Relationships matter when marketing to seniors
The days of cold calling seniors with any amount of success are nearly gone. Most direct mail is more successful at killing trees than getting a strong return on investment and often seminar marketing is merely an exercise in proving that there is a free lunch. So what are the successful techniques when it comes to marketing to seniors?
Seniors have had a lifetime of advertising, marketing and sales pitches directed toward them. In short, they have heard it all. By far, the best approach when it comes to marketing to seniors, is to develop a relationship first and then get permission to share your offer. Let’s explore some of the ways that relationships can be successfully developed.
Relationship building by proxy
One of the oldest and easiest ways to build a relationship is with a referral from a trusted source. With a referral, you already have something in common with your prospect, that being the person granting the referral. There’s a good chance that that your referral partner has already built a relationship with the prospect and you can benefit from that good will.
One benefit of getting a referral is that you have a higher conversion rate compared to cold marketing. The problem with referrals is that there never seems to be enough of them. Joining a networking group can help you generate more referrals but often individuals in networking groups target such a diverse group of prospects that they may never interact with your target market.
The best type of networking group for senior services professionals, is a group where all members have seniors as their target market. A good example of this type of group is the Senior Resources Roundtable which has groups in Coastal Alabama and the Florida Panhandle.
All members of the Senior Resources Roundtable offer products and services that are directed towards seniors. Members pay nominal membership dues and all money goes for the benefit of the group. Marketing to seniors can be cost effective with this type of networking group. This business model is quite different from some national networking groups that are more about the franchisee earning a living.
Start the conversation with free information
Everyone appreciates something free, especially if it have a high perceived value. I’m not talking about cheap calendars or pill organizers. Remember. seniors have seen it all. If you can offer information on a topic important to them or solve a problem with a free report ot mini-course, you have opened the door to a relationship. If you are an insurance agent, for example, you may offer a free mini-course on Medicare plans. If you are a Reverse Mortgage professional you could offer them a booklet or DVD on reverse mortgages. If you budget is tight, maybe a referral to a website on Reverse Mortgagesthat offers valuable information would earn you some good will. Keep in mind that marketing to seniors is a process not an event.
Social media and article marketing
Recently I have read some articles where the author believed that social media really wasn’t marketing and would probably not result in attracting senior clients. I disagree. Remember marketing to seniors is a process, not an event. You would be mistaken to believe that seniors are not using Facebook and other social media sites. Links on these sites to your website or blog are one way to start the conversation.
Published articles online are often ranked well in the search engines and found when one of your clients searches for a product or service. All articles should contain a link to your website where you can offer something free or start the converstion. If you are not offering a free report, make sure that your site contains a RSS feed so your prospects can subscribe.
The easiest way to get started is to set up an account at HubPages.♦ Creating an account takes about two minutes and once set up you can post articles with a link to your site. Each article is a unique HubPage and you can publish as many as you would like.
These are just a couple of ideas of ways to start the conversation and develop relationships when you would like to attract senior clients. And remember, marketing to seniors is a process not an event.
The basics of marketing to seniors in an economic downturn
The economy is tight, seniors are concerned about social security and Medicare and they are not letting go of the purse strings. Here are a couple tactics to forge ahead with your senior services business and succeed in a recession.
- Keep the lines of communication open with your existing clients. maintain a newsletter with valuable content and surprise your clients with unannounced freebies.
- Include a call to action in your newsletters. The more you can get your clients to raise their hand the more you can keep them involved.
- Remind your clients of why they became a client by asking them for a testimonial. Follow the receipt of a client testimonial with a request for a referral.
- Network with other professionals who provide senior services. Consider starting a networking group for senior service providers in your area if none exists.
- Explore the benefits of social media marketing to expand your client base.
- Include an offer for free content on your website and build your list with an opt in form.
- Stay focused on your core business and remember why you became passionate about the senior market in the first place.
There are plenty of good resources available both online and off line to feed your passion. The following is from Mitch Meyerson featured on his blog.
Senior clients respond to free offers
Seniors grew up believing that there is no free lunch and that you aren’t going to get something for free. Although this mantra has been repeated by many seniors, it hasn’t stopped them from lining up to get something for free. Perhaps they respond to offers for something free because they want to beat the system and prove that they will not fall for the sales pitch that comes after the freebie. In the case of free meals it may be that the enjoyment they receive from having a chance to socialize is driving them to respond, or in some cases maybe they are saving some money on something that they would otherwise have to purchase.
