How To Grow Building Product and Material Sales By Targeting Millennials

If you make a building product or material that gets sold to homeowners through a contractor or a big box retailer, it’s important to make sure sales and marketing materials are aimed toward capturing Millennials. This rising demographic represents the next wave of homebuyers and home improvers.

 

The Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University predicts:

“Millennials will form 23 million new households over the next 10 years. The share of homeowners under the age of 35 will grow to 35 percent in 2017.”

 

Millennials are very different from the generations of baby boomers or Gen Xers that preceded them. What worked for these two groups will not work for Millennials.

 

Millennials are now in their mid-30s, some with families of their own. They are highly educated, politically progressive and career driven. Millennials’ salaries have not kept up with home prices. They are saddled with enormous student loan debt and trailing incomes.

 

The disparity between income and real estate pricing is where the opportunity for building products and materials lies. How will Millennials get on the property ladder and out of their parents’ house? They will start the same way millions before them did: They will buy a fixer-upper. This in turn will fuel the home improvement market for years to come.

 

Want to sell to Millennials? You’ll have to earn their business.

 

We’ve asked a target Millennial to weigh in on each of the following recommendations.


Be helpful. Millennials are highly educated, natural-born learners; they want to make smart choices in life. Make sure your website and sales collateral materials are focused on helping them solve a problem, not pushing a product. For example, if you manufacture a tankless water heater, your website could include links to project galleries that include laundry room renovations that used tankless water heaters to maximize space.

Millennial: It could also be beneficial to show the environmental benefits for a tankless water heater. Does it save more water? Does it save on materials used? If so, try and show the resources that you are preserving.


Influence the influencers. Millennials crave authenticity. They rely on candid product reviews and recommendations from bloggers and other third-party influencers. If your PR strategy doesn’t include donating product to a high-profile project or sending it to bloggers for review, it should. According to a research report by Elite Media, 33% of Millennials rely mostly on blogs before they make a purchase, compared to fewer than 3% for TV news, magazines and books.

Millennial: One of the largest turnoffs for me is seeing a manicured story try and act like an authentic off-the-street-style interview. In an age where everyone has video cameras in their pockets, many of us are becoming better judges of whether or not something is organic or not; the non-organic material is judged differently than the stuff that is shot organically. Product reviews are a big thing for vloggers (video bloggers). Oftentimes, companies will seek out vloggers that align with who they are or what they’re selling and will send them a product to review. The vloggers’ audiences are usually daily viewers or immediately notified when a new post is out, so the exposure is usually pretty guaranteed. Vloggers can link directly to the promoted content in the video descriptions, which can be great opportunities for companies to track conversions and make the experience super tailored.


Be social. This is the most social generation in existence—90% of Millennials use two to three devices a day to seamlessly interact with brands as well as their peer-to-peer networks. They trade purchasing recommendations among social groups, share brand stories and document successes and failures.

Millennial:  Two to three devices is becoming the standard. First your alarm goes off on your phone in the morning and you see new updates from the news or any other subscription content on your homescreen. Then you go to work and you are on your laptop and check your Gmail account and see promoted email ads in your inbox. Later, when you’re home, you’re lying on the couch watching specially curated content through the Netflix app on your tablet or you see targeted ads on YouTube. Personalized content is everywhere, whether you realize it or not. A lot of times I find it overwhelming or my brain phases it out subconsciously. I feel that the surest way to break through that automatic block is by creating authentic content; content that is real and has a human element. That is the kind of content that makes me stop for a few seconds and think.


Skip the traditional ads. Less than 1% of Millennials respond to them. Most find advertising to be contrived and figure out ways to avoid it. Invest your resources in other places.

Millennial: My parents and relatives always ask me if I’ve seen a recent ad that they found to be particularly funny or cute and more times than not I probably haven’t. I stopped subscribing to cable years ago so my connection to the traditional stream of ads has really changed. Part of the reason I stopped subscribing to cable was that I couldn’t stand commercial breaks, and also the content wasn’t what I wanted to watch. I wanted to be able to watch what I wanted when I wanted. When I’m watching content online and a relevant company is advertising during a show that I really like or is related to the show that I’m watching, I feel more connected to it versus seeing an ad that’s playing on a TV channel that may or may not be directed towards me.


Be authentic. Tell your real brand story. If you have a family-owned company, infuse the story into your marketing materials. Write a brand manifesto—share who you are and why you make your product. Make it personal and real, struggles and all. Give Millennials something authentic to connect with.

Millennial: With social media and a video camera handy at nearly every part of the day, everyone has the option to share their own stories. There’s definitely a downside to being able to freely share; just because you can share it doesn’t mean you should. I believe every piece of content that you publish should either be informative or entertaining—give your audience something they can use such as a new idea or even just a laugh.


Be progressive. Millennials gravitate to companies with a strong social mission. An example of a company with a strong social mission is Warby Parker—each time a pair of glasses is purchased from their online store, Warby Parker donates a pair to someone in need. Many building products and material manufacturers consistently donate product to organizations like Habitat for Humanity or Global Leadership Adventures but do not leverage it to connect with Millennials. There is a roofing tile company that makes its product using recycled paper. This interesting and very cool fact is buried deep within their FAQs, representing a missed opportunity for the company to connect with progressive Millennials.

Millennial: Agreed. I believe that Millennials find a “cool factor” in green and humanitarian practices. I think it can feel like killing two birds with one stone; I am going to get a product that I need and I am also going to help someone or a cause at the same time. As a generation that is going to have to figure out new ways to heat our homes and fuel our cars, we are having a major shift in thinking in all product categories. I believe this shift in perspective is affecting everything we purchase.

 

So here’s my brand challenge to you: It’s not enough to just be present on social media platforms. Can your building product/materials company develop a content strategy to form a personal connection with Millennials? Do so, and you will get in on the fastest-growing market segment.

 

More Millennial Insight:

How To Sell To Millennials: Always Be Helping, Not Closing (Forbes)

Study: Millennials Are the Most Brand-Loyal Generation (Inc.com)

Growth in Remodeling Spending Projected to Peak in 2017 (JCHS)


Want to grow your sales by increasing specifications by architects and designers? Click here to download our guide: HOW ARCHITECTS AND DESIGNERS SPECIFY BUILDING AND ARCHITECTURAL PRODUCTS. If you have a question that hasn’t been answered or to find out more about how Epiphany can help you get specified, give me a call. 804.377.0106