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Five Senior Marketing Trends from 2013

Tuesday, December 17th, 2013

2013 was a year of ups and downs in the news: the Boston Marathon Bombing and the Red Sox winning the World Series, Barack Obama beginning his second term versus the most recent passing of Nelson Mandela. Fortunately at Creating Results, we’ve had more ups than downs to report, including the celebration of our 20th year in business. I’d like to take this time to reflect on this past year and five of the most exciting trends/downward slopes in marketing to seniors from 2013.

1. Web 2.013 – This year, Creating Results revisited its national research of seniors and their web usage. The biggest change is the level of frustration that seniors have with company websites. The top three pet peeves are:

- Poor navigation (59% of all respondents)
- Hard to find contact information (59% of all)
- Required registration (79% of all ages)

The upside is that despite the growing number of frustrations, the number of people ages 65-plus using the Internet to research also is on the rise. So, if you understand and avoid the frustrations of this ever-growing group, then you will gain their trust and earn their business. To learn more about our research on Social, Silver Surfers, you can purchase the ebook on Amazon.

Chart - Older Internet users are more frustrated with websites than ever

2. Conversations, not content - Company websites aren’t the only medium growing more popular with the mature audience. Email has grown significantly within this past year as well. According to Pew research, nearly 86% of Americans over the age of 65 are using email. But how are they responding to email? That all depends on what you’re saying.

North Hill Communities in Needham, MA has done a wonderful job of finding the balance between supplying content and having a conversation with their email subscribers. For example a typical email includes a story about the top news from the community, a fitness tip, a recipe from their esteemed chef and a featured floor plan. This is why they find so much success in their open rates (list avg. 40%) and click rates (list avg. 11%) — both have consistently been above industry standards.

Sample email - senior marketing

3. Try it before you buy it – I may not be a senior, but I recently had the pleasure of dealing with a company that believes in the power of this mantra of ‘try it before you buy it’. We are fortunate enough to have a lovely milk delivery service in our state, Munroe Dairy. I have always wondered how much better it is than regular store-bought milk. Unfortunately, the price premium could never be justified for my family and me to make the leap.

That is until recently when they contacted me (by text, no less) with the opportunity to sample not one, but three bottles of their milk (most importantly, the chocolate version). They justified it on their end as this is how they are spending their advertising – not in flashy print or radio, but in having their hopeful customers sample the milk. Munroe Dairy feels if you experience milk delivery for yourself then you would sign up for their service.

This also has been a growing trend in marketing senior living. By sampling the lifestyle before you commit to the apartment home or townhouse, you have a better understanding of the community as a whole. Event marketing is just as important and sometimes more effective in driving sales because the prospect is not only able to “try before they buy” but also to meet their future neighbors. At Westminster at Lake Ridge, a retirement community outside of DC, their “Life in Bloom” program includes a course catalog so that both residents and the general public can choose from a variety of events.

Events catalog - senior living marketing

4. Super Sales Experience – If you’re providing opportunities to experience the lifestyle in new and exciting ways that same feeling should be evoked in the sales experience as well. Having a stellar sales team isn’t always enough. A positive trend that we’ve seen in the past year or so is developing sales centers that are more than offices.

Just recently, over 55 community developer Traditions of America opened a sales showroom where the vision was a cross between a kitchen & bath store and a Starbucks. The warmth of a boutique coffee shop with the ability to see, touch and feel the finishes that could exist in a prospect’s new home. This experience has proven to be successful not only in new communities, but also those that are looking to change the way their sales teams are engaging with prospects.

New welcome center at Traditions of America over 55 community in PA

5. Anti-Trendy – We’ve talked so much about what is new in the world of marketing, but sometimes lose sight of what has already been proven to work with the mature audience.

A focus group of recent senior living move-ins explored whether or not movers used the internet as part of their research and to what extent. Only one out of eight of those in the room had used the web extensively. All others relied on the tried and true: direct mail, print and referrals.

