Current advertising embraces the idea of generational segmentation, or developing marketing strategies for each age group. The most recognizable segments are Mature, Baby Boomers and Generations X, Y (Millennials) and Z. While segmenting out these markets has worked successfully for many products and services, it fails to cover the gaps and overlaps of buying habits from group to group.

Baby Boomers are perhaps the most studied age group of consumers in America. Born between 1946 and 1964, it is estimated this age group represents about 26 percent of the population and accounts for 47 percent of spending. The remaining percentage of spending is spread among the young buyers and mature age consumers who tend to research more and spend conservatively. Trends indicate younger buyers take less risk when it comes to purchases, especially big-ticket items, and do their upfront “homework” online to identify preferences. They also spend billions in purchases annually.

What does this mean for direct marketers and small business owners? Marketing for key groups, which match your product and services, does matter. The problem with strictly segmenting by generations, however, is that it misses those consumers whose buying habits bridge groups. Marketing by attitude rather than age helps you direct your marketing toward target groups essential to your unique business. For example, if you direct most of your agri-entertainment advertising just to families, you may miss grandparents caring for and/or entertaining children and the other mature and younger customers seeking a destination experience.

While direct marketing through retail outlets (farmers markets, tasting rooms, farm-gate operations, etc.) offer less defined opportunities for segmentation (due to age restrictions and buying habits), strategies for reaching different generations abound. Again, each unique operation defines its own essential buying groups whether through event-oriented or more casual and low-key activities. Understanding that consumers may cross several age boundaries in preferences allows you to develop marketing strategies which encompass buying habits instead of strict generational groups.

Generational spending defines age-group buyers by disposable income but sometimes fails to recognize the buyer who may spend less per visit but visit more often and bring buyers with them. A good and trendy example is hosting a trivia night at tasting rooms, which has become a popular weekly event for younger customers. While these customers are likely to spend a moderate amount on snacks and beverages as compared to “wine club” or “owners’ club” customers who will spend more per visit, this segment invites others to join in the fun and introduces your business to lots of other potential buyers. Getting to know your customers’ spending preferences then builds a good foundation for future strategic marketing.

First, identify your customer base by age and by attitude. Are these customers defined more by generational spending differences or buying habits? Second, analyze the numbers – who is purchasing, what are they buying and how much are they spending? Finally, do you see emerging trends with customers spanning different buying segments – onsite, online or social media driven?

Generational marketing has been researched, analyzed and implemented for almost everything we buy and do. We know more today about spending habits of various age groups than ever before, but like individuals, not all buying patterns are similar. You know your customers, you know their preferences, and developing marketing plans to reach those individuals and groups is what makes your business successful in a competitive environment.

The above information is for educational purposes and not intended to replace professional business and legal counseling.