As we experience the senior tsunami in the coming decade, it may be necessary to change the nature of free. A free offer of return address labels or a pill cutter may not get the response that it once did. The idea of a free offer is to get the senior to respond, but more importantly to create a sense of obligation. I believe that the days where a senior would feel obligated by receiving a free calendar or prescription pill organizer are long gone. Even the offer of a free meal has lost some of its ability to create an obligation. Seniors who are invited to a seminar even feel as though they are owed a meal just for showing up.
Attracting senior clients with free information
As the number of seniors online increases, it becomes easier to use the Internet to attract senior clients. Information products that offer a high perceived value are used successfully for all consumers online today. Quality information products, if delivered correctly, not only have the ability to attract seniors and create an obligation, but they also allow you to become a trusted professional.
The benefits of offering an information product cannot be ignored. First, and maybe most importantly, seniors probably found your offer through an organic search or saw an ad that you may have placed online through Google or some other website. In either case, they have raised their hand to express an interest in your product or service. Compare this to paying for a direct mail campaign to thousands of prospects only to get a small response.
In addition to your prospects seeking you out, an information product is very inexpensive to create and deliver. Something as simple as a free report may be enough to have your prospects request your free content. But given the low cost of production and delivery, you may want to deliver a mini-course over several days or maybe a series of videos. Remember, once prospects have signed up for your offer, it’s up to you to deliver quality content that will enhance your position as a trusted professional.
To create your free content, think in terms of what problem your prospect is trying to solve. Offer solid information about your product or service that is a real value to your prospect. Your free content is not your offer. Stay away from any salesy self promotion and keep the free content informative. Once you have provided valuable content and positioned yourself as a trusted professional, you should make your offer or ask for additional contact information. This low key approach of giving valuable content in the form of sought after information will get a much better response when attracting senior clients with free offers than some of yesterday’s approaches.
Marketing to seniors
It’s no secret that you can attract senior clients with a marketing message that is framed with a relevant message. Nothing is more relevant to seniors than their finances and in particular, how their Social Security income contributes to their overall financial situation. When speaking with seniors about their finances or when you are offering your product or service, they are quick to let you know that they are on a fixed income. This is the same objection that people of all ages use, they just refer to their budget in different ways. It seems that when we become seniors, we are given a script to use that includes the objection; “I’m on a fixed income.”
Seniors who rely on Social Security for a sizable percentage of their income can usually count on a Social Security COLA (cost of living adjustment) each year. The Social Security Administration (SSA) generally adjusts benefits payable each January based on the annual change in the consumer price index for urban wage earners (CPI-W) through the third quarter of the previous calendar year. In January of 2009, the COLA resulted in a 5.8% increase in monthly Social Security income for seniors. The average monthly benefit is currently just above $1100, resulting in an additional $750+ over 2008′s annual benefit.
Here’s the opportunity
The congressional budget office projects that under current law, there will be no Social Security COLA for 2010 through 2012. This is going to come as a rude awakening to our seniors who are generally expecting a cost of living increase. Since the CPI is lower, due mostly to a decrease in energy costs, there will be no cost of living increase.
When marketing to seniors, it is always to your benefit to frame your offer in a relevant way that touches on their interests. Nothing is more relevant than being on a fixed income and not getting the increase in Social Security benefits that you are accustomed to. If you use this information to frame your offer, you will increase the number of presentations and will attract more senior clients.
For example: ”Mrs. Senior, in light of your not getting a cost of living adjustment in your Social Security, this may be a good time to look at your options related to ……… let’s see if we can save you some money.”
The verbiage is going to be industry specific, but the concept is the same. You are offering a valid reason to take a look at your offer. This will work particularly well with ongoing expenses. We have been conditioned from birth to give consideration to an opportunity if we are given a reason to act. For decades the retail industry understood this and was successful at having “White Sales” on Labor day, driving people into their stores to buy towels and sheets because it was Labor day! Of course today’s consumer needs more relevant justification to look at an offer. And this is a good thing.
Demonstrate your understanding
By framing your offer in such a way that demonstrates your understanding of the senior’s situation, you will actually increase trust that you are sincere in your offer to help. As business people who market to seniors, we understand that we have an obligation to put their needs first. That said, we are in business to offer a valuable product or service and earn a profit. By incorporating this important information into the way we frame our offer, we can open doors that may have remained closed if we had not had a good reason for seniors to act.