This is why at Creating Results we stress that while the web is an extremely important element of an integrated marketing plan it’s not the only element. A vast majority of senior living leads come from direct mail, print and referrals. These have a lasting impression on the senior demographic.

Fairing Way, an active adult community in South Weymouth, Massachusetts consistently delivers a quarterly print newsletter which offers information about the community, highlights special events and lifestyle information relevant subscribers. That mix of information is the reason the newsletter has been one of the largest sources of their leads. And when coupled with both online and offline advertising, it adds more trust and credibility in the product.

Newsletter marketing active adult community Fairing Way

What trends did you see this year in senior marketing? What were the ups and downs? Share your ideas and thoughts with us below.

The Age of Email (Does this account make me look old?)

Wednesday, December 4th, 2013

MailChimp — the email marketing service provider used to send more than 4 billion emails a month, including this blog — recently asked and answered a great question:

If all you knew about someone was their email address, what would you know about them?

After pointing out the obvious prefix clues (John=male, grl=female), John Foreman of MailChimp took a look at the clues a domain name provides. One insight? The account used indicated the age of the user.

  1. Gmail median age: 31
  2. Hotmail median age: 31 (the author attributes this to its Microsoft ownership and tie-ins with xbox)
  3. Yahoo median age: 34
  4. AOL median age: 43
  5. Comcast median age: 49

The links between age and email habits showed up several ways in MailChimp’s analysis. For one, the older you are, the more likely you are to have/be willing to pay for service with AOL and Comcast. Age also influences interest. MailChimp looked at what type of content folks were subscribed to based on their email domain.

MailChimp data shows interests vary by ISP

Graphic courtesy of MailChimp.

 

This data aligns with Creating Results’ experience in email marketing for senior living communities and with our research into Social, Silver Surfers. We are unsurprised that the older AOL and Comcast users aren’t interested in emails about social networking. Our survey data shows the older you are, the more likely you are to view email itself as social.

Chart - Seniors are most likely to see email itself as a social networking tool.

And, the older adults Creating Results surveyed showed a strong preference for web content related to restaurants – 70% of all respondents said they frequent food/restaurant sites. Our poll didn’t offer “Politics” as an option but it did include “News,” which often has a political flavor.  News was the second most popular category of websites among “silver surfers,” visited by 73% of our respondents over 40 years old.

It’s worth noting (as we do in the Social, Silver Surfers ebook) that Yahoo! and AOL aren’t just email services. They’re portals that provide news, politics, home & garden and even games all in one place.  So we’d suggest many older adults may not see a reason to subscribe to that same content by email.

Marketers, what is your experience? Do you find a higher percentage of Comcast and AOL users in email lists for services targeting older olds? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

RELATED: “Beyond the Blast – the nuts ‘n bolts of email marketing” – 2012 presentation to Planned Giving Group of New England

Don’t Let Your Email Marketing be Evil

Wednesday, June 5th, 2013

Occasionally our CCRC and 50+ clients will ask about purchasing email lists to reach more of their Boomer and Senior target market through their email marketing program.  I’ve always subscribed to the school of thought that you should NEVER purchase an email marketing list. Instead, focus on individuals who have raised their hands and want to engage with you.  Recently I came across a Marketing Profs article that addressed this very thing. It also provided some great insights for how you can effectively grow your eNews subscriber base without turning to the dark side.

According to the article by HubSpots’ Meghan Keaney Anderson:

Few things are as antithetical to good inbound marketing as purchasing a list of strangers’ email addresses and blasting them with your latest campaign. You may get a short-term win, but emailing to a purchased list can be detrimental in the long run.”

Why focus your efforts on people who, in most cases, know nothing about your brand and aren’t interested in learning more? Not to mention that it could negatively impact your reputation and cause folks to dump you in the SPAM=BAD category?  When you do that you’re just wasting your email marketing spend on open and click throughs that will never occur.

