Marketing to the Generations: How to Connect With Gen X

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Ask yourself: who is your audience? All financial institutions are not created equally, so it is important to have a grasp on to whom you are selling your services. Previously, we discussed how to reach out to millennials, those born between the years of 1980-1999. Now it’s time to talk about their predecessors, the group born between 1960-1979 who Douglas Coupland famously coined as Generation X.

Generation X presents an interesting challenge for marketers because there is no slam dunk way of appealing to them. They are tech savvy, but not as likely as millennials to look for their banking solutions online. They have a bit of money, but quite a bit more debt than Boomers; not that Gen X are frivolous spenders. The debt is a result of their position as the most educated generation, and consequently, the generation who owes the most in student loans. Let’s take a look at what else you can expect from Gen X, and how to close the deal with them.

What Motivates Gen X – And How To Close The Deal

Debt

Gen X is the first generation to have heavy weight student loan debt. A survey by the Federal Reserve’s Survey of Consumer Finances found that 20% of adults in their 30s are paying off college loans in the average amount of $13,000. According to The Financial Brand, the average Gen X-er has at least $5000 in credit card debt; and Gen X accounted for nearly a quarter of all bankruptcies in 2006.
The Closer: These folks aren’t going to be interested in credit card offers and loans. Instead, provide education on financial planning, and offer savings accounts with good interest rates and low monthly fees (if any), certificates of deposit, health savings accounts, and retirement investments.

Individuality

The divorce rate tripled as Gen X kids were growing up, which resulted in latch key kids and single parent households with tight budgets. So, Gen X-ers tend to be somewhat more independent and skeptical than other generations. Gen X was also the first generation to grow up in a racially diverse culture, making them accepting in terms of ethnicity, culture, and sexual orientation.
The Closer: Gen-Xers have a streak of individualism and cynicism – so avoid marketing that promotes “traditional” values or a hard sell. Speak in terms of goals they can accomplish, especially with regards to saving and financial stability.

Technology

Gen X came of age with MTV, video games, VCRs, DVD’s, cell phones, and other technology. Consequently, their consumption of media tends to run the gamut. In terms of social media, Facebook is by far the network of choice for Gen X-ers. A study by Statista found that:

  • 81% of Gen X internet users have a Facebook account; 48% actively use their accounts.
  • 48% of Gen X internet users have a Twitter account; 21% actively use it.
  • 30% of Gen X internet users have a LinkedIn account; 21% are active users

The Closer: The “Connected Generation” has fully embraced technology, so make sure your messaging is widely distributed on email, mobile, social media, and review sites. Interestingly, Gen X also loves the mail. The US Postal Service conducted a study and found that 75% of Gen X have used coupons received in the mail, so go ahead and fire up a direct mail campaign that also drives traffic back to your digital assets.

Community

Simon Associates conducted research on what Generation X wants from a bank, and found that, more than technological bells and whistles, Gen X want a sense of “belonging” from financial institutions. Customer feedback indicated a need for trust, and a more personalized approach to customer service.
The Closer: Participate in and sponsor community events that foster one on one relationships with customers. And don’t forget your employees! Keep staff turnover to minimum so they get to know customers by name, know their account numbers, and are familiar with their financial history.

The take away is that, although Gen X had the unfortunate “slacker” reputation in the 90s, they are now all grown up with mortgages, careers, and student loans that need managing. They likely won’t go for the traditional hard sell, but respond well to technology, and a goal oriented, personal approach. Looking to reach a seasoned, more established audience? Stay tuned for the final article in in this series when we tackle the Baby Boomers.

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