Generational Marketing - What You Need To Know | Small Biz Marketing Specialist
generational marketing

Generational Marketing – What Small Business Owners Need To Know

I’m a people watcher. I love going to the mall and watching people – checking out what they wear, what they say, how they interact. I see kids being pushed in strollers with technological gadgets in hand, teens who text each other instead of talk to each other while they sip “foo foo” coffee drinks, young adults who are balancing their toddlers running around trying to get them to eat their non-GMO protein-filled lunch while helping mom or dad move around with their cane or in their wheelchair struggling to remain independent. As a marketer, I find it truly fascinating, looking at it from how businesses market to each of those generations (from the signage to lure them in, to the words, colors and images they use, to the staff they hire) and how those consumers react and interact with all of it.

Generations behave differently, are motivated by different things, and consume media in such different ways. All of these differences are motivated by the events happening in the world as they grew up or the access they had to certain technologies.

We’re living in a time with 4 distinct generations:

Baby Boomers – born between 1946 and 1964 and grew up during the American-dream, white-picket-fence era of post WWII

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Gen Xers – born between 1965 and 1980 are often referred to as the bridge between Millennials and Baby Boomers

Millennials – born between 1981 and 1999 and came of age during the early 2000’s

Generation Z – born 2000 or later (also known as Post-Millennials, the iGeneration, Founders, Plurals, or the Homeland Generation)

Each of these generational segments has unique characteristics, wants, needs, pains, challenges, etc.

If you’ve read my book “Small Business Marketing Made EZ” you know I preach about the “C” in the ACTION system – CONNECT with your audience.  Tailor and customize your message to each audience.  The problem is that the small business owner on Main Street and beyond is trying to market to ALL of these different generations, even if they’re “trying” to do some generational segmentation.

They’re throwing money at local marketing to reach the Millennials walking by with phones in their hand. They’re throwing money at Val-Pak to reach the Baby Boomers who are looking for a deal. They’re posting things on Facebook and/or running ads – because that’s where the Gen Xers hang out right? – but then complain that “social media doesn’t work” because no one is engaging with their posts or buying their products and services. They invest in the newest-greatest tool/tip/technology to reach Generation Z because some guru preaches that it works, yet 1) they’ve never done it themselves and 2) they forget to tell you that sure they may have brought in $100K in revenue from one campaign, but it cost $200K to do it.

Does any of this sound like you? Stop! Stop! Stop!

Yes, generational marketing is important, but understand that “You can’t be everything to everyone so be something for someone.” It’s my mantra that helped me get crystal clear on who my perfect customer is in my coffee and smoothie business and allows me to be laser-focused on where and how I spend my limited marketing dollars.

I realized (after going $500K in debt) that the profitability in my coffee and smoothie business was coming from catering. Sure I could market to every generation differently. After all, what we offered – fresh fruit smoothies served from a tiki bar or Hawaiian coffees and espresso “foo foo” drinks – could be provided to every generation:

  • The baby boomers could hire us for retirement parties, anniversary celebrations
  • The GenXer’s could hire us for Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, graduation parties
  • The Millennials could hire us for backyard parties, baby showers, weddings
  • Generation Z probably wouldn’t hire us directly but they have influence with those who would hire/pay us for their graduation parties, birthday parties, Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, etc

All different reasons for hiring us do catering. Each generation does use our services. If you were the owner of this business and mapping out your marketing strategy, you may be thinking “Wow, there are so many opportunities to market these catering services. If I just market to each generation a little differently, I’ll have it made. After all, each generation wants what I offer.”

Sure, you “could” market to each generation differently. But it’s unrealistic you can SERVE all of these generations well. It’s doubtful you have the resources to invest the marketing dollars to be “the go to place” for everyone.

A clothing store has something every generation “wants” and “needs” – shirts and pants. That doesn’t mean they’re going to be able to serve every generation well, nor should they try. It would be like Abercrombie marketing to me (A Gen Xer very close to a Baby Boomer). There’s no way I’m getting my body into those short shorts or cropped t-shirts. Even if they decided that they would offer clothing more in line with my tastes, it would be wasted marketing dollars trying to lure me in, because there’s a disconnect (in my mind) and I know I don’t fit in. It would be like my son inviting me to his college party because they’re going to be serving wine. Sure, I love wine, but drinking it in a red Solo cup with a bunch of drunken Millennials who are too busy posting selfies on social . . . not my thing.  But I digress . . . .

Generational marketing is really no different than niche marketing . . . . pick one and stick with it. Go deep, really deep. Invest your time, effort and resources in one generation (at least to start) and you can then scale from there.

