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First, Best, or Different

Niche Marketing Matters
By John Bradley Jackson

Millennials in the Workplace

March 9th, 2013

Millennials, sometimes called Generation Y, are people born in the 80s and 90s.  They are changing the workplace more and more every year.  They are young, eager, and demanding.  They ask a lot from their workplace and businesses are trying to accommodate these young stallions.  In the process, they just might revolutionize the workplace.

Millennials are leaders when it comes to fresh ideas.  They are innovative and well-versed in technology.  They demand more flexible hours than their predecessors, and want promotions based on success, not seniority.  They prefer the dress code to be casual, and are generally more liberal-minded than their more seasoned counterparts.

A Pew Research study from 2010 showed that Baby Boomers cited “work ethic, respectfulness, and morals” as their defining qualities, while millennials chose “technology, music and pop culture, and liberal leanings.”

Some firms are trying out a “results-only work environment” (sometimes called “ROWE”) where hours are flexible so long as workers are generating results.

Millennials sometimes clash with older workers, usually members of the Baby Boom generation.  Millennials were taught growing up to be expressive and confident, and this can come across as acting entitled and spoiled, especially when working with members from older generations.  Kwoh from the Wall Street Journal says that when companies try to accommodate millennials’ demand for faster promotions and more responsibility, this comes “much to the annoyance of older coworkers who feel they have spent years paying their dues to rise through the ranks.”  The groups can learn to work together, but it takes patience from both sides.

Ty Kiisel at Forbes says, “The challenge for business leaders today is harnessing the talent and drive of the younger workforce.”  According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, millennials will make up more than 40% of the national workforce by 2020.  This is why so many companies are scrambling to accommodate the young talent: they are (literally) the future.

Millennials will eventually phase out the baby boomers in the workplace, so it’s a losing battle to insist on workplace practices from the old days.  Millennial philosophies aren’t just on their way; they’re here.  Frankly, the American workplace could use a change.  Americans are working longer hours, while wages have flat-lined and benefits have been cut.  Casual attire and flexible hours might take the edge off.  Maybe the millennials are on to something.  They certainly think so.

John Bradley Jackson
© Copyright 2013
All rights reserved

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Marketers are Reluctant to Consult Data

September 3rd, 2012

Due in large part to the internet, the amount of available data about customers and their habits has skyrocketed.  Data is now published online and elsewhere in massive quantities, and the numbers are constantly changing and being updated.  Companies want their marketers to use this goldmine of information to help strategize marketing techniques, but the huge amount of data can make anyone feel overwhelmed.

The amount of data currently available is truly astonishing.  Forbes online cites a report from McKinsey & Co that says by 2009, large companies had 200 terabytes of stored data about customers.  Forbes.com says, “To put such a huge number in perspective, consider that just 10 terabytes can hold the entire printed collection of the Library of Congress.”

Patrick Spenner and Anna Bird of the Harvard Business Review write about while marketers are under increasing pressure to rely on data, most still rely too heavily on their intuition.  Marketers rely on their gut when making decisions about marketing strategy, rather than using available data, because it’s easier and most don’t have a firm grasp on even the basics of statistics.

Without a solid background in statistics, understanding how to manage and interpret even relatively small amounts of information can be a Herculean task.  Most marketers prefer to skip the math lesson and rely on their instincts instead, which can yield mixed results.

The Harvard Business Review also reports that while there are a number of marketers who do spend their days wading through the data, they often can’t see the forest for the trees.  They get distracted by the slightest change, and change strategies too quickly.   Managers can help their marketers by defining clear goals about data and coaching them to be aware of data interpretation errors.

The data explosion has just begun.  The companies that can figure out how to effectively store, sort through, and analyze massive amounts of consumer data will have a leg up as the 21st century marches on.

John Bradley Jackson
© Copyright 2012
All rights reserved

 

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Baby Boomers: Excessively Selfish or Proudly Individualistic?

August 18th, 2012

The answer is probably both.  Each generation has its own flavor, and while not every person is a carbon copy of the stereotypes associated with their cohort, patterns have nevertheless emerged.

