Inbound Marketing Across the Generations

March 24, 2016 Doug Milnor

Inbound marketing? Outbound techniques? Which marketing model is better for your brand?

The answer to that question is likely "Both". Unless your target audience is an incredibly miniscule part of the general population, you will likely find the most marketing success by employing a combination of inbound and outbound techniques.

Inbound marketing

Your target audience is likely made up of multiple generations.

A More Versatile Approach

At its most basic, marketing is about getting the right message to the right people at the right time. Both inbound and outbound marketing strategies accomplish this. While inbound may do it with a bit more finesse and considerably less expense, outbound is still a valid way to motivate a significant segment of your target audience and help those leads that came through inbound channel move through your sales pipeline (almost required for larger ticket items).

Why is that the case? The answer lies in the nature of your audience. Segmenting your audience according to age, you will likely find several generations among your customers. Each generation comes with its own expectations as to how, when, and where they will engage with your brand.

Thus, to fully satisfy the expectations of your entire target audience, a combination approach is needed.

Four Generations in the Marketing Mix

Broadly speaking, there are four generations who are currently on the minds of most marketers. They are:

  • Millennials (born between 1981 and 1995)
  • Generation X (born between 1965 and 1980)
  • Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964)
  • The Silent Generation (born between 1920 and 1945)

Thinking about the characteristics and life experiences of these different generations, here are a few practical tips for marketing to each group:


Becoming a significant part of the consumer culture, millennials are of major concern to marketers today. They are tech-savvy, mobile shoppers, with little patience for traditional marketing methods. They have grown up online, hyper-connected in a way impossible in previous generations.

MarketingProf's "Six Tactics for Successfully Marketing to Millennials" points out why it is important for marketers to cater to the expectations of millennials. It notes: "Developing a Millennials-focused marketing strategy is a must: They are, after all, the largest generation by number, comprising 79 million people, and they already have enormous purchasing power - $170 billion per year."

Here are some marketing strategies that work with Millennials:

  • Have a strong online presence, not only with your website, but also on social media platforms
  • Encourage user-generated content by providing opportunities for millennials to review and leave feedback about your brand
  • Optimize everything for mobile viewing
  • Make content relevant, engaging, and transparent

Generation X

The article "15 Key Strategies for Marketing to Different Generations" notes about Gen-Xers: "The Gen-X demographic covers some 65 million Americans. This generation is an important target market because these individuals are at the peak of their earning and spending years."

This generation did not grow up attached to mobile devices, but they have become tech-savvy over time. They use smart phones, and they have social media accounts. Inbound methodologies, therefore, work well with this generation. However, they are also comfortable with outbound marketing techniques.

For this group, combining traditional marketing techniques with online advertising, email marketing, and social media marketing will prove successful.

Baby Boomers

This generation rivals Millennials in terms of size. Unlike millennials, however, Baby Boomers are a bit less comfortable with social media. While they do search and shop online, they tend to prefer a more personal experience, and they are interested in the message your brand projects.

They may be more likely than millennials to interact with your company via phone. Emailing is also a method of communication with which they are often comfortable.

The Silent Generation

This generation is resilient, independent, and accustomed to traditional marketing methods like direct mail, newsletters, and postcards.

Do not discount the fact that many of this generation are becoming tech-savvy, as technology advances and companies design mobile phones, tablets, and desktops for ease of use for these seniors.

Inbound marketing

Engaging content across multiple platforms has wide appeal.


A Combined Strategy

While these are some general tips for marketing across the generations, it is important to remember that a combined approach to your marketing strategy increases its effectiveness considerably.

How can you accomplish this? LinkedIn's "5 Ways to Combine Inbound and Outbound Marketing" offers the following suggestions:

  1. Use a variation of the traditional direct mail strategy. Personalize your direct mail by addressing it to a specific person, with a relevant, specific offer which includes a CTA that directs people to a landing page where they can convert.
  2. Use print ads in a similar way, directing traffic to your website, where visitors can engage more fully with your brand.
  3. Use radio and television for marketing, with an emphasis on appealing to your specific audience by placing relevant advertising where and when they are tuned in.
  4. Use the telephone to connect with those with whom you have interacted on social media. Follow-up calls are surprisingly effective across all generations.

Professional marketers know that there is no one-size-fits-all strategy for effectively reaching your target audience. Combining the best of both inbound and outbound strategies will multiply the power of your marketing message exponentially.

To work with an integrated marketing company that uses a hybrid approach to marketing to best effect, contact us today.

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