We recommend putting your efforts into the following email marketing baskets instead:

1. Create intriguing content: Nothing will make someone unsubscribe from your email newsletter faster than boring content.  Develop content that your subscribers can only receive as a member of your email program. Boomers value instant or advance notice of news and events.  Your content should be reflective of this to keep your subscribers attention.

2. Share the Love: At Creating Results we believe in the importance of an integrated marketing campaign that leverages a variety of avenues and mediums.  Promoting your email program at events, through Social Media and on site will help generate more knowledge of the program and grow your list.

3. Reward your Loyalists: Your current subscribers are the best advocates for helping you grow your email list.  Why not thank them for following and ask them to encourage like-minded (and interested) friends to subscribe as well?  Many email providers include functionality that easily allows email recipients to forward messages to specific friends — use it.

A successful email program is one that nurtures its loyal subscribers and looks for opportunities to earn new ones. To do this, promote the benefits of opt-in across as many avenues as possible.  Purchasing non opt-in email lists can hurt your email reputation and will negatively impact your program metrics.

RELATED:

It’s Loyalty, My Dear Boomer…Email Loyalty

Beyond the Blast- The Nuts & Bolts of Email Marketing

War of the Worlds? Email vs Social Media Marketing for Targeting Older People

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

Recently Creating Results has spoken about the benefits of an integrated email and social media strategy at a variety of settings, including the LeadingAge annual meeting, International Conference on Active Aging, the Planned Giving Group of New England, and the International Builder Show.  Some audience members express concern with how to effectively use each avenue to reach mature consumers, others worry about how to avoid fatiguing followers and yet others aren’t sure how to establish each avenue independently.

Some marketing experts will tell you to never, under any circumstance should you promote the same messages within these two channels. CS Penn cites cannibalizing your list and fatiguing your followers as risks of cross promoting social and email.

I love CS Penn and recommend you subscribe to his blog (if you don’t already). But I have to say that I disagree to an extent. Below we’ve identified the pros and cons of running a successful email and social media marketing program that targets Boomers and Seniors, and how you can maximize both.

CON: 

According to Penn, “if you share a newsletter socially, meaning that it’s viewable on the web from social media posts, does that then mean that your most engaged fans (who follow you, Like your Facebook page, etc.) will read straight from social and not open the email?”

PRO:  Mature consumers are flocking to both avenues, so why not leverage to reach a larger audience.Email by Age Group from Pew Research

According to Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, 52% of Internet Users aged 50-64 are using social networking sites, as are 32% of 65+ers online.  Pew’s 2012 Generations Report found that 90% of online Boomers and and 86% of online Seniors use email.

How To Maximize

Many marketers will call out social media efforts within email by incorporating icons and links within their messaging to their social avenues.  While this is a good start, you need to take it further to be successful.

1.    Distinguish Yourself:
Formulate a concrete email strategy and a concrete social strategy that clearly identify the benefits to each.  And (most importantly) the lion share of those benefits needs to be DIFFERENT.  For example, a benefit of email sign up could be special event invitations and a benefit exclusive to social media channels could include behind the scenes tour/images.

Boomers and seniors especially can be sensitive to perceived privacy issues from both avenues. Be sure you are as clear as possible when describing the benefits of both email and social, and let them know you won’t sell their information.

2.    Know the Differences:
The nature of the engagement through these two channels is inherently different. Social media is a more immediate, one-on-one communication channel (I can respond to an engagement in real time, as can other followers). Email is a one-way communication with opportunities to engage through other portals. It requires a stronger call to action than social.

Yes, if you’re posting the same info all the time on both avenues it doesn’t make sense to share your emails in the social world.  Both channels are comprised of followers who want exclusive content.  That needs to be a chief priority when creating content for either avenue.  If you do this you can absolutely cross promote the two.