Generate virtually free leads with this approach
If you want to fill a room with qualified prospects for your senior services oriented business, seminar marketing is a true and tried way to do it. But seminar marketing on a budget is not always realistic. With costs running several thousand dollars for a seminar marketing promotion, you can’t afford not to close. Also consider, if you are not adept at public speaking or are new to seminar marketing, you may not want to practice with so much invested.
This aside, seminar marketing can be a great way to attract senior clients and grow your business. But the goal is to lower your cost per sale. To get a lower cost per sale you need to do one of two things or both. Either lower your costs or close a much greater percentage of the seminar attendees. You could fore go the marketing company and try to fill the room on your own, either by inviting clients and requiring them to bring a guest or by running advertisements promoting your event. It has been my experience that both of these methods may result in a less than full room or many seniors looking for a free meal.
Churches and Community Senior Centers
Most all churches and community senior centers have monthly meetings and are always looking for speakers. Seminars held for senior church groups give you a captive audience, a free venue, no list or mailing costs and reduced costs for refreshments and door prizes. As an invited guest speaker you will generally encounter less resistance and a greater level of trust than if you engaged in a marketing campaign to attract seminar attendees.
Here are some simple steps to have a successful seminar:
- Don’t spend money on a list of churches and don’t pay for postage. Go to yellowpages.com or a similar website and search for churches in a specific region or zip code.
- Call the churches on your list and ask to speak to the individual who coordinates the senior group at the church. Let them know that you often speak to seniors and would like the opportunity to speak to the church group. Be prepared to describe the value that your topic will bring to the membership. Let them know that no selling will take place at the church.
- Make an appointment to meet the coordinator and see the venue prior to your seminar. Determine if you need to bring refreshments and if so, for how many. Inquire about advertising costs in the church bulletin. Also offer to bring fliers for the bulletin boards and common areas.
- Practice. Practice. Practice. Even though you have little invested this is not the time to wing it. Be entertaining and if appropriate offer door prizes.
- Have a free offer or gift as a follow up. As an example, several years ago, I did seminars on the topic of funeral expenses with a goal to set final expense appointments. Instead of offering a free insurance quote, I offered their choice of a free living will or a memorial guide.
- Have printed forms that seniors can complete if they have an interest in your offer.
- Attempt to set appointments on the spot if they complete your printed form.
- Ask the coordinator if you can reference them when you contact other churches. A referral from a group coordinator at a church builds trust.
Measure your results
Remember, the goal is to attract senior clients and lower your cost per sale. If you track your results, I believe that you will find that having seminars at churches and community senior centers as part of your strategy, will lower your cost per sale and result in some referrals and networking opportunities that may not otherwise exist.
If you decide to pursue seminars at churches, you will save yourself some greif if you accept that all attendees may not qualify. Unlike a seminar marketing campaign that you purchase, you do not have control over the demographics of the attendees, other than knowing that you are addressing a senior group. To narrow your focus and get closer to your target demographic, be selective in which churches you approach.
What does it cost you to get a new client?
Would you like to attract senior clients with free leads? If you have an unlimited marketing budget and you take the “shot gun approach” to marketing and lead generation, this article is not for you. If, on the other hand, you have a limited marketing budget and need every dollar to hit the bulls eye, keep reading and learn how to be proactive and generate your own free leads.
Do you know how much of your marketing budget you spend to get a new client? If you don’t, you need to. Divide what you have spent on marketing for a specific period of time, say year to date, by the number of new clients. This is your cost per new client, or if you make repeated sales to the same client, your cost per sale. Your goal should be to lower your cost per new client or cost per sale.
If your marketing plan consists of purchasing leads or spending big bucks on advertising, you’re only firing on half the cylinders. I’m not advocating that you stop buying leads or placing well targeted ads, I’m talking about grass roots guerrilla marketing techniques that can generate free leads with very little effort.
Are you alienated by online networking?
Most senior service providers can define their market geographically, but given today’s technology we tend to think of networking as an online activity. If you are a marketing director for an assisted living facility, you will probably have new residents that have lived locally or have family that live locally. If you are a financial services professional, you will probably meet face to face with a senior client. If your focus is on providing yoga for seniors, they probably are not flying in to attend a class. And the examples could continue.
