Technological and social change presents a unique challenge for advice businesses who need to communicate often complex information –mass marketing approaches are no longer effective, and the job of reaching out requires a lot more planning.
You can’t design a campaign that will appeal equally to multiple generations of people who have had radically different life experiences in relatively short amounts of time. Those life experience differences have resulted in different preferences and expectations in communication and engagement.
Someone asked me recently what communication channels each generation prefers and how they should be used. I believe that focussing on the channels is to miss a key point – first comes the content, then comes the channel. The success of communicating to the various generations lies more within your actual message than the platforms you use. Once your messages are clear and you know a bit more about the generations, you can then tailor your messaging to each of the three generations.
To be successful in tailoring your messaging, you do need to understand the differences between each of the three main generations (Boomers, Gen X, and Millennials) and be clear on exactly who you’re targeting. In this article I’ll talk a bit more about who they are and what they like, but don’t be too intimidated by the task – There is a high chance that you are already in one of these generations and you know family members, colleagues or friends who are in others; common sense is a good starting point!
What we’re doing is what’s known as generational marketing, which recognises that each generation has differing attitudes, preferences, upbringing and experiences.
There are three main generations we need to consider:
1. Millennials: 18 to 34 years old
2. Generation X: 35 to 54 years old
3. Baby boomers: 55 to 70 years old
Let’s take a look at the characteristics of each generation and then we can start to consider ways to engage and interact.
Baby boomers were the first TV generation so they are used to seeing mass marketing messages and can, therefore, decipher which message is right for them. Baby boomers still check their voice messages and the mailbox, but they have also embraced some social media platforms, predominantly Facebook. They are comfortable watching a short video because they’ve been watching screens for years!
One of the most interesting aspects of the baby boomers is that they are less open to change and therefore remain more loyal to brands they trust and like. For example, if they are notified that one of their favourite brands is changing in some way, they are likely to be found buying bulk before the changes are made. This is important to know as a financial advice business since many are making some radical changes this year; be mindful and always engage and communicate your reasons why more than five times.
If you have built trust and a respectful relationship with a baby boomer client, they are extremely likely to talk about you with their friends. Baby boomers rate respectfulness very highly and expect their service provider to demonstrate respect at all stages of the professional relationship. For example, they would be very disgruntled to receive a phone call during lunch, dinner or after hours. To them, that is a sign of disrespect.
Contrary to what some might think baby boomers aren’t stuffy and boring either! They are looking forward to retirement when they can travel and experience life rather than sit at home and watch TV all day.
They’re happy to watch your instructional video, read your content on your website and receive a phone call, but they place a great deal of value on a face-to-face meeting when discussing their private matters.
Baby boomers like to feel empowered and in control of their lives so respond well to information that guides their decision-making process. This can be in the form of video, traditional marketing material or web content.
They enjoy receiving recognition in the form of a thank you, VIP events and loyalty programs. They have worked extremely hard throughout their lives and enjoy pampering, perks and activities that offer the ‘you deserve it’ tag line.
Baby boomers are also very optimistic and like to think that people can be trusted and that they will do what they say. If you don’t deliver, beware!
What most advisers don’t appreciate is that this generation is very tech savvy, especially in Australia. Your website must be available for them to quickly search for the answers to their questions. They want to be able to read detailed information about your services and clearly see how these will benefit them. Both the TV and the internet are essential information sourcing platforms for baby boomers.
Facebook is the most used social media platform for baby boomers. They like to follow their family members and happily read content that is shared by companies that they follow.
The busiest of all the generations with career, family, ageing parents and other obligations, this generation remembers when you could only buy something from a store or a catalogue. If you are trying to reach them, just email them since they are likely to be attached to their PC or mobile device! Aren’t you?!
Generation X was the first to see divorce as commonplace and be labelled ‘latchkey kids’ with two working parents and no-one at home after school. While they grew up watching TV, they have seen the introduction of mobile phones, the Internet, PCs and social media.
Sceptical about marketing messages, generation X are cynical about brand marketing because they have been inundated with advertising. That said, once they find a brand they like, similar to baby boomers, they are incredibly loyal.
Generation X responds well to marketing that clearly outlines what they can expect from a service or product; what’s in it for them? How will it benefit them? A multi-channel marketing strategy will work best for generation X; for example, print, digital, social, direct and TV.
Authentic marketing is the key. Demonstrate how your advice will deliver value specifically to them and how you’ve been able to help others just like them. Conservative by nature, they don’t want to be a guinea pig.
Generation X likes to feel that they (or at least the businesses they deal with) have involvement in corporate social responsibility so making sure your advice business has a CSR strategy and promoting it would be beneficial.
Similar to baby boomers, generation X also likes to feel part of an ‘exclusive’ group so invites to VIP events and experiences are well received. Be mindful though, they are the busy generation!
