[PPMA Pulse] Marketing to the Masses: Tapping Into the Buying Power of Four Generations

Departments - PPMA Pulse

September 29, 2015

For the first time in history, there are four generations of consumers in the workforce at the same time who are making purchasing decisions side-by-side — The Silent Generation, Baby Boomers, Generation X and Millennials — presenting challenges and opportunities for marketers in every industry, including ours.

While marketers often zero in on factors such as income, education, homeownership and gender, generational differentiators often have even more influence on purchasing decisions. Not only does each of the generational groups have different preferences about nearly everything in life, they each have their own set of expectations, perspectives and communication styles. So given these facts, how do we successfully market professional pest control to multi-generational customers? We do so by developing a better understanding of our audiences.

The Silent Generation (Born prior to 1946).

This generation, currently numbering around 55 million, was raised during the Great Depression and fought in World War II. They are conservative, traditional and seek value and comfort and have worked hard for what they have. Silents have made an effort to assimilate to modern technology, but still tend to respond best to traditional marketing methods, such as print, radio and television advertising, direct mail, and email offers.

The members of this generation prefer hard-copy information and face-to-face exchanges during which they can ask questions and understand all the benefits of the service they are purchasing. However, they bristle against perceptions that they are old, sick, incapable or disabled and want to be treated like the active members of society they are.

Baby Boomers (Born between 1946 and 1964).

Boomers grew up in a time of idealism followed by great social change. Many members of this group are retired or will be retiring soon. According to Nielsen, in 2017, about half of the U.S. population will be 50 and older and they will control a full 70 percent of the country’s disposable income. They value trust and loyalty and expect companies to meet their needs. Boomers tend to do their research online and look for bargains when shopping for goods and services.

To target Boomers, PCOs should consider focusing on a mix of digital and traditional tactics, such as email and social media, as well as print advertising, clearly illustrating how your services will bring value to their lives. You also should make sure to prop up your value proposition and reasons for why they should choose you. Even though they tend to be cost-conscious, Boomers may be less focused on cost if they feel they’re getting the best value.

Generation X (Born between 1965 and 1980).

Much of this generation, numbering approximately 60 million members in the U.S., is currently at the peak of their careers and earning years. Although they are a smaller customer segment than Boomers and Millennials, they have more spending power than any other generation.

Growing up at the start of the technological era, Gen X members are tech savvy. However, they tend to be skeptical of marketing tactics and aren’t easily convinced. The best way companies can combat this skepticism is to offer access to information and educate them about your services.

When it comes to this generation, digital is the way to earn their business and loyalty. As they tend to respond well to feelings of community and often source their friends and online communities for suggestions about services and products, you should consider having a strong social media presence and how you engage with consumers in this demographic. Similarly, online advertising tends to work well with this group as they most often begin to research products and services online before making their purchasing decisions. Lastly, as Generation X uses email as their main form of business and personal communication, you may want to consider sending customized offers to this group via email.

Millennials (Born between 1981 and 1995).

This young generation has grown up during the digital age, living life on their smartphones and sharing on social media. Millennials tend to be open-minded, independent and a little impulsive. Marketing to this group is arguably the hardest of all the generations and requires originality and understanding of the latest technology trends as well as their buying habits. As noted by Jason Dorsey, a leading Millennial speaker and researcher, “this generation is not tech savvy, but rather tech dependent.” But marketing to them is a must considering they wield about $200 billion annually in direct spending power, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

To be successful, companies should think about catering to this generations’ thirst for knowledge and new experiences. Millennials tend to react well to real-life examples as it relates to their desire to know the truth about everything. This group is highly visual and tends to consume information quickly, often clicking through a short slideshow or scrolling through their Twitter and newsfeeds for news. As a pest control company, knowing these habits is helpful as you find ways to use creative and engaging videos and images in online marketing efforts to connect with this group.

It’s also important to note that although many members of this generation may not be homeowners just yet, several economic indicators suggest the tide is turning and more Millennials may be on the path to homeownership. As this powerful demographic represents future pest control customers, it’s well worth the investment of marketing dollars to reach them.

Closing Thoughts.

Today, marketing is much more personal than ever before. You and your company and brand have to be actively and continually engaged with your current and prospective customers through a variety of tactics and communicating on different platforms. By understanding how best to reach your targets, you can then build an educated marketing strategy to meet your firm’s goals. And while it may be tempting to spend marketing dollars to develop specialized campaigns and programs that appeal to each generation, it also can be cost prohibitive. It’s more important to think strategically about the placement of the message and to allow for flexibility in delivery. For example, consider conducting an ad campaign that speaks to the value of your services and ensure it’s being distributed across multiple channels/mediums and in outlets targeted to each generation.

Although the overall concept is the same, small changes in copy/language also will go a long way in establishing a connection to each audience. Similarly, repurposing core messaging whenever possible also can save time and money. If you’ve taken the time to develop an email campaign targeting Boomers, examine ways you can reuse the information — perhaps as condensed social posts on Facebook — for Gen X and Millennial segments.

Whomever the target and whatever the method, the key for successful communication across all generations is to remain authentic, avoid the hard sell and ultimately build and earn their trust.

Cindy Mannes is executive director of the Professional Pest Management Alliance and vice president of public affairs for NPMA. For more about PPMA, visit www.npmapestworld.org/ppma.