It’s a sad but true fact that there’s a generational wealth gap in this country. Because of this, we see fewer millennials in the home-buying market than we’d hoped for. “The absence of millennial homebuyers is a big story for the economy, because housing sales and construction are big drivers of jobs,” claims Jeff Reeves in USA TODAY.
“But it’s also an equally big story for the personal finances of millennials, who are missing out on the real estate wealth that bolstered the balance sheets of previous generations,” he concludes. Homebuying statistics bear this out, finding that millennials make up only 35 percent of buyers, which is down from 40 percent in the mid-2000s.
So, how do you reach this reluctant and somewhat broke generation? And why should you want to?
It’s about the funnel
Connecting with someone who represents future business is something many agents feel is a waste of time. It’s critical, however, if you hope to remain in business. The sales funnel even includes a spot just for these prospects – right there at the top.
With millennials who are merely deferring, and not postponing homeownership indefinitely, there’s a huge pool of potential first-time buyers with which to stock the funnel.
Get to know them first
Every writer is admonished to “know your audience” before putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. This holds true for marketers as well. Knowing exactly who your audience is and what problems and questions they may have helps you offer a more valuable solution. So, let’s get to know the millennial generation a bit better.
It’s a mistake to assume that all members of any generation are alike, but there have been enough studies performed to make some generalizations. For instance, an Ipsos survey finds that 90 percent of Millennials use smartphones and 93 percent use the Internet.
Which is why millennials are also known as “digital natives.” This makes sense when we understand that Millennials are the first generation to grow up with the Internet and most of today’s modern technology. How they use technology is vastly different, however, from previous generations and may be surprising.
For instance, the Ipsos study finds that although Facebook usage among millennials is high, more than one fourth of them post less than one time a week and 11 percent of millennials don’t even have a Facebook account. More than half of those surveyed don’t use Snapchat and nearly 40 percent eschew the use of Twitter. So, what should we take away from these statistics?
It’s a huge generation, the members of which are hardly identical and many of the stereotypes are just downright wrong. Millennials, overall, crave privacy. In fact, those that don’t use social media platforms say that privacy is the reason.
They are also ad-averse and nearly 67 percent of millennials use ad blockers while online. Forty-three percent of those that use the blockers do so to avoid what they term “intrusive” ads.
When shopping or researching online (NAR finds that 94 percent of millennials use the Internet when searching for a home and an agent), this generation despises ads or pop-ups that block them from content. They will, however, accept advertising when it is relevant and targeted to their needs, as long as it isn’t overly salesy.
How to reach them
When shopping for anything, from the best place to dine out to the best neighborhood in which to buy a home, millennials, by and large, depend on referrals from friends. They will, however, do their own research, so expect them to Google your name to learn more about you.
Before targeting this huge generation of future homebuyers, ensure that your online presence is solid. This process begins with your website. Since this group is likely to be viewing your site on a mobile device, ensure that it’s optimized for mobile and offers easy navigation, social share buttons and access to your IDX near the top of the page.
The aforementioned NAR study finds that Millennials want photos of listings first, and property information second. Virtual tours are not as important to them as they are to baby boomers (only 36 percent of the former find virtual tours valuable). While you can’t control how all of the area’s listings appear in your IDX, you can and should include a page on your site that showcases your listings, with vibrant, compelling photos and lots of valuable information about each.
Don’t neglect your blog. Posts that offer relevant content that is helpful for first-time buyers is vital. “[Millennials] want the inside scoop, not the things we can Google,” Jennifer C. Chan tells Realtor Magazine’s Lee Davenport.
Finally, build trust by featuring client testimonials prominently on your site and sprinkled throughout. Social proof is important to this generation so share the testimonials on social media as well.
Speaking of social media
Now that your site is up to snuff, it’s time to use social media to drive millennial homebuyers to it. While agents use the platforms primarily to communicate, young homebuyers use it to perform research as well. Your presence on Facebook is a must and, to a lesser degree, Instagram. Being active on Twitter is far less important but to engage female millennials, create a presence on Pinterest.
To engage these young social media-ites, resist the urge to promote your listings. Instead, concentrate on highlighting the neighborhoods. Become an expert on every one of your listings’ communities by getting to know the nearby restaurants, bike trails, parks, music venues and anything else that will compel this generation to want to live there. Then, share the information on social media.
Once you get millennial leads, it’s time to kick in an email campaign. And, no, millennials don’t consider email marketing “spammy,” if done right. In fact, the Principle Financial Group commissioned a study of millennial Internet users and found that almost half preferred to communicate with businesses by email. Twenty-eight percent chose in-person communication and only 6 percent want to deal with businesses via social media.
“The key is to keep the greetings personal, the content snappy and relevant, and to allow for feedback from consumers . . .” advises geomarketing.com’s Lauryn Chamberlain. “Relevant email marketing is an effective way to capture interest,” she concludes.
Convert the Millennial lead
The process of converting online leads successfully is quite similar across all generations:
- Respond immediately to leads. The difference when dealing with millennials, however, is in the method you choose to communicate. Instead of calling, text them or use email. Then, ask them for their preferred method of communication.
- Use a drip email campaign to nurture the leads who represent future business. Provide them with useful information, such as how they can afford a home with a low down payment mortgage.
- Offer and promote the digitized services you offer, such as DocuSign and any others that feed this generation’s need for speed and convenience.
Just as baby boomers cringe at being called “seniors,” many in the younger generation find the label “millennial” distasteful. Can you blame them? It’s loaded with negative connotations, such as laziness, entitled and more. They are, as far as you are concerned, first-time homebuyers who have worked hard to get to the point of buying a home. Just like all other real estate newbies, they’re frightened of the process and the prospect of owning a home. They are looking for an agent to guide them through it – an agent who is comfortable with transparency and flexibility.
In the end, millennials, at least those that want to buy a home, have the same end goals as you did when you purchased your first. Make the process transparent, convenient and flexible and you’ll be stuffing the funnel with millennial leads in no time.