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Listener - from MattCarlisle.netLast week I had the honor of speaking at the International Council on Active Aging’s excellent annual conference. ICAA has for ten years been trying to change not only society’s perception of aging consumers but the way we age. I had only 90 minutes to change my audience’s perception of how aging consumers are leading marketers to better, more successful programs.

And today’s boomers and seniors are absolutely telling marketers what works – and what doesn’t – in motivating them to buy a product, sign up for a list, join a club or take other actions.

You just have to know what to ask and how to listen.

Unfortunately, many organizations working to attract or motivate older adults aren’t taking advantage of new, digital research methods. Why? I addressed three main reasons in my presentation:

  1. Misconception: seniors and boomers are not online or expressing their opinions online
  2. Fear: digital research requires costly, specialized tools or platforms
  3. Cloudy vision: not seeing the gold to be found in the marketing platforms and services already in use

Didn’t make it to ICAA 2011? Never fear. 

All this week I’ll challenge the obstacles noted above. Posts will share actionable tips for following your customer’s lead. I’ll include lists and links to resources available to organizations of all sizes. And I’ll look to you to lead us to your favorite resources via the comments below.

Mature Market Research 2.0

Thanks to the wild and wooly world wide web, market research has gone from formal and established methods to insights that are often offered informally … sometimes without research “participants” even being aware of what they’re sharing. Data has gone from a hard-earned trickle to a flood. As Tom Webster says, we’re now “drowning in numbers.”

For example, mystery shopping has long been a terrific but time- and person-intensive way to see first hand how sales teams interact with prospects. Or to spot potential turn-offs at an active adult community or destination.

Today, you can mystery shop without ever leaving your keyboard. Want to find out why people leave your floor plan page without first signing up to receive a brochure? Program a quick poll to ask that very question of web visitors. Curious about your sales team’s performance? A few quick web searches for your brand name plus “customer service” can let you know what customers really think.

But Baby Boomers … Seniors … Older People … Aren’t Online, Are They?

Yes, Virginia, there is an older and wired consumer. In fact, the Internet population in recent years looks more like the actual population.[link to another post of ours]

And per Creating Results’ Social, Silver Surfers research we know baby boomers and seniors are expressing their opinions as they interact with websites and social platforms. We found that 36% of 40+ respondents had voted or ranked items online, 25% used comments or message boards to share their thoughts, and 21% had posted a user review.

Online share tools most commonly used by baby boomers, seniors

Voting/Ranking, Blogs, Message Boards and User Reviews are most popular with older Baby Boomers. This mirrors their offline preferences. They love to talk and share; there is value in a peer’s opinion of a product or service.

And that’s just the information they’re volunteering. In the Wall Street Journal’s terrific series “The Web’s New Gold Mine: Your Secrets,” reporter Julia Angwin writes “… the tracking of consumers has grown both far more pervasive and far more intrusive than is realized by all but a handful of people in the vanguard of the industry.”

While all this can seem scary, there are big benefits to moving to market research 2.0:

* For consumers, they get more relevant content, better customized experiences and time-saving short cuts

* For marketers, you can be more targeted, more cost-efficient and more effective

Tune in tomorrow for ways you can enjoy these benefits by following your customer’s lead online.

About The Author

Todd Harff

Insights from agency Founder Todd Harff have been shared in Brand Week, Ad Age, Marketing Charts, The Wall Street Journal, The Journal on Active Aging, 50+ Magazine, and Selling to Seniors and from podiums at international conferences. He is the co-author of three national studies/eBooks (Photo Finish; Social, Silver Surfers 2010 & 2013). Todd also developed programs on marketing to Baby Boomers and seniors for George Mason University, Lasell College/ E.L.D.E.R. and NAHB’s University of Housing.