307: Generation Z is Coming for Us, with Kimberli Lewis

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Generation Z will shape the new SMB landscape, what does that mean for salespeople?

The Conquer Local Podcast travels to the Czech Republic to speak with Kimberli J. Lewis, President and General Manager of the Search and Information Association Europe. Kimberli explains how Generation Z is slowly but significantly changing the SMB landscape. By 2030 it is projected that 42% of SMBs will have Generation Z owners. While every generation has contributed to its share of disruption in the way we do business, Generation Z will significantly change the way local businesses are operated. Kimberli and George discuss how this evolution will affect our business growth strategies, our products, and the way we connect with the Generation Z SMB owner.

Kimberli has over 20 years’ CEO experience in media, search, and online companies. She has managed or served on the boards of companies in Germany, Czech Republic, Slovak Republic, Poland, Gibraltar, Israel, United Kingdom, and United States. Kimberli is recognized as an expert in the industry of search, information, and digital advertising and has won over 29 International awards in marketing and product development. Kimberli is also a certified Executive Coach, Systemic Team Coach and Organizational Leadership Trainer with graduate degrees from Henley Business School and London Academy of Executive Coaching. She specializes in helping organizations implement diversity, generational management and leadership programs for succession plans.Kimberli is the host of the radio broadcast Leadership Beyond Borders which airs on VoiceAmerica Internet Radio every Tuesday 3 pm, PT and is ranked with 5 stars on iTunes podcasts. The show focuses on digital transition and organization leadership.



George: You know, when I look back over the years, there are a number of people that really jump out, that are memorable and you’re like, “I’m never going to forget this individual.” That is who I have coming up next as a guest on the Conquer Local podcast. Four years ago, I met Kimberli Lewis, the CEO of SIINDA. She’s a member of the Forbes Coaches Council, she’s in telecommunications business for about 20 years and she started in digital advertising in 2006. She is the CEO and founder of Global Business Therapy, the woman’s leadership academy based out of Prague. At Conquer Local in San Diego this year, she did a presentation on how Generation Z will shape the new SMB landscape.

George: I could go on for hours in conversation with Kimberli Lewis and I’m sure we could come up with all sorts of nuggets. That’s an insight, that’s an insight, she’s just one of those compelling people that you have the privilege of meeting at some point in your life. I feel very privileged and honored to call her a friend and a colleague and a mentor, so Kimberli Lewis, the CEO of SIINDA coming up next on the Conquer Local podcast.

George: Latest edition of the Conquer Local podcast, Kimberli Lewis joining me, and Kimberli, you and I have known each other for a number of years. I had the privilege of listening to a very well-researched and presented topic at the Conquer Local Conference in San Diego this past year. I know that you’re very passionate about this content because I think that there are some misnomers out there around this new group of people that are coming into owning businesses, working in businesses and that are involved in local business today. I really would like to get into this with you on how Gen Z will shape the new business landscape, local business landscape, so tell us how this content came about.

Kimberli: Okay, so the content came about, it started with my leadership coaching, which I do, and executive coaching, and I’m seeing a lot of the Gen Zee or Gen Zed as they say, in your [area], come into companies now, they’re just getting out of universities and they’re entering into the workforce. I see companies struggling with their habits, which are quite different than millennials, and with the way they work. I started thinking about how that affects digital because with SIINDA, of course, it’s all about digital and what’s going to happen in the next generation is digital.

Kimberli: We did a parallel study with my leadership group as well with support from Silktide on the landscape survey, and also New York University in Prague to take a look at this, and take a look at these new habits of Gen Z. What is that actually going to do to the face of small businesses in the future? That’s how it came about.

George: So there was a great study that was done and it brought out some great learning, so what would be some of the key takeaways that you found inside the data that you were able to dig up?

Kimberli: Well, I think the biggest takeaway is what the landscape looks like today with SMBs or SMEs, whatever you want to call them, and what it will look in the future. If you look at, if you look at SMEs today, 82% of the owners, the entrepreneurs that own small and medium businesses, are between the age of 40 and 70. You could narrow that down, you’ll say that 60% are between 40 and 59, and what that means is that the landscape you’re seeing, the digital representation of SMEs that you’re seeing today actually reflects the owner’s knowledge.

Kimberli: When we look at the landscape survey that we did, and you look at SMEs across Europe, and I’m using European data here, you’ll see that for example, only 10% of these SMEs use Instagram, only about 65% on the average, are mobilized, only 8% use video and only 38% use analytics. What this data is saying is the way they represent themselves digitally reflects their comfort level with each of the digital media, and the comfort level between the age group of 48 to 70 is not as comfortable as it is in the age groups from 18 to 30. That was the first data that we said that really the way they represent themselves reflects the comfort level they have with dealing with digital media.


