If you are reading this article and are involved in school administration, leadership, or admissions and marketing, it is likely you are a Gen Xer or (gasp!) a Baby Boomer.
Are you getting a little nauseated from hearing so much about Millennials. It’s as if they are a new species of human beings that we need to add to our taxonomy.
Yet, I am compelled to keep digging into research and insights about understanding this latest generation of adults. Aren’t you?
The reality is we have never had a generation of people fully brought up in the “Age of the Internet”. We still don't know all the implications of this age of information and the unique ways that Millennials interact within our churches, businesses, schools, and families. However, we do know that things will never revert back to the "good old days".
I encourage you to press forward and keep gathering data and learning about Millennials. While doing so, I think it is important to hold all this information loosely and develop your own instincts about your particular community regarding Millennials. Indeed, Millennials are created in God’s image as are all generations of people. Generalizations will be made and we need to handle them with care.
Millennial Parents Are Different
In many ways, Millennials are changing the world. For the Millennial parent, raising a child is no exception.
History has documented the different parenting styles that every generation has to offer: the adult-centric family structure of the ‘50s and ‘60s, the emergence of working moms in the ‘70s and ‘80s, the authoritative style of the ‘90s. Now, the moms and dads we encounter on a regular basis are redefining the ways they connect with their kids and fulfill their responsibilities as providers, first teachers, and lifetime advisers.
In defining the manner in which they parent, these 21 to 40 year-olds have also defined their own purchasing behavior. And for a private school, it is vital that this behavior is fully understood. After all, with over 105 million of them in the market today, Millennials now hold the most purchasing power as compared to any other generation.
The last decade has been marked with breakthroughs and transformations in technology and so reaching out to those who hold the decision-making power has definitely altered as well.
So how do you make sure your school has a good grasp of what Millennial parents want before you reach out to them? Here are five Millennial parent traits you should consider.
Millennial parents are never unplugged
The parents of today are experts in technology.
They are able to quickly and effectively adapt to change.They rely on the internet and social media to find information, purchase goods and services, and communicate with friends and family, as well as brands.
Growing up as modern media was unfolding, Millennials have had an attachment to technological advancements they discovered as they were developing. They have literally grown up as technology has grown up. As a result, they are comfortable with websites, social media platforms, and a wide variety of apps. They don’t know what life was like “before technology”.
With the help of their smartphones, Millennial parents have access to endless answers — and that includes answers to questions they might have before making their buying decision. In fact, 85% of Millennial parents consult with what they see online before purchasing anything, either for themselves or their families.
The buyer’s journey for a Millennial parent began long before they visit campus for a tour. It is probable that they already have most of their questions about your school answered before you meet them. They’ve learned about your school through the school website, online reviews, social media channels, and from recommendations from friends and family.
Have you positioned your school’s online presence to be attractive to Millennial parents?
Millennial parents are highly connected
The parents of today live in hyperconnectivity. They spend an average of 17.4 hours per week on their social platforms. Is this fact not startling? It is for me. I cringe at the idea of spending that much time online myself but especially when I think about my children’s online activity. I wonder if this data is true for private and homeschooling parents. Unfortunately, I don’t know of any research offering insights into this particular group of parents.
For Millennial parents, much of their time is spent interacting and sharing with their children. And this connection and interaction extends outside the immediate family-and-friends circle and into the world. Millennial moms are said to be constantly taking in reviews, looking for coupons, and getting opinions of other moms they trust.
With this in mind, your school needs to be favorable, handling multiple online platforms, and dedicated to maintaining an excellent digital reputation. Does that seem like a daunting task for your school to do with limited staff, time, and money? That is no excuse to ignore this reality. We recommend that you start with a simple, first step of mastering one or two social media platforms, rather than taking them all on at once. It’s best to start building an active online community on Facebook and Instagram.
Millennial parents welcome open dialogue and collaboration
Versatile and proactive, Millennials give much value to their social reality. They like to share their opinions on a wide array of topics and are irked by the idea of misinformation and passivity.
Their love of their community and of collaboration shows that Millennials influence each other to a great extent. They put huge value on the opinions of their friends and family when making decisions. However, they are also open to discussing their options and pooling feedback from sources they deem reliable.
Adweek states that 51% of Millennial moms “value recommendations from other Millennial moms, compared to only 35% of them valuing the recommendation of an ‘expert’,” so the dependability of these sources are based on their opinions and values more than rigid, technical metrics.
When reaching out to Millennial parents, schools should avoid sounding authoritarian.
For example, a young mother with a kindergartner doesn’t appreciate a blog post telling her how to be a better parent. What does she really desire?
Millennial moms desire encouragement and empathy. These young moms know what to do, as they have probably read and watched more parenting articles, blogs, podcasts, and videos than most Gen X moms ever did. It is not more information they need, it’s encouragement.
Position your school as an online venue for thought leadership, support, and two way communication. Create content that is compelling and interactive, helpful and supportive in their knowledge seeking and decision making.
Millennial parents are stylish
The fact that Millennial parents are stylish does not always mean that they are fashionable. Instead, they value aesthetics and are attracted to what they find visually attractive.
It is also important to note that Millennial parents start families when they are older compared to parents of previous generations. A study by Goldman-Sachs states that first-time mothers are “closer to 30 than ever before, and the average is climbing slightly every year.”
Combine this with the fact that most of them are college graduates, and you are presented with a group of savvy, well-informed and well-aware individuals who have already crafted a particular type of style that works for them.
While this proves that sending a message — from your choice of website fonts and colors, to the way you word your copy and call to action buttons — it is important to note that millennial parents are most likely to respond when you creatively show them that you care. Consider their style and train of thought when creating your school website or print collateral.
Millennial parents love authenticity
Millennial moms aim for perfection; Millennial dads aim to be present.
It has been established that change abounds, and parental roles are part of this. While moms think they must be able to perform multiple duties that are fulfilling to both the family and to themselves, dads feel that they must be more hands-on with the children instead of focusing only one being the sole provider of the family.
This shift, among other factors, has Millennials thinking that advertisers do not recognize their needs and don't understand them as parents. This explains their growing distrust in traditional media and marketing, and their increasing dependence on each other.
Millennial parents are said to be often a misjudged market, which is why they support entities that know how to talk to them.
So how can private schools best reach and attract this new generation of parents?
Remain genuine. Be authentic. Millennial parents need to see that you recognize their shifting priorities and acknowledge their parenting decisions.
Provide solutions that support the idea that you, as their partner in education, can ease the friction and anxieties of being a parent. Bring to the table resources that will help them achieve their goals as moms and dads of today.
Ultimately, Millennial parents are already a huge part of your school’s community. Figuring out their personalities and values will not only help increase enrollment. It will also most definitely help your school thrive.