What’s Generation Got to Do With It?
Our household has three generations under its roof--- and our extended family broadens that, with at least one member in every decade, ranging in age from 2 to 72. Our workplace has three of the four generations, and our and client base is probably 5% Traditionalist, 50% Boomer and 45% Gen X.
As we communicate with them, we follow the mantra AAT, ATT: All About Them, All the Time. We’ve got to understand them---as individuals and as representatives of a particular segment, be it profession/industry, geographic or economic status.
My life experience with multi-generations has been helpful in including how we implement AAT, ATT. The differences in how Boomers, Gen X-ers and Gen Y/Millennials make buying decisions are clearly distinct. How they define wants and needs, establish choice criteria, evaluate their alternatives, examine whether or not to buy, and their preference to negotiate offer huge clues as to how we, as guides to their buying decisions, can be of most value.
Without overgeneralizing, let me suggest approaches we’ve found that work well in helping each of today’s four major generation groups make buying decisions.
The Traditionalists/Silent Generation (born 1900-1945) While fewer than 5% of today’s workforce is made up of this generation, they still have many ways they interact with professionals. In today’s uncertain environment, attorneys, CPAs and investment professionals who serve this generation need to keep in mind that they value hard work, sacrifice, loyalty and respect. They are far more impressed by hand written notes and memos than emails or newsletters and treasure connections that provide privacy.
The Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964, full disclosure: This is my generation) Often referred to as the knowledge generation, we’re really interested in information and thrive on success. The presence of the Internet has made it easy for us to uncover virtually anything before someone calls on us, which means a dramatic shift in a seller’s typical first meeting approach (Note: Do NOT come in and give us a sales presentation!) We move quickly, expect to be seen as leaders and value being treated as big thinkers and action-focused experts. Sharing original content, thought leadership and clear patterns of success make us pay attention. While we’re strong individuals (don’t forget, we lived through Haight Ashbury, Vietnam, Watergate, political assassinations and women’s rights), we also expect to be treated as those who paved the way.
The Gen X-ers (born 1965-1980) In the same way that Boomers railled against the system politically, X-ers did socially. They are fiercely independent, see themselves as free agents, and pride themselves on being self-sufficient and self-starters. Informality is crucial if we wish to help guide their decision making process. Recently, Prudential reached out to this crowd, changing their rock metaphor from “Get a piece of the rock” to “Be your own rock.” They hate hard sell and respond well to shared information, so they can do their own research and make comparisons. Technology is key to their decision making. “We guide, they decide” is an extremely welcomed approach to these very independent decision makers.
The Millennials /Gen Y (born 1981-2000) This is the scheduled generation. Their buying decisions are made carefully, and some researchers have suggested they may be the “new Traditionalists.” Very team oriented, they pay special attention to group approval. Technology is a part of every facet of their lives and is always incorporated into buying decisions. Their communication preferences are 99% technology, with texting often overpowering email. Computers and technology have been part of their lives since birth. It is important to be direct and fast to capture their interest or we will lose them.
Want to be an authentic guide as you reach out to potential clients? Spend time reflecting on this and then challenge yourself to apply some of these tips. For more, Sign up for our Two Minute Tips e-newsletter, where you’ll get additional practical tips n reaching each of these generations--- and lots more.