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Marketing to Gen Z: What Small Business Owners Need to Know

posted by Michael Epps Utley Michael Epps Utley
Marketing to Gen Z What Small Business Owners Need to Know

Do you want to sell products or services to Gen Z consumers (those born between 1997 and 2012)?

You better be prepared to play by THEIR rules.

As people in Gen Z emerge as an economic power, more and more businesses are trying to unlock the secrets of getting them to buy.

Even though the last people born in Gen Z haven’t yet reached adulthood, they already have a significant influence in the marketplace. A 2021 report from Bloomberg estimated the disposable income of people in Gen Z at $360 million. However, coming of age in an era of relative financial instability, people in this generation tend to be savers, not spenders.

Appealing to this saving-first group may force you to completely rethink your marketing plan.

Consumers in Gen Z aren’t willing to meet businesses where they’re at. They expect companies to come to them.

This article explains what you must know to market effectively to people in Gen Z.

The Foundation for Gen Z Marketing: Support Their Goals and Identities

To get consumers in this segment to become aware of—and attracted to—your brand, you must demonstrate its worth. You have to meet Gen Z’s desire to be understood and for their values to be supported.

Gen Z is the most diverse U.S. population segment in history. According to a report from the Pew Research Center, as of 2018, 48 percent of Gen Z is non-white. Millennials, by contrast, are 39 percent non-white, and for Gen X, it’s 30 percent. The level of diversity increases when you take into account sexual identity. According to a Gallup poll, 20.8 percent of Gen Zers identify as LGBTQ.

Their diversity significantly affects their attitudes toward equality and social justice. They make a point of spending their money on brands that share and support their views. According to a WP Engine report on generational influence, almost three out of four people in Gen Z say they’re more likely to buy from brands that contribute to social causes and actively support what they believe in. It’s why many companies publicly contribute to charitable and political organizations and use diverse people in their marketing.

How to Update Your Marketing to Attract Gen Z Consumers

To compel Gen Zers to engage with your brand, you must tailor your outreach to their perspectives, media preferences, and communication styles.

Understand and Incorporate Gen Z Perspectives

Before attempting to engage the Gen Z audience with your marketing and communication efforts, you must ask yourself: What do we want to say to Gen Zers, and how does it link to what’s important to them?

An excellent first step is to create new marketing personas that reflect this audience’s thoughts, feelings, and preferences. Vet the personas with people in the segment to ensure they are complete and accurate.

Communicate Empathetically and Act Intentionally

Gen Z has always lived with social media and its relentless stream of fake news and false claims. This has taught people in it to look for discrepancies between what brands say and what they do.

If brands claim to have a moral purpose that doesn’t seem accurate, younger people will see through it. It demonstrates a complete lack of honesty and empathy. It is comparable to a person talking at you versus talking with you.

If you don’t want to turn off Gen Z prospects, avoid platitudes and lip-service messages. They’re not attracted to branded slogans. They seek out real action and will either avoid you or push back if they sense something is off.

Leverage Storytelling Through Video

People in Gen Z grew up with viral videos delivered through social media. They’re used to connecting with their friends through video chats, and they’re more likely to view their news online than read it.

Gen Z’s preference for video media consumption also applies to their product, service, and brand research. A 2020 study commissioned by Cloudinary found 70 percent of people in Gen Z say product videos and photos are beneficial when making purchasing decisions. This makes it critical to focus heavily on visual content for young audiences. It’s also essential to develop video content for channels young people prefer, like TikTok and YouTube, rather than wasting time on those their older siblings, parents, and grandparents enjoy, like Facebook or Instagram.

It can be challenging to create sales-oriented content for TikTok. Here are some tips that can help you get it right.

  • Keep content snappy. People on TikTok are used to scrolling past videos that don’t immediately grab their attention. Ensure the spoken words launch within the first three seconds and keep things friendly and informal.

  • Use contemporary music. Leverage it to create a fun, engaging vibe instantly.

  • Avoid slick promotional pitches. Instead, develop videos featuring one-on-one conversations where people in the audience feel welcomed. Consumers in Gen Z don’t want to be sold to. They want a peak behind the scenes, learn about your company culture and values, and feel like they’re part of your family.

  • Aim for raw and real over polished productions. The younger generation prefers imperfect honesty over slick presentations. Bottom line: Honesty matters a LOT.

Many companies struggle with that final point about honesty and transparency. Brands have traditionally strived to look their best and avoided putting out less-than-flattering content. However, marketers must leave their comfort zones to appeal to Gen Z’s need for realness.

Consider Visual Formats Beyond Video

Small businesses targeting people in Gen Z can also engage with them through other types of visual content, including animations. Select the image or graphic type that best supports your message or story. When communicating with Gen Z, find ways to simplify the complex. The more you can present things impactfully, the better they will connect with people in Gen Z.

Rethink Influencer Marketing

Millennials created the online influencer category. However, people in Generation Z generally don’t embrace the concept of pay-for-play product endorsements from celebrities and pitch people made famous by the internet.

Research from CRM Essentials shows that 37 percent of consumers overall trust influencers above brands. People in Gen Z and Millennials are twice as likely to do this compared with Boomers. Overall, one in three people of Gen Z relies on social media influencers to help them discover brands and products.

What’s important to know is that Gen Z is even more likely to identify with—and be influenced by—people they can personally relate to rather than distant social media celebrities. This category can include fellow content creators and everyday consumers who share information about brands in an organic, authentic way. They like people who actively build communities around genuine shared interests.

The days of sponsored content as the ultimate execution of influencer marketing are rapidly fading with the rise of Gen Z. More sophisticated next-gen influencers and content creators know that real brand value comes from real long-term relationships.

To build relationships, marketers must rethink the concept of influencers. Content must come from people who can persuade consumers to take action. Those are savvy people who keep their audience’s best interests at heart while promoting a brand.

Here are some serious influencer red flags to look out for:

  • Influencers who make it evident they prioritize the financial over the value exchange. If the first thing an influencer asks about is budget, move on. It makes it clear their priorities aren’t aligned with your business or consumers.

  • Influencers who demonstrate a lack of interest in your offerings. Prospective influencers must ask for access to your services or samples of your products. If they don’t, it’s a clear sign they’re more concerned with growing their audience than creating an authentic and believable endorsement for you.

  • Influencers who don’t ask about your goals. To create content that benefits your brand, influencers must completely understand what you want to achieve through your partnership.

To get people in Gen Z to engage with your influencer content, they must be willing to build the promotions from the ground up to specifications and adeptly present messages in informative and entertaining ways.

Marketing to Gen Z: The Final Word

Because of the times they grew up in, people in Gen Z aren’t afraid to show who they are, explain what they believe in, or advocate for the changes they expect to see. To get them to pay attention to your brand, you must earn their awareness on their terms. Leverage the tips in this guide to find novel and authentic ways to connect with Gen Zers.

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