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Do You Know Your Customers’ Generation?
Different customer cohorts don't all speak the same language, or react to the same messages
For the rest of the April 2017 issue of CRM magazine please click here

One of the core functions of an effective CRM solution is to help you segment and identify your customers’ behaviors, attitudes, and preferences. Tracking customer activity and engagement with your CRM has long been a primary function. Segmenting your customers by income level, gender, or purchasing frequency has proven to be an effective strategy. So how can you take your customer experience to the next level?

You can do so by learning about the generation to which your customers belong. All customer interactions should be tailored specifically to fit each identified generation.

Even if you feel your product or service appeals to customers of all ages, it is important to recognize that you wouldn’t speak to a Boomer the same way you would to a Gen Xer or a Millennial. By fully understanding each generation, you can tailor your marketing and sales processes to match the preferences of each group.

For those who need a refresher, here is a generational breakdown.

The Matures: Also known as the Silent Generation, this cohort was born before 1946 and had their lives shaped by the Great Depression and World War II. They are resistant to change and seek structure and routine. They are cautious and conventional. Economically, they buy what is needed and have been unloading and downsizing for a long time.

The Baby Boomers: Born between 1946 and 1964 (I’m on the tail-end of this group), the members of this generation have had their lives shaped by tremendous social change. These upheavals in social norms led to experimentation and the quest for personal expression and freedom. (Remember the ’60s? They do, for the most part.) These folks like to effect social change and are supportive of charities and nonprofit organizations. From an economic standpoint, this group also has the most disposable income, and they account for nearly half of all retail sales. (They love the cool expensive technology stuff, too.)

Generation X: Born between 1965 and 1980, this generation popularized the term “latch-key kids,” as its members were the first to grow up with both parents working. More than half of them experienced the divorce of their parents and witnessed corporate right-sizing, down-sizing, and capsizing. They are less loyal to their employers and seek a good work-life balance. Economically, this group has the highest income and will have more disposable income to spend than the generation before as they progress in their careers.

Millennials: The focus of much marketing effort and media attention, this cohort was born between 1981 and 2000 and grew up with the internet and instant communication. They get their information on demand and ignore the traditional information distribution systems. They tend to be casual and aspirational, identifying with brands that are successful and enhance the social good. This tech-oriented group responds well to digital marketing and loves their social media and mobile devices. Economically, they earn less than the other generations and have lots of debt but are willing to spend money on unique, quality products.

Segmenting your customers based on these generational groups is important, but we can’t lose sight of the fact that the people in each generational segment may not purchase goods and services the same way. Within each generational group, you’ll have sub-segments, such as business professionals, office workers, or stay-at-home parents, each with their own unique buying preferences.

That said, how does this affect your CRM strategy? As you segment your customers by generation, you will be able to create products and services that align with their worldviews, learn how each generation recommends your products and services to their peers, and demonstrate to your generational segments that you understand that their needs are unique. By doing all that, you’ll be able to differentiate your business from your competitors’.

So here’s the bottom line. If you want your business to take customer experience to the next level and retain its relevancy in today’s evolving marketplace, then you need to understand who specifically your clients are, what they value, and how they like to communicate—and segmenting by generation can help.


Michael Vickers is the executive director of Summit Learning Systems and the author of Dance of the Rainmaker: Creating Authentic Differentiation in a Competitive Marketplace.

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