Generational Shifts: Adjusting for Different Pitches

George: I want to go a little deeper into this because it just brought a few things to my mind. I’m 65 years old, or I’m 62 years old, I’m a couple of years away from retirement, I’m thinking about exiting from my business. I’m not comfortable with having a digital conversation, I think there is the Google out there and that’s all that I really need to worry about, but when you’re selling to a customer that’s like that, I think it’s important for them to understand the person that might be buying that business, if you’re looking for an exit, is going to measure whether you have a digitally enabled business or not and your evaluation is going to go down.

George: I think it’s important to understand where the business owner is at in their journey, and maybe the education, and again this comes back to figuring out the need, that unconsidered need that the customer might have. Now, I want to bring another thing to light. I was out for dinner last night with a Gen Z who happens to own a carpet business, and we were talking about the marketing funnel and sales and everything else and he was telling me he’s very proud of the work he’s doing on Instagram and how he’s building an Instagram vault.

George: He gets how to connect on Instagram, he knows that his audience is 18 to 54-year-old women that are making the decision on flooring based on fashion. He knows there is also a subclientele, but then, when we started digging into the sales funnel, the reason why he wanted to talk to me, the old grizzled up sales veteran is, they want to understand how they could close more, because they’re getting lots in the top of the funnel that are finding the brand and they’re using social, but then you’ve got to have some hand-to-hand combat and close that deal.

George: It’s really interesting that age and then the generation that we’re in and the things that we experience generationally are really impacting that consumer journey.

Kimberli: Yes, and I think to come to your first question, was about if one of these 60, or you’re 65 and you want to sell it, one of the statistics we did find is these SMEs, they do have websites. It’s about 85% and so they understand the concept of being in digital, but what they’re not doing, is we found out that the majority were not updated in the last 60 days. They don’t understand the technical aspects behind it. You have to update it, they don’t understand the indexing and why it’s so important to keep content up, they just know that they’re online and the ROI, the investment they’re making, they don’t understand the ROI. If you invest on Instagram or Facebook, if you’re lifting that brand, will that bring brand awareness rather than closes? That’s exactly what your Generation Z wants to know.

Kimberli: We are seeing they’re there, but what we’re not seeing is they’re not using all the different channels that they could use. Now, there are so many channels out there, they don’t have to use them all, they have to find the one that’s right for their type of industry and their type of business to bring them closes. I think we have to be careful to say they’re not there, but they’re not optimized, and so when they sell, they’ll say certainly, and then a Gen Z will come in and take over and say, “Okay, how can I optimize this?” Because I know this channel will bring me brand awareness and I know that this channel will bring me closes and I know if I use LinkedIn direct, then if I have a service business, I may contact people directly and get more closes, or I may build the brand on Instagram.

Kimberli: There is a difference and the Gen Z… They’re the first digital natives, the real ones. People say millennials, millennials brought technology into the workforce, they brought flexible working hours, but they’re not real digital natives. The real digital natives, are the ones coming into the workforce now, and they know how to do things, they know how to use channels, but they may not have experience George, on how do you get that close now?

George: Yes, it’s interesting how, and I’m thinking about it from a local sales perspective, so our audience as you know, is local sellers in 50 different countries, and they’re calling on a customer. They walk in with a presentation in their head, the one size fits all concept, and yet depending upon the age of that buyer, they better have a different vernacular and a different approach. That’s probably one of the big struggles that you and I have seen over our years, is that the sellers that are able to make that transition, to understand that you’ve got to be a chameleon and you’ve got to adjust your presentation, your value proposition, your expectations, depending upon not just the vertical of the business, but now I’ve got to adjust it based upon the age of the buyer.

Kimberli: Absolutely, and to come to your point to use this carpet, the Generation Z carpet person that you had, we’re talking to, if that was his father or grandfather there, then you would need to approach that sale completely different. First, probably they’re going to want it face to face, they’re probably going to want email, they’re probably going to want simple products. Then the conversation’s going to be about getting me in digital, the conversation’s going to get me the exposure in digital.

Kimberli: The conversation you had with the Gen Z, as you just said, they understand how to tweak Instagram, they understand how to use the technical aspects, they understand where their targets are. You’re having a different conversation now, the conversation is now how can I actually get everything I’m doing to deliver to closes. Another thing that we’re seeing with Gen Zs, is they really do want a one and all solution. They really want to be able to say, “Okay, I’ve done all this, I’m represented all over, I’m now mobilized, I’m on Instagram, on Facebook, I’m using this, now help me just close more customers.” A conversation would be completely different than if you were just saying, “Let me get me digitally represented on all channels.”

