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Generational Marketing Articles


When It Comes to Marketing, Baby Boomers Still Matter

November 24th, 2010 :: Rieva_L

By Rieva Lesonsky

When you think of baby boomers, do you think of gray-haired fuddy-duddies who probably don’t know how to turn on an iPod? The oldest boomers are over 60, and suddenly, in the eyes of many marketers, this once-golden group has been dropped like a hot potato. But if you think of baby boomers as irrelevant when it comes to consumer spending, think again.

There are still 78 million boomers in the U.S., and their purchasing power has not dwindled. In fact, boomers account for 38.5 percent of spending on consumer packaged goods spending, and dominate 1,023 out of 1,083 consumer packaged goods categories, according to Nielsen data reported in Marketing Daily. What’s more, they often purchase products for their children—“double-dipping,” as Nielsen SVP/research and development Doug Anderson calls it.

According to Nielsen’s research, boomers are far more “wired” than they’re given credit for. They are significant purchasers of all types of technology, including computers and cell phones. They account for one-third of all TV viewers, online users, social media users and Twitter users. They watch more video than any other age group (9.34 hours daily on average). They’re also far more likely to have broadband Internet access than are other age groups.

Surprised? You’re not the only one—apparently, many marketers don’t find this market worth their time. According to Nielsen, a mere 5 percent of advertising dollars target adults aged 35-64 years old. This means marketers aren’t just missing out on boomers, but on the older part of Gen X.

Yes, boomers’ purchasing power may have been hurt somewhat by the recession—but so has most other people’s. And as a result of the recession boomers will be working longer—meaning they’ll need technology tools and services to keep current in the workplace. For those boomers who aren’t working, they’re spending money on travel, downsizing and redecorating their new homes, or on their children and grandchildren. That’s lots of money being spent, and if you’re smart, your business will grab a piece of it.

I’m a boomer myself, and one thing I can vouch for: We boomers have never responded well to being ignored. If you ignore us in your marketing, do so at your own risk—because you’ve got lots to lose. Your business success depends on it.

Image by Flickr user Jeremy Carbaugh (Creative Commons)

Hot Market: Singles

November 5th, 2010 :: Rieva_L

By Rieva Lesonsky

Are you missing out on a lucrative consumer market? You could be if you’re not targeting singles in your marketing materials. Never-married singles now outnumber married couples 46 percent to 45 percent within the 25-to-34-year-old age group, according to an analysis of new Census data by the Population Reference Bureau, reported in Advertising Age.

What does it mean to your business? Today’s singles aren’t necessarily straight out of high school or college. And they’re not delaying major purchases like travel or even homes. According to statistics from the National Association of Realtors, single women accounted for 21 percent of all homebuyers in 2009, and single men accounted for 10 percent.

What else are singles spending on? Ad Age cites Bureau of Labor Statistics data showing that they spend more on alcohol, clothing and shoes, and tobacco, but less on insurance and housecleaning supplies.

Single women in particular are a hot market. A study earlier this year from strategy and research firm Reach Advisors found that single, childless women in their 20s who live in big cities and have full-time jobs earn an average of 8 percent more than men the same age—and in some cities, the pay gap is as high as 20 percent. The Reach study showed healthy foods, sporting goods and (again) homes are hot purchases with this market.

Coldwell Banker Real Estate and Norwegian Cruise Line are among the big companies reaching out to singles with products targeted for them. If you’re ready to target singles, keep these tips in mind:

  • Don’t stereotype. Singles are as diverse as any other group and like to see themselves portrayed realistically and sensitively.
  • Don’t assume they all want to get married. Many singles are quite happy as they are, so marketing messages that promote matrimony as a goal may not resonate as well as you think.
  • Appeal to their sense of adventure. Singles have more freedom than married couples or parents. Offering last-minute deals or hosting events they can take advantage of on the spur of the moment is smart marketing.

Image by Flickr user floodkoff (Creative Commons)

Why Does Gen Y Buy? To Show Off Status

November 2nd, 2010 :: Karen Axelton

By Maria Valdez Haubrich

While there’s lots of data showing that Generation Y consumers are more socially conscious and less susceptible to advertising than many other generations, when it comes down to making purchasing decisions, they’re still motivated by an age-old factor: showing off their status.

