This is my favorite time of year. For consumers, it’s shopping time for the holidays. Now if only our industry could figure out how to make air conditioners and furnaces blingy, shiny, or sparkly, it might be a great time of year for HVAC sales as well. Still, shopping does provide a great opportunity to study the marketing and buying habits of consumers — specifically as it relates to different generations.

In the U.S. today, we have five generations: the Silent or Traditionalist generation, Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, Gen Y or millenials, and Gen Z or M (multi-tasking). Here are some facts about each generation:

The Silent Generation, born from 1945 and before, make up about 10% of the population

Baby Boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, are around 25% of the population

Gen Xers, born between 1965 and 1976, are 20% of the population

Gen Y, born between 1977 and 1993, make up 25% of the population

Gen Z, born after 1994, make up 20% of the population.

This month we’ll focus on Baby Boomers, who are 48 to 66 years old. In March we’ll focus on Gen Xers, 36 to 47 years old. These two segments of the population own the majority of the single-family homes.

Characteristics of Baby Boomers — This is the generation of optimists. Born during the economic boom that followed World War II, this generation wants it all — house, car, family. And they are willing to work for it. In fact, Baby Boomers established the 60-hour work week as a means of acquiring status, getting promoted, or making their business more successful. Their motto: Live to Work!

Because this generation is willing to work long hours, they developed a consumer mentality of “We deserve it.” Status is important: a Boomer thinks, “Since I work hard, I want people to know how successful I am.” This often means buying the latest and greatest, then ensuring all his or her friends know about it. (Think referrals.)

While Nielsen reported that 53% of Baby Boomers are on Facebook, most Boomers still value personal relationships. They don’t text and twitter as often as younger generations and would rather talk face-to-face or on the phone than use other communication media. According to factbrowser.com, a typical Baby Boomer has 124 friends on Facebook. One third of Boomers use the internet to look for deals, coupons, or do research before making a purchase (factbrowser.com).

The first credit card was introduced in 1945, the Diner’s Club Card, one year before the first Boomer was born. This generation expects credit or financing to be readily available from a retailer (you).

You want to reach Baby Boomers because they control 70% of the net worth in the U.S. and have an annual buying power of $3.4 trillion. Some analysts estimate that baby boomers have 70% of the discretionary income available in the U.S.

Marketing and Sales Implications for Baby Boomers — According to several online sources, less than 5% of the total marketing dollars spent on an annual basis are aimed at Baby Boomers. So the first implication is to start targeting Baby Boomers in your marketing. Use pictures of Baby Boomers in your ads, direct mail, website, and blogs. When purchasing a mailing list or searching infousa.com, choose the age demographic of 48 to 66. After all, Boomers have all those discretionary dollars.

As the facts suggest, don’t ignore them in your social media marketing. Use key words such as highest energy efficiency, improved quality of air, friendly personal service, and financing that will resonate with Boomers. Write blogs targeted to this age group and describe how HVAC system improvements can make their homes more livable, comfortable, energy-saving, and allergy-free.

Create a marketing message about things Boomers care about: status and wanting the best. Feature the latest and greatest in energy efficiency and accessories that improve health like humidifiers, better filtration, better ventilation, and UV lights. Part of your message should focus on being able to talk with a live person when calling your company.

Use at least one affinity marketing campaign during the year to reach this active generation of volunteers. Give a percentage of profits to a mentoring program, reading program, cancer, or senior citizen organization for a month.

When selling to a Baby Boomer, focus on the relationship — building trust. A Boomer won’t buy from you unless she likes you. A Boomer expects financing to be available, so accept credit cards and have at least two other forms of financing to offer. And definitely use good, better, best system options, because Boomers are the group most likely to purchase the best package. After all, they can afford it and they deserve it.

Vicki LaPlant has been working with HVAC contractors for the past 30 years as a trainer/consultant. She helps people work better together for greater success. Vicki is a longtime Contracting Business.com editorial advisory board member and can be reached by email at vicki@vleishvac.com, or by phone at 903/786-6262.