In December, this column focused on the characteristics of Baby Boomer consumers and how to market to them. This month we’ll focus on the group known as Gen Xers. While small in comparison to the Baby Boomers who precede them, and the Gen Y or Millenials who follow them,

Vicki LaPlant on HVAC Service SalesGen Xers are still the next largest group of homeowners after Boomers, and should be part of your market strategy.

First — the Facts 

Gen Xers, born between 1965 and 1976, currently are between 36 and 47 years old, and can best be characterized as family-focused, independent, self-reliant skeptics. This generation came of age at a time when mothers were most likely to work outside the home, when parents were downsized or fired by large corporations, and divorce was a common occurrence.

This was the first generation of latch-key kids — explaining the self-reliance. Generation X is approximately 20% of the U.S. population and number around 44 million people.

Our son is a stereotypical Gen Xer — a latch key kid who experienced a divorce and saw his parents downsized by a large corporation. He grew up depending on his peers for advice and help when problems arose during and after the school day while his parents were at work.

A few years ago he and his wife were expecting our first grandchild and needed to upgrade the HVAC equipment in their home. Knowing his parents were involved in the HVAC industry, what do you suppose he did first? He called his friends to see what companies they recommended. Then, he got on the internet and looked at what was available on Craig’s List. Meanwhile his wife was on Facebook seeing what heating and air conditioning companies her friends “liked.”

After talking with several companies recommended by friends and found on the internet and Facebook, he did finally ask us. And, he chose the company we recommended. His situation is unusual — very few Gen Xers have relatives in the HVAC industry!

This story is significant because it describes the typical Gen X consumer purchasing pattern.

Marketing to Gen Xers 

They’re skeptical of glitzy advertising that over-promises. They wants lots of details on all that’s promised. Be clear and specific about what your product is and what it does. When describing the benefits of your services and products, provide facts and testimonials: facts about energy usage, the benefits of improved filtration documented by credible third parties such as energystar.gov or lungsusa.org.

Include testimonials from past customers about the reduction in their utility bill or fewer trips to the doctor for allergies. Your marketing must show you have a proven track record and past customers trust you. Your promotional offer must be clear and specific. Money back guarantees go a long way in helping a Gen Xer trust you.

Design your web-site with Gen Xers in mind. They want a professional and interactive site that provides abundant information. The home page can be generic, but provide numerous links to the facts and details. Informational blogs will get their attention. Maximize key words that emphasize information/research with phrases such as “information about,” “research on”, “facts on” in front of all the traditional heating and air conditioning phrases for search engine optimization.

Ramp up your presence on web - sites like Angie’s List and Yelp. Don’t overlook the importance of Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter either. According to a Forrester Research study, 95% of Gen Xers have a page on Facebook, 35% have LinkedIn profiles and 25% regularly post to Twitter.

According to a study conducted for the U.S. Postal Service, 86% of Gen Xers bring in the mail daily and 74% report reading retail advertising mail. Do personalize any mailings with the recipient’s name — they want to believe you’re specifically addressing them. In your advertising use pictures of families and children and emphasize the benefits of your services and products for the family — healthy air, fewer allergies, fewer sick days, more comfort. Gen Xers are a very family centric generation. 

Selling to Gen Xers

When Selling to a Gen Xer, be honest and straightforward. They consider “hard selling” to be obnoxious. They want to know who you are, what your business is, what you stand for, and the quality of your product. Comparison shopping is a given. Their priorities are affordability and quality. But as with your marketing be ready to prove with facts and testimonials any claim that you make in the sales process.

Yes, Gen Xers are the “prove it to me” generation and will require more time to reach and sell. But once you create that trust, don’t forget that this is quite possibly the most wired generation in history and represents a lot of pent up referral marketing just waiting to happen.

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.