Breaking news: We’ve stopped getting older. The first baby boomers, born around 1945, are approaching 70. They are healthy and happy, apparently having decided to opt out of old age. Marketing to seniors involves showing pictures of active silver-haired people. They have plans.
Start by defining seniors as people 65 or older. Let’s assume your ideal market is healthy, retired and collecting that increasing rarity, the defined benefit pension plan. They have time and money. Let’s also assume your prospects are sharp and alert, thanks to good health care.
So seniors are your market. What’s their lifestyle? Do they have concerns? How do you market to them? What are the best ways to sell to them?
The senior lifestyle
For people with gold, these are the golden years. After years of working and saving, they have an income from both pension and Social Security, maybe double if they are married. They have plenty of time on their hands and a lifetime’s worth of deferred projects and dreams to fill it. No wonder so many can say, “I don’t know how I ever found the time to work!”
Seniors volunteer. They have been part of the community for years or recently moved to a lower cost of living region and want to get involved. They want to give back. They get involved with cultural institutions like museums and the symphony. Comfortable seniors volunteer. Really well-off ones run the place.
See also: A case for volunteerism
Seniors affiliate. At last, they have time for their college alumni association. They might not know other graduates, but the buildings and professors are likely the same. The schools love them, too, as planned giving is never far from their thoughts. They spend evenings at homeowners’ association meetings.
Seniors continue learning, a major reason they move to college towns like Chapel Hill, N.C., or Charlottesville, Va. They take community school courses or audit college classes.
Seniors stay close to health care. They know they might need it someday. The university town they chose likely has a medical school. They volunteer with medical charities or lend a hand at the local hospital, wanting to be a familiar face if they need medical help in a hurry.
Seniors are often religious. Faith often takes a back seat when people are busy. Now they have time. Although positive people don’t dwell on death, they realize they might be meeting their Maker sooner rather than later.
Seniors travel. They have the time and schedule to take advantage of last-minute fare sales or plan exotic vacations years in advance. Whether they have a bucket list or not, seniors are getting out, seeing the world and making friends in the process.
Seniors socialize, especially with younger people. It makes them feel younger. They learn about new technologies, expressions and music. They expand their comfort zones.
Seniors enjoy free time, that most elusive of commodities. They read personal letters addressed to them, flip through magazines and enjoy glossy travel brochures.
What troubles seniors
Wow! That sounds like a great life! I want that! Sign me up! Yet, seniors have lots of fears, with health topping the list. They are healthy, but so were their friends who recently passed away. They see doctors frequently, looking for early warning signs. Most of the fun stops when they get ill.
They fear losing money. Their house might be paid off and the pension checks arrive regularly, but their nest egg can’t be replaced if they make serious investment mistakes. The stock market scares them because they don’t have the time horizon required to recover from bad investments.
They want to give someone a better life. This often means grandchildren and college educations. Their own children, faced with estimated college bills of $250,000-plus per child, think it’s a great idea.
They are worried about predatory heirs. Even though they spent decades accumulating wealth, some relatives appear impatient. Talk of “death panels” and end-of-life issues scares them.
They are upset by market volatility. They watch cable TV constantly. The market doesn’t go up or down any more; it plunges or soars. Those experts on TV predict imminent financial collapse. They call their advisors a lot.
See also: Managing through a volatile market
They are concerned about having trusted advisors, people who can offer guidance and make decisions on financial issues they don’t understand or choose not to focus on regularly.
If they have a trusted advisor, they are worried about continuity. What if their advisor predeceases them? After all, they smoke and drink way too much.
They want to leave the world a better place. This might involve endowing a chair at the hospital, establishing a university scholarship or having a room named after them at the local museum.
How to reach seniors
Let’s assume you live in an area with plenty of well-off retirees. How do you get on their radar screens? Keep these areas of opportunity in mind:
- They have time. Travel companies send glossy brochures. Do you have a professionally prepared marketing kit? Does your firm have a booklet detailing its history, strength and longevity? Write personal (firm-approved) letters on good quality firm stationary. Use stamps. Send seminar invitations.
- They have influencers. Generations X and Y place a high value on peer ratings on websites. They visit sites like Trip Advisor or Zagat to learn what others think before going someplace. Seniors believe in face-to-face contact with people whose opinions they respect. Get into that circuit, starting with clients you have helped. Even better, become the advisor within the family.
- They have brand awareness. Seniors know companies go under. They trust firms that have navigated economic cycles for decades vs. newer firms that primarily exist online. Lean on your brand.
- They are private. It’s been said that older people with money have it because they have been careful about it. They will respect your discretion. If they bring up confidentiality, remind them you know many of the same people. It’s likely some are clients. You haven’t mentioned names before and aren’t starting now.
So, seniors have time, money and concerns. How are you going to cultivate them into clients? Start by making lots of friends. It’s a strategy with a longer time horizon, but building rapport is worth the investment. These techniques work well:
- Seminars. Reach seniors through their affiliations. Religious institutions, alumni groups and homeowner’s associations are fertile ground. They grant the “halo effect” too.
- Share common interests. You like the museum, symphony or historical society. So do they. What’s their connection? How do they help? What do they see as the pressing needs? How can you help?
- Become the family advisor. Heirs are often on the lookout for dubious influencers seeking to separate mom and dad from their upcoming inheritance. They need someone trustworthy, a known quantity. Revisit your list of clients. Who have you really, really helped? Who thinks the world of you? When are they having the family over next? Can you be introduced?
- Specialize. Seniors have specific issues. You have helped other people with that problem. You might be able to help them, too. Some advertising can help.
What not to do
Many seniors may not know they are old, especially if they hang out with a younger crowd. For starters, don’t burst their bubble.
Don’t reinforce stereotypes. Television and movies often characterize insurance salesmen badly. They give lawyers a bad name too, but everyone loves “Matlock” and “Perry Mason.” Dress well and be confident.
See also: Get out of the selling fast lane
Avoid unfamiliar products. As a Midwest manager once explained, “It’s evolution, not revolution.” If they are afraid of losing their money because of bad decisions, don’t insist they buy something they don’t understand.
Don’t insist on your timetable. You want to have a good first quarter. They don’t care. Pushing encounters resistance. Maintain a pipeline with plenty of prospects.
Don’t talk down. It makes sense to use simple terminology, but avoid assuming your prospects are financial idiots. They did something before they retired.
Seniors can be great, loyal clients who become great friends and refer business too. Approach them with a positive attitude, shared interests and a long time horizon.
For more on the senior market, see: