Generational marketing: How to market to Millennials, Gen X and Baby Boomers

There’s a lot of buzz about generational marketing and a LOT of overgeneralized advice when it comes to targeting your ideal audience:

  • Millennials love Snapchat!
  • Baby Boomers are steadfast and drawn in by reliability!
  • Generation X is cynical and always looking for a bargain!

Making heads or tails of the generational differences and similarities (let alone coming up with a marketing strategy) can leave any marketer scratching their head, regardless of their own generational viewpoint. It’s a challenge to identify the common traits amongst your audience and to know what they want.

Most businesses simply focus on marketing trends and follow the next big idea. At best, they concentrate on their ideal segment and target their marketing efforts there, because, well—it’s hard to be everything to everyone.

But if you don’t understand generational marketing, you may not be reaching all of your ideal audience members…and you could be missing out on connecting with potential leads.

What is Generational Marketing (and Why is it Important)?

At the heart of it, generational marketing is a marketing approach that segments the population by the time period they were born. Each person (and thus each generation) is powerfully shaped by world events, trends and developments occurring when they come of age. Think of the Vietnam War and what it means to Baby Boomers compared to what 9/11 means to Millennials.

The three main generations that make up today’s adult consumer base are:

  • Baby Boomers (born 1945 – 1964)
  • Generation X (1965 – approximately 1982)
  • Millennials (approximately 1983 – 1998)

The importance of each generation plays into marketing because whether Baby Boomer, Gen X or Millennials—that generational influence shapes the values and communication styles of the consumer. At the core of marketing strategy are demographics: data and information about your customers.

Using that data to connect with your target audience is what gives you a marketing advantage.

After researching your customer, you may discover your target customer fits solidly in one demographic, but for most businesses, the target is spread across several generations. This means you must learn to craft your marketing message to each generation in a way that resonates with them.

Understanding Cross-Generational Marketing

If we examine the generational spread, we see 30% of the overall market is made up of Millennials, 27% Generation X and 30% Baby Boomers (the youngest Generation Y and the older Silent Generation comprise the difference).

Essentially, if you don’t use strategic marketing to all three of the main groups, you could end up missing out on a third or more of the consumer base! For most businesses, that’s a scary prospect.

Now, maybe your target audience is very specific. For example, let’s imagine your business designs children’s lunchboxes—the perfect product for parents of elementary school kids! It seems logical your demographic is between age 25-45: Millennials and the tail end of Generation X.

Your marketing efforts are focused on the young parent—how to add convenience and simplicity to their lives. Knowing your demographic, Millennials are tech-savvy and primarily swayed by influence of their peers, you might reach out to Influencers: bloggers and Pinterest-loving moms, and perhaps focus your social media efforts on Snapchat and Instagram. Knowing Generation X seeks discounts and coupons, you may throw in a coupon deal or a BOGO sale.

BUT, a closer look at your demographics might surprise you. 2.7 million grandparents are raising their grandchildren (a steady 7% increase since 2009). If you don’t include strategies to reach those Baby Boomer grandparents in your lunchbox marketing efforts, you’re missing a big audience!

Finding Commonalities Between Generations—and Appreciating Their Differences

While you can’t be the perfect fit for every consumer, you CAN learn what appeals to each generation and use it to shape and diversify your strategy. In our example of marketing lunchboxes, a simple shift to include additional Facebook marketing could reach your grandparents. While we often think of Millennials as the tech experts, Baby Boomers are surprisingly comfortable with Facebook. The biggest pet-peeve of this generation? Feeling ignored or overlooked by Millennial-focused marketers!

Understanding that the Baby Boomer Generation values quality, so they’re willing to spend a little more on a product they feel is high-end and lasting may also help shape your strategy. All of the generations are now active online shoppers. Although you might not see Boomers oversharing their personal information on Facebook, rest assured, they’re on Facebook and it’s a good way to reach them.

Demographics are one of the most powerful tools in a marketer’s arsenal. Knowing who your customers are is the first step, but understanding what they want will help you take it deeper. Build a strong relationship with your customer by reaching them in a way that truly resonates with who they are and what they value.

Need more specifics? Want to take a deep dive into each generation and what they really want? Learn how to reach Baby Boomers, Gen X and Millennials too!

My Generation EbookAre you ready to know your audience better?

Download our free guide on Generational Marketing. We’ll show you how to market to Millennials, Gen X and Baby Boomers … sharing what you’ll need to know about marketing to each generation!

Marketing’s Secret Sauce: The Message

 

It seems like anything successful has a secret formula, proprietary technology or “secret sauce” behind it that makes people talk about it. Marketing is no different.

The secret sauce of successful marketing is the message. It must command the attention of its target audience, get them to think and feel something – and ultimately like, trust and do business with your firm.

Check out this new 8-minute video, to discover:

  • Why you must first focus on your brand message – not on the channels you’ll use to deliver it
  • Two key types of messages, and the critical role each one plays in your branding
  • Examples of companies that have powerfully positioned themselves in the minds of their customers using taglines and slogans
  • Three steps to develop a persuasive strategic brand message for your business

Marketers: Why are your sales flatlining?

sales flatlining

Why aren’t traditional sales approaches working as well today? A growing body of research sheds some light on what has changed.

It used to be so easy: Generate sales leads, work the pipeline, overcome objections and close sales.

Now, everything is different. It’s much harder for your salespeople to get face-to-face appointments. Prospects want to do their own research and product comparisons. They don’t want to talk to you until just before the sale. As a result, sales are stagnant.

Your company needs growth – now.

