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Millennials Are Taking Control in Oil and Gas: Three Ways Your Marketing Should Change to Win Them Over

Lynne Gallegos | Sep. 03, 2014

This article is part one in a special three-part series on marketing to today’s energy industry.

The energy industry is being transformed from within by the “Great Crew Change”—the influx of a new generation of entrepreneurs, investors, engineers and managers who are seizing opportunities created by the shale boom.

Bloomberg Businessweek reports that after years of failing to attract and retain young talent, the North American oil and gas industry is giving members of the Millennial generation the chance to take on huge responsibility. At the same time, the industry’s older workers are getting close to retirement, leading to an unprecedented transfer of decision-making to these up-and-coming leaders.1

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Evidence of the impact of the youth movement in oil and gas is all around us. Bloomberg Businessweek also notes that the Energy Management program at the University of Oklahoma has grown from approximately 100 students in 2004 to more than 600 today. Membership in the Dallas chapter of Young Professionals in Energy is now 4,000, a jump of 60% since 2009, with most new members under the age of 37.2

The ongoing expansion of exploration and production from unconventional formations made the U.S. the world’s biggest combined producer of oil and gas in 2013. In addition, the U.S. is projected to achieve energy independence by 2035,3 suggesting that the influx of Millennials into positions of responsibility and their ascension into key decision-making roles will continue.

A Unique Challenge for Energy Marketers

Brands targeting oil and gas can take advantage of this sweeping demographic change and get a leg up on the competition by understanding what makes Millennials unique and how those differences affect the decisions they make, both in business and in life.

Experts say Millennials have grown up in an expanding world of choice and options and see life differently than older generations. According to Katie Elfering, a consumer strategist with CEB Iconoculture, “They don’t see just one path available to them—they see limitless possibilities to make their life their own.”4 They are more likely to set their own course rather than following the lead of those who came before them.

Consider the impact that can have on traditional industry decision-making and loyalty to incumbent brands!

Real World Application in Oil and Gas

So, how does Millennials’ behavior as consumers translate into their industry roles as specifiers, authorizers, buyers and influencers with the power to choose and approve your products and services?

The fact that Millennials are now increasingly making the decisions doesn’t change the importance of validating performance and return on investment to support the high-stakes decisions oil and gas professionals face every day. Exploration and production companies, oil field service companies, drilling contractors and others still must balance the certainty of enormous drilling and completion expense with the need to bet on long-term production and profit in an uncertain global market.

But, providing a factual value proposition that is both technically and economically compelling may not be enough for the new generation of decision makers. Millennials are attracted to brands they find uniquely appealing. Making the effort to understand and connect with them can increase differentiation, allowing you to engage more strongly and successfully in an increasingly noisy and crowded marketplace.

The Three Marketing “Musts”

  1. Enable their independence—Because Millennials like to do things on their own terms and schedules, make it easy to self-serve your information without direct sales assistance. Your website should allow them to easily find you when they search to solve their challenges and then investigate your solutions thoroughly. Understand the type of problems they face so you’ll be visible even when they aren’t looking specifically for your product or service. Make sure your content doesn’t just sell—educate freely to empower them to make better decisions. When they are ready to talk, make connecting easy and friendly.
  2. Invite them to participate—Satisfy the Millennial generation’s desire to shape their own brand experiences. Create online and physical events that allow them to participate with your products and services, to demonstrate the solution and its relevance to their situation instead of simply listing the features and benefits. Video, infographics, social media campaigns and other high-engagement tactics will help you engage them in an entertaining and respectful way. Invite and enable them to share their experience with others. To demonstrate how much you value what’s important to them, offer your time and other resources to their professional groups. Increase the connection by leveraging the affinity of Millennials on your own staff to share the guidance and expertise that sets your brand apart.
  3. Skip the hype—Millennials resist hype when it comes directly from brands, so focus on the quality of your marketing. Keep them up-to-date on technology and application trends and provide an inside track to insight they can’t get anywhere else. There’s no need to give up selling just because the new generation seems immune to promotion—just balance your “we say” messaging with a “they say” approach. Referrals and endorsements from peers powerfully influence Millennials. Share your customers’ success stories and encourage them to do the same. Just as important is your technical marketing. Remember, at the end of the day performance and ROI still rule as strongly as ever. Give them all the facts they need to make a confident purchase decision. It will build trust and earn you the opportunity to close the sale.

The value your business product or service brings to the oil and gas industry may not change, but the way you sell that value to today’s customers should. With the Great Crew Change well underway, switching up the way you market can’t be put off. Connecting strongly with Millennials could make all the difference as you compete to win sales in today’s booming energy industry.

At Blue Flame Thinking, we apply deep energy industry experience and rich behavioral insight to help you successfully engage and sell to oil and gas decision makers of all generations. Contact Lynne Gallegos at lgallegos@bluflamethinking.com or call 312-382-9000 to learn more.

Join us soon for part two of our series: “Launching Disruptive Technology in a Crowded Energy Marketplace.”

[1] Isaac Arnsdorf, “Crew Change: Millennials Hit the Oil Patch,” businessweek.com, May 22, 2014, retrieved Aug. 25, 2014.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Isaac Arnsdorf, “Millennials Spurning Silicon Valley for Dallas Oil Patch,” businessweek.com, May 20, 2014, retrieved Aug. 25, 2014.
[4] Patrick Spenner, “Inside the Millennial Mind: The Do’s & Don’ts of Marketing to this Powerful Generation,” forbes.com, posted April 16, 2014, retrieved Aug. 21, 2014.

Lynne Gallegos

Lynne Gallegos

Lynne has been on the cutting edge of marketing for over 25 years, first as a Fortune 500 Brand Strategist and, now, as an agency leader.