Your customers didn’t all grow up in the 1970s

How old is your typical customer? Do you actually know? I have worked with a company which had an “estimated customer age bracket” box in every salesman’s order report form, but I suspect that’s an unusual initiative. For most of us, if we’re even interested, we might have to guess.

I think we should be interested though. We’re marketing to all of these people, and I’d bet there’s as big a generational gap between 25-year-olds and 60-year-olds as there’s ever been. Your oldest customers may have started work in the late 1960s, but a far larger number – a quarter or more? – were still at school as recently as the turn of the century. These people are from what’s known as the “Millennial” generation, and they run their lives very differently from the over-55s. You may have noticed, if you’re under 35.

Then there’s “Generation Z”, which has been joining the world of employment for the past five years or so, and is even more removed from the older age group. If you’re one of these people, you’ve probably grown up thinking that a phone call isn’t something to be answered, but a notification that somebody wants your attention when it’s convenient. And even then, you’ll probably choose to reply by text or email. Many older people see this as phone-phobia, but it’s actually driven by the desire to give a considered response, rather than be put on the spot.

Most marketing which I see, however, remains targeted at an age group which is already in the minority, and by definition declining steadily as a proportion. Sure, many of you will only be marketing to very senior decision-makers, and these are bound to be older (although not that old). But I suspect that others should be marketing to a younger demographic than the one they have in mind. Even your median age customer (who’s probably what – early forties?), will have started work in the 1990s, and has never had a working day without email.

Discussion

  1. David Brooks

    Good point. Trade shows give an interesting indication of age groups assuming they are truly representative of the target audience – and they may not be for various reasons. For example only senior managers might attend and junior staff who actually do a lot of the product research are left back at base, particularly the case if the exhibition location is a nice place to visit. Specifiers on hourly fees often don’t go to trade shows. But as a straw poll, trade shows not only give an impression of age, but also male or female, UK or overseas visitors, job function etc. The smart exhibitor will be seeking to engage with visitors and skilfully probe issues like what media do they value, what social media do they log on to etc etc – but then most exhibitor staff are salesmen not marketers often targeted to fill in as many enquiry forms as they can.

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