Pet Owner 2.0: Your millennial veterinary clients

Pet Owner 2.0: Your millennial veterinary clients

Here’s a definitive guide to understanding and connecting with this new generation of pet owners. The information is courtesy of generational expert Cam Marston of Generational Insights, who presented his findings recently at an event hosted by Banfield Pet Hospitals. We thought his message was important enough that the entire profession should hear it.
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Feb 02, 2016
By dvm360.com staff

She looks really sweet, doesn’t she? Watch out, because the millennial mom will eat your lunch if you aren’t careful. (Getty Images)4 facts about millennials

1. They are 16 to 36 years old right now.

With consumers’ peak spending years for pet-related products and services occurring between ages 35 and 64, that means the oldest millennials have entered this phase. By 2035 all millennials will have entered this age range. They are quickly becoming the most populous group of consumers out there.

2. Parents are an influence.

This is the generation that grew up with parents as best friends rather than authoritarian overlords. Mom and Dad might not come with their adult millennial offspring to a veterinary appointment (although they just might!), but you can bet they’re in the background of the decision-making process. And vice versa—millennials have a strong influence on their parents’ decisions, especially in areas where technology advances quickly.

3. They are group-oriented but also individualistic.

There is a strong crowd orientation among millennials, but they also want to be distinct from the group. Marsten describes millennials as “the tattooed herd”—but with every member proud of his or her one-of-a-kind tattoo. In fact, one of the things that makes them bristle is referring to them as millennials. “Don’t put me in a box! I’m a unique snowflake!”

4. You can tailor your services to them.

Millennials want to know how you as a veterinarian and the services you offer will directly impact their lives with their pets. They also want to know how working with you will set them apart from the crowd. (Note that they don’t want to know how you are distinct from the crowd. It’s an important difference.) With a strong future orientation, they need to know how you’ll impact their life to come. And they need to know that you recognize how they (and their pets) are different from everybody else.

“Woe to you who scorn this consumer powerhouse,” says Generational Insights researcher Cam Marston, referring to the millennial mother. (Getty Images)Getting to know the millennial mother

1. She’s a consumer powerhouse.

Today’s moms as a whole—boomers, gen-Xers and millennials—control 80 percent of household spending. Xers and millennials in particular stalk their purchases and service providers online. They believe that the Internet is a giant megaphone, there both for them to blare their experience to the world and for the world to blare its experience (and dubious guidance) to them.

2. Her kids are her focus.

The millennial mom is busy and not perfect—and that’s OK. Perfection is not her priority. She spends lots of focused time with kids, and she sees her house as a place for family fun and entertainment, not as a status symbol.

3. She comparison-shops like nobody’s business.

The factors she looks for when making a purchasing decision are pricing (many millennials reached adulthood during the recession and are more cost-sensitive than previous generations), performance (as validated by online reviews and the experiences of friends and family), and social conscience (she wants to support a business that support causes she believes in). That last factor in particular has tremendous implications for private practices who work with shelters and rescue groups or do other animal-related advocacy work.

4. She will eat your lunch if you’re not careful.

The millennial mother as a consumer is a fully engaged, somewhat informed, highly questioning, dubious information sponge. Often she has absorbed just enough info to have an opinion. She is buying for herself, her kids and her spouse, and she is greatly influencing the purchases of her parents, her in-laws and her peers.

In Cam Marston’s words, “Woe to you to scorn this consuming machine. She’ll eat you alive.” Frankly, he continues, she’s a little crazy. “If she loves you, she’ll love you crazy. If she hates you, she’ll hate you crazy. You want her to love you crazy.”

Alien as they may seem to baby boomers and even Gen-Xers, millennials share some traits that make them wonderful veterinary clients. (Getty Images)6 ways to connect with millennials

1. Spend time with them.

Answer their questions. Become a non-stressful provider of information. Be consultative in your approach. Expertise is defined for millennials as the ability to teach well. The highest compliment they can give your veterinary practice? “They were sensitive to my needs.”

2. Emphasize individual relevance.

When you’re speaking with millennials, imagine a constant refrain rolling through their minds: “Why is this important to me?” Focus on them and their future. Be forward-looking. Don’t refer to yourself, your history or your experience—that works with baby boomers, but not millennials. We’re sounding like a broken record here, but be sure to recognize a millennial’s individuality and uniqueness. It’s incredibly important.

3. Communicate in their preferred formats.

For millennials, texting is OK—and preferred in many cases. Strive to keep your texts to 10 words or less. In addition, make sure you’re present on the primary social technologies. Millennials may be using alternative social media platforms for their own purposes, but they still look to the primary platforms (Facebook and Twitter) for information as consumers.

4. Don’t forget about the parents.

Parents may want to talk to you, too. You might be tempted to roll your eyes at the ridiculousness of the co-dependency, but one whiff of a judgmental attitude from you and they’re out of there. In fact, some organizations are finding success by embracing the bond between millennial and parent. McDonalds, for example, says, “Hey Mom, you want to come along to the job interview? Great! We’ll tell you just how great a career with our company will be for your child.” There’s no reason your practice couldn’t do the same.

5. Be the expert a millennial wants.

In a millennial’s mind, experts exist to help acknowledge the uniqueness of the individual’s situation. Experts are teachers who guide the millennial through the process, educating and explaining along the way. What’s more, experts are resources to be called upon repeatedly as needed, even long after the transaction has closed. Make sure you’re accessible in this way and you’ll build amazing loyalty among millennial clients.

6. Show some personality.

Instead of highlighting your awards of excellence and all the ways your veterinary team is professionally awesome (for instance, on your practice website), offer a peek inside your people. Describe their quirks and hobbies rather than their vast experience. This goes for you, too. Show some of your character—the real you—and don’t be afraid of humor. Have you noticed the abundance of TV commercials that are more about eliciting a laugh than describing a product? That’s because “We get you and know what you like” sells products. As Marston says, “Smart and funny is the new rock and roll.” 

Very disappointed by this insulting article

I was extremely disappointed by the poor portrayal of the millennial generation, especially mothers in your latest article series. As a veterinarian, a mom, and most terrifyingly a millennial - I agree that I have a large influence in my family's purchasing and spending habits. However, implying that mothers have just enough information to have an opinion (although not enough to be well informed) and either crazy love or crazy hate things is insulting. Considering the large percentage of recent veterinary graduates who are women that will fall in this concerning demographic, you may want to rethink your approach.