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Friday, April 24, 2009

Marketing to seniors

Entrepreneur.com recently interviewed Maria Henke, Assistant Dean of Gerontology at USC. Opportunities are growing in the senior market and Henke has advice for business owners.

"When targeting older persons it's especially important to consider the functionality and safety of the product...you may also have to consider providing support services such as assistance using a new technology or device. Think 'universal design'. Not only will entrepreneurs make and sell better products in the senior market; they will also be more successful to a broader range of consumers." Henke also suggests that entrepreneurs looking to target seniors should segment a particular group. "This is not one big homogenous group that ranges in age from 55 to 95," states Henke. A healthy, active, employed senior will have much different needs than a retiree in poor health. Your targeted segments will affect how you distribute your product and your selling price.

One of the major mistakes businesses make in marketing to seniors is assuming that seniors are incapable of using technology. Henke reports that, "Older adults are the fastest-growing group of internet users. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, people over the age of 65 spend more than $7 billion per year online. Another mistake people make is to assume that people's consumption habits don't change over time. If older Americans are as brand loyal as they're made out to be, then the American auto industry certainly would not be in such dire straits."

Before moving into the senior market (or any new market), an entrepreneur must do their research. Henke has developed a list of 5 questions to answer before moving into the senior market.

1. What need is to be met with the introduction of the product?

2. How will those needs change over the life of the product?

3. How significant are functionality issues related to familiarity with technology/physical ability, etc.?

4. What language is appropriate and what messages resonate with this target audience?

5. How might the target audience define themselves (e.g., do they think they are "older women" or do they define themselves as "boomers" or "seniors")? How congruent are your views of this audience vs. how they self-identify?

senior marketing article

As a business owner, do you currently market to seniors or are you looking to move into the senior market? In your research, how does marketing to seniors differ from other segments? Do you think the senior market is an under-served market and has many opportunities?

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