Tons of sage--and free--financial advice doesn't get in the way of the fact. Home buying--especially new home buying--is emotions-driven. It's the biggest purchase we'll make, we hear repeatedly. Our feelings, both about what we want and what we want others to know about us, figure enormously into the deal.
It follows that if we could dissect, decipher, and demystify the role feelings play and the impetus they provide, we will succeed in this business.
We know we will succeed, in fact, if we sell homes to Millennials, that 80-million strong generational of 18 to 34-year olds whose emotions should be propelling them toward deciding to buy a home.
So, is emotional selling art or science? To "sell to Millennials," what's key to understand and do to reel them in as customers?
For home builders and residential developers, these questions expose the complexity of the business. Some of the best design ideas in homes come from hospitality. Best of breed practices in operations and construction come from lean manufacturing principles. Many of the better engineering and technology ideas comes from office design. Home building's better sales practices come from retail.
Being good as a home building company means being a master at many trades, some of which tend to run counter to one another.
When it comes to "selling to Millennials," the first thing to understand is that if you feel at sea about the challenge, don't worry. You're in good company.
Look, for instance, at this piece from Forbes contributor Ian Altman, entitled, "How To Sell Your Ideas to Millennials." Altman's piece launches with this blinding insight: "Millennials are not a separate species." It concludes with an equally astonishing blast of wisdom (not making this up,): "If you want to sell your ideas to any audience, you need to understand how they think."
Armed with such deep knowledge, the next step is knowing how and where to message Millennials with the values you'd want to highlight to trigger their emotions.
You might turn for guidance to a recent New York Times piece by Sydney Ember, whose point here is to be helpful about which media platforms, and more importantly, what forms of communication--pictures vs. words. In, "Brands Woo Millennials With a Wink, an Emoji or Whatever it Takes," Ember writes:
Brands, for instance, are trying to figure out how to use emojis, a pictograph-based language of happy faces and hearts that is important to millennials. (According to the Cassandra Report, which is published by the agency Deep Focus, four in 10 millennials said they would rather communicate with pictures than with words.)
And, by the way, that earlier insight from Forbes contributor Altman about millennials not being a separate species? An assertion of NY Times Ember's story is "It's a completely different world and game with millennials."
Okay, so back to the question of emotional selling--let's assume pictures play a part in it--is it art or science?
In the Harvard Business Review, authors Scott Magids, Alan Zorfas, and Daniel Leemon suggest that the best marketers map their strategies to a matrix that includes more than 300 emotional motivators--(our note, that's a lot of emojis!), concluding:
We consider customers to be emotionally connected with a brand when it aligns with their motivations and helps them fulfill deep, often unconscious, desires. Important emotional motivators include desires to “stand out from the crowd,” “have confidence in the future,” and “enjoy a sense of well-being,” to name just a few.
Here's a look at 10 "High-Impact Motivators," the HBR authors focus on, and they give particular attention to the observation that emotional motivators vary across customer segments, in this case millennials.
Our model uncovered desires to “protect the environment” and “be the person I want to be” as key motivators in the banking category for that [millennials] age group. (Traditional industry motivators such as desires to “feel secure” and to “succeed in life” are more typical of older groups.) The bank crafted messaging and features to connect to those sentiments, leading to its fastest-growing new credit card.
So, back to the question, is emotional selling art or science?
Maybe, in fact, suggesting that it's an either or proposition is false. It could be that the whole "art vs. science" debate is a myth, marketed effectively all these centuries of Western Culture to serve the interests of experts in one or the other.
Maybe, in fact, the emotional sale to millennials is a function of neurobiology, and effective selling would be to understand how to spark activity and impulses in the medial prefrontal cortex and the ventral striatum, the places in the brain where emotions transform into urges.
How, then do we clock into the potential of emotional selling to millennials? Your guess is probably as good as anybody's, but talking to them, more importantly, listening to them might be a good place to start. Here, millennials marketing guru and an associate strategist at MRY, Toni Dawkins says:
While there are general attitudes and experiences that unify us, we are different people with different goals, backgrounds, and passions who happen to fall within the 18-to-34 age range. The client briefs that we see tend to overgeneralize this group.
Emotional selling to millennials an art or science? Both.