Despite what marketers may think, the way into a millennial’s wallet goes beyond employing such strategies as the use of trendy colors and Instagram-worthy photos.

Who are these millennials, anyway? The Wall Street Journal has called them “a group of people who are building major companies, altering the way we work and live and challenging long-held notions of family and society.”  But the Journal also (last year) berated itself for treating them “like an alien species” by describing them with too many “snotty”  remarks. 

I, meanwhile, consider “millennial” the best shorthand option for referring to people born between 1981 and 1997. But let’s get a little more detailed …

Specifically, millennials are growing up. And they’re having kids. So, within this group is a growing subset of women with children, a.k.a.”millennial moms,” and there may be more of them than you think. Representing about 1 in every 5 mothers, and accounting for almost 90 percent of the 1.5 million new mothers counted last year, millennial moms have carved out a unique market segment 9 million strong. To put it simply, if you want to talk to a new mom, she’s very likely a millennial.

While this group is sought after by marketers, many of these women say they don’t feel understood by those marketers, and that could be a big miss for brands, given these mothers’ connectivity, spending power and influence. What’s also important here: 55 percent of millennial moms are included in all purchase decisions, compared to 39 percent for all U.S. mothers. So, for businesses, missing an opportunity to connect with millennial moms could mean missing out on a valuable share of the market.

Related: Hitting the Marketing Email Sweet Spot With Millennials (Infographic)

If yours is a business that would gain by appealing to this group, here are five tips for doing that:

1. Lead with product functionality to build meaningful connections.

While nearly half of all millennial moms care that a company’s values align with their own, and will do the research necessary to find out which brands are worth their time and attention, there’s a real opportunity for those brands to build a lasting and meaningful connection with these moms.

That opportunity? Marketing physical products that demonstrate one or more of their values.

The millennial mom often arrives at a store with a specific set of buying needs, and when she can pick up a product that not only meets those functional needs but builds off social values that she can get behind — such as ethical sourcing and sustainability — she’ll be more likely to purchase, then talk about that purchase to her friends, online and off.

Some forward-thinking companies are aware of that opportunity — Target being a good example. Living up to its “Design for All” philosophy, Target expanded its in-house Cat & Jack clothing line to include items with sensory-processing sensitivities: What that involved was heat-transferred tags and flat seams for kids bothered by itchy tags and seams that irritate their skin.

The line was also marketed to parents looking for a low-cost option. So, the clothing company’s announcement was met with appreciation by moms (and dads), grateful that the clothing would help alleviate their daily struggles to get their children dressed. The line’s sensory-processing features also increased an affinity for the master brand across the board.

The message here is that while there’s a time and a place for the brand storytelling so ballyhooed today, “storytelling” means much more to our millennial mom when the physical product involved is tangible proof of why that story matters.

2. Align with like-minded brand partners.

When seeking advice on parenting, millennial moms are more likely to trust those they know who have “been there, done that.” And that means relying on one other. Some 97 percent of 1,000 millennial parents in a Crowtap survey said they had found social media helpful to their parenting, and nearly half said they turned to social media at least once a day for parenting advice, on everything from swaddling techniques and getting through airport security, to product recommendations.

With the rise of influencers across a diverse set of lifestyles, millennial moms (and dads) are free to eschew advice from just one go-to source in favor of their fellow parents (usually moms) with whom they can identify.

The message here is that companies that align with the right online partners and show their product’s value through those people can tap into existing fan bases and gain traction.

3. Get specific with long-tail keywords.

The millennial mom spends over eight hours every day online across a mix of devices, and new/expecting parents perform twice as many searches as non-parents. It can be assumed that these skills are further honed during late-night feedings, when the parent has a phone in one hand and a baby in the other. So brands are smart to figure out and then provide the content needed. 

Because so many millennial moms know how to search, brands need to offer the right content at the time and place when and where she’s looking.

The message here is that by recognizing millennial moms’ search abilities and investing in an SEO strategy that implements a mix of long-tail keywords (sample: “tips and tricks for teething babies”) companies will drive lower, but more qualified, volumes to their sites. Not to mention the fact that the lower competition for long-tail keyword bids can make SEO a much more affordable prospect, and provide for a more predictable, steady spend overall.  

4. Practice utility above all. 

Millennial moms have forged their own path in finding creative ways to earn money and support their families. And, in this regard, the digital revolution has proven critical in helping them do more in less time, with the flexibility they want and the income they need.