George: Finding really great insights with data to back it up saying if your audience, your customer bases this year, if you were, I would say probably 50 plus there is a different conversation because you and I, we are first adopters and if you look back at it in our careers, we always have been.

Kimberli: Yes.

George: Right? Commodore VIC-20 came out, boom, I want that thing for Christmas. Pong comes out by Atari, I want that thing because I want to watch that one pixel go across the screen and get hit by the paddle. Those early adopters are not who we’re talking about here because the vast majority of businesspeople in that age group, 45 plus, they’re just trying to figure this thing out and they’re behind and they need to get in the game.

George: Now, interesting thing that happened, Brendan King who you know very well, our CEO has this very famous pitch that he put together where he explains, based upon the size of the business, where their heads might be at. You’ve got early in business where you have more time than money, so then you will do things yourself, you’ll post on Instagram, maybe build your own website on one of the web builders, that type of thing. Then you get to a point where you have more money, and you realize your time is more valuable, and some of these other things you get somebody else to do. Then you’re looking to adopt maybe a digital agency to help you with those things.

George: That happened to me last night, too and it was really interesting because we were sitting there and we were talking about all of the social media outreach that this business had figured out and I was really impressed with the way they built the top of the funnel, and I say, “You know, the one thing you need to do is get some content on your blog.” They were like, “We’re interviewing blog writers right now.” I’m like, “They get it, they’re understanding those pieces of the consumer journey.”

George: Now, on the other hand, if you’re talking to somebody that’s 58 years old, you don’t want to go tactic by tactic, you want to walk in and say, we have an all-encompassing solution. Here’s how we’re going to measure all of these, you don’t need to get into the weeds of, “You need to have a blog post and you need to rank these keywords.” They just want more business, and most of them are sitting there going, “What the hell happened? I used to put an ad in the newspaper and put something in a directory and I got business and now my business is not as effective.”


Finding the Perfect Match When the Need-State Differs 

Kimberli: Yes, I think when you’re talking to the Z, what I would say is they want the perfect match. They know what they’re doing technically, and as you said, these conversations are completely, very detailed, but they want the perfect match of how that solution or the solutions they’ve implemented are going to get them to the bottom of the funnel and get some customers walking in that door. The interesting part, George, is that we have to start to think about it now, because even though at this point there’s only about 4% of small businesses being owned by these generations Zs, by 2030 it’s going to be 42%, because one of the things about this generation that’s very different than the millennials is that they want to be their own boss. They want to own businesses, so they’re going to be the ones that are going on and buying that business maybe from the guy who was retiring at 65, they’re going to turn it around and they’re going to want a completely different conversation.

Kimberli: The other point is how you have that conversation. This generation really, it’s collaborative, they go in thinking they know just as much as you know, so they want a collaborative conversation in how to get them to their solution. It’s not, “I’m going to give you keywords, I’m going to do this, I’m going to do that.” It’s collaboration. The second thing is they want you to be available. This generation works 24/7, you need to answer them, if you’re being a salesperson, you might get an email at 10 o’clock at night, or less likely four o’clock in the morning, but they could just be going to bed at that time, but it happens.

Kimberli: It’s not just the content of the conversation, it’s the product suite, how you talk about it with them in a collaborative way, and then they’re very visual, so visuals are important, and then your availability to them as a partner.


Leadership Beyond Borders

George: Well, that’s a really good point, because I think that we are the instant-on generation. I can ask Siri anything and she’ll either give me an answer or say she doesn’t understand me, but you know, we’re used to that and it’s really interesting information where we’ve got different audiences based upon vertical, but we also have different audiences based upon the age of the business owner and the pain points that they are going through. I have found that your content on the VoiceAmerica podcast, Leadership Beyond Borders is just fantastic, where are you going to find all these great guests?

Kimberli: I think I’m kind of lucky, I read a lot and I’ll tell you about two guests I had this week, which will come out in October. I was watching in German, I live in Germany and speak German, and I was watching German Who Will Be a Millionaire, and the woman who won it is a neuroscientist for leadership. I found her really interesting, of course, she was really smart that she won, and I wrote her and I said, “Talk to me about the neuroscience of leadership.” She did, she likes to show, and we interviewed her and today I just interviewed Shawn Harper who was a lineman for the Los Angeles Rams and he was very inspiring, very inspiring. I think people like the show, so I’m very lucky that when I reach out, they’ll say, “Yes, we’d love to be on it.”

