Targeting generation X, Pt. 5Article added by Jason Kestler on December 16, 2010
Jason Kestler

Jason Kestler

Leesburg, VA

Joined: August 15, 2009

Editor's note: This is the fifth article in a six-part series. Click here to read the first in the series.

Tying the generation to your workplace
You'll note that in previous entries, we spent more time on the boomer and Xer categories than others.

This is not to slight the seniors or nexters, but simply to recognize those involved in the current and future agency environment — both as key staff and prospective clients — will consist primarily of boomers and Xers.

And for the purpose of this piece, we're going to be talking to the predominantly boomer principals about opening themselves up to opportunities with younger people who are predominantly Xers. Although the key reference points for our recommendations will be those enumerated in our earlier generational summaries, others may come into play and will be added as needed below.

Xers as consumers
Are Xers viable prospects for your agency?

Unless you are planning to let the agency die with you and your current group of boomer clients, the answer is an inarguable "Yes!"

If you consider this statement a bit harsh, we refer you to the young agent who represented many when he responded to his father's comment, "One day this will all be yours, son," with, "Well, the way you're running things, by that time there won't be anything left!"

Set a strategy for building that future market today. Keep in mind the following attributes of Xers as consumers:

Prefer honesty in approach — Sales techniques and pitches may be seen as manipulative; Xers pride themselves on their "baloney detectors," as many marketers who tried to cater to them have found. Give it to them straight, and with a touch of humor, if possible. At the first sign you are exploiting or patronizing them, they're outta there.

Treat them as important — This may seem obvious, but for a generation that often feels it only got the leftovers from the boomer party, it's important to present your solutions as tailored for them.

The fact a particular product or solution has proven itself for years is likely to be perceived as a weakness, not a strength. Agency brochures which ballyhoo "established 1909" or "your local agent for 50years!" or "the most professional staff in the area" will often be greeted with a yawning "so what?"

Use technologies — Xers are extremely comfortable with technology and may wonder why you aren't. It's not that they prefer doing business over the Internet, but they certainly don't understand why you'd avoid it.

If you want to reach out to them, meet them where they are — and that often means the Internet. Once you've connected with them via the Internet, all paths for creating relationships become open to you.

Be comfortable with diversity — This encompasses not only ethnic diversity but also attitudes and appearance.

For example, one boomer agent remarked how disgusted he was when a young man came into his agency wearing three earrings. His perception, possibly from the 1960s, is that the kid was making some kind of political or sexual statement, and the agent didn't appreciate it. What he didn't realize is if the young man was making a statement, it was likely to be "my friends and girlfriend really think I look good in these."

To many Xers who have grown up in a rapidly changing world where they can see other countries and cultures on television every night and meet their citizens in chat rooms every day, clothing and fashion styles are just that — styles. And they have little other meaning. You have the right not to appreciate the fashion, but don't assume there is more to it than that.

Recognize that they are highly educated — Xers have stayed in school longer than any previous generation. As a result, they are quick learners and skilled at problem-solving, despite their often laid back attitudes.

If they ask for what may seem to be an excessive number of details and technicalities about your products or services, give it to them. They like to do their research. Keep in mind they aren't delaying, they're processing.

Recognize they may have significant assets — If they've been living at home since college, they've probably been saving their money. When they get married, they often bring significant financial assets to the table.

Whereas many boomers married young, with little but their tie-dyes and VW van to call their own — we know, it's a stereotype, but you get the idea — Xers have often waited to tie the knot until a later age . Thus, the bride and groom often come to the wedding having been employed for several years, with college paid off and savings in the bank. If they rent, they may choose a nice townhouse instead of a cheap flat, and it's not unusual for one or the other of the newlyweds to already own a house or condominium.

Xers are focused on self-sufficiency — Since they've often seen the price of dependence while being raised in broken homes, many Xers are determined not to fall into the same traps.

Men and women are committed to their own financial security, and when marrying, continue to be focused on being financial equals. So, for example, when discussing financial products and services, if you clearly are speaking to one of the couple and not both, you can kiss that deal goodbye.

Women Xers are a market unto themselves — As a corollary to the preceding point, women can no longer be assumed to defer to a man in making key decisions. For an agency that will accept and embrace this, it represents a huge opportunity for expanding sales of financial products and services.

Xers are savvy financial consumers — Aware they are supposedly the first generation who will not fare as well financially as their parents, Xers tend to play it safe with their money. They are far greater savers than boomers, and like to understand the multitude of investments that may help increase their rates of return.

They like to make their own decisions and can often do so quickly — Unlike other generations who usually gained experience in business decisions on the job, Xers have been making their own decisions since childhood.

When you come home to an empty house, you are on your own regarding priorities, food and entertainment. When your parents live in separate locations and may also have emotional issues that mean they can't seem to agree on anything, the Xers learn to take matters into their own hands. "Better to beg forgiveness than ask permission" is the mantra of a veteran decision-maker.

They are very entrepreneurial — Partly because they have little faith that anyone else is looking out for them, they are quite comfortable striking out on their own when the opportunity presents itself.

They are far more likely to start their own business than boomers, and at a far younger age. This tendency also leads them to change jobs more frequently. They will move on the minute they perceive they have little more to gain by staying. Often they prefer "free agent" status to being a "regular" employee.

This means they are in greater need of individual life and health products to replace the employer-provided group coverage boomers take for granted.
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