According to new data from online advertising company Resonate Networks, the 18-to–34 age group is more passionate about social issues like energy (36 percent more than the population age 35 and over), climate change (48 percent more) and animal rights (24 percent more). However, in general Gen Y consumers are 15 percent to 25 percent less likely to make purchase decisions based on the social issues that they care about.

Instead, Gen Y looks to products for external validation, buying products that convey their success and personal achievements. Compared to the 35-plus population, 18-to– 34-year-olds are more likely to buy based on the following brand attributes: innovation, looks, popularity and prestige. They are five times more likely than older consumers to purchase a product that is considered prestigious, and more than twice as likely to buy a product considered popular or aesthetically appealing.

Like older consumers, Gen Y does buy products based on considerations like value, function and quality. But at the same time, they want these products to help them project the desired image.

Going forward out of the recession, Gen Y is an increasingly important target market, as many of them are affluent and have discretionary income to spend. How can you target them successfully? Here’s what Resonate recommends:

  • Align your brand’s values with the values of the various subsegments of Gen Y.
  • Your primary messaging should focus on personal achievement attributes and value, not price point
  • If possible, your secondary messaging should mention socially responsible values and actions of your company.

It’s not about being hip. But it is about being cool.

July 23rd, 2010 :: Jessie Newburn

Perhaps, I’m splitting hairs. Perhaps I’m not cool enough to know the difference between hip and cool. Perhaps such words aren’t even compliments nowadays. I don’t know. What I do know is that today’s parents aren’t yesterday’s parents.

Oh, yes, they bare and raise children, care for their children’s physical and emotional needs, and do their darnedest to provide for their children an environment which will support their growth and development. In that regard, nothing is different.

What is really different is that if your market today includes parents, don’t look backward on how companies marketed to parents for your clues. Don’t assume you know this new breed of parents. See, the predominant parents today are people in the GenX generation (born 1961-1981) and each generation brings its own world views to its place in the saeculum.  For now, and for another dozen years or so, the cultural definition of parenting will come predominantly from the GenX value system.

One of the best examples of who this new generation of parents is can found is this exquisitely GenX-focused marketing campaign by Toyota. It’s called the Toyota Sienna Swagger Wagon. This particular video is 2:36 minutes long and worth every second of attention to understand the core personality trait of today’s GenX parents in America. Whether you’re a business owner, a marketing and communications professional, a municipal government employee, a faith leader or a community advocate, if your market includes parents, you’ll do well to open your mind and adjust your thinking about current and emerging parental values.

See, Boomer (born 1943-1960) core values toward child-raising were much about having “special” children (the Millennials, born 1982 – 2002ish). The generation of Boomer parents put children in the center of their lives and circled around them to serve them (regardless of the impact on their personal lives). GenXer parents are much more oriented toward making sure children are safe and given what they need and then having a life where children are integral and integrated, but not to the diminishment of their own lives.

I think this Toyota Sienna commercial — nay, extensive YouTube and marketing campaign — demonstrates this new style of parenting remarkably well. Then again, I am an early-wave GenXer myself and coming up on my 47th birthday; while I’m may not be hip, I sure do understand being cool.

Toyota Sienna's Swagger Wagon


I’ll be there.

June 11th, 2010 :: Jessie Newburn


It was about a year ago when I first saw the commercial.

I was mesmerized. The Jackson 5’s “I’ll be there song” played in the background while artfully selected video of people both vulnerable and strong played on the screen. “Who and what is this advertisement for?” my mind asked. It was brilliant.

State Farm, I soon discovered, was the answer I sought.

But the thing that touched me was the statement about generation-influenced cultural shifts. GenXers (born 1961-1981) are now the generation ascending into mid-life, the primary generation raising children and the new definition of 40-somethings in the U.S. The Jackson 5 song, I’ll Be There, hit #1 in 1970 when the oldest Xer was nine years old.