One in five millennial moms have blogs with substantial followings, and more than half of millennial moms in one survey said they had plans to start their own business. Whether our millennial mom is creating the content for her blog or consuming someone else’s, the time she spends online is focused and purposeful.

Smart companies are ready to answer that purpose: Furniture and home decor retailer West Elm, for example, offers an #AskWestElm series, offering video tutorials on simple home-management basics, like the proper way to press a tablecloth and linen-closet organization. The tutorials also focus on seasonal needs, such as how to set a buffet in November and spring cleaning tips that may be employed in April, making West Elm a trusted ally in the home category.

The message here is that for brands, it’s important to take a measured step back from only pushing products to a strategy of gauging where utility can be offered as well. Showing expertise in and around the brand’s product categories without overtly selling those products is likely to be well received. It also allows our millennial mom to get to know a brand and its values and helps her engage with the brand even when she’s not shopping for specific products.

5. Make room for Millennial Dad.

Millennial moms are often married and/or living with milennial dads; and, as a pair, these couples are blurring the lines between traditional gender-specific household roles.

The amount of time millennial dads spend with their kids is nearly three times that of previous generations. In other words, they are taking an active role beyond just bringing in household income: They’re influencing purchase decisions and taking responsibility for daily child care.

Importantly, although they are changing the traditional role of dads at home, millennial dads are not taking over the roles of moms, but instead carving out their own identity as parents and looking for resources to support them. These men are also ready for a new narrative and will likely respond positively to a real reflection, in ads, of their valuable role and engagement as partners to millennial moms. 

An example? In 2016, not wanting to disturb the baby sleeping on his chest, Patrick Quinn, co-founder of the Life of Dad blogpassed the time by stacking Cheerios on his son’s nose. Quinn then snapped a pic and uploaded it to this blog’s Facebook page, challenging other dads, “How high can you go?”

The response was so immediate and enthusiastic that the blog became a hit just in time for Father’s Day and quickly secured support from General Mills, digitally speaking, which helped the challenge go viral. One year later, Cheerios’ brand spot, “Good Goes Around,” incorporated Cheerio-stacking (0:21!) and multiple glimpses of dads being involved at home with their kids.

In sum, millennial moms have emerged as a distinct segment that is certainly acknowledged by marketers, but not widely understood. Parenthood makes these moms different from other mennials; yet their age sets them apart from older parents. The result is complex individuals who use technology, consume media and shop in ways remarkably different from those of any other segment.

To connect with millennial moms, brands need not reinvent marketing but simply to view this cohort through its members’ own perspective, recognizing their needs and answering their expectations

It’s a new year: Time to evaluate results of the past in order to meet the goals of the future.  

If you have any skin in the game for selling product to moms, here are five marketing tactics to consider in 2019 for improved sales and brand awareness.

1)    Acknowledge that 2019 is the Year of the Gen Z mom.
The Generation Z woman will turn 26 years old in 2019, which means that she will reach the average age of first-time moms in the U.S. This fact is particularly important to companies focused on prenatal moms because those brands have already missed the opportunity with some Gen Z moms. In short, take the time to start focusing some of your energy on preparing your products, marketing, and strategy on the very different Gen Z mother.

2)      Improve how you use Instagram to connect with mllennial moms.
If you are a brand seeking out Instragrammers who are moms with the largest number of followers, you could be leaving results on the table. This approach is no different than throwing a cast net of banner ads on websites in 2001.  Numbers of followers does not equate to engagement, influence, or particularly, results. Find the mom Instagrammers who match your brand’s values and who have true engagement with audiences across multiple social platforms. It takes more time, but will produce greater results.

3)      Reevaluate your brand ambassadors.
If you have brand ambassadors who you pay to say good things about your brand, they aren’t true ambassadors. By definition, your loyal brand evangelist should love your product so much that she will praise you without being paid.  She loves you so much that even her followers know she is a true brand fan.  Find the right ambassadors and increase your return on investment fourfold.

4)      Increase your IRL mom marketing.
If you had to look up the definition of IRL, you probably aren’t doing it and may not know your consumer well.  Moms want to engage with brands in real life.  With oversaturated social media lives, moms are looking for physical relationships with other mothers and brands. It may be using a retail wall to capture an Instagram-worthy shopping experience or an in-store taste testing, but IRL strategies work.

