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Selling Successfully to Millennials

Don’t call them millennials. That was the first takeaway during the Marketing & Branding Lessons from the Gen Y panel at the Power Summit at the Trump Doral Resort in Miami. The young panelists – Chris Ferriter of the Miami-based distributor SoBe Promotions (asi/245603), Erin Reilly of Philadelphia-based supplier Pop! Promos (asi/45657) and Chris Sinclair of the St. Catharines, ON-based distributor Brand Blvd. (asi/145124) – addressed such topics as how buyers in their 20s and 30s use different methods of communication to purchase promo items, the types of promotions they respond to and why they’re more than a marketing soundbite.

“The term ‘millennial’ is the worst – so please don’t call us that,” said Sinclair. “The connotation is everything negative and stereotypical about my generation: that we’re lazy, self-absorbed and entitled, which is not the case with the majority of people I know who are successful and very entrepreneurial.”

Ferriter noted, though, that the way younger buyers are choosing to purchase promo items is a drastic change from what this face-to-face industry has been known for. “I have a lot of clients that I’ve never even met in person or spoken to,” he said. “They vet me and my company through social media and we communicate entirely through email, social media and texting. It’s a very efficient way to do business and it works for us and our clients.”

Reilly pointed out that while her team – which has no outside sales reps – is young, they found their footing in the industry and grew to be successful as members of both the Counselor Fastest-Growing Suppliers and Best Places to Work lists this year by being mentored by older, experienced people in the promo marketplace. “This industry,” said Reilly, who started her company while in college, and at the age of 27 was the youngest on the panel, “has so many quirks and unique ways of doing things. … I don’t know if we would have been as successful without people sharing their time and expertise with us.”

One thing all panelists agreed on was that younger buyers crave authenticity in the buying experience, promos that tell a story or use humor and quality items created just for them. “If they’re ordering a commodity item like pens, younger buyers want them almost instantaneously,” said Ferriter. “But if it’s a customized, unique product crafted with them in mind, they’ll wait and will appreciate it more.”

Toward the end of the session, Sinclair told the audience that it was important to surround themselves with younger staffers if they want to tap into the lucrative Gen Y market because they really need to understand what makes them tick. And then he leaned into Reilly and Ferriter and took a selfie.

After the session, SGR Editor Michele Bell spoke with Sinclair about how organizations can create a culture to help target the Gen Y demographic. Watch the interview below.