So, here’s the thing to note for those of you in marketing, communications and HR is this: GenXers (the Nomad generation in archetypal language) experienced childhood in an era when adults are self-absorbed and the needs of children are roundly considered an inconvenience to adult experience, expression and fulfillment. While Millennial children (born 1982 -2002ish) rarely know a moment that doesn’t have some form of hovering parent, teacher, coach, babysitter, extended family member or paid supervisory adult around them, GenXers’ childhood was the era in which the term “latchkey children” came into being.

So, let’s look at the “latchkey children” turned midlife adults. Know what they value? Accountability. Access to information. Transparency. If you run a company and you think you’re currently accountable to your customers, you will only know this to be true when you’ve passed through the hell-fires of damnation your GenX customers will give you when they feel they can’t trust you to be straight, when they believe you’re not reliable and when they are not allowed full access 24/7 to the information about their accounts with you and your company data that they feel they have a right to see.

Trust me that they don’t trust you just because you have a long history of customer service, or that you pride yourself on XYZ, or that you’ve got a great mission statement splattered on your website and collateral materials. By the culture into which they were born, GenXers learned early and fast that adults and institutions didn’t have their backs, so, Boomer-led organizations, don’t take it personally when your GenX customers don’t respond the way you think they should. They’re operating on cultural programming different than yours, and different than Millennials.

Rather, accept the nature of this generation and BE THERE.

You want a sliver of the 81.3 million American GenXers as your customers? Be there for them. Transform your communications. Your online access to account information. Your speed with which you respond to inquiries. Tear down the opaque systems and obfuscation of data. Fire your copywriters and bring in people who can write in a human, clear, concise voice. Make sure that every piece of information your GenXers want is provided.

Don’t know what that is? Read your emails. Read the complaints. Stop acting as if customer service and your PR departments are supposed to “handle” problems. Put these biting complaints front and center in your management meetings and ask what you need to do as a company and how you need to transform — now — to become the kind of company that can serve and support this very large, intensely market-savvy, don’t-mess-with-me generation. Why? If there was ever a word-of-mouth generation that trusts individuals over institutions and personal commentary over corporate messaging, it’s this generation.

You may not like this. But you will do well to adapt. And one of the core values to add to your culture now is the explicit determination to “be there” for GenXers in the ways they say are critical to them

Together, we sell.

June 1st, 2010 :: Jessie Newburn

Noticing the word “together” showing up in advertisements and newly crafted company slogans? If you haven’t yet, put some attention there, and I’m betting you’ll see this theme popping up.

Come + Together – Macy’s

Let’s Build Something Together – Lowe’s

Build Together – Lego

Come + Together, says Macy's (via AGrinberg on Flickr)

And there are many, many others.

But the questions to ask are why is this happening now, what does it speak to and where is the opportunity to tap into this cultural shift?

See, about every 20 years, a new generation is born. And when this happens, it naturally becomes the new generation in childhood. That means the prior generation in childhood is now the generation rising into young adulthood. And connected to that, the generation thathas defined “young adulthood” for the most recent 20 years, now starts to define what it is to be in mid-life. And so on.

Millennials (born 1982 – 2002ish) are rising into young adulthood and bringing their core personality traits into America and the markets that wish to serve them. Who are these Millennials and why are they so different? Where their predecessors, GenX (born 1961-1981), were hardscrabble, pragmatic free agents in young adulthood, Millennials are team-oriented, achieving and confident. For a deeper exploration into what makes this generation tick, I recommend going straight to the source of generational theory and read, Millennials and the Pop Culture, by Neil Howe and William Strauss.

Another cultural pressure on this “come together” thing is that GenXers, “their fringes more powerful than their core,” (Strauss and Howe) are now in mid-life. And if you failed to notice the profound hypocrisy that Boomers (born 1943-1960) displayed when they hit mid-life and created “zero tolerance” for drugs and kids, and other such things they’d have rebelled against in a New York minute in their own youth, GenXers (as all generations) have to shift as they grow up. GenXers, by archetypal definition “the nomad,” now has to reverse their isolation and pull tighter together their tribe. GenXers will aways be more powerful in their fringes than in their core, but the X in their X-treme behaviors shifts direction in this era, which runs approximately from 2005 – 2025 (ref. The Fourth Turning).

