For many years, marketing to seniors has been regarded as a waste of time – that this demographic was set in its ways and closed to new ideas. But a few years ago, marketing expert Seth Godin published a blog post entitled “Marketing to Seniors (open and closed)“, that essentially turned this misconception on its head.
In fact, Godin insists that seniors are just as open to new experiences, products, and lifestyle choices as the hot and favored marketing demographic – 18-34 year olds.
Why? Two words: “baby boomers”.
As Godin explains, “Baby boomers have been open their whole lives. And now they are seniors. So all the conventional wisdom goes out the window. Senior travel, senior fashion, senior experiences… it’s all fair game, because there’s a different demographic inhabiting that age group now.”
This got me thinking. My parents are baby boomers. They grew up in the 60s, were entrepreneurs and self-employed for 45 years. Now retired, they are enjoying the fruits of their labors – dining out, going to the gym, travelling the world (seniors account for account for 80% of all luxury travel), upgrading their home, embracing technology (I bought my mother a new laptop for her 65th birthday), and so on.
In fact, seniors are the fastest growing user segment to embrace computer technology; they spend $7 billion online annually. And with an average income per capita that is 26 percent higher than the national average (according to *Senior Magazine Online), “seniorizing” your business marketing might just be a wise move.
Tips for Marketing to Seniors and Baby Boomers
Seniors and baby boomers make up a whopping 23.4 percent of the population. As with any other demographic, there is no silver bullet for marketing to this group. But one thing’s for sure, it’s not just about senior discounts anymore. Here are some tips to consider.
1. Focus your Message on “Feel Age” not “Real Age”
The expression “you’re only as old as you feel” actually has some scientific truth, and brings with it a lesson for marketers. Southern Methodist University (SMU) Marketing Professor Tom Barry has been researching the senior market with a particular focus on “cognitive age”, otherwise described as “feel age”.
Barry’s findings indicate that those with a younger outlook than their actual age generally evidence better health, which, in turn, influences personal economics, life satisfaction, attitudes toward aging, and activities and level of participation in organizations.
So the message to marketers is to focus on “feel age” not real age. But how does this translate into your marketing habits?
Barry suggests “Use models that are cognitively younger; they don’t have to look younger, but have a persona that is psychologically younger. The content of advertising, sales, and marketing messages should be cognitively based. For example, we don’t use medicine to avoid osteoporosis because we are afraid our bones will break, but because we want to go to the museum and play golf.”
Read more in SMU’s news bulletin: “Marketing to Seniors: Age Really is a State of Mind“.
2. Building Trust
Seniors and baby boomers generally buy what everyone else buys. But they tend to take more time to research and plan what and how they spend their money.
As a business owner, this means earning their trust. And. one of the best tools in your marketing toolkit for achieving this is to perfect your customer service – satisfaction comes first, but loyalty is earned and in the long term counts for much more.
3. Which Marketing Vehicles Should you Use to Reach Seniors and Boomers?
If you are thinking of developing a specific marketing strategy to reach and engage seniors, start small, keep an eye on ROI and adjust your tactics as needed.
Small might mean running a series of ads in your local newspaper accompanied by a “sponsored editorial piece” that showcases your knowledge about the needs of your market and how your product can serve it.
As with all target markets, you need to reach your customers where they are – and for more and more seniors and baby boomers this means taking your marketing online.
According to Kinsesis, a Portland, Oregon, web design and branding firm, the number of seniors using the Internet grew by 55 percent between 2004 and 2009. The largest percentage increase in use of the Internet has actually been in the 70-75 age group. And it’s not just Internet that seniors are embracing, they are a big presence on social media sites too.
“The No. 1 online destination for people over 65 in November 2009 was Google Search, with 10.3 million unique visitors.” Facebook jumped to the number three slot from (it was number 45 in 2008, with Windows Media Player at number two).
Baby boomers, however, are the real online force, as the Kinesis article goes on to explain: “More than 60 percent of those in the Baby Boomer generational group actively consume socially created content like blogs, videos, podcasts, and forum.”
So if your target market is seniors and baby boomers, you clearly cannot ignore search engine optimization and social media marketing.
Read the original article for more data: “Marketing to Seniors and Baby Boomers? Use Internet Marketing and Social Media to Reach Them!” and for tips read this article from my fellow blogger Sean Gallagher: “Getting Started with Social Media Marketing“.
Email marketing also remains a powerful force in marketing to seniors – when used properly it still outranks all other forms of direct marketing in terms of ROI. Depending on your particular target you may need to pay attention to the visual preferences and needs of the senior market – are your fonts too small? Is your email too visually cluttered? Is your call to action clear and apparent?
For more tips on using email marketing read “Getting Started with Email Marketing: ‘The Most Powerful Tool in Your Relationship-Building Toolbox“.
What’s your experience of selling and marketing to seniors and baby boomers? Share your experiences and tips with other small business owners below.
- Small Business Marketing – Tips and resources galore from Business.gov and small business experts.
- Small Business Marketing: Making Social Media Pay Off for your Brand and Your Bottom Line
- Business Data and Statistics – A free collection of resources fromthe U.S. government that can help you understand more about your target market, including the latest U.S. Census Bureau data.
Small Business Matters is brought to you by Business.gov to provide helpful and easy-to-understand tips for small and home businesses, including direct links to resources that help business owners to navigate the government maze. Business.gov is sponsored by the U.S. Small Business Administration to provide small business owners with access to federal, state and local government resources from a single access point. Business.gov creates a dialogue among business owners and the organizations serving them, making government resources and information more accessible to the nation’s small business community. The U.S. Government and the U.S. Small Business Administration neither endorses nor guarantees in any way the external organizations, services, advice, or products included in any external website links. Furthermore, the U.S. government neither controls nor guarantees the accuracy, relevance, timeliness or completeness of the information contained in non-government website links.