Marketing reflects stock market trends. 

I was sitting with my Edward Jones agent the other day, and she was explaining the cycles of the stock market to me.

Now, before I go any further, I would like to assure you: I am certainly not about to give you investment advice right now, nor am I qualified.  But the cycles she highlighted really rang true, because they are the same cycles I see in generational marketing

She explained that there are four phases of spending in everybody’s lives:

How to Target Millennials - Visual representation of 4 phases outlined below
  1. People up to age 25 are in the dependent phase where other people provide for them. 
  2. People between age 26 and 45 are in the heavy spending phase. This is the time of their lives when they are buying cars, houses, paying for daycare, raising kids. Money is flooding out the door. 
  3. And then, age 46-65 is the saving phase when they focus their money on saving for retirement and put it away.
  4. 65+ marks the retirement phase where the spend the money they saved.

The Effect of Boomers

Each generation has gone through these phases — though, one that we have felt most acutely are the Baby Boomers.

The market grew in the 80s as Boomers moved through the heavy spending phase. Interest rates were high to match the high demand for properties as Boomers made their first big purchases.

Post recession, our interest rates stay low because Boomers have entered the savings phase they are making more conservative investments.

The Boomers had such a heavy impact on our market because they were the first of the big generation. There were 35 million Boomers. Then came Generation X with 45 million at their peak. Now Millennials are peaking, and there are 90 million.

How to Target Millennials - Generation Population in Millions: Baby Boomers (Born 1945-1964) 73.47, Gen X (Born 1965-1980) 65.71, Millennials (Born 1981-1996), Gen Z (Born 1997 or later) 86.43

Prepping for the Millennial Shift

The average age of the Millennial is 26 years old, so they are moving into the heavy spending phase of their lives. Now Millennials are peaking, and there are 90 million. The future of businesses depends on our ability to adjust our processes to meet the needs of the Millennial generation.

Notice I said processes. I didn’t say values.

You don’t have to change the core of your business. You don’t have to change who you are. Millennials value the same thing you value: family, a job well done, honesty and transparency. At the root, Millennial values mirror that of Boomers’.

I honestly believe if Boomers and Millennials were the same age, they’d be best friends

Remember, Boomers initiated the Women’s Rights, and the Civil Rights movements. They were purveyors of change, change that needed to happen. And now, Millennials are the next purveyors of change — change that needs to happen now.

So if a 21-year-old Millennial and a 21-year-old Boomer had the opportunity to hang out, they would be stealing street signs together. But as it happens, one’s learning life’s lessons while the other is bailing them out of jail.

Adjust Processes to Meet Millennial Demands

Back to business: you don’t have to change the core of your business to satisfy Millennials. You don’t have to change who you are. You will, however, have to adjust your processes to meet their needs.

The biggest difference between Millennials and Boomers are two things:

  1. The way they intake information is different.
  2. Their expectations are different.

The way they intake information is different.

Millennials use technology to communicate. We all know that. And they have very, very little patience because they were raised in an age of immediate gratification, amplified by the Internet and cell phones. 

How to Target Millennials - Their expectations are different.

Their expectations are different.

They just don’t have the patience to deal with crap that could be better or just isn’t right. Lack of patience can feel like a lack of loyalty.  While that makes us cringe, it can also translate into a business opportunity for all of us. They won’t stick with a company that does a terrible, or even a mediocre job, forcing a survival of the fittest.  

For a really long time, companies have gotten away with being completely mediocre and still getting by thanks to the good ol’ boy network. And Millennials are going to lay that to rest. They are extremely discerning, they can see through a ruse. 

They have expectations of themselves, their lifestyles, the people that they work for and the companies they choose to work with. As they move into the heavy spending phase of life, they are also moving into managerial roles within companies, further magnifying the impact they have on the way we do business.

Embracing Technology to Improve Processes

As the 90s technology boom set in and marked the beginning of my digital marketing career, all people could talk about was technology overtaking everything. I’m sure people felt the same way in the industrial revolution. I remember sitting through Rotary talks and listening to the old timers say that technology was going to kill the honest business.

I didn’t agree then, and I don’t now. Companies that meet Millennial expectations are the honest businesses who have embraced technology in their processes but remained true to their values as a company.  Millennials want more than any other generation to make the world a better place. So strong core values are what draw them to a company, and the experience of working with a forward-thinking company is what makes them stay.

Don’t just change for the sake of change.

I want to clarify, I’m not saying that you should just go out and change and implement a boat load of technology just for the sake of change, or that you need it to keep up with the Joneses. That is not what I’m saying. What I’m saying is be open to change. Look for the squeaky spots in your process, the ones that aren’t running the way they used to run and aren’t nearly as successful. Then turn to technology to search for a solution that could help oil up those squeaky spots. Allow the things that aren’t working well to act as opportunities to push you where you need to be to deliver on the expectations of the Millennials.

How to Target Millennials - Be open to change. Don't change what makes you great.

I’m going to say it again one last time: the companies that come out on top are the ones remaining true to their values and adopting technology to make themselves better while not sacrificing what makes them great. 

Evolving Your Marketing Process

As for the inner workings of your company and all of the processes that make it tick…I am not qualified to advise on all of them. But one I can advise on is marketing. 

Marketing is a process within your company that is evolving rapidly and needs to meet the expectations of Millennials, both from a hiring perspective and from a sales perspective. It may be a process you’re struggling with evolving, or it might have been tabled for a squeakier wheel.

Invest Today, Benefit Tomorrow

Here’s the deal: even if you don’t feel it at this very minute, the tides are changing. You may not need to reach out to this younger demographic and have a conversation with them right now, but at some point, you will. And just like your retirement, you can’t wait until you’re 65 and just start taking money out of your investments to live on if you didn’t put anything into the account to begin with. You start young and you build throughout so you have what you need, when you need it.

Building your brand and your marketing audience work exactly the same way: you have to invest in them. Even if it’s just a small amount right now, so you can cash it in when you need it.

More about the Author

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Monica Pitts

Monica is the creative force and founder of MayeCreate. She has a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture with an emphasis in Economics, Education and Plant Science from the University of Missouri. Monica possesses a rare combination of design savvy and technological know-how. Her clients know this quite well. Her passion for making friends and helping businesses grow gives her the skills she needs to make sure that each client, or friend, gets the attention and service he or she deserves.

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