So, if you’re still waiting for The Recovery (cue: angelic trumpets) and for things to go back to how they were, go ahead and wait. But, if you’re looking to tap into the natural energies of cultural change and the deep, archetypal forces of generational marketing, I say, “come together, right nooooowwwweehhh … ” Oh, and make it snappy.

Your Customers May Be About To Move – Are You Ready?

January 26th, 2010 :: Tobias Bray

I read a short article by Steve Rubel over at Advertising Age about the future of Internet access that made me stop what I was doing and author this post. He thinks that facebook will enter the cell phone market. Why not? Google did right after releasing Wave.  This move has less to do with Google than the size and potential of the mobile market.  Let’s explore this and other data points –

Market Size – From the Ad Age Article sighted above “According to Morgan Stanley, more people will connect to the internet via mobile devices than PCs in five years. Meanwhile, Forrester reports that 17% of U.S. consumers have smartphones. This means that 83% currently don’t.”

Cost of Devices – According to, Moore’s Law the power of electronic devices will increase, the size will decrease and the price will fall so we will see a sub $150 carrier independent smartphone in just a couple of years.

User Behavior – Yesterday The New York Times ran an article that pointed to research showing children 8 to 18 years old now spend 7 1/2 hours with media devices on a daily basis absorbing 11 1/2 hours of information by multitasking. The majority of the devices they use are portable in nature.

Conclusion – At the confluence of demand and the affordable device lies your customer. In five or fewer years, you company will need to be fully engaged with a mobile site that fits on a screen roughly 2″ x 3″ and supports bi-directional connections to several communities.

Get the jump on your largest competitors – Large companies are still struggling to figure out social media. The inertia of complacency in these firms will cause them to show up at the party late and under dressed. There are some very good research papers on the internal issues these firms struggle with such as this Master Thesis pointing out the three reasons why large companies fail at incorporating community driven innovation into their plans.

So be nimble and start figuring out your strategy now. Chances are good you will get the jump on the big guys.

We have an entire organization at your disposal Stop by our site or give us a call. We understand sales, marketing and media.

2010 is going to suck

January 5th, 2010 :: Jessie Newburn

smoking_nicorette_20102010 is going to suck. And if that doesn’t catch your attention in an ad headline, I don’t know what does. You may have heard of this by now. Seen it. Come across the ad in a magazine, perhaps. In any case, it’s one of the components in the suck-less (great double entendre) ad campaign by Nicorette.

Why it caught my eye — other than the clever copy — was that it struck me as being very GenX in tone and style. GenXers (those born in the U.S. between 1961-1981) experience and/or view their generation’s young adulthood years with a whole lot of cynicism and a big dose of Reality Bites! GenXers follow, as they do in the line up generations, the Boomers (born 1943-1960), who orient toward  inner exploration then megaphoned out to the world and big messages laden with moral purpose. I’m guessing a slew of GenXers ad campaign designers are a bit tired of the “second-hand smoke causes more cancer than …” messages  and the endless moral tirade against smokers to make them social pariahs.

GenXers typically aren’t swayed by big-message campaigns. Boomers orient toward aligning behind values (remember the whole red-state/blue-state thing that will, in the next 15 years fade) that reflect their inner spiritual knowing. GenXers orient more toward “Yeah, that’s good and all, but I got stuff to take care of now … and fast.”

GenXers, now, by the natural cycle that has the generation ascending into midlife as being the one with the most cultural influence and power, are much more interested in confronting reality vs. aligning behind fantastic morally principled messages. The Nicorette ad campaign recognizing that quitting smoking sucks, but that their product can — to their claim — make it suck-less is a very GenX-style message.

I’m trusting you’ve seen TheTruth.com ads, which are more of a nonprofit org approach to messaging around smoking. I love ‘em. Very straight up in your face about the smoking industry. Guerilla warfare. Irreverent. Intelligent. Humorous. Info-packed and entertaining. All at once.

