You may or may not have noticed, but we are in the midst of a seismic demographic shift here in the United States. Twenty years ago, baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) made up about 50% of the population. Today, that number is 25%. Millennials (born roughly between 1977 and 1995) on the other hand, make up a whopping 35% of the US population today. In terms of numbers, they are the largest generation ever. But that’s only half the story. Far more important is their age. Millennials are in that magic age between 25 and 40. No matter the generation, it’s this age group that starts seriously buying stuff. Stuff like houses, remodeling projects, and appliances. And today millennials are by far the fastest growing segment for home ownership and remodeling. Going forward, much of your business will be built on their purchasing decisions.
So what defines this generation? Although no generation can be defined by a few bullet points, like the generations before them such as the baby boomers, millennials are unique.
As a group, they are the most environmentally- and health-conscious generation ever. Facilitated by technology, they are also the most socially-connected generation ever. Word-of-mouth is everything. They don’t trust and don’t respond well to sales pitches and advertising. They do respond to community service. And perhaps most importantly, to them, the web has always been there. After all, although Google still feels like a new company, it’s been around for over 20 years.
So as a water systems contractor, what does this mean to you and your business? Actually, just about everything because going forward, doing business will be different than past generations. A few generalizations:
- When they are out of water, then don’t think to call you first. They text their friends, they post on social media, and they go online (on their smartphone, not on a desktop computer). Only after they’ve been to all of these places do they figure out they need to be talking to you.
- This has big-time implications. For example, your website is now your storefront. And your online reputation is everything.
- At flip side of the above is that online, just about anyone can position themselves as an expert. Most homeowners can’t tell the difference. It’s not just our industry. It drives many medical professionals crazy as well. They often feel as if it’s their expertise versus “Dr. Google” (‘and tell me again where he went to medical school’). By the way, they also acknowledge there are many legitimate sites out there.
- You’ve probably noticed this, but online scheduling, texting appointment reminders, are the direction everything is going. If your business hasn’t already, it should. Plenty of services out there that can get you going here.
What else can you do? Here are just a couple ideas:
- Know what’s out there online. Especially what’s being said about you. If you get a bad review, address it professionally on your website or social media. In many cases, the worst thing you can do is ignore it.
- Once again generalizing, but millennials don’t necessarily trust big business. They like to do business with people they know and are part of the community. Via your website, “humanize” your business via staff biographies, testimonials, etc. If you’re involved in community service, showcase that.
The good news… the values of our industry are closely aligned with this generation. For example, as groundwater contractors, we operate under strict environmental regulations. That spring water they’re drinking… that’s well water. And as a groundwater contractor, you live where they live. And finally, that new technology that millennials embrace… yeah, we’ve got that. Think variable speed as the perfect example. It’s totally consistent with the other appliances and products this generation is buying.
Generations are different and have different ways of doing things. But as the latest generation moves into home ownership and their highest purchasing years, I can’t think of a better industry than ours to be a part.