All of the above mentioned businesses could very easily share the same client. Each one of those business owners may have spent marketing dollars to attract that senior client. Why not share the love? I’m talking about a networking group only for those that serve seniors. By only allowing senior service providers into your networking group, you further increase the chance that you can give and receive more referrals. By keeping it local you can develop relationships and hold each other accountable.
One problem with networking organizations is that they allow all business types, and the focus becomes diluted. I recall belonging to a networking group where anyone with a business was allowed to join, while I was focused on insurance products and financial services for seniors, about 25% of the members were promoting multi-level marketing opportunities and their related products. This was not a good match for me.
Start now – don’t wait for it to happen
When I bring this idea up to my clients and associates, the question is always: where do I find this group and how do I join? The short answer is that you probably won’t find a networking group in your town or city that focuses exclusively on referring senior clients. You have to start one.
Here are some simple steps to take to get started.
- Develop a list of others who serve the senior market.
- Determine what constitutes a realistic geographic region.
- Consider allowing only one provider of each service.
- Find a free location. Community hall, church, restaurant, etc. .
- Set a date far enough in the future to allow time to recruit.
- Reach out to your list of potential attendees.
- Develop a list of interested parties and stay in touch.
- Conduct your first meeting and ask everyone to bring a guest.
The goal is to generate free leads, which means utilizing free promotional opportunities and doing some leg work yourself to get people interested. By allowing only one member for each profession to join, you will create more value for each member. Members will be more focused on providing referrals when they know that they will receive all the referrals for their specific industry or business type.
This ideas is so simple, yet it seems to be hiding in plain sight. Don’t wait for an opportunity to network to present itself. If you take the initiative to organize the group yourself, you will have the opportunity to meet many new potential referral partners even if they decide not to become long term members. Each referral that results in a new client will lower your cost per new client and you will be on the way to reaching your goal.
The demographics of the change to come
The Senior population is on the verge of a virtual volcanic eruption. As an example, in 2011 there will be an additional 10,000 Seniors per day that will become eligible for Medicare. That’s twice as many new Medicare beneficiaries compared to 2008. There will be over 3.6 million people turning 65 in 2011 and that trend will maintain through the Baby Boomer Generation. This burgeoning segment of the population is in addition to those people that are already over 65 and are expected to live longer than ever before.
This Senior tsunami will present some unique opportunities for the entrepreneurs and businesses that serve the Senior Market. As the Baby Boomers transition into retirement, there will be an increased need for services and given the uniqueness of the generation,there may be a new set of services required to satisfy their needs.
Defining your focus
If you serve the Senior Market, this is the time to develop a plan. If you are considering serving the Senior Market, this is the time to do some research to determine if it is the right focus for your business. Penetrating the Senior Market and converting leads into clients poses some challenges that are unique to that generation. In addition, you also need to recognize that interacting with someone who is from the Greatest Generation and a Baby Boomer transitioning into retirement can require two completely different approaches.
Depending on your industry, you may want to look at the Senior Market as two markets based on the age of a prospect. If you operate a travel agency that focuses on adventure travel for Seniors, you may want to focus on the transitioning Baby Boomers. If you are attempting to attract residents for a assisted living facility, your residents may be from the Greatest Generation, but the actual decision makers my be their children who are Seniors from the Baby Boomer Generation.
Before you develop specific strategies to attract Senior clients, you must define your goals. With the number of potential prospects more than doubling in the next few years, it is not sufficient to say that you want more clients. Get creative; what type of client do you want? Define your ideal client. Without a definition of your ideal client, it is difficult to determine what marketing strategies will work and deliver a high return on investment. This is the time to determine what you are willing to pay to attract a new client to your business. With this many new prospects entering the Senior Market and needing your services, you have the chance to change the rules of the game. But you need a plan.
Here are a few things to consider to get your creative juices flowing. The list is by no means conclusive, but it is a good place to start.
- Define your ideal client
- Decide on the type of client you don’t want to attract
- Decide if you want to make a single sale or develop a relationship
- Analyse your cost per sale and determine if it can be lowered
- Determine what marketing strategies have the highest ROI
- Check out what the competition is doing
- Get advise from industry outsiders
- Determine if you can add value and raise your prices
In the coming posts we will be looking at some of these topics and determining what strategies can help you Attract Senior Clients while keeping costs low so you can get a high return on your marketing investment.