In my coffee and smoothie business, I focus on catering because it’s the most profitable. But as noted above, there are different types of catering. There’s the residential catering where someone is having an event at their home or for personal reasons (ex: birthday party, anniversary celebration, baby shower, etc) and there’s corporate catering where someone is bringing us in to their office (ex: staff appreciation event, corporate meeting, company picnic, etc). The largest net profit comes from corporate catering so that’s where I spend my time, effort and resources.

I make sure I am very clear on my “who” – the person (and the generation of that person) I’m reaching who makes the catering decisions within the company.

My “who” is “Carol” the HR manager at a company with 50 or more employees looking for something fun, different and healthy to do for staff appreciation events. Carol is a GenXer. She gets stuck with having to put together events to motivate and retain staff, but planning and coordinating these events is not her full-time job, nor her expertise. She’s frustrated that no one shows up to these events (because no one wants another pizza party) and she gets no appreciation or recognition for putting the events together.

Because I am so crystal clear on my “who” I can implement an integrated marketing strategy to get Carol’s business. I know that LinkedIn, being active in my local SHRM (Society of Human Resource Management) chapter, and sending out “smoothie in a box” packages are the top 3 drivers of new business. Do you see any shiny objects there?

It doesn’t mean I don’t do any of the other types of catering. I do them all – from backyard parties to black tie events. I just don’t actively market for that business. They find me, and that’s great because it keeps my calendar full and I’m not investing my precious time and money to market to them.

I know that the private catering events take more work and energy. They’re smaller jobs (usually about 25 people) and the person coordinating the event is very budget conscious. It’s also harder to directly market to get private catering jobs – how would I know who’s planning a backyard party or retirement party?

With corporate catering I’ve built a fence around my herd. So much so, that I’m now offering packages to be their “one-stop-shop” for staff appreciation events. Whether it’s 4, 6 or 12 times a year, we have different catering packages that can make Carol’s (the HR manager) life easy.

It’s also a lot more profitable. These larger companies have money to spend on these types of events and they don’t nickel and dime for every little thing. They just want someone to make them look good, and that’s what we do.

“Be something for some one” (notice ONE is separate for a reason) is the mantra that will best serve your business. Write it on a piece of paper . . . of course only if you’re a Baby Boomer. If you’re Generation X post it on Facebook and share it along with a dog, cat, or baby video. If you’re a Millennial and you can stop for just one second from looking for the next greatest thing, and unplug from your 20 devices, make it a cause to save the world. If you’re Generation Z, sign it in cursive on your computer. What’s cursive? Or as the recent Apple ad said “What’s a computer”?

“Hey Google. What do you think?”

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About Stacey Riska

Stacey Riska, aka “Small Business Stacey” is a serial entrepreneur who is passionate about saving small business and rebuilding Main Street. She helps small and local business owners become a #SmallBizMarketingWiz by teaching them marketing strategies that get MORE: MORE leads, MORE customers/clients, MORE sales, and MORE money. Stacey is the founder of Small Biz Marketing Specialist, THE go-to place for marketing tips, techniques and strategies that get results. Stacey is also the creator of the Daily Deals for Massive Profits Training Program, an online video training program that teaches small and local business owners how to use daily deal sites like Groupon to skyrocket their business growth and get massive profits. In this program she teaches from experience, as it was the key strategy that transformed her coffee and smoothie business from being $500K in debt to a 7-figure profitable business. When not saving the small business world, she enjoys sipping red wine, eating chocolate (who doesn’t!) and spending time with her amazing husband.

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About the Author smallbizmarketing

Stacey Riska, aka "Small Business Stacey" is a serial entrepreneur who is passionate about saving small business and rebuilding Main Street. She helps small and local business owners become a #SmallBizMarketingWiz by teaching them marketing strategies that get MORE: MORE leads, MORE customers/clients/patients, MORE sales, and MORE money. Stacey is the founder of Small Biz Marketing Specialist, THE go-to place for marketing tips, techniques and strategies that get results. She's also the author of "Small Business Marketing Made EZ" where she shares the 6-simple-step plan to get your marketing into ACTION - literally and figuratively. Stacey is also the creator of the Daily Deals for Massive Profits, an online video training program that teaches small and local business owners how to use daily deal sites like Groupon to skyrocket their business growth and get massive profits. In this program she teaches from experience, as it was the key strategy that transformed her coffee and smoothie business from being $500K in debt to a 7-figure profitable business. When not saving the small business world, she enjoys sipping red wine, eating chocolate (who doesn't!) and spending time with her amazing husband.

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