Generation X is very aware of work-life balance and while some are still battling with the notion, many have mastered it and like to align with businesses that share those values. Promoting your core values would be ideal on your website and across your marketing collateral.
They will appreciate learning about your security provisions, professional qualifications and ongoing education, as these credentials give them peace of mind that you can deliver what you claim and have done so for others.
Generation X is very comfortable with social media especially Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter and to a lesser degree SnapChat. They are comfortable liking, connecting, being part of community groups and using the platforms to research.
Finally, generation X is comfortable with innovation and will respond well to new initiatives rather than just the same old strategies/services that have traditionally been delivered by advice businesses. They don’t necessarily know what new initiatives they want, but they will know them when they see them – the details are for you to work out!
The highest number of entrepreneurs sit within this generation. Rulers of social media, they are most likely to respond to a well thought-out social media strategy. They are most likely to use a service, visit a location or eat at a cafe where they can see their friends have already been. Social proof has a huge influence on this generation, therefore it is wise to have current reviews of your service on Google, Facebook and other Internet platforms.
Millennials love to both watch and listen to exciting shows. This is interesting to note because it means they will listen to podcasts about things that will motivate them and help them achieve in life.
Just like generation X, millennials can smell a fake a mile away, and won’t respond to false advertising or mass media. They want purpose and personalisation. They respond well to personality, characters or narrators of a brand. Unfortunately, all the research also shows that millennials are not loyal, so businesses need to work harder to demonstrate that they can provide value, benefit and a reliable outcome.
An exciting aspect of millennials is that they respond well to businesses that are highly socially conscious, are ethical and can demonstrate environmentally sound practices. Promoting how your advice business helps the community will attract their interest and increase the chances of them being loyal. Don’t forget they are in the era of ‘shop around’, ‘no fixed contracts’, ‘switch and save’, so you need to give them something more than price competitiveness as a reason to stay.
Obviously, a strong online presence will work with this generation, but interestingly enough, this is a generation that hasn’t experienced ‘snail mail’, so if you are looking at getting their attention, old fashioned letters could achieve that!
A generation that is constantly communicating, they respond well to short, targeted messages that clearly state what is in it for them. Messages that talk only of your business without personality or entertainment will fall on deaf ears. This is a generation with a short attention span. They’ve grown up being entertained and they like to interact online so ensure your digital marketing strategy allows for real-time interaction, up to the minute information, and content that is relevant and highly engaging. Transparency, authenticity and real are three pillars to consider for this generation.
Seeking self-expression, millennials will respond well to original content. Use real data, social proof and evidence when marketing to millennials because they shop around quickly and you want your marketing to appeal to their preferences.
With a limited attention span, you will need to keep your brand fresh, energetic and be open to changing things on a regular basis. This is the generation that values influencers; they will listen to what others have to say and will follow the recommendations of people they admire. My podcast episode with Anthony Svirkis, CEO, Tribe provides more information about influencer marketing. Click here to hear from Anthony and learn more about influencer marketing.
Your marketing should demonstrate how your proposition will fit into their lifestyle and give them value rather than just solving their problem; they want more! Their choices are an expression of who they are so it’s important to show how you align with that.
Involving this generation in your business model, your design, any aspect of your business would be a wise move since they have big expectations about brand performance.
Where to from here?
Offering intergenerational advice seems like an obvious strategy for many advice businesses with a maturing client base, but not many have been able to ‘crack’ this strategy.
Research conducted by SRSCC revealed that when baby boomers were asked if their adult children would see a need to consult a financial adviser, 80% said they were too young and too focused on paying off their mortgage.
When adult children were asked if they would be comfortable seeing the same financial adviser that their parents see, 75% responded ‘no’.
It’s obvious that even between family members, understanding generational preferences is a tricky business! It’s therefore up to advice businesses to do their homework to understand the three generations, be clear about their own messaging and offerings, and put the work in to segment their communication for maximum effect.
It sounds like a lot of work, and it is definitely more complex than the ‘old days’ of mass marketing, but the rewards are significant, especially in a competitive market when client loyalty and referrals are key objectives.
The team at Fox and Hare have done a terrific job of creating their business specifically targeted at a niche group and have mastered the art of marketing through inclusion, feedback loops, energetic branding, relevant events and more. They are focused on their brand and marketing and you can tell it’s working. For more insights listen to the podcast with the fabulous Glen from Fox and Hare by clicking here.
Have more questions than answers? Feel free to contact me, firstname.lastname@example.org more clarity and direction with your marketing.
About the author – The first thing you should know about me is that I’m insanely committed. Committed to hard work, to results-driven marketing, to financial services, and especially to people. Unlike others in our profession, I am a qualified and experienced marketing professional which means I know what I’m talking about and I’ve got the years of experience to back it up. With genuine love and enjoyment of marketing, I ensure I keep ahead of the pack by undertaking in further study, all of the time.