustment could affect your business. Return to your business plan and forecasts and see what shifting your focus could do to sales and expenses, and if there’s an opportunity to dip your toes in this market to start. This is a vital, long-term customer segment to pursue. Just keep in mind that in order to do connect with a younger audience successfully, you need to do your research.