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Commentary by Margaret Kelly

RISMEDIA, Feb. 19, 2007-Anyone who works with people has noticed that certain traits seem to come with age. Or more specifically, with generations. Chances are good that you're working with clients in four entirely different generations: Y, X, Boomers and the Silent Generation. By knowing their differences, you can better understand your customers and meet their needs.

Y (born 1981-2000)
Raised by soccer moms and Little League dads, adults of this generation are among the healthiest, smartest people you'll meet. They have Internet pals around the globe, and barriers of time and space are nonexistent to them. Much of Generation Y is civic-minded, confident and achievement-oriented. Although they seem young and more traditional, they won't do business with people who talk down to them. Cater to this group by acting as a technologically savvy information source.

X (1961-1980)
Technically savvy, resourceful and skeptical, Generation X is a fragmented group in terms of personality, style and work ethic. They are masters of change, having changed cities, homes and parents much of their lives. Xers are serious about life balance and are self-reliant. Many prefer informality and have a nontraditional view of time and space, preferring to "get the job done" versus "work the hours." They often equate buying choice with power. Cater to this group by acting as an information source, but not hovering over them. When spending money, they value immediacy, independence and innovation.

Boomers (1943-1960)
Boomers tend to be passionate about their interests and like to see even playing fields for everyone involved. As children, they were more doted on than previous generations by parents who fought in war for the right to raise and indulge them. They believe in growth, expansion and teamwork, and are optimistic. When it comes to buying decisions, Boomers want you to show them how to have more time for themselves in addition to solutions to problems they've not yet anticipated. They tend to be practical-they want style but nothing high-maintenance. Cater to this group by showing them what they ask for.

Silent Generation, a.k.a. The Greatest Generation (1922-1942)
Think "American values:" civic pride, loyalty and respect for authority. They control a significant amount of the nation's wealth and are solid, no-nonsense workers with vast experience. Catering to this generation may require a shift from promoting a place to live to promoting community services and a more supportive environment. Since this generation is so large, your marketing plan may need to appeal to your clients' children as well, since more mature members of this generation may want help with large financial decisions. Either way, they are only willing to buy on their own terms.

With this information, you can better plan your marketing and communication strategy. Of course, your highly tuned people skills remain your greatest asset. No one person is likely to fit perfectly into any category, so catering to your clients still depends on your experienced judgment.
I strongly recommend researching the topic of generational differences. Knowledge is power.

Margaret Kelly, CRB, is chief executive officer of RE/MAX International. She joined RE/MAX as a financial analyst in 1987. For more information, visit