Marketing to seniors can be difficult and a lot of businesses get it wrong. In part, that failure comes from the age of folks entrusted with developing your strategy for marketing to senior citizens — often millennials especially when you think about digital marketing.
These young folks assume older people are a monolithic group who look like their grandmothers and grandfathers since they don’t have much contact with the group aged 65+. I always joke with students that senior citizens today (mostly babyboomers) will continue listening to The Grateful Dead, rather than Lawrence Welk (yeah, that old dude with the big band music and bubbles) who captivated the greatest generation (the parents of babyboomers).
So, instead of assuming that today’s seniors are the same as those from the greatest generation who preceded them is a false assumption. For instance, younger marketers assume seniors aren’t tech-savvy so they don’t know anything about texting, social media, or online search. And, while that might be true for the greatest generation, many of today’s babyboomers are good with tech–you don’t have to be a digital native to get tech. In fact, baby boomers invented tech and are still active in its development.
Digital marketing is one of the most effective marketing tools at your disposal, but marketers often feel it’s inappropriate for those over 50. However, according to Forbes, the use of social platforms by those 50+ is growing rapidly, especially on Facebook where 65% of those over 50 and 41% of those over 65 hang out. Instagram is the second most popular social platform for this demographic.
The amount of time spent on social platforms is also climbing, with an increase of 64% between 2015 and 2016. The group of seniors represented on social platforms represents huge potential for businesses since a study by Pew shows that 60% of seniors with incomes over $75,000 use social media. New sites, like Living While Gray, (for women of a certain age who refuse to sit down, shut up, and act like adults) cater to these active, affluent seniors by providing a place to share stories, hacks, and issues relevant to that age group.
But, you can’t market to seniors the same way you do millennials or GenXers. Unless you adjust your strategy and consider different marketing methods, you won’t capture this large and affluence market with tons of disposable income. If you are trying to reach the older generation but your efforts aren’t working, here are a few important tips to help optimize your marketing.
Don’t neglect social media
As discussed earlier, social media is a great tool to reach seniors, especially affluent and active seniors. Seniors have a lot of spare time on their hands and like to learn new things. Hence, you could advertise your piano lessons on social media. With social media, you can show off your piano skills to seniors and generate interest in signing up for your piano lessons. This is a wonderful, untapped market for many businesses with huge potential. Another example is spending by senior citizens on travel is gigantic, especially on cruise ships. So, move beyond selling healthcare, senior living, and reverse mortgages to seniors. It’s insulting and misses major opportunities to market your brand.
However, you may need to adjust your strategy if you want to target older customers. First, don’t refer to them as senior citizens and certainly don’t make them feel old. Fundamentally, today’s 50+ group is active, due to improved healthcare, increased focus on healthy lifestyles, and the fact they perceive 50 or 60 as the new 30, so they act that way.
Second, when marketing to seniors online, learn about what’s important to them and how they respond in crafting your marketing campaigns. For instance, seniors tend to respond better to reviews and other forms of social proof than to celebrity or influencer strategies. And, once they find your brand help solve their problems, they’re much more loyal.
More so than millennials, folks over 50 spend more time on traditional media: radio, newspapers (even online), and TV. So, integrated marketing campaigns across traditional and digital media offer the highest rewards.
Offer alternative communication options
Although many older people use the internet to find businesses, they often feel digital marketing lacks the human element they want, especially since folks 50+ are likely adjusting to empty nests and the potential loss of a spouse for the older members of this age group. As they approach or enter retirement, their human interactions similarly decline for many. Hence, many people in this age group prefer to speak with someone on the phone for customer service or complete their purchase in a brick-and-mortar location rather than online. Similarly, many prefer banking in person and seeing their doctor rather than using online options.
A lot of businesses want to switch to less expensive communication strategies, such as live chat and email, and force consumers to use online banking and telemedicine. These cost-saving strategies don’t work as well with seniors. Businesses marketing to seniors must maintain a well-trained customer service team to answer the phones and need to put their phone numbers front and center on social media pages and on their website.
Email marketing is an effective strategy, but the older generation likely checks email less frequently as they have fewer messages, especially after retirement. And, even though most seniors (up to 96% have a smartphone) most aren’t into SMS texts. Hence, direct mail is more effective than online messaging platforms when marketing to seniors.
Further, there’s a trust issue when it comes to email and SMS. Many email scams target older people, so after multiple warnings from family, friends, and the media, they’ve become hypervigilant to messages from organizations they don’t know and trust.
Email also lacks the personal touch that many older consumers value, so you should try direct mail instead. The concept of effective direct mail is the same as an email marketing campaign, but receiving a physical letter feels more personal to the older generation and you are more likely to see a return on your investment, despite the increased costs associated with physical mail. Consider a great direct mail fulfillment service that makes the process of creating and distributing mailers quick and easy (click here to learn more) since following the complex mail rules reduces costs.
Many marketers prefer to use email marketing because it is less time-consuming and less costly, but if you use a fulfillment service, time and expense are reduced and the older generation responds much better to direct mail than email.
Use content marketing
The older generation is more likely to do extensive research into a product before buying because they usually have more time on their hands. Younger people, who have busy work and social lives filled with soccer practice and dance classes, are more likely to limit their research by checking a few reviews and making a purchase on their mobile quickly.
But the older generation wants to learn more about the features and benefits of a product so they can compare it with similar products before making an informed decision. You help them with this process by effectively using your content marketing strategy, including YouTube, which is very popular with seniors.
If you write informative articles that help people understand the benefits of your products and why they are better than the competitors, the content supports your efforts marketing to seniors.
First, a focus on content helps convince people that your products are superior and shows them that you are knowledgeable about the industry.
Second, a focus on content shows that you’re invested in your customers and you are willing to offer them something of value without expecting payment in return, which helps build trust. The older generation responds well to this because it mimics the experience of going into a shop and asking a specialist for advice.
If you want to reach older consumers, it is important that you tailor your marketing strategy and use some of the methods on this list.
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