Marketing to Grandpa (and Everyone Else)

With such a broad span of generations to market to, how do you know your business is reaching everyone? Generational targeting lets us take a look at the specific generations active in today’s market, and how we should be focusing our marketing efforts.

Who are the baby boomers?

Baby boomers were born between 1946 and 1964 and grew up during the American dream, white picket fence era of post-WWII. According to 3Prime, 60.7 percent of adults age 65+ will be using the internet by 2018. Eighty-two percent of baby boomers currently use social networking sites, specifically Facebook, to connect with family and friends.

Direct marketing/sales tactics are still effective with this group. Talking to real people is how you get a boomer to engage your business and make that sale. Boomers enjoy the direct interaction, be it in a store or with a phone call – just don’t call during dinner!

Brand loyalty is very strong among baby boomers. They are the generation who will stock up on an item that they feel is of high quality. They have a brand for almost every item that they need to purchase, be it Jif peanut butter, Crest toothpaste or Old Spice cologne. If you can prove that your product is high quality and will be necessary for an indefinite amount of time, you should be able to acquire some boomers as customers.

Lastly, skip the discounts. Boomers are more likely going to be okay with splurging on themselves in retirement. No one wants to drink $7 wine in their ’60s, or buy used furniture on Craigslist for the house they downsized to after their last child moved out. Try marketing full-price or “top-shelf” products to them. Baby boomers understand the finer things in life and are willing to purchase an investment in themselves.

Who are the Gen Xers?

Gen X is the smallest generation, born between 1965 and 1984. Gen Xers are now juggling childcare, home ownership and reaching the peak of their careers. Think of the 40-year-old who went to high school in the ’80s, is now working in green energy and has children that might be grown in their immediate circle.

Gen X is small but mighty. They spend the most time on all media platforms than any other generation, according to a 2016 Nielson report. About 80 percent of Gen Xers are on Facebook and Twitter, but only half have active accounts. Email marketing is still valid with this group, as they are our worker bees who are tied to email at work and home.

Coupons and lifestyle nurture programs are loved by Generation X. Saving up for home ownership, starting a business and planning for retirement take lots of time and money. Coupons help attract Gen X to products and experiences. They are a frugal generation! Buy more/save more programs, direct ship options like Blue Apron and Amazon are making their busy lives a bit easier.

Who are the millennials?

Millennials were born between 1981 and 1999 and are slowly outnumbering baby boomers. Millennials began entering the workforce as the economy crashed, and as a result, are the most abundant generation of entrepreneurs. An economic force with $200 billion in annual buying power, millennials are the least frequent in-store shoppers and the most responsive to online shopping opportunities.

Watch your reviews. If you are not a part of a review platform specific to your business (Yelp, TripAdvisor, etc.), you need to be now! Make sure your online reviews and customer experiences are up to par. A reported 68 percent of millennials say they won’t make a major decision until they have discussed it with people they trust.

Loyalty programs and incentives catch the millennial eye. Harness the power of a millennial on social media by adding incentives into your marketing plan. According to Yahoo, 63 percent of millennials would be more likely to “check-in” to a business on social channels if it meant they’d receive a coupon or discount. A 20 percent off incentive is enough to prompt 50 percent of respondents to visit a retail location.

No matter how your business chooses to market itself, be sure you are embracing old-school and new-school marketing techniques. Make that cold call, create coupons and incentives and be social on the web. There is such a broad span of generations to market to and you will want to reach them all.

 Marsha Stratton is the owner of Idea Stream, a full-service marketing firm, which has been helping small business owners in northern Michigan grow their business for more than 20 years. For more information please call (231) 933-6635 or visit