What the latest sales and marketing research says

flatlining salesResearch from CEB’s Marketing Leadership Council and Google shows that business buyers do not contact suppliers directly until 57% of the purchase process is complete. That means for nearly two thirds of the buying process, they are forming opinions, gathering technical specifications, building requirement lists, and narrowing down their vendor options – with little or no influence from you.

Why is this a problem? By the time a prospect makes contact with your company, “they have hardened expectations about what they want out of a supplier – and at that point, your job is to take their order and fill it for the lowest price. They’re learning on their own, and there’s no room to teach them why what they’ve taught themselves is wrong. It’s marketing’s job to influence the 57% of the sale that occurs mostly on the web, before sales contact,” the report adds.

As a result, research conducted by Forrester Consulting suggests that the traditional role of the sales representative is declining. Only 20% of buyers purchase directly from a sales representative more than half of the time, and phone or email customer service is lagging at 17%, too.

flatlining salesDuring the past two years, the B2B research process has changed, according to a study Google conducted with Millward Brown Digital: “While 64% of the C-suite have final sign off, so do almost a quarter (24%) of the non-C-suite. What’s more, it’s the latter that has the most influence; 81% of non-C-suiters have a say in purchase decisions. Clearly, if you’re marketing only to the highest level, you’re overlooking the people who need to notice you,” the report states.

It also reveals that millennials are taking a lead role in B2B purchase research: In 2012, the age of researchers was more or less evenly spread out across age groups. In 2014, however, 18- to 34-year-olds accounted for almost half of all researchers, a remarkable increase of 70%. While they may not be the decision-makers yet, they’re starting to take a stronger role in the B2B purchasing process. Remember – they’re digital natives, with high expectations for online experiences!

CEB and Google’s analysis of traditional marketing, still practiced by many B2B firms, is especially damning:

“Most marketing leaders still treat digital as an unwanted appendage on the traditional marketing campaign cycle, which goes roughly like this: Create a new product, design a campaign touting its features and benefits, figure out a place to stick digital channels within that campaign architecture, execute, measure, repeat…

“(But) customer learning is happening all the time, and doesn’t coincide with your campaign calendar. Marketing organizations have largely been designed from the ground up to support and optimize campaigns, not maintain the continuous presence that the digital channel requires. Marketing management must adjust; if the customer is always learning, then marketing must always be teaching.”

The key, it points out, is customer education – which most B2B marketers appear to be ill-equipped to do:

Growth Cycle Marketing“It’s not enough to teach; you have to teach well. And the dirty little secret of most content marketing is that it does neither. All of that leads us to the biggest problem with current B2B digital approaches: They rely on content that is not at all useful for customers in the midst of a learning journey. Most content is low value; it may be interesting or get a lot of ‘engagement,’ but it doesn’t help buyers make commercial decisions.”

If you’re struggling with flat-lining sales and need to spur sales growth, contact us to learn about our profitable alternative: Growth Cycle Marketing.

Why content marketing? Why now?

Why content marketing?

Articles about content marketing seem to be everywhere today. But few of them are focused on content marketing strategy. Why do businesses need to integrate it into their marketing strategies? Why now?

It’s time to shed some light on the critical importance of content strategy in the marketing mix.

Why content marketing?

The fundamental reason that content marketing has become immensely popular as a marketing discipline is that the way customers buy has changed. To understand the extent of that change, we need to look at the traditional buying cycle.

Traditionally, B2B prospects became aware of new products via advertising, direct mailers, articles in trade magazines and trade shows. The only place to get product information prior to the internet were these sources, or by visiting the dealer or the manufacturer itself. A salesperson would handle nurturing the prospect from the initial contact until the point of sale.

What’s changed? We are now over 20 years into the digital communications and marketing era. Customers in nearly every industry and profession are now comfortable gathering product information, reading reviews, collecting specifications and doing product comparisons on a self-service basis. Unlike the “old days,” the typical buyer doesn’t want a salesperson in their face until just before the sale.

The prolonged recession has accelerated this change, by making B2B buyers much more discerning about the products and services they are planning to purchase. In addition, travel budgets have been constrained for many years, making it harder for companies to send buyers and influencers to trade shows, conferences and other events where manufacturers are represented.

As a result, most companies that have continued to rely on traditional marketing and sales are now facing flat or declining sales. Business owners and marketers desperately need a new strategy to drive growth.

A new model of marketing

If customers have changed the ways in which they buy, then we must change the ways that we communicate with them.

Enter content marketing, which seeks to inform and educate prospects, rather than interrupting them with endless ads and offers. The most successful content marketers conduct research to deeply understand the needs and motivations of their prospective customers, develop content that addresses those needs and consistently publish it. Over time, your target audience gets to know, like and trust your company, which can lead to increased sales and other desirable outcomes.

Savvy companies are now enabling prospects by assembling collections of content and resources that are based on the needs of their ideal buyers. In a sense, the content becomes a surrogate salesperson, helping to nurture prospects through their buying process to the point of sale.

A growing body of evidence proves that this type of marketing strategy, when implemented strategically and based on real customer needs, can pay big dividends in terms of increased sales and customer loyalty.

Why now?

There’s no question that content marketing can be a valuable part of the marketing mix in today’s organizations. This leads us to the question:

Why now? What is the risk if you maintain the status quo?

If one of the leading content marketing strategies is to create the “go-to” collection of content and resources that are focused on the needs of the buyers you want to attract, then it follows that there’s a definite first mover advantage in doing so. If you are able to create the first authoritative information portal in your industry, that gives you a distinct advantage.

If you’re not the first mover in your industry, there is still hope: You just need to get a bit more creative and define a narrower content niche that you can “own.”