The onset of youth: the next generation of professional services clients

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Five years ago, the world was a simpler place for professional services firms.  Financial advisors, CPAs, corporate attorneys, and estate planning attorneys could look out over the horizon and say, “Bring it on, Baby Boomers.  We’re ready.”

And they were.  Exit strategies for aging executives, retirement planning, ensuring the security of old money as it transferred to the new generation…the pathway to prosperity was about providing peace of mind and a little something extra.

Today those service providers can survey the same landscape and see themselves surrounded on one side by those Boomers – wary of the market turmoil, of their retirement status, of the health of their businesses – and on the other by an incoming generation of do-it-yourselfers, a young and ambitious set of big thinkers that demand an entirely different marketing mindset.

Make no mistake, the new kids are coming fast.  According to a study by The Kauffman Foundation, entrepreneurs created about 558,000 new businesses each month in 2009, a sharp rise from historical averages.  As US News & World Report notes, “Those new businesses aren’t necessarily the next Google, but to qualify, individuals must consider the business their main job and work at it at least 15 hours per week…with big companies more likely to invest in new technology before they hire new workers, Mom and Pop could do more to juice a recovery than Wal-Mart or ExxonMobil.”

Combine the boom in start-ups with the global emphasis on innovation and the pending return of private equity money, and the industry stands on the cusp of a vast influx of self-made millionaires with a new set of values and phraseology.  Green technology.  World before individual.  Invest early for children’s education, invest even earlier and with greater discretion for retirement.

Evolution of marketing?  Is that you?  I sure hope so…

Getting ahead of the incoming audience while maintaining ties with the old (middle-aged, thank you!) one is going to take some finesse.  It may be hard to embrace, but young entrepreneurs are, yes, on Twitter, and are, yes, networking through LinkedIn.  They are reading different magazines in different formats, their TVs are Internet-ready, they are iPadding across the floor in giddy anticipation of the next great media gadget that will further improve access to knowledge and entertainment.

The underlying marketing strategy for all audiences remains consistent: build trust and credibility by showcasing expertise in an intelligent, targeted fashion.  The tools to accomplish this, however, are growing up in lock step with the new generation of clientele.  Forward-thinking firms that open their mind, advance their outreach approach, and embrace change will set the stage for growth in the coming years – something their entrepreneurial contemporaries will certainly appreciate.

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