For many startups, millennials are the coveted target audience. They hold so much buying power at the tip of their fingers. Every company wants their attention. They can market all they want, but if millennials don’t read — your attempts are futile.

I’ve had the pleasure of working at three startups; all in various industries. From healthy snacks to virtual reality — companies are looking to grab the attention and buying power, of the 23–38-year-old.

But let’s face it; people are distracted nowadays. They have a plethora of new startups vying for their attention. One in four posts on their Instagram feed is a sponsored ad. How in the world can you possibly stand out?

Actually, it’s pretty simple. And it’s not growth hacking or free e-books. The key is how you write to them.

Use Conviction

Emotions are essential to play into when you’re engaging with a potential customer. Numerous studies have shown that people buy with their feelings, not logic. Professor Antonio Damasio wrote a book, Descartes’ Error, that dives into the complexities of human emotions and how they impact our decision making.

In the book, Damasio explains how humans form emotional responses to what they interact within the world. They draw on previous emotions tied to similar experiences, create preferences, and make decisions based on these feelings.

Let’s also consider the advertising genius of Apple — or, more so, Steve Jobs.

Yes, I’m drawing on an example of a commercial that aired back in 1998.

Apple’s “Think Different” campaign was arguably the moment they started down the path to becoming the iconic brand they are today.

It’s one minute of advertising genius. Flashing clips of Albert Einstein, Martin Luther King Jr., and John Lennon set the tone for the message being conveyed. The “square pegs in the round holes” are the people Apple is calling to. That evokes an emotion. A feeling from a time when we felt different because we are all human; we have all felt different at some point.

This piece played on emotion perfectly. Apple called out to all that ever felt like they saw things differently and the people answered with a new-found devotion to the brand.

Tell a story

Listicles are informative. Bullet points are clear. Facts are.. factual.

But any company can do the above. What’s unique to your brand is your story.

Your humble beginning. The reason why you created your company. Again, the emotional aspect.

When I worked for a photo editing company in China, there was zero storytelling. No one knew anything about the company, aside from the fact that they had an photo editing app. The social media posts would do ok — 2% engagement rate was common.

I was given a lot of automonomy and decided to start profiling the people that worked at the company. I wanted to show a face behind the company, give some information on our backgrounds, and create storylines that took place in the office.

With those posts, the engagement shot up to 3.5–4%. If you know anything about marketing, that’s significant.

On the other end of the spectrum, the snack food company was all about their brand’s story. They had a call to action, much like the “Think Different” campaign. They told stories about the charity they gave back to.

They invited their customers to be part of something that was bigger than themselves. And let’s be honest — all that consisted of was some healthy cheese puffs.

Millennials want to be led along a journey; one that they feel apart of but are still learning more. Storytelling holds readers attention much better than just listing out facts or selling points.

Sentences are your friend; paragraphs aren’t

The whole “five sentences per paragraph” rule we learned in school worked for written essays on paper.

That rule is garbage in the world of writing for the digital age though.

People scan nowadays, and paragraphs aren’t conducive to that. A few sentences are really all you need for a chunk of text.

With most millennials being on their phones for 3 hours a day, it’s safe to assume that your content will be read on a mobile device. Sentences are easier to read on a smartphone, plain and simple. Long paragraphs looking overwhelming and perhaps even boring.

A single sentence is also completely acceptable.

Explain why they should care

This goes along with the idea of getting to the point. No one should be guessing what your product does. The benefits of your product shouldn’t be vague.

Explicitly state why your audience should care. Touch upon the reason why your product or service will benefit them. State how it has impacted other companies or the lives of individuals.

Implying will not work in this day and age of people’s attention spans becoming shorter and shorter. According to Adam Gazzaley and Larry D. Rosen, authors of The Distracted Mind, people are very limited in their ability to stay focused. Multitasking isn’t really true necessarily — people just switch very quickly from task to task.

Instead of beating around the bush, catch your reader’s attention quickly; state why your product matters to them.

Don’t use the word “Millennial”

There’s nothing a millennial hates more than being called a millennial. With all of the negative connotation attached to the term, no person within this group wants to read about themselves referred to as a millennial.

That’s like calling a particularly stubborn person a bigot. I don’t think you’ll be selling much to them after that reference.

Instead, don’t call them any label. Another thing that millennials hate is being placed under an umbrella category. We like to think we’re unique individuals that don’t fit under one category.

Instead, write to the individual. Use the second person perspective with “you.” That’s how I have written this article. Has it felt personal thus far?

Millennials can seem like elusive beings that every marketer is on the hunt for. You need to keep in mind though, there are real people behind those phones.

Write to them — evoke their emotions, state ideas clearly, and speak kindly.

If all else fails, go outside, find a millennial, and ask them how they want to be written to. Millennials are everywhere nowadays.