4 Things to Know About Selling Promo to Different Age Demographics
Every salesperson has their own sales approach that works for them. Sure, some methods are relatively similar to others, but for the most part, everyone has a process that they prefer or use most often. With so many channels for prospecting and reaching customers—like cold calling, emailing, texting and now even social media—sales strategies change depending on who’s selling and who they’re trying to reach. But, one thing is for sure: Knowing your prospects’ age demographic can certainly help in figuring out what method works best.
So, how do you figure out the age demographic you’re working with and how they prefer to communicate? According to Aarica Burkholder, account executive for Brand Fuel, the distributor based in Virginia Beach, Va., the interview process is a crucial step. “I think before beginning any process, it is important to interview the client first,” she said. “It is just as important to interview them and make sure they are a good fit for me as it is for them to interview me. As much as we all want to generalize buyers, they are all truly different.”
Burkholder noted that the goal is to make sure that both she and the client can work well together. “With that being said, I like to find out how my client wants to communicate: phone, email, text or in-person (at a safe social distance),” she said. “Then I like to know their decision-making process—do they like to be hands on and involved, [are they] wanting to get samples and seeing several options? Or do they prefer for me to narrow the selection down for them with my targeted recommendations and they don’t need samples? Once these questions have been answered, it is much easier to cater to [a] client and to enjoy helping them to market their business. This way I am not over or underwhelming anyone with options, or spinning my wheels trying to come up with a super creative campaign only for the client to not be interested.”
That’s good advice, but what do you do from there? We talked to Burkholder and Alexis Sanchez, MAS, MASI, account manager for Genumark, Toronto, Ont., to get more information on selling to different age demographics. With their input, we identified a four tips to get you on your way.
1. Know your age groups
This one is easy, but it’s a good starting point. When prospecting new clients, you’re not going to ask each potential customer how old they are. But knowing what age demographic they fall under could be helpful. So here’s a quick crash course on what five age groups looks like, based on studies from the U.S. Census, Pew Research and two demographers, Neil Howe and William Strauss:
• Silent Generation: Born between 1925 and 1945. This generation typically covers ages 75-95.
• Baby Boomers: Born between 1946 and 1964. This generation typically covers ages 56-74.
• Generation X: Born between 1965 and 1980. This generation typically covers ages 40-55.
• Millennials (or Generation Y): Born between 1981 and 1996 (sometimes 1980-2000). This generation typically covers ages 24-39.
• Generation Z: The newest generation, covering 1997 and up.
2. Learn communication preferences
With so many channels for communication—and especially now that virtual meetings or Zoom calls are part of the mix—it’s important to identify what form of communication each age group prefers. Burkholder said that younger buyers, which she defines as groups in their 20s and early 30s, tend to lean toward texting or emailing, and there is certainly a big advantage to these channels: having conversations in writing that you can reference later on. “With younger buyers I do feel like I am texting/emailing more often, which I prefer because then I have a trail and what they want in writing,” she said.
On the other end of the age spectrum, older buyers tend to prefer phone calls, Burkholder said. This way, they can talk through options and strategy. Similarly, Sanchez noted that cold calling is more common and accepted among older generations. “Cold calling is preferable for the Boomers,” Sanchez said. “Gen Y’s are more guarded about unsolicited pitches. For Millennials, it’s a foreign concept and unwelcomed. They prefer to have some warm intro, referral or connection to those they’ll be dealing with.”
Sanchez also said that, while each age group has its preferences, there’s one channel that seems to work across generations. “There is definitely a way that each age group range prefers to be contacted and solicited,” he said. “I find that email prospecting is something that has maintained its primacy as a solicitation channel. Though LinkedIn is an invaluable tool that can inform your approach.”
3. Understand what products work for each age demographic
Aside from knowing what form of communication each age group is most comfortable with, it’s important to establish the types of products they would be most interested in. Sanchez broke down three examples of what Baby Boomers and Millennials are looking for, including categories and products that fit into each one.
Baby Boomers, he said, might prefer stationery, like brand name pens and journals, while Millennials might lean more toward tech items like UV sanitizing boxes and device accessories. Boomers on a budget might prefer stock or established brand apparel, while Millennials go for more eco-friendly products, including organic fibers and repurposed/reclaimed apparel. “[This group is] willing to try out new lines,” he said.
Standard options for Baby Boomers might include inventoried stock and off-the-shelf hard goods and soft goods. Millennials, on the other hand, may be looking for more customized options, like full color and personalized drinkware and awards. “Especially if it’s produced locally/domestically,” Sanchez said.
“I feel that younger clients love retro/vintage products, and Boomers tend to have ‘been there, done that’ with those types of items,” said Burkholder. “I also find that environmentally-friendly products are very important to the younger buyers, but older buyers don’t care very much about that, and would prefer a less expensive item over paying for the ‘green’ aspect. This also goes for ‘giving back’ products—Millennials are much more focused on the impacts of their purchase and Boomers are more focused on the cost or production time.”
There are also differences in artwork and design preferences across generations. Burkholder said Millennials tend to be more creative in how they decorate products and often look to use logos in outside-the-box ways. Older buyers are less adventurous and look for more standard logo treatments. “Typically, older buyers just use their logo and don’t like how bold graphics look with their logos,” Burkholder said.
“And lastly, younger buyers like to buy/give products that the recipient will use all the time, not just at work, whereas Boomers usually focus on professional or work products,” Burkholder added. “I personally find that the older groups want a more targeted list of product options and they want me to recommend items. The younger the buyer, the more they want to be involved in the process and want more options.”
4. Prepare for younger age groups entering buying roles
It’s probably no surprise to hear that younger generations—like Millennials and Gen Z—are looking for products that focus on tech. But Sanchez said it’s about more than just the technology. It’s about the experience.
“The product/service choices for the up-and-coming generation need to be engaging, in that we are marketing not just the benefits, but just as importantly, the experience,” he said. “If we can somehow encapsulate that into a ‘package,’ we’ll find success. A perfect example are product-owners club websites that offer registration, warranty information, video clips of other owners using the product, a live social media feed for exchange of ideas and projects, contests and prizes. Get their attention, engage them with product [and] create an advocate for your brand.”
“When working with the older buyers, I try not to add a lot of fluff or creativity (and that is hard for me),” added Burkholder. “And for the younger buyers, I love to focus on themes, colorful art and creativity. That makes those projects more fun, but definitely more work!”