How to appeal to your senior customers

By Barbara Risto

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It is generally believed that people of a mature age become more entrenched in their buying habits and less responsive to change or new approaches. Like all of us, seniors draw upon a combination of past experiences and current belief systems (often developed out of past experiences) when making decisions. It stands to reason that the more experiences one has built up over a lifetime, the more definitive one's views on the world and how it works.

When a business is trying to acquire new customers, especially those within the growing senior demographic, what can they do to change a senior's buying preference or make them interested in their particular product or service?

Somehow, you need to fashion your marketing message so that it doesn't get discarded by what is commonly called "crystallized thinking." Crystallized thinking comes as a result of applying experience and knowledge to predict a reliable outcome. In other words, if a customer has been conditioned by past experiences (real or perceived) to believe that a certain product is better for them than another, their tendency would be to gravitate toward the product they have predetermined in their mind suits them the best. The more the customer has seen the same message and responded the same way, the less chance they will be swayed to make a different choice than they have in the past.

To entice a customer with your product or service, you need to find a way to open their mind to alternatives or something new.

So what can you do?

Senior buyers are looking for products and services that are relevant to their current needs, make genuine sense and appeal to them personally. If they can be presented with information that challenges their previous thinking, they can be moved out of auto-response mode into considering an alternative.

Your challenge is to fashion a marketing message that strikes a chord with them and stirs them to reconsider their response.

Here are some marketing tips to consider.

1. Rather than sell your product or service based on the price point being lower than your competition, or based on budget, fashion your marketing message to highlight how your solution can meet a need in their life. Focus on lifestyle, not finances. Price can't be totally discounted, but purchases, especially important ones, are usually made based on what the product or service can do for them. When they can see clearly HOW it meets their need, price becomes less of an issue.

2. Seniors want easy solutions. The more complicated the product, the harder it is to use, assemble, install, understand, transport or manage, the less likely they are to buy. This can also apply to your marketing message. Keep it simple and straightforward. Don't try to communicate too many things. Focus on one or two main thoughts. Don't clutter your ad with tons of stuff. Use more "white space" in your ad – believe it or not, that can be a very effective way to direct the reader's eye to your message. The harder you make it for the client to understand what you are offering, or to make a change, the less apt they are to go to the trouble.

3. Seniors want to understand things, not rely on someone else to do things for them. The harder something is to read, to understand, or to access when needed, the more it will emphasize the loss of independence seniors often incur as they age. Your marketing message should never make your client feel inadequate, incapable, stupid or "old". Make sure your employees carry this concept through their dealings with senior clients. Teach them how to not be patronizing or condescending when the client asks for help. Needing to ask for help from service people or store staff can often be a roadblock to buying. If your staff are not appropriate in their approach to the senior client you can lose the sale.

4. Proper images, font size, colors, etc are also important in your marketing message. Make things clear, not confusing. Forego complex design for practicality, if necessary, to ensure your marketing message is easily read and understood. Use images that invoke feelings of comfort. Use images that are age-appropriate. Don't stereotype seniors as old, infirm people. On the other hand, don't use images of people that are too youthful either. Most people view themselves as about 10-12 years younger than their actual age, so use images that they will find attractive, not outrageously skewed toward the young or the old.

5. Seniors are more concerned than the average consumer about security, independence, lifestyle, and family relationships. You will find more response if you can tailor your marketing message so they can see how your product or service will provide or increase security, enhance their independence, contribute toward a healthy and enjoyable lifestyle, or enhance their family relationships.

6. Seniors often will want to protect what they have before they'll consider investing in something new. This can be just as true when buying an appliance or roofing for their home, as it is for making a financial investment in the money market. Need alone doesn't always trigger buying. So take time to show them how the new product is better, how it will bring more safety or comfort, or less complication to their life.

7. Seniors want to know that their needs are being considered on an individual basis rather than being thrown a one-size-fits-all solution. Personalized service and respectfully listening to their particular situation with concern and interest will go a long way toward securing a sale.

8. Many member of the current generation of seniors have been taught that they should provide for the generations coming after them – in other words, leave something for their kids or grandkids. The desire to be a good steward of their money can interfere with their need to take care of themselves – they will often endure suffering and inconvenience, and forego an enjoyable lifestyle, so that their beneficiaries will be left something. Sometimes they can benefit from being told that it is okay to consider their own needs first; that living a better life themselves can, in turn, often benefit those they love.

9. Purchases can often be emotionally charged. Finding out what emotional concerns your client has about your product or service, or around their needs, will give you an opportunity to address those concerns. You can explain, in person or through your ad, how your product or service can alleviate the clients concerns. Marketers sometimes avoid mentioning anything negative in their advertising message to avoid getting the client thinking in that direction. But if you know there could be some negative feeling around your product or service, it's often better to address it head on and show how your solution addresses those feelings in a positive way.

10. Change needs to be viewed as something positive, not something to fear. Realize that some seniors thrive on being trend setters among their peers. Try to tap into this positive energy. Empower them with knowledge and confidence as you show them how your product or service can lighten their load, and provide benefits that can lead to an enhanced and more meaningful lifestyle.


Senior Living Magazine is distributed throughout Vancouver and the Lower Mainland,
in Victoria BC and across Vancouver Island.

This article has been viewed 2868 times.


Showing 1 to 1 of 1 comments.

Thank you for the great information Barbara.

Posted by Susan Benesch | October 7, 2010 Report Violation

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