Although all of us have basic values and motivators that drive us, we manifest them differently as we move through the spring, summer, fall and winter of life. Marketing and selling to boomer and older customers is different primarily because of this shift in values. Our need for identity, relationships, purpose, gaining knowledge and growth, rejuvenation and recreation are always with us, but as we grow older, we focus more on having meaningful experiences, rather than gaining material goods.
And remember, the over 48 crowd are not all alike. They are more diverse than any other market segment, spanning those at the peak of their careers, to active, independent seniors, to the elderly in need of care. Here are some clues to communicating with and ultimately selling to the New Customer Majority.
- Do not talk down to, or treat them as children, or remind them of their age. Most do not consider themselves “old.”
- Although there is disagreement about using words like “senior citizen,” reserve such terms for World War II veterans, but not for the leading edge of the baby boomers who started turning 65 in 2011.
- Use realistic but positive images of mature people. Show people with wrinkles but have them doing something active.
- Stick to the facts about your product or service. As we age we make more independent judgments and base our decisions on information rather than peer pressure.
- Design your communications so that older people will stick around and read what you have to say. Avoid overly busy website design; small type sizes; garish colors; and gratuitous design elements such as flash or slow-loading graphics (See The Eyes Have It).
- Avoid “hype” at all costs. The older consumer has “seen it all” and is naturally skeptical.
- Tell “your” story using a story format. As we age we tend to respond to stories. Neutral or biased information such as product facts and features are typically important after connecting with them through stories.
- Win older people over gradually. You will have to gain their trust before they will buy from you.
- Give them content. Older people are avid readers and will appreciate the information you provide.
- Sell what appeals to the older audience e.g.:
- Health products and information
- Tips on managing their retirement assets
- Ideas for low-cost travel
- Help with buying gifts for their grandchildren
- The low-down on the best places to retire
- Products that make it easier for them to stay in their own homes
- Ways to earn extra income; and opportunities to save money – you get the idea.
Finally, emotions drive the purchase decision. As important as it is to understand what boomer and older customers think, it’s even more important to understand how they think. When marketing and selling to these markets, focusing on product features and benefits often results in a losing strategy, especially early on in the process. Research has shown that customers’ final decisions are not the direct product of the reasoning process; in fact, emotions are the major drivers for boomer and older customers in their purchase decisions. The reasoning process will confirm their decision, but it doesn’t start there.