By Miki Velemirovich

Millennials have grown to be one of the most important demographics for marketers to understand. Millennials currently make up the largest generation in history, and they represent the fastest-growing segment of small business owners (SBOs) in North America. They are poised to become the largest group of B2B decision-makers by 2025. But as the first generation to grow up in the new digital age, they remain misunderstood.

We at Cargo set out to better understand this generation. Building on our Small Talk series, we conducted an innovative neuromarketing study in collaboration neuromarketing consultancy BRANDthro, that combined neuroscience and emotion artificial intelligence (AI) to identify the triggers and drivers behind Millennial SBOs. The research unveiled a number of surprising discoveries about their motivations and makeup that proved that stereotypes don’t always match the reality.

Overprotectiveness leads to cautiousness
One of the most shocking findings was that Millennial SBOs are cautious, directly counteracting previous stereotypes of Millennials being reckless risk-takers.

The reasons are twofold. The world that Millennials grew up in has shaped their outlooks on business today. Growing up with helicopter parenting, “Baby on Board” stickers and bicycle helmets has created an overwhelming sense of caution.

As well, the turmoil the Millennials’ parents lived through left bad tastes in their mouths; living through the Great Recession and witnessing much of their parents’ savings and assets be destroyed has resulted in a strong distrust in large, faceless corporations. Perceived economic and governmental stability has also been lost. All of these factors have triggered a careful pace so that they can avoid making the same mistakes they once witnessed: especially when it comes to decision-making for their own ventures.

Rational trumps emotional
Across generations, every decision made by an SBO is powered by emotion because for them, their business is their life.

But when it comes to Millennial SBOs, decisions are made with a balance of heart and logic. This generation of SBOs is more informed than any previous generation and it shows. In addition to emotions, these business owners ensure they have all of the necessary information before committing to a decision: a process that has been made easier through the extensive information now available on the Internet.

In comparison to “older” SBOs — who often let emotion overpower rational thinking — Millennial SBOs use information, like product and service reviews, to leverage insights from their peers and confidently make decisions based on both factual and emotional motivators.

The trust in tech continuum
Ironically, despite living in a digital age, Millennial SBOs are skeptical of technology.

Millennials particularly the youngest, understand the benefit of advanced technologies for their businesses. But they also realize the full potential of a digitally connected economy. It is a reality that concerns them because they understand the accompanying negative repercussions, including the impact of data breaches and disregard of privacy. They are also concerned about the unknown potential of AI.

On the other hand, older Millennials fear technology for different reasons. This segment of SBOs are wary of technology because of both the speed and complexity of its evolution and they find it difficult to keep up with the latest technologies.

While fear is prevalent, it is not widespread across the generation. The last segment, mid-age Millennial SBOs, are those that grew up alongside new technologies and they embrace change more willingly. The segment is more eager to explore technology solutions.

Purpose supersedes profit
Businesses are no longer being established with the intention of generating revenue. Instead, businesses are being built by Millennials with a greater mission and sense of purpose in mind. This is a mindset that goes beyond personal business; Millennial SBOs expect the same sense of purpose from the brands they work with.

For Millennials, work and life are more integrated than previous generations, fuelling the emphasis on a greater purpose. By placing higher importance on the “why” and not the “what,” Millennial SBOs strive to achieve a goal that positively guides their lives and contributes to the notion of living their ideal “best life.” Businesses trying to reach Millennials need to understand this in order to stay competitive.

Taking the guesswork out of marketing
As organizations look to stay competitive in today’s fast-paced environment, the latest advancements in technologies provide essential tools that can help to strengthen their offering and better understand customers.

While this research is only the first step in our mission to better understand the different demographics of SBOs, it outlines critical trends that marketers need to begin to understand now in order to have more educated conversations with clients. Only by fully understanding a group’s values and mindsets can we take the guesswork out of marketing to them, ultimately delivering valuable and profitable results for the businesses moving forward.

For more information and study findings, the full report can be downloaded here:

Miki Velemirovich is president, Cargo Canada.

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