3. Email and Social Play Nice:
Both email and social media have great capabilities for allowing brand enthusiasts to spread the word through icons and forward to a friend tools …  In other words email can grow your social base and social can grow your email list so be sure to use them accordingly.  All emails should include links to your social media and many Email Service Providers (ESPs) provide ways to integrate an email sign up form right within your Facebook page.

Do your email and social strategies share nicely?  Let us know how you approach to integrating these two marketing avenues.

RELATED POSTS:

What Older People Do Online-Infographic

Social Media and Marketing to Boomers, Seniors

Facebook, Internet Users More Similar to Offline Population Ages Than Ever

 

Mature Marketing Links of the Week- 7/9/2012

Monday, July 9th, 2012

It was a somewhat short week last week as we  celebrated the 4th of July and many extended the holiday into the balance of the week.

Below is our weekly recap of top resources and references for marketing to the mature consumer that received the most attention last week.  Would love your thoughts and “must-reads” in the comment section.  Have a great week!

1. MOST CLICKED: As the needs of boomers change, hospice services have diversified. The article in The Wall Street Journal detailed the new face of hospice.

“As they brace for the eventual needs of the aging baby boom generation, hospice providers are working to diversify their services and dispel misconceptions about what they do.”

With the number of people requiring hospice care doubling over a decade, the article detailed the broad range of services many hospice organizations are now offering to ensure they are meeting the needs of a population that is living (and thriving) longer, including pre-care for patients who may not be terminally ill.

Read to article: http://ow.ly/c1UeQ

2. MOST SHARED: What Percentage of Baby Boomers and Seniors are Gay?  A recent report by Experian Simmons generated a number of shares and clicks.

 

Per the report- the breakdown of the LGBT population by age has skewed younger over the last several years, with 16% of LGBT adults aged 65 and better.  Our blog post on this research took the numbers a step further examining the number of LGBT Americans reaching retirement age every week (approximately 10,000). What are you doing to target the “gay and gray”?

3. WORTH SHARING: eMarketer released findings from the CMO Council showing that email continues to reign supreme as an effective marketing channel, with 67% of marketers ranking the avenue as most successful within digital marketing.  The article cited automated messaging and personalization via data segmentation as reasons for year over year increases in open and click through rates.  How can you capitalize on the continuing trend of email serving as a powerful player in the digital marketing field?  Read our blog post on Loyalty to learn more.

It’s Loyalty, My Dear Boomer…Email Loyalty

Wednesday, April 4th, 2012

Email marketing consistently seems to be a hot topic around the water cooler at our agency. We talk frequently about leveraging email to reach boomers and seniors, especially for the best way to use it for our continuing care retirement community and 50+ housing clients.  We know it works because we’ve done extensive research on the topic and see great results with many of our clients.

While retail brands have the benefit of built-in special offers and deals they can use to engage, those brands that are selling something different, such as lifestyle and home, tend to face a few challenges in making their email programs as effective.  As an email expert people will ask me “but why does it work” or “what’s so special about email?”  To answer these inquiries I simply channel a response of super sleuth Mr. Sherlock Holmes: “It’s Loyalty, My Dear Marketer.”

What are some key elements that enter into the mix to create loyalty for boomers and beyond?

#1: We found through our Social Silver Surfers research that email is the #1 online activity among 50+ prospects.  The fact that they are using email makes it a viable channel (as long as marketers use it for good and not evil). Additionally, older boomers tend to view email as a social sharing tool.

#2: A recent article from eMarketer  reveals 47% of Internet users respond favorably to email – ranking this avenue as the most favorable online channel.

#3: The mature consumer relies heavily on referrals from friends when making decisions.  While they may act faster when the referral is for a product, the referral process is just as important for relaying positive referrals for CCRCs and active adult communities.

#4: Relevancy is the key currency when it comes to building a loyal email subscriber database. In a world where we are constantly bombarded by messaging, those that specifically address our interests are going to win out.

