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Multi-generational Sales: From Boomers to Millennials and beyond

| March 31, 2019
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As a business owner and a millennial I felt almost obligated to write this. Recently I read an article that declared Nike as the Marketer of the Year in 2018. This is all in part to their targeting of Millennials to keep their business afloat for years to come. As a millennial this is exciting to see, as many businesses are following this trend. While this attention and personalized marketing can be exciting to a millennial, I had to look at this from a business owner perspective. Do I join in and start spending time, money, and resources to advertise to this demographic?

 

To help me answer this question I decided to combine my knowledge of history and new age research. While thrilling, this is not the first time that America’s market has catered to a specific generation.

 

 In 1946 at the end of World War II, soldiers were coming back from overseas and starting families. Before we knew it, the biggest generation was born, The Baby Boomers. They grew up being told that they could be anything they wanted to be. Before long we had a world catered to the Boomers. More houses were built, more colleges created, more products and services started. We had created a generation of the most college educated citizens than ever before in history. This soon produced a problem with a lack of jobs. To solve this issue many boomers began starting their own businesses, which led to a booming (no pun intended) economy with more invention and products than ever before. The children of this post war generation, Gen X, grew up watching their parents working all the time. Their views differed from their parents and they started to cherish family time instead of money and work. Fast forward to the Millennials, outnumbering the Boomers by 9 Million people the Millennials beg the question: Do we begin to cater to the Millennials as we once did the Boomers?

 

As a business owner I began to do my due diligence on the subject. While at the 2018 FOCUS Brands National Convention, we were given a speech about key takeaways as to how we cater to multi-generations for our business success. While I agree with the reasoning, I think the numbers warrant more of a warning to rethink our targeting. In a consumer-driven world, it is only natural to cater to the newest trends and fads across an economy. No one wants to be last to the game and everyone wants to be ahead of their competition. To this point I heed warning with a few facts.

 

While the Millennials outnumber the Baby Boomers, we are a generation that has more debt and less experience than any prior generation. We pride ourselves on seeing the world and experiencing new things (hence the mass rising of new foods and craft breweries). Many of us don’t want to put in a 60 hour work week as the Boomers did before us. Looking for cushy office jobs, we neglect the manual labor idea. Millennials work to live not live to work. There is nothing wrong with this and as business owners; we need to understand what this generation is thinking and what they care about.

 

As a business owner we have to look past the sheer size of a generation. We look at the spending power and who is going to be coming into our business. According to the 2018 Technomic Inc. Study, they found that the spending power of 83 Million Millennials is $200 Billion while the spending power of the 74 Million Boomers is $2.3 Trillion (value of goods or services each generation can purchase total, not yearly)!!! This leads me back to the Nike ads, and why they are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on marketing to a generation that has significantly less buying power than the Boomers? While I agree that we should target my Millennial generation as we are the future, I don’t think we should be forgetting the generation that changed it all.

 

Every business owner should know and understand his/her business. Know your clients and cater to those who are going to drive your business for years to come. Just because selling to the next generation works for one company doesn’t mean it works for all companies. To give an example through my personal business experience, out of all my automotive business clients, only one Millennial client has ever walked through my door for service. One day I will have to cater to the next generations, but for now I can’t forget to market to the clients that keep my lights on.

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