These are important points to remember when selling to / employing / collaborating with GenXers:

Straight-up truth wins over moral rectitude.

Irreverence that is a bit self-deprecating wins over high-mindedness.

Humor and laughter makes bitter pills easier to swallow. And GenXers “get” that there are a lot of bitter pills to be swallowed.

Showing some style (intelligently crafted message delivery) ingragriates a GenXer into your audience with higher trust and interest in your message.

Remember: externally imposed moral rectitude doesn’t work for your GenX audience. Doesn’t mean they are immoral; more that they’re not going to be, in general, interested in any “you better listen to me cuz I know better” approaches.

The decision to quit smoking has to be an internal decision an individual makes. Same is so for eating more healthfully or exercising, or being kinder and more understanding, or for any other deep change. Personally, I think the Nicorette “Suck Less” campaign does a nice job of bonding the brand to the prospective customer. There’s no moral righteousness in this campaign about “others” or not harming your  children, or impacting others with the possibly-over-exaggerated impacts of second-hand smoke. There’s a genuineness in the message that says, “Yeah, it can be really tough  to quit smoking. We can’t promise you miracles. Or that it won’t suck. Only that it might suck less.”

And for a generation that grew up hearing a lot of “You suck” (mostly from their own co-horts), the idea that something might suck less … well, that’s not so bad.2010 is going to suck.

Your Marketing Needs to Have a Target…

December 8th, 2009 :: Michael Dougherty

I wanted to call this post “Does Your Audience Have a Target on Their Back”, but I didn’t want to get people concerned that I wanted you to cause pain to your intended audience. Today’s piece of Marketing Knowledge Goodness is about the pretty simple, yet often overlooked, concept when you are creating your marketing piece(s)/strategy, the Target Market (Audience).

To get a definition out of the way, Wikipedia defines Target Market as:

A ‘target market or target Audience is the market segment which a particular product is marketed to. It is often defined by age, gender and/or socio-economic grouping. Market Targeting is the process in which intended actual markets are defined, analyzed and evaluated before the final decision to enter is made.

It’s a little wordy in saying this, but basically when you create a piece or strategy you should be thinking about who you want to receive and use/buy your product or service. Unless you are buying your own products…you should be the last person you want to draw the attention of. While you may think it’s cool, interesting, pretty, or a laundry list of other things…your intended target, or audience, may not. And at the end of the day, the customer who’s listening, using, and purchasing ultimately matters more than what you think. Harsh to say it, but it’s true.

Now this can be as generic as “I want to reach plumbers in the [insert your city here] area” or as specific as “I want to reach all the housewives between the ages of 24-35 with black hair that have two children between the ages of 1-6 who like lumpy oatmeal for lunch”. Either way, you are defining who the intended target, or audience, is and going to plan your content and design around appealing to that audience. Yes you are going to miss out on a larger number of people who don’t fit that definition, but are they really the people you want? Do you really want to just be able to say, “We printed 5,000 brochures and passed them all out?” Who are you trying to impress and what are you gaining by that? Or, would you rather say, “We printed 500 brochures to [insert specific target audience] and got a greater return on our investment”.

The next thing you need to determine, after you figure out your target audience, is what return on your investment you are satisfied with and how you plan to reach that. But that, dear reader, is a post for another time.

I’ll leave you with this, I was told by a client I was consulting for that you should “ignore coming up with who your target is because if you cast the widest net you’ll catch the most fish”. While the logic in that is kind of sound, sort of, let me ask you this, do you want to catch the most fish or the best quality fish?

For me, even if that means my numbers don’t look so hot on paper, I want the best possible value for my efforts. My rule of thumb is quality over quantity.

As always, you can also reach me on Twitter by sending a message to @wickedjava, or on Facebook at facebook.com/mcdougherty.

If you have been reading this far, thank you and stay wicked.

Eight Things to Keep in Mind Before Your First Convention/Expo

October 23rd, 2009 :: Michael Dougherty

I had the opportunity, at BlogWorldExpo, this year to speak to several people who were attending their very first convention/expo. We talked about the things that were forgotten, the things that you couldn’t plan for, and the things we’ll be doing differently the next time around for the convention.