If you capture preferences of subscribers based on the type of news they want to receive for your community you have a powerful tool for creating relevancy, and thus loyalty.  This can be achieved by sending emails about new home models to subscribers BEFORE releasing online (relevant and exclusive) or extending an invitation to upcoming events to your database BEFORE you invite the general public (exclusive). Here you’ll see an example of some simple categories for subscribers to choose from.  Any of these can be turned into a segmented message to drive relevancy.

#5: Just this morning eMarketer reported on the reasons people subscribe to email programs. It confirmed what we heard when interviewing mature consumers for our Social Silver Surfer research: the primary motivator is discounts and special offers (our research of boomers and seniors found 21% of respondents saw this as the top benefit).

Reasons why people subscribe to emails - eMarketer

According to the eMarketer piece, 26% of people subscribe to gain access to exclusive content (see point #4- I told you so).

Check out the full article via eMarketer.

You can transform your news into a special offer.  This, combined with relevancy is the perfect mix for a loyal mature consumer who will subscribe to your email program (and stay).

What do you do to engage your silver surfers through email? Share your thoughts in the comments section, below.

Social Networks on the Rise, Email for Everyone, Finds Pew

Monday, December 20th, 2010

The Pew Internet & American Life Project released its second ‘Generations” reportlast week, with data about what various cohorts – from Gen Y/Millennials to Baby Boomers to the Greatest Generation – are doing on the Internet.  Turns out, these cohorts are becoming more alike in their online activities.  A quick synopsis:

Activities Dominated by Millennials

Pew found that Gen Y/Millennials aged 18-33 are much more likely to use instant messaging, watch a video, or play online games.  While larger numbers of older Americans are joining online social networks, they still lag their grandkids/great grandkids in this activity.  Social network sites are used by:

* 16% of Greatest Generation (74+)
* 34% of Silent Generation seniors (65-73 years old)
* 43% of older Baby Boomers (56-64)
* 50% of younger Boomers (aka Generation Jones, 46-55)
* 62% of Gen X (34-45)
* 83% of Gen Y/Millennials

Use of the Internet itself is an area where older cohorts still lag.  79% of all Americans go online, states Pew, yet younger folks are overrepresented in a census of Web citizenry.

The percentage of each generation who go online

Chart: Pew Internet & American Life Project, Generations 2010

Online Activities Where Older (Gen X, Boomers & matures) Dominate

Pew found only 2 areas where older cohorts are more likely than Millennials to be active:  visiting government websites and getting financial information online.  Consistent with lifestage, Baby Boomers and Silent Generation seniors are spending the most time seeking out financial information, including mortgage rates, stock quotes and advice to help them plan for retirement or make the best of un-retirement.

Everybody Loves Email

As Pew puts it, the bulk of online activities are now more consistently popular across the age groups.  Some have significant differences between the oldest cohort (Greatest Generation) and the youngest (teens & Millennial) generations – if they didn’t, THAT would be a headline!

For marketers feeling the pressure to put dollars into social media, if you’re targeting Boomers and beyond, remember that email is used by nearly 9 in 10 of all people over 50.  Email is the most popular of all online activities regardless of age:

* 88% of 74+ers
* 90% of the Silent Generation
* 93% of older Boomers
* 91% of younger Boomers
* 94% of Gen X
* 96% of Millennials

Now that Pew has detailed what online activities Boomers and seniors are pursuing, how do you apply these statistics to your marketing program?

In January 2011, Creating Results will release findings from our proprietary, national survey of mature consumers that could offer some answers.  More than 400 consumers over 40 answered questions about web preferences – pet peeves, favorite features & more – and attitudes toward social media.

And we went “beyond the numbers,” inviting 40+ Americans to share their opinions in their own words.  There also are specific take-aways for those marketing housing to Boomers and seniors.

To be first to receive the full findings of “Social, Silver Surfers,” please register here:  http://www.creatingresults.com/silver_social_surfers/.


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