Marketing to Baby Boomers
I’ve been a marketer since the days of Atari. That will tell you right there I’m a Baby Boomer. I grew up on Santana, Purple Haze, Soul Train, the Vietnam War, peace signs, hard work, women’s rights, the first video games and computers, Jane Fonda fitness… all the way to now with iPhones, social media and much more. I’ve had kids in graduate and law school and parents that needed care. These challenges faced by many Boomers are just the tip of the iceberg: 50 percent of them are raising one or more children and/or providing support to one or more adult children, and two in 10 provide financial assistance to a parent.
Many of you are Boomers, so look at yourself, your peers and their friends. Your lives are filled with work, family, hobbies, health and retirement issues. You are not boring or one-dimensional, so your marketing shouldn’t be either.
The success of any marketing program relies on understanding your target audience and grabbing their emotional, visceral and visual attention with value, products and services that hit their sweet spots.
Don’t assume they can’t afford an upgrade. They want information, and they have most likely done Internet research prior to contacting you. Boomers purchase “targeted” luxuries, travel, recreational equipment and health services.
They seek authentic, legitimate information. Your website should be a portal to information, expertise and resources. Use video and PDFs. Hold webcasts on specialized topics for training and post them to your site. Make your site the “go-to” location for their search. Remember that 38-42 percent of Boomers use social networking, and one in five use social media sites as a source of health-care information.
Boomer women are most likely the drivers in health care. They work hard and seek answers, so don’t waste their time. Give them strong visuals, clear comparisons and loyalty programs. They use online and traditional coupons, watch TV, surf the Internet and are dedicated cell phone users.
Working women are more often the primary decision maker for the family, as well as the primary caregiver when a loved one falls ill, so merchandise your store like the top retailers. Get professional help on layout, store colors and strong branding. Make customers remember you.
“Show me” Boomers showed everyone how to be entrepreneurs, institute change, make things happen and multi-task. Offer in-store demonstrations, promotions and expert speakers and promote them via traditional media, e-mail and social media and on your website. Record the event and post the video on your website and Facebook page for those who couldn’t make it to the in-store event. And remember, Boomers like to use coupons—lots of online coupons. In fact, 75-80 percent of Boomers (and growing) use the Internet, and 22-35 percent (a number that’s also rising) use a smart phone.
But keep in mind, older Boomers grew up with paper. Not all have transitioned 100 percent to digital. Plus, radio is still a very influential medium for drive time when they aren’t listening to their iPod.
Not all Boomers are alike. Avoid lumping them into a group, since someone born in 1946 clearly has different experiences than someone born in 1964. Analyze your city, town or marketing area carefully. Talk to your customers. Take a survey using a free online survey tool. Determine your different Boomer customer groups by behavior, income and attitude. It’s not age, but situation and need that matters.
The more closely you segment and reach out to them to talk their language, the more success you’ll achieve in your marketing. Tell your customers’ stories about how and why they use your services and what it did for them. “I can play tennis… help my mom… bike ride in Europe… walk to the store… see and play with my grandchildren… my mom can get around her house again.” Story marketing is rich and powerful. So what’s your marketing story?
Resources: Baby Boomers & Technology, PEW Research Center, March 28, 2012.
U.S. Dept of Labor, Employee Benefits Security Administration; Marketing to Baby Boomers, National Council on Aging.