According to the U. S. Census, there are 35 million seniors in the U. S. today—12.4% of the population. Over the next decade that percentage is projected to grow to 16.5% (53.7 million people). How do we attract this population to our community?
- Attitude is key. Remember who you are marketing to—not just your senior prospect but also their kids and influencers. Don’t approach your customer as ‘old’. Studies show that we routinely think ‘old’ means ten years older than we currently are! Talking down to your senior prospects will kill your sales. Try to avoid words like senior, old or elderly. Today’s seniors do not see age as something that is determined by the number of candles on a cake.
- Seniors do use the internet (in fact senior use is growing by leaps and bounds); however, they still heavily utilize print.
- Depending on your budget you will likely have multiple marketing campaigns (a primary one for your senior customers and ancillary campaigns for influencers). Design your senior-focused print advertising to be easily read and understood. As we age the way we perceive color changes and larger print is appreciated (no smaller than 11-point). Avoid serifs, italics and fancy fonts. Color ads draw attention (to the exclusion of black–and-white). Avoid reverse copy and maintain good white space. Keep your message on-point and clearly highlight the benefits.
- It’s all about relationship – take the time your demographic needs (and they will need a lot of it). Seniors appreciate the personal touch. Relax your pace to match your prospect. As we age relationship becomes more and more important. Who you are is as important to them as what you are saying.
- Your senior prospects have seen and done a lot in their lifetimes. They are skeptical (life can do that to you!) Have testimonials that you can share. Better yet, have resident hosts at social events, use a resident’s apartment as a model or stop and chat with residents along your tour route. Create opportunities for your prospects to socialize with your current customers. Credible testimonials work.
- Be real. Be direct. Your customer has a lot of experience; they will be able to see through flash.
- Always ask for the sale; however, do not use a hard close or scare tactics. Remember, this is a major move for them. In some cases they have 30 or 40 years worth of possessions to sort through and dispose of before they can even make the move. The name of the game is to not ADD to the fear but enforce the newfound independence they will have moving in to your community. Your job is to solve their problem and present your offer.
- Highlight why the move to your community will help them remain active and independent. A great fear is having to rely on others for basic everyday life functions. What do you offer that will enhance their lives? Define what your customers need; do you have it? The senior housing market is changing quickly. Baby Boomers are demanding a level of quality and service that far exceeds their predecessors. In the past, buildings became ‘senior’ buildings because the population aged in place and never left. Today, your customers are expecting much more. (Expectations might include van service to doctors, shopping centers and events; library/business centers; hot meals; fitness centers; hair salons and even happy hours!)
- Senior prospects fear being taken advantage of. The use of guarantees can be very helpful in imparting confidence. This might be the time to employ fully refundable holds. Don’t cop an attitude if your customer takes advantage of it, they may be testing you. If you handle the situation with grace, your likelihood of eventually closing the sale is very strong.
- Don’t forget the old-fashioned hand-written thank you note. The time and effort it takes to send a personalized note will be valued and appreciated.
Why work so hard to attract this demographic? Your senior customers will be amongst your most loyal residents and will remain as long as their health permits. In addition, you will find that they do much to enhance their new community. The investment in time it takes to build these relationships will continue to build dividends.
Cheers! Jim Baumgartner | Rent Soda