In a recent op-ed piece in the New York Times, Bill Keller writes that Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) have been attacked by the media in years past for being selfish and entitled.  A Boomer himself, Keller says that this reputation for being greedy and spoiled is not a new one, and Baby Boomers have been criticized for years.

In a 2000 article by Paul Begala, cited by Keller, Baby Boomers are called “the most self-centered, self-seeking, self-interested, self-absorbed, self-indulgent, self-aggrandizing generation in American history.” Boomers are 75 million strong with enormous consumer spending power and a great deal of influence.

The argument goes that while a large number of Baby Boomers championed social causes during the 60s, once the threat of the Vietnam War had passed, most Boomers placidly settled down to adult life.  In an article by Kurt Andersen, he writes that the extreme individualism fought for during the 60s has really turned into the right to be selfish.  “‘Do your own thing’”, he writes, “Is not so different than every man for his or her self.”

As young adults Boomers set out to change the world and many worked for peace, a more honest and transparent government, environmental change, less harsh judgment and fundamentalism, more open-mindedness. Did they achieve any of that? Maybe a bit.

It seems that since the 1960s, looking out for “number one” has been a national pastime.  Business leaders rationalize outsourcing jobs because it can increase profits.  Investment and personal savings have gone down, and many will argue that the nation’s current entitlement spending is not sustainable in the long run.  Since the 1970s, income inequality in the United States has increased.  Our country currently has the highest level of income inequality among the most developed countries.  All this happened while the boomers were in charge.

As for the legacy of Boomers, they may be remembered for having fought in the Vietnam War and also protesting it. They supported many worthy social causes, such as the civil rights movement, women’s rights and ecological awareness.  Oh yes, they also embraced sex, drugs, and rock & roll. Despite high divorce rates, they became involved, attentive parents and grandparents.  They will also be remembered as embracing in an era of consumerism and self-indulgence. Some may argue that Boomers did little out of the ordinary.

Party on boomers.

John Bradley Jackson
© Copyright 2012
All rights reserved

 

P.S. Check this article for more debate on the legacy of Baby Boomers.

 

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Baby Boomers vs. Millennials in the Workplace

May 6th, 2012

Generational conflicts are a normal part of human interaction.  For many of us, our values, tastes, and habits are shaped by the period in which we grew up.  For centuries, older folks have been cringing at youthful fashion trends and younger folks have been rolling their eyes at their elders’ reluctance to adapt to evolving technology or social norms.  But when these generational conflicts occur in the workplace, the challenge becomes more acute.

The economic recession of the late 2000s has created a climate in which Baby Boomers are delaying retirement out of financial necessity.  With little or no savings, they don’t have much of an option.  Meanwhile, millions of Millennials (aged around 18-30) enter an incredibly competitive labor market with few skills and fewer opportunities to develop them.

Baby Boomers feel overworked and unappreciated, and Millennials often feel the same way.  Both cohorts face age discrimination and have a tough time landing jobs in the current market.  For Millennials, it is often frustrating to be stuck in entry-level positions for potentially years and some see the Baby Boomers as crowding a job market that should be reserved for younger generations.  For Baby Boomers, these younger workers seem undisciplined, picky, and egocentric.

In an MTV study called “No Collar Workers”, Millennials show that they have very different ideas than Baby Boomers about their jobs and careers.  Baby Boomers are used to a more structured environment, and prefer less feedback.  Millennials want to wear jeans to work every day and have flexible hours.  Additionally, in part because of how they were raised (ironically often by Baby Boomers), Millenials seek meaning and purpose in their jobs.  89% agree “it’s important to be constantly learning at my job.”  (http://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/170109/turning-on-the-no-collar-workforce.html)

Luckily, the two generational cohorts have a lot to teach each other.  Baby Boomers can teach Millennials the value and ability to use “soft skills” when dealing with coworkers and clients, while tech-savvy Millenials can help their Baby Boomer coworkers increase their social media fluency. (http://maureenopene.wordpress.com/2012/01/09/baby-boomer-inspired-guide-trends-2012/)

As retirement ages rise, there will be more people from more generations working together.  The Millennials are a huge cohort (thanks to the Baby Boomers) and will transform the workplace as we know it in the coming years.  With their emphasis on meritocracy and finding “meaning” in their jobs, with any luck this will be a good environment for people from multiple generations to get along.

