Have you ever had difficulty understanding what a client needs? Do some of your clients not respond to your calls, emails, texts, social media messages, etc.? If either of these situations has happened to you before, you need to keep reading to improve your ability to communicate with your clients of all ages.

Before we dive into the tips, I can probably guess what you’re thinking. How can you offer me business tips if you don’t know anything about my business? This is a fair point. Let’s take a few steps back before we get into the tips. 

In June 2019, I attended the National Health Leadership Conference; this conference brought leaders in healthcare across the country together for two days.  I was hired to write a report summarizing the sessions presented during the conference. It was a fantastic experience, and I actually learned much more than I expected about running my own business. 

In the final session, Dr. Mary Donohue, a leading social scientist specializing in evolutionary psychology, focused on adapting communication styles to succeed in the workplace. While her target audience was not entrepreneurs, her knowledge and insights are applicable to entrepreneurs in every industry. 

What does every business have in common? 

Every business owner is selling either products or services (or both) to customers.  Every business owner needs to know how to connect with his or her clients. These two broad statements apply to all business owners. 

For example, I own a writing consulting business. Jobseekers, business owners and companies hire us to write or edit documents. I have many different types of clients of all ages with different needs. 

Why do business owners need to understand how to communicate with clients of all ages?

Currently, there are four generations in the workplace. This is important to entrepreneurs because all (or some) of these people are our target clients. Members of each generational cohort (people in a population who experience the same significant events within a period of time) have a tendency to interpret information similarly based on their age and environmental influences. Let’s focus on communication best practices for each generational cohort: 

  • Baby Boomers were born between 1944 and 1964 (55-75 years old) 
  • Those born between 1965 and 1979 (40-54 years old) are referred to as Generation X
  • Generation Y, or Millennials, were born between 1980 and 1994 (25-39 years old)
  • Generation Z is the newest generation to be named. They were born between 1995 and 2015, and are four to 24 years old

Entrepreneurs can save 10% more time if they know how to communicate effectively with their clients in a specific generational cohort because they will not need to repeat themselves (and can dedicate this time to other valuable tasks in their business). 

Millennials and Generation Z

Millennials and Generation Z have an attention span of seven minutes (the length of an average YouTube video). In most cases, if you leave a voicemail for these two generational cohorts, you probably will not get a response. Dr. Donohue joked that some of her Generation Z employees needed to be shown that a cellular phone could actually be used as a telephone! These two groups are also less likely to trust (or answer) an email because they are inundated with spam. When communicating with Millennials and Generation Z, you will achieve the best results with these two client groups if you text, reply to a message on Instagram or use a chat feature on a website because they are less likely to use Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn (even though most of these clients will have a profile). 

Baby Boomers and Generation X

Baby Boomers and Generation X have an average attention span of 22 minutes (the length of an average television program). If you leave them a voicemail, they will be more likely to call you back than clients in the other two cohorts. They prefer emails instead of texting because texting feels too intimate (especially outside of regular business hours), and make sure you use proper grammar and spelling in your message because they expect it! These two client groups are more likely to use Facebook or LinkedIn than Millennials or Generation Z.  

Watch this video to dive deeper and to help you connect with clients from every generational cohort. 

How do I know which generational cohort my clients belong to? 

Look no further than a quick search on LinkedIn! Most people will have their high school, college or university graduation year in the “Education” section of their profile, and you can determine (with reasonable accuracy) their age/generational cohort. 

If your client does not have a LinkedIn profile, respond to them using the same tool/platform they used. For example, return their voicemail if they called you or respond to their text. 

When in doubt, respond to your client’s lead, and follow their cues as you build a relationship with them. When I am in the early stages of a project with a new client, this famous quotation from Epictetus, “we have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak,” is a great place to start building a positive first impression.

As the owner of The Write Approach Professional Services, Julie Ferlisi has combined her passion for helping others and the written word in various forms to assist clients with resumes, cover letters, LinkedIn profiles, blogging, grant applications, website content and editing.  Prior to becoming an entrepreneur, Julie was a Technical Writer for Shepell.fgi, ParaMed Home Healthcare and Honeywell; she was also an elementary school teacher for three years.

Julie’s diverse background helps her assist clients with a wide range of editing and writing assignments. Calm, professional and intuitive, Julie is committed to helping her clients meet their employment and business goals through high quality, customized writing and editing.

Dedicated to being actively involved in her local community, Julie proudly supports DeafBlind Ontario Services, Rose of Sharon and volunteers regularly at her daughter’s elementary school.