Generational marketing is a term that I picked up at the Chief Marketing Officer Institute earlier this year, and something Jonathan Fitzgarrald and I continue to toy with in terms of how this applies to legal marketing.
In short, generational marketing recognizes that the different generations make purchasing decisions in different ways from one another.
The different life phases we are in presently, coupled with our upbringing and societal norms, provide us with different perspective than those we follow, or those who follow us.
For example, I’m an earlier member of Generation X (born 1961 – 1981). I came of age during the Cold War.
I was raised by my Silent Generation parents (1925 – 1942), who came of age post-WWII. Only one of their five kids are a Baby Boomer (1943 – 1960). The rest of us are Gen-X.
And my parents were raised by their G.I. Generation parents (1901 – 1924), who grew up during, and were shaped by, the Great Depression.
One of the greatest challenges I face in the work place is working with the Millennial generation who were raised with technology at their fingertips (sometimes referred to as Gen Y; 1982 – 2000). The Baby Boomers really don’t get them at all.
Seriously. Have any of them ever had to use a card catalog? In fact, the next generation, the Swipe Generation, which includes my kids, really have no concept of paper, or having to wait for anything.
So what does this mean to legal marketing?
A lot, actually.
We are working primarily with three generations (the Silent Generation have almost all retired, although they are still influencers within some of our firms and with our clients).
Our Baby Boomer partners are still heavily involved in the firm as rainmakers and leaders (although some are starting to retire). Generation X is now starting to take over these two roles.
Just those two generations alone are enough to manage, and have enough conflict and misunderstanding of one another.
But we have young, up and coming attorneys who are COMPLETELY different beasts than what we are accustomed to managing.
We (Baby Boomers and Generation X) are accustomed to working “business hours,” while the Millennials do not understand that compartmentalized concept.
Externally, our clients are facing the same challenges, especially as the torch is being passed from one generation to the next.
So how does a Baby Boomer, senior partner communicate with a Generation X general counsel?
How does a Millennial legal marketer manage the communications leaving the firm in a way that a Baby Boomer client will actually read the content?
And why are firms putting their external facing communications (social media) in the hands of a Millennial because that Gen-Xer who should be managing it is not that comfortable with the technology?
Understanding the habits and motivators of these generations will help legal marketers to craft messages, whether marketing or business development, to increase the odds that those messages will be received and acted upon.
Understanding the habits and motivators of these buyers will assist lawyers in how they approach their audiences.
But getting the messaging right isn’t enough. Along with these generations are their preferences in delivery methods that need to be taken into consideration (paper, desktop, mobile, tablets, smartphones, email, rss).
Another example from yours truly: I hate video. I hate YouTube (except for when I am searching for music videos. Remember when MTV actually played videos?). I never understood why I hated video until I heard the presentation on generational marketing.
As a member of the Gen X class, I am squeezed. I have parents on one end, kids on the other, and I am in the midst of my greatest career days. I’m busy and running from school drop offs, to work, to Girl Scout meetings, LMA board meetings, volleyball practices, speaking at a conference, hoping a plane to this or that client-facing event ….
You get it. I’m on the GO.
I live off my mobile phone. I have yet to lose a cell phone as it is never more than an arms reach away from me.
I can keep up with the office while attending volleyball practice, or arrange after school adventures via text messaging at my desk in the ivory tower.
Video is a time killer for me. I click on a link and if it leads me to a video, I click that back arrow.
I don’t have time for a video to buffer. I don’t want to listen to five minutes of video tell me what I could have read in one.
All hail the bullet point!
If the only way you are delivering your message is via video, you lost me, and countless other decision makers in my generation.
However, video is a great way to reach not only Baby Boomers (who love their iPads and have more time on their hands) and Millennials (because this is what they know and understand).
So the takeaway message for legal marketers and lawyers alike, when communicating (written or spoken), internally or externally, your messages will be better received and acted upon when you take generational influences into account and target your audiences accordingly.