John Bradley Jackson
© Copyright 2012
All rights reserved

 

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Adulthood Can Wait

August 19th, 2010

Many people in their 20s are now choosing a slower path to adulthood by postponing marriage, careers, mortgages, and babies. Instead, they are choosing to remain single, stay in school, travel more, and rent.

A Clark University reports that, “One-third of people in their 20s move to a new residence every year. Forty percent move back home with their parents at least once. They go through an average of seven jobs in their 20s, more job changes than in any other generation. Two-thirds spend at least some time living with a romantic partner without being married. And marriage occurs later than ever.”

More than a blip on the screen this appears to be a new reality. Our culture is adapting to a longer life expectancy with the average American now expected to live nearly 80 years. Compare this to 1900 when the average life expectancy was only 47 years. This explains why people back then seldom finished the 8th grade and frequently got married at 14 years old and had children.

My message to the parents of these 20 year old late bloomers is to “lighten up” and let the kids find their way own way. Our biology dictates our behavior and our biology has changed. We must adjust our expectations.

For those in their 20s, adulthood can wait. Party on.

John Bradley Jackson

© Copyright 2010

All rights reserved.

P.S. Marketers take note. Traditional age based demographic segmentation is obsolete. People in their 20s are not looking for life insurance or Roth IRAs. Instead, they would prefer to score some really cheap tickets to Cancun.

Source: NY Times

Globalization Shmobilization

June 15th, 2009

“It’s a small world, but I wouldn’t want to have to paint it.” – Stephen Wright

Yes, the world makes for a big pond to fish in but for most of us it is just too big of a market. Marketing dollars will be quickly wasted in a global market.

Instead, entrepreneurs need to think small or locally by focusing on the underserved or overlooked customers. Abandoned by the giant mass marketers, these lonely customers go begging for offerings that cater to their special needs. They are left to buy poor substitutes which leave them unsatisfied and unhappy.

Yet, when the courageous niche marketer listens and creates specialized products for them, the reward for the provider is customer loyalty. More than satisfied, these happy customers recommend the offering to others like themselves, which is the true measure of loyalty.

Thus, the more customer specificity built into a product or service the greater likelihood of success. Localization enables the entrepreneur to more easily defend his or her position in the market since the big competitors don’t care about the smaller market segments.

Globalization Shmobilization—think localization.

John Bradley Jackson
© Copyright 2009 All rights reserved.

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Target Markets

December 4th, 2008

Your target market is the customer group that will buy your product or solution; this specific market is made up of customers who want or need what you’re offering.

Historically, marketers have defined target markets using factors or demographics such as age; an example would be such 18- to 33-year-old males. This type of segmentation in the consumer marketplace is now considered inadequate, because of the new sophistication of the consumer and of our increased knowledge of segmentation.

For example, it was commonly thought that someone in their late twenties was an adult, likely married with children, and quickly headed to middle age. Yet, in the new millennium, we find that, while some people in their late twenties fit this profile, many others of the same age group still live at home and remain dependent on their parents for financial support. Often, they are unmarried and have no children. Yet, the old segmentation lumps these two disparate groups into one bucket.

Additionally, “cohort marketing”, a term originating in consumer marketing circles, defines customer segments using a common experience or multiple experiences shared by a group of people. They have a bond and a common set of needs or interests. For example, Apple computer users who choose not to follow convention with the Windows operating systems; instead, they take pride in the cult-like creativity and independence that Apple products offer.

So, what does this mean to the entrepreneur? It means that the target market needs to be carefully defined. Your product or solution needs to match precisely with a market segment that wants or needs what you offer. If you define your market too broadly, you might find yourself with a customer who is indifferent to your offering and may be suspect to move to the competitor that better understands his or her needs.

John Bradley Jackson
© Copyright 2008 All rights reserved.

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The New Auction Culture

April 3rd, 2008

My fifteen year old daughter asked me yesterday, “Dad, can we trade in Tara for a new puppy? We can sell her on eBay.” Tara is our eight year-old, slightly annoying, yellow lab. I was aghast at the suggestion. How could my daughter even consider trading in the old dog for a new puppy?

