Monday, June 25, 2007

Five Critical Keys to Reaching the Boomer Consumer

Five Critical Keys to Reaching the Boomer Consumer
by Mary Furlong
June 12, 2007

As more businesses become aware of the unprecedented number of people around the world who are approaching age 60, more of them are getting serious about reaching Boomers. Call it the new Silver and Gold Rush.

Smart businesses understand that the old media—print, radio, and television—won't be enough to reach this market. To communicate with Boomers, your business will need to evaluate and choose among a wide variety of online and offline marketing methods.

Key 1: First understand the Boomer consumer

Boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, number over 78 million in the US alone. One misstep marketers often make is to assume Boomers are a homogenous group—one size fits all. While most businesses have an awareness of and sensibility toward the unprecedented number of Americans approaching age 60, many are just now creating tailored products and services to serve this impending market.

There is a growing sense that the train is leaving the station—and that the competition may just be onboard. And that is fueling a growing momentum to get serious about the Boomer market and how to reach it.

The critical key to understanding this cohort—and how to market to them—is to gain insight into life-stage changes that occur in one's 40s, 50s, 60s and beyond.

Boomers' lives are punctuated with change and shifts in priorities—physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. These "tripping points" create business opportunities for new products, services and investments. These changes could include health and wellness issues, divorce, dealing with the empty nest, caregiving both for children and for elderly parents, loss of a parent, loss of a spouse, financial concerns, career and work changes, and retirement.

There are exciting areas of "white space," the commercial potential in underserved categories, including health, travel, passion, housing, fashion, finance, family, and relationships.

Key 2: Reach Boomers by going to them

To reach the Boomer consumer, you need to reach with them where they are. Their media consumption will change along with their new life circumstances and evolving interests. Marketers can reach Boomers through those interests at points when the consumer is most receptive.

They tend to seek out information and resources where lifestage changes cause them to focus their attention. For example, consumers are educating themselves and seeking out resources in order to take a more active roll in their own health. Weight loss and weight loss products make up a huge industry. Boomers facing the daunting responsibility of caring for an elderly parent will be receptive to new to new information, connections, providers, products and services. On the lighter side, Boomers with some discretionary dollars may spend more on hobbies, travel, and entertainment.

What are they reading, viewing and listening to? When and where? Reach them where they are.

Key 3: Meet the Boomer consumer online

Technology advances content in delivery give marketers unprecedented access to niche, highly targeted audiences. Older adults are online in record numbers. People over age 50 account for one-quarter of US Internet users. Their numbers are growing at 7-8% each year, compared with 2-3% for overall Internet user growth, according to eMarketer.

In 2005, almost two-thirds of US adults aged 50-64 and one-quarter of those aged 65 and older used the Internet, according to the Pew Internet and American Life Project. Boomers are also enthusiastic about high-speed Internet connections: 44% of Internet users age 50-64 have this service. Broadband users tend to stay online longer, which means they are more likely to see online marketing. And broadband connections give marketers more options—they can add audio files to Web sites, and they can give visitors more opportunities to interact with their databases.

Boomers are such a large group that their behavior online is much like that of the general Internet audience. They send and read email, look up health and medical information, research products prior to purchase, get financial data, view maps, and check the weather.

Some 75% of Boomer Internet users get news online, 55% research jobs, and 31% use instant messaging, according to the Pew Internet and American Life Project study.

Key 4: Your Web site is the first touchpoint

Your company's Web site is the cornerstone of a sound online marketing strategy. Prospective customers expect your Web site to teach them about you and your product or service. They also want to use the Web site to interact with you, learn how to purchase, and receive responsive customer service. You need to be providing so much valuable information that clients will want to sign up for your email newsletter and bookmark your site.

Your Web site should contain a strong call to action if you want it to generate leads. Make a special offer—sign up for a regularly published newsletter, a free information download, an opt-in to receive email and/or snail mail communications. This is how you build a house list. Your content should include useful interactive tools like dealer locators, personalized assessments and quizzes, daily updates, and features. Give visitors a reason to return often.

Key 5: Experiment with Web 2.0 technologies

We are entering the Web 2.0 era, thanks to a number of new tools that make the Internet more collaborative and participatory. The critical strength is self-selection. The viewer chooses what content to receive and when.

One example is RSS (Really Simple Syndication), which allows consumers to build their own customized information packages by delivering automatically updated content from multiple Web sites. Popular RSS "feeds" include news headlines, industry or company news, stock prices, weather reports, sports and entertainment news, and special offers. Another example is podcasting—or publishing audio and video broadcasts via the Internet. Listeners can subscribe to feeds and receive periodic, self-selected programs.

While it is important to experiment with these new technologies, it is equally important not to divert your marketing budget away from proven tactics. The most critical element is measuring success in ways meaningful for you.

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In summary, reach Boomer consumers by first understanding them as they relate to your product or service. Reach them where they are with relevant content. Use both traditional and digital media and do not be afraid to experiment with Web 2.0 technologies, all the while also employing proven strategies and tactics.

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