George: I encourage people to search the Leadership Beyond Borders show with Kimberli Lewis. It’s Kimberli with an I, on VoiceAmerica. It’s fantastic content, and I’m actually quite honored to have been a guest on your show, I should mention not once, but twice. Anyways, so let’s talk a little bit about this, this is new, this thing, I’m on your LinkedIn profile and I’m reading through here and I see this thing, member of the Forbes Coaches Council. Did Steve Forbes just called you one night and said, “Hey, would you like to be on this thing?” Or, how did this happen?

Kimberli: Well, I’ve been coaching for quite some time, and I was recommended and actually the recommendations are pretty anonymous, so I honestly don’t know how it happened. Then it goes through a screening process and I was invited to join. I can’t say a lot more about that at this point because it’s only been two months, but it’s a very tight group of some of the top coaches, executive coaches and leadership trainers in the world. Part of our job is to give content, so I’ll be writing content for Forbes in the upcoming months. It’s a great exchange, and it’s wonderful to be with a group of so many talented people.

George: Another interesting thing that you do in your spare time, which I don’t know how you have any spare time, is you are a member of the board of the European Advertising Standards Alliance. I wanted to get some feedback for our listeners that, as I mentioned, are all over the world, but what’s going on, you know, we’ve got GDPR, I know you were very involved in setting up SIINDA members to understand what ramifications there would be when that came in, so you have a lot of experience in that space, but now on this new board, the European Advertising Standards Alliance, what does that organization do and how does it impact local businesses?

Kimberli: Well, really, it sets up standards for truth in advertising. I think that’s the simplest way to put it. What the digital world has done is, because it’s so easy for people to put up anything and claim anything, there’s a lot of confusion out there. Of course, you still have legacy or traditional advertising on radio and TV, which has always been quite regulated, for a long time. In the United States when they just banned cigarette advertising, those kinds of things. This association deals with that, but what is dealing with now, more is how do you regulate these things in the digital world? We’re all struggling with that.

Kimberli: GDPR was on personal data protection. Right now in the European Union there is more legislation going on, on digital and it’s looking on truth in advertising in the digital world, which is a lot more difficult to define, than just seeing a TV commercial that comes on in primetime, is not allowed to have cigarettes or is not allowed to have nudity or whatever, so we’re struggling with those kinds of issues.

George: Well, you know, you and I have had long conversations and I’m sure we could turn this thing into hours upon hours, but I really appreciate you bringing those insights on, Gen Z and millennials, and I love the fact you called it out right out at the gate where people are just, “They’re all millennials” and you know, it’s not. There are needs there and there’s an enormous amount of opportunity by clearly understanding that the need-state of these businesses changes depending upon the age of the person that’s making the buying decisions or in ownership.

George: Thank you for bringing in those learnings and I look forward to learning more about the great topics that you bring our way with the VoiceAmerica podcast. We should mention, you’re also a published author and I had a chance to read your books. Fantastic, what’s the name of the book again?

Kimberli: Ponytale Talk: It’s All about You! Winning Career Strategies for Women.

George: Kimberli Lewis.

Kimberli: It’s on Amazon.

George: Everything’s on Amazon.

Kimberli: Of course.

George: Thank you, Kimberli Lewis, for joining us in the Conquer Local podcast.

Kimberli: All right, thank you, George.



George: As I mentioned off the top, her and I could sit down, have a conversation, probably come up with some great content. What I wanted to cover on this is something for all of us that are out calling on local businesses. I don’t care where you are, we need to have this in our minds. It keeps coming up more and more, you need one deliverable for this age group, you need another deliverable for a baby boomer age group if that’s your buyer and your customer because they have a different need-state.

George: The presentation and the expectation and the education need to be different. Kimberli’s got some great insights that are backed up by data from that study that they did. It’s European data, but I don’t think that it’s much different than what we’re discovering in North America or in South Africa or in Australia or Asia.

George: Some very great insights. I also want to point you towards the VoiceAmerica podcast, Kimberli’s podcast on a regular basis on the VoiceAmerica channel and it’s called Leadership Beyond Borders. Thanks very much to Kimberli Lewis for joining us in the Conquer Local podcast. We have the Conquer Local community on Slack. Get in there, get the conversation going, ask questions. We’ve got all sorts of sales leaders and mentors and doers that are out on the front lines and you can ask questions if you’re running into issues, if you want to broach a subject and get some feedback, we’re finding it to be a very valuable resource for that, and LinkedIn, the George Leith LinkedIn channel.

George: If you’d like to reach out with comments, we’re getting lots of kudos there, but we also love hearing about how we might improve our content or subjects that you want us to cover in the coming months. We are right smack dab in the middle of season three on the Conquer Local podcast. My name is George Leith, I’ll see you when I see you.