By Wesley Sparling
When it comes to marketing, what works for one audience may not work for another. And this certainly applies to different generational groups. Marketers that understand how different generations respond to marketing materials are better equipped to craft messages that gain — and keep — audience attention at any age. Whether you’re targeting Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials, or Generation Z, incorporating data and insights into your marketing efforts is likely to increase your chances of success.
This is especially true for direct marketing, which involves specific response and conversion data models to enhance campaign effectiveness. Conversion modeling is a process of analyzing data to determine which factors are most likely to cause a potential customer to respond (response model) or to make a purchase (conversion modeling). This model can be used to create targeted marketing campaigns that are more likely to lead to a purchase.
Creating and analyzing specific data models when marketing to different generations can seem a daunting task. In my role as Chief Marketing Officer at IWCO, a leading provider of data-driven performance marketing services, I’ve identified five simple practices that can help you get started and reach high-value audiences:
1. Get to Know Different Generations
The first step to any successful direct marketing campaign is to understand who you’re targeting. This is especially true when marketing to different age groups, as each generation is unique and has its own set of values, beliefs, and preferences. Speaking their language, understanding their preferences, and addressing their pain points increase your ability to effectively connect with them.
Today’s most prevalent buyers include:
- Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964)
- Loyal customers
- Value quality, trust, and reliability
- Generation X (born between 1965 and 1980)
- Cautious spenders and hesitant to change—prefer “tried and true”
- Value convenience and flexibility
- Millennials (born between 1981 and 1996)
- “Digital Natives” who grew up amid rapid tech expansion
- Value authenticity, social responsibility, and personalization
- Generation Z (born between 1997 and 2012)
- Extremely tech-savvy — have never lived without social media and modern tech
- Rely heavily on reviews and recommendations through social media
Understanding these differences is essential to crafting a message that resonates with your target audience.
2. Gather Relevant Data
Once you’ve identified your target generation, the next step is to gather data that will help you create specific response and conversion data models. This data should include information on your target audience’s demographics, behaviours, and interests. You can collect data through surveys, focus groups, or by analyzing your existing customer data. The more relevant data you gather, the more accurate the model will be.
Examples of data categories to review include:
- Demographic information (age, gender, income, etc.)
- Buying history (products or services purchased in the past)
- Interests (hobbies or activities)
- Online behaviour (websites they visit, social media platforms they use, etc.)
This data enables you to start developing models that predict how different segments of your audience will respond to your marketing efforts. For example, you might create a model that predicts how many Baby Boomers will respond to a direct mail campaign versus an email campaign. This information will help you create a targeted marketing plan that maximizes your ROI.
3. Outline Your Strategy & Measurement Approach
Now you can create a plan of action based on your data models. This plan should outline your marketing strategy, including the channels you’ll use to reach your audience, the messaging you’ll use, and the timing of your campaigns. Your plan should detail the metrics you’ll use to track your success and adjust your approach as needed and a strategy for how you’ll measure ROI. This might include tracking conversions, leads generated, or revenue generated. Whatever metric you choose, make sure it aligns with your overall business goals.
When creating your campaign model, remember to incorporate the unique characteristics of each generation. Baby Boomers typically respond to campaigns that emphasize security and reliability, while Millennials may be more likely to respond to campaigns that emphasize innovation and social responsibility. Of course, those insights depend on the input, overlay data, and analyzing the data to determine which factors are most likely to lead to a response and which are likely to lead to a conversion.
4. Build a Direct Marketing Campaign Using Compiled Data
With an established conversion model in place, you can create a direct mail campaign that incorporates your data. When creating your direct mail campaign, keep in mind the unique preferences of each generation. Use data to inform decisions on creative, offer, format, frequency and more. This might include things like:
- Personalized messaging that reflects the interests and buying behavior of your target audience (“Visit our store” for Baby Boomers versus “Order online” for Millennials)
- Calls to action that are tailored to each generation (“Claim your discount now” for Baby Boomers versus “Share on social media for a chance to win” for Millennials)
- Use of direct mail formats that are most likely to appeal to your target audience (Postcards for Baby Boomers versus interactive mailers for Millennials)
However, don’t limit yourself by solely applying generational trends to your creative. Factors like income, location, or education may create habits or mindsets in a consumer that overrides the trends we see for their generation. While many Millennials are likely to spend more on convenience, those who are in the low-income bracket may be willing to forgo ease of service for a cheaper price point. In that instance, marketers may decide to feature a savings discount in the Johnson box rather than showcasing a home delivery option. It’s up to you as the marketer to analyze these data points and determine what priority to give them in your campaign materials.
5. Test, Adjust, Repeat
Once you launch your campaigns, it’s time to track and test your results. This helps refine and improve your campaign over time. Testing typically requires sending materials to a small sample (at a statistically valid sample size) of your target audience and analyzing the results to see which messaging and formats are most effective, refining your approach, and adjusting your models as needed.
Consistently testing and refining your direct mail campaigns helps ensure they are optimized for the unique characteristics of each generation. For example, if you find that your direct mail campaign is generating a high ROI among Baby Boomers, you might adjust your models to predict even higher response rates. Or, if you find that your email campaigns are falling flat with Millennials, you might adjust your messaging or channel to better resonate with this audience.
Finally, don’t be afraid to embrace innovation. The marketing landscape is constantly changing as new technologies and strategies emerge. Be sure to stay up to date with the latest trends and experiment with new approaches to see what works. You might try incorporating virtual and augmented reality into your campaigns to better engage Generation Z, or you might test out chatbot technology to deliver personalized messaging to your audiences.
Using direct mail response and conversion modelling to market to different generations can be highly effective for businesses of all sizes. By identifying your target audience, gathering data, creating a response and a conversion model, and incorporating your data insights into your campaigns, you can generate a campaign that is highly likely to achieve improved ROI. Testing and refining your approach creates marketing campaigns that are tailored to the preferences and behaviour of each generation.
The key to success in direct marketing is first and foremost to understand your audience—how they think, how they act, and most importantly, what they want. By following these steps, you can build data models that truly reflect your audience to create effective campaigns that resonate with your target audience and drive real results for your business.
Wes Sparling is the chief marketing officer at IWCO.