Young. Impatient. Plugged in. Casual. Flippant. Presumptuous. These are but a few of the ways that people, mostly of the older generations, describe the typical member of Generation Y.
Here’s another way to think about them: the largest generation in the United States today with an annual spending power approaching $1.5 trillion. Born between 1978 and 1994, they now number 85 million in the United States. The majority are older than 18, and every one of them will be at least that age by the end of the decade.
They are the future of the advisory market. But how do we reach them?
The technological revolution has created countless options for marketing and selling, providing the means to reach more people in more ways at a lower cost than ever before. On the other hand, all of the benefits of technology are also available to Generation Y consumers. They compare prices, features, reviews and reputations with the click of a mouse button or the tap of a smartphone app. (A new site, WalletHub, collects reviews of financial advisors and is billing itself as “the Yelp of personal finance.”)
These tools have given them a great deal of knowledge and power as customers. In fact, technology has made buying easier for Gen Y, but has made it harder to sell to them. They can choose from multiple providers for similar services. You must give them a reason to choose you: You are selling yourself as much as you are selling your services.
This is especially true of financial advice. Financial and other services are the basis for long-term, trust-based advisor/client relationships. It’s easier to form these kinds of connections when we work with clients who come from our own background. To market and sell to Generation Y, advisors need to understand how to bridge the generational divide.
That may seem easier said than done. Gen Y seems to make its own rules, and its members definitely present themselves and communicate differently than older generations. They also like to do business in a different way. So, how can you connect with them?
1. Respect their individuality.
Gen Y was raised on self-esteem and told that each one of them is special and unique. They believe it. Let them know that you notice and appreciate their individuality and accomplishments. To many, members of Generation Y may appear too casual and unconcerned. They are more likely than those of older generations to sport tattoos, wear flip-flops everywhere and don T-shirts that look like they’ve been stuffed in a drawer since 1986. They might split time between talking with you and answering the hundreds of text messages they exchange every day. Don’t sweat it: They aren’t trying to be disrespectful. And if you send them signals that you’re put off by their behavior, you likely won’t connect with them.
2. Don’t waste time.
Gen Yers are in a hurry. They believe that every transaction should be as quick and painless as buying something from Amazon or iTunes. They have little patience for long meetings or presentations — they would rather look that stuff up on the Web. Try to arrive at the punch line without a lot of fanfare. Consider the length of a text message or a post on Facebook or Twitter — they like their information in bite-sized pieces. Be concise and to the point.
3. Be transparent.
Be yourself. Don’t try to act any younger or hipper than you actually are. That will smell like desperation to these prospects. Instead, be up front with them and let them know how you can help. Don’t hoard information; instead, divulge and disclose everything. They’ll look up everything on the Web — you, what you say, and everything about your business and industry. If what they find doesn’t jibe with what you say, you’ll find your relationship dead on arrival.