Now each convention/expo is an experience unto itself, but there are several things you can do prior to a convention that will help you out, regardless of the event. These are the eight things that I map out before I head any convention/expo and, with the exception this year due to poor planning for the red eye flight, have served me extremely well.

And now, in no particular order, I bring you, dear reader, the “Eight things to keep in mind before your first convention/expo”.

  1. Do your homework. What is the location you are going to be like? Are there going to be after parties? Have you reached out to any one you know that has previously attended? This is the best time to really get a feel of what the entire event, and experience, will be like for you. It will be fluid, because things change, but taking the time to do some research on the event, even just for yourself, will give you a greater foot in the door. I know it sounds like common sense, but you’d be surprised how many people I talked to that said things like, “If only I had asked someone before hand” or “I didn’t know that this event was convention/expo was part of a larger event going on at the same time”.
  2. Map out a plan of attack. Most conventions/expos will let you know their intended schedule weeks in advance. This will give you an opportunity to map out what panels/keynotes/seminars you want to attend, decide which luncheon/dinner you may want to skip out on, or what have you. This little bit of pre-planning, plus a good idea of the floor layout, will help you hit the ground running. Know now that, like most things you will experience at a convention/expo, things are subject to change, but at the very least you, if you have a fluid plan, you can adjust on the fly.
  3. Know what you want to get out of it before you sign up. Conventions/Expos are capable of giving you multiple opportunities all at the same time. Networking, education, and product demonstrations are just a few. If you’ve done your homework of asking previous attendees, and you have a pretty good idea of a plan, you can come to an easy assumption of what you want to get out of it. It doesn’t take much time and can be done before you purchase the ticket…say if you have to justify the event to your boss.
  4. Start the talking before you arrive. Feeling like the only person in the building who doesn’t know anyone can really do some damage early on to your experience. With the social media tools we have today, and from your research from #1, find people who are also attending for the first time or have gone and don’t mind a tag along. That way you are starting the convention with a partner in crime. Even if it’s just for a panel or two. You’ll be amazed what one or two introductions will do for your confidence.
  5. Decide now, is this a vacation or work? Some conventions/expos are held in an area that is a destination location for tourists. It can be very tempting to turn this business event into a vacation, but if your intent is to get the most out of the panels/sessions/whatever you need to fully be present. That’s not saying there isn’t time for fun, but if your company is paying for you to go, how do you think they will react if your response to “did you get some networking done” or “did you attend all the panels you told us you would” is “No, I spent a lot of time shopping and sitting by the pool”. That’s probably more of a larger-than-life answer, but you get the idea.
  6. Decide what “prepared” means to you. Will you need multiple pieces of luggage to fit all your stuff? Will you need to send things ahead to the hotel so you aren’t carrying them with you? Will you need to be packed days in advance due to a busy work schedule? Trust me, you don’t want to try to figure out how to pack seven thousand postcards into your carry on luggage. I’ve had that thought and then realized just how heavy those suckers would be. Fortunately, I had that thought weeks early and had the forethought to send 90% of them to the hotel to arrive on the day I did.
  7. Leave early and stay late…if possible. If you can afford to, both financially and time wise, my advise is to head out for your convention a day early and stay a day later. Sometimes you can only do one or the other, but this will give you a little time to collect your hearings from time changes, new locations, and work on your plan of attack. The last thing you want is to start your experience tired, grumpy, or frustrated.
  8. Be not afraid, they are human too. Every convention/expo has its own celebrity. Whether it’s a guest panelist, an actual celebrity, or even your own convention/expo cohorts, they are just human beings…like you. The best thing to do, if you want to approach them, is be respectful of their time and approach them the same way you would want to be approached. Don’t gush over their fame, don’t pitch them on your idea, and thank them for their time.

I know we all have our own tasks, preparations, and rituals before we leave for a trip. I would love to hear your pre-convention rituals. Leave a comment here.

You can also reach me on Twitter by sending a message to @wickedjava, or on Facebook at facebook.com/mcdougherty.

As all ways, if you have been reading, thank you and stay wicked.