Welcome to the “new auction culture”. Cell phones are traded in every year or so. PCs last a couple years before we discard them and trade up to a faster microprocessor and bigger hard drive. Cars are leased for three years and then traded back in for a new model. When our email address starts getting too much spam, we just abandon it and get a new one (I should know, since I have nine different email addresses).

College students don’t keep their text books. When the semester is over they list them on websites that resell books such as Amazon (http://www.amazon.com) or Darple (http:www.darple.com). No sense hanging on to that unnecessary stuff when you can get cash instead. For that matter, college students also auction their old CDs, surf boards, and iPods. Who needs that stuff anyway?

Flash back a few years ago and you will remember when we repaired broken appliances and kept them for decades. My mom had an IBM typewriter—it was built like a tank and it worked for 30 years! We have a sewing machine that is over 60 years old—my wife doesn’t sew, but it is a family heirloom which is cherished. I think it is tucked away in a closet.

Daniel Nissanoff, author of the book “FutureShop”, suggests that a new “auction culture” will change the way we buy, sell, and use our possessions. According to Nissanoff, we have had an “accumulation society” for many years where permanent ownership of a product was very important. Today, we are adjusting to “temporary ownership” where we buy or lease the goods we want (some at prices we can’t even afford), and then sell them for optimal resale value when we tire of them.

Gone are the days of saving for years to make a special purchase and keeping it to pass down to the next generation. Instead, we just go buy it, use it, and discard it when the thrill is gone. No worries. Some might say this also applies to our jobs, since all we need to do is visit monster.com (http://monster.com) and get a new one. Or, if you tire of your current spouse, go visit eharmony.com (http://eharmony.com) to find a better one who is more compatible—can you say Sagittarius?

Welcome to the new normal. For my daughter’s generation, this is all they know: everything is disposable and replaceable—even the dog.

John Bradley Jackson
© Copyright 2008 All rights reserved.

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Women on the Web

March 24th, 2008

A study by Yahoo! and Starcom/Mediavest Group offers some interesting insights about women and how they interact with the web. The survey interviewed 1199 women about how they use the Internet. Here are a few of the findings:

• The Internet is the preferred media among women and is the 4th most time intensive activity behind work, sleep and time spent with the family.
• The content most popular with women includes subjects relating to news, weather, finance and games – items not found in most popular women’s magazines.
• Women’s online spending habits are increasing and they are also using websites extensively to make decisions before purchasing in the offline world.
• Average time spent actively online each day was 3.3 hours.
• If offered only one choice as to a source of news, information and entertainment, 65% of women surveyed chose the Internet.
• 43% of the women surveyed make regular online purchases.
• 58% stated convenience as the major motivator for shopping online.
• The web is not a spare time activity for the women surveyed and it is accessed at various times of the night and day.

What this means to marketers is that women need to be recognized for the dominant decision maker in consumer and B2B markets that they are. Women outnumber men 51% to 49%. Women make the major decisions in households 75% of the time. Women account for more than 50 percent of stock ownership in the US and by 2010 they will represent 50 percent of the private wealth in America, or about $14 trillion. By 2020 that number is expected to rise to $22 trillion.

Step aside men, women are in charge.

John Bradley Jackson
© Copyright 2008 All rights reserved.

(Source: Yahoo! Inc.)

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Is Niche Marketing Like Guerrilla Warfare?

February 5th, 2008

Some people will tell you that niche marketing can be like jungle warfare and that you must conduct battle like a “guerrilla soldier.” You may have heard the term “guerrilla marketing” used by others. Admittedly, this is a powerful image but I believe that this paramilitary characterization puts the focus on the wrong parties: you and your competition.

Niche marketing is about the needs of the customer, while having little to do with your fight with the competition. The essence of niche marketing is the partnership that is created between you and your target market segment. The best niche markets are populated by customers that have been overlooked or under-served by the competition.

The entrepreneur creates intimacy with the target market by intensely listening to the problems and issues of the customers. By investing this quality time with the customers, you become expert at solving their problems and you build a product that gives them what they need and could not get.

Your reward is customer loyalty and referrals; often you get higher prices, too. Your competition is not even on the radar.

Make love, not war.

John Bradley Jackson
© Copyright 2008 All rights reserved.

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