Talkin’ About Generations: How to Market to All Age GroupsFebruary 29th, 2016 by Trey Barrineau
If you haven’t thought about selling doors and windows to Millennials, you’d better figure it out quickly, according to Matt Beaudreau of the Center for Generational Kinetics.
“In 2017, Millennials will be the first ones to outspend Baby Boomers in the United States,” Beaudreau said during his presentation “Selling Across Generations” at a recent American Architectural Manufacturers Association (AAMA) meeting. “Millennials have the greatest lifetime value of any customer you can get, period. They also have the least established loyalty.”
Beaudreau, who is a Millennial himself, highlighted a statistic to show how generational differences can affect perceptions in the workplace.
“On average, when my generation comes to work for you guys today, we are five years older than every single one of you were when you started your first job,” he said. “When we walk in, you don’t see the 23-year-old who’s never had a job. You see yourself at 23. You might have been married and had kids and a lot of serious responsibilities.”
Beaudreau said the U.S. is in the midst of an unprecedented multi-generational workforce realignment.
“We have four, almost five generations working side-by-side in the workplace,” he said. “It can be a challenge, but it can be an unprecedented opportunity.”
Beaudreau then discussed Millennials’ spending habits, how they’ve been raised by their parents, and how they relate to technology.
Millennials typically want to “shop local” and support family-owned businesses when possible. They’re also more concerned about sustainability than other generations.
“If an operation is bigger, that’s fine — but they will want to know that there is social impact tied to a business in some way,” Beaudreau said.
Next, Beaudreau acknowledged that many Millennials have an air of entitlement at work – but he also spelled out who’s to blame for that.
“You may think Millennials feel entitled, but consider a Boomer on his or her 18th birthday, and then a Millennial on theirs,” he said. “Boomers were kicked out of their parents’ homes at 18 and told to join the army or get a job. Millennials at age 18 are either staying home or coming back home after college.”
Beaudreau said a shift in parenting explains this more than anything else.
“Boomers wanted life to be easier for their children than it was for them,” he said. “Well, mission accomplished! Entitlement as a behavior is 100 percent learned. How you were raised will indicate how you’ll behave in the workplace.”
This parenting shift has led to the creation of a new life stage — Delayed Adulthood.
“We want all the freedom of adulthood without any of the responsibility,” Beaudreau said, adding that the age at which people reach personal milestones such as marriage, home ownership or childbirth is older than at any time on record.
Despite their entitlement issues, Beaudreau urged members of the door and window industry to hire Millennials because of the valuable technological skills they bring to the workplace.
“Technology ripples up, not out,” he said. “Millennials can be relied on to bring newer technologies and ways of getting business done to a company.”
Beaudreau said those technologies strongly affect how Millennials communicate with the world.
“They’re not tech-savvy, they’re tech-dependent,” he said. “They can’t live without it. All that matters is how easy can you make it so that it just works.”
In that regard, he had specific advice for businesses in the fenestration industry– streamline the contact pages on your company websites.
“It just needs to be a very simple form,” he said. “Name, email, phone number.”
If you want to sell to Millennials, Beaudreau said you must understand that they communicate in three main ways: texting, email and social media – and if your business isn’t using the latter, you need to change that right now.
“Social media is still a must for you,” he said. “It matters more who you follow than who follows you, but you have to use it. There’s no way around it.”
And forget using telephone calls to sell to them.
“Millennials generally don’t appreciate phone calls and see them as an invasion of privacy,” Beaudreau said. “There’s a saying: ‘Real friends don’t call, they text.’ ”
They’re also not as strong with face-to-face communication as other generations.
As for the No. 1 sales approach for reaching Millennials, it’s got to be focused on personalization.
“The sales pitch for your products should be ‘they’re as unique as you are,’ “ he said.
Beaudreau said Millennials are also entirely visual learners who are completely outcome-driven.
“They don’t think in a linear fashion,” he said. “So start with the outcome, then walk backwards.”
Beyond the Millennials
When it comes to communicating to all generations, Beaudreau recommends being as clear as possible.
“Give easy and specific, concrete examples and a visual when explaining information across generations – that can help you get on the same page,” he said.
Beaudreau then broke down some broad workplace characteristics of generations other than Millennials.
Generation X (those born between 1964 and 1979) are the most skeptical, he said – and that’s not all bad.
“It’s part of what makes Gen Xers the best managers for your organization,” Beaudreau said. “They’re also the most loyal. Not loyal to companies, but to individuals.”
Boomers, whom Beaudreau said were the most influential group in the fenestration industry, measure work ethic in hours per week. They also believe there are no shortcuts to success.
The older Traditionalists are also strong in the industry, Beaudreau said. They grew up during the Great Depression, so they’re most comfortable with delayed gratification. They often have a strong military connection.