5)      Jump on the DIY trend.
It’s only going to grow with the growth of the Gen Z mom population, so now’s the time to get on board the do-it-yourself train.  Empowered and fiscally and environmentally conscience, millennial and Gen Z moms seek out new ways to repurpose products and demonstrate their creative and innovative spirits.  Pinterest remains a go-to for new ideas and inspiration and is very brand-friendly to marketer-generated content.

The new year is certain to get off to a good start with a little tweaking of your old marketing to moms strategies and tactics.  To motivate the change, I offer my favorite saying by an anonymous source: “ If you do what you have always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.”  Now is the perfect time to change if you want to improve on your 2018 results.

“Our target audience is ‘millennial moms,'” the CMO at a major CPG brand might tell their agency team. Yet, in today’s age of digital personalization, generalized media targeting and standard demographic descriptors don’t work like they used to. Smart planning is about honing in on consumers who are most likely to be receptive to your messaging, while still maintaining scale.

So we’re going to let you in on a little secret—a faux pas that the CMO in our hypothetical scenario is guilty of: No two moms are alike, and the biggest mistake brands make is clumping them all together. Focusing solely on the “millennial mom,” for example, isn’t a surefire way to authentically connect with all millennial moms, because each mother behaves differently. Sure, millennial mothers might enjoy staying active—but are you more likely to find them at boutique fitness studios or mass-market gyms? Are they brand loyalists or bargain seekers? And is your answer based on a cultural stereotype or real data?

A chief issue that arises when targeting mothers, and any group of consumers for that matter, is that blanket terms are missing the behavioral insights that ideally should be constructing them. As not only a marketer but a mom myself, I know that details like these can make or break a campaign.

Location data and technology allow us to understand the impact that where we go has on defining who we are, in addition to the other lifestyle choices we make. Brands today need to uniquely to identify, reach and analyze more nuanced audience segments based on real-world consumer behavior. Marketers need to view something like motherhood as just one modifier, recognizing that moms also have rich lives and interests apart from motherhood that can help brands better connect with them in meaningful ways.

The time is now to dissect blanket terms based on accurate, real-world behavioral insights. Here are the three things your team can do right now to make sure your campaign isn’t falling into a generic targeting trap:

1. Go beyond demographics.

Sometimes age alone truly is just a number. Because a cohort such as mothers involves all sorts of different life situations, finding other commonalities such as life stage or lifestyle offers segmentation opportunities based on attributes that can better influence purchase behavior than demographics alone. This may also lead to more impactful messaging by honing in on moments of better receptivity, since for many brands, the once traditional sales cycle has become less linear. More distinctive segments pave the way for redefining traditional tactics, creating more moments to connect with consumers.

2. Let data surprise you.

Behavioral data can also uncover some surprising insights that can revitalize marketing initiatives—and even catch you off guard. For instance, our data shows that new moms are actually 11 percent more likely than the average female U.S. consumer to visit beer bars, but 7 percent less likely to visit wine bars and 5 percent less likely to visit cocktail bars. A cultural stereotype might have pegged the opposite, or suggested new moms simply don’t drink at all. A similarly interesting finding from our data shows that working moms are actually 25 percent more likely than the average female U.S. consumer to visit spas, which may not be expected of a time-strapped parent. The strongest targeting strategies welcome those revealing moments of juxtaposition, which in turn can not only smash stereotypes, but also save budgets.

3. Make it as personal as possible.

The more contextual your outreach with consumers, the better the engagement rate. Consider working with a partner that can tune up your personalization efforts by leveraging rich insights to help you better segment audiences, proximity target, win audiences away from competitors, and even optimize moment-based messaging. Leveraging data sets such as location intelligence can help brands better understand and connect with consumers, transforming personalization into true brand differentiation.

For suggestions on taking your campaigns to the next level, download our Diversity of Moms report to learn more about targeting moms by life stage and lifestyle. You’ll also get access to a special bonus section on consumer spending habits around Mother’s Day.

Editor’s Note:

This analysis is based on foot traffic patterns from millions of Americans who make up Foursquare’s always-on foot traffic panel. Indexed numbers indicate the percentage more likely than the average female U.S. consumer to frequent a specific venue or place. All data are anonymized, pseudonymized or aggregated, and are normalized against U.S. Census data to remove age, gender and geographical bias. For the full methodology, see report.