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9 special strategies for direct marketing to the mature market
I’m going to tell you about a market segment with over $2 trillion in yearly buying power. A market that controls 79% of America’s financial assets and 80% of the country’s savings accounts. A group that accounts for a full 40% of all consumer demand.
Best of all, it’s a market that responds extraordinarily well to direct marketing. What is this all-powerful market segment? It’s the mature market.
The mature market, which I define as people over the age of 55, is so large—and growing larger as baby boomers enter retirement age—that it’s no longer the niche marketplace it was 20 years ago. It’s become a potent and influential consumer segment with incredible weight in the marketplace.
A market with extraordinary purchasing power.
Mature buyers are the most affluent segment of our society with five times the net worth of the average American. And mature buyers average $24,000 a year in annual disposable income. This makes them a valuable market for financial goods and services.
Mature buyers also constitute the majority of mail-order buyers, contributors and subscribers. And many market segments find a majority of their constituency to be over 55.
If you haven’t yet focused on this powerful marketplace, or you’re looking to more effectively reach mature consumers, here are 9 special strategies that will help you achieve your response goals:
First, consider which sector(s) of the mature market you’re targeting.
The mature market is no longer a homogeneous group of older Americans. The mature market is now broken into three subgroups: pre-retirees (people between the ages of 55 and 62), active retirees (aged 63 to 74) and seniors (75 and over). Your marketing will be more effective if you target each of these groups with a different message according to their subgroup profile.
One way to do this is by using copy and graphics that relate to each group’s experiential background. For example, if you’re marketing to today’s pre-retirees and new retirees—the baby boomers—draw on cultural references and experiences from the early ‘60s through the ‘70s.
Also, boomers don’t want to be considered “old.” The baby-boomer generation still sees themselves as independent, trailblazing and hip (consider the phrase “60 is the new 50”).
If you’re marketing to prospects over 70, remember this was a group that grew up in a time when merchants knew them personally…as opposed to a cookie-cutter mass market world. For this group, draw on pre-‘60s themes that stress community, country and simpler, more conservative values.
I’ll talk more about the best ways to use copy and graphics in a moment, but in general, if you lump everyone over 55 into one group you’ll risk lowering your response.
Don’t be afraid of long, detailed copy.
One major blunder some direct marketers make is thinking that members of the mature market aren’t willing to read long direct response copy…or are unable to understand or comprehend long copy.
The mature market is actually one of the most responsive groups to this marketing format. Studies show seniors look forward to receiving mail and read it carefully, which is why year-after-year seniors are the best mail-order buyers in terms of frequency, multiple purchases and higher dollar amounts.
To make your copy highly effective for this market:
The time-tested rules of direct response layout and graphics are absolutely critical when selling to a mature audience.
Mature consumers respond very well to direct marketing, but even the best offer and copy will go unread if your prospects have a tough time reading it. For this market especially, it’s critical to follow the time-tested rules of direct response layout and graphics.
First and foremost, your copy should be clear and readable on both websites and print materials. In particular…
Another important rule for both print and Internet is to avoid reverse type. Reverse type can cut your readership by a whopping 75%.
In your layout, use graphics that emotionally connect with your mature prospects. Avoid stereotypical pictures that have older Americans in rocking chairs and golf courses. Use active pictures that suggest a vibrant life after 55. Pictures that include grandchildren, sporting events and travel are other response-boosting images.
It’s a good rule of thumb to use pictures of people 10–15 years younger than your target audience.
Finally, make sure your response device (print) and shopping cart (online) are simple to follow, have minimal clicks and guide the mature buyer easily through the process. Include a large Toll-Free number in case your prospect as a problem or decides to order over the phone.
Get into the psychology of a mature buyer.
Resistance to change and dedication to tradition are important characteristics of the mature market. Avoid the suggestion of change and newness as much as possible.
For example, market your products as simple to use, nondisruptive to one’s lifestyle and something that makes life more comfortable.
The idea of exclusivity also works well with older consumers. Members of the mature market are especially keen on products and services that aren’t necessarily available to everyone.
Some older Americans feel that their age gives them status, while others feel crushed by the aging process. Be aware of these dichotomous perceptions as you create your advertising. No one wants to be marketed to as an “old person” particularly baby boomers.
Consider which formats will work best for your target audience.
With today’s mature market, one size definitely does not fit all. Currently, statistics show 92% of mature Americans aged 55 to 65 are online users compared to 67% of mature Americans aged 65 to 75. And studies also show these age groups open almost all direct mail they receive.
With those statistics in mind, take a look at your target audience to determine what the best format mix is.
For example, if you’re targeting younger pre-retirees and retirees, you could find great success with an integrated print/online campaign. But if you’re targeting older seniors (70 and up), consider skewing your efforts more toward print, since they’re more comfortable with that medium.
The mature market is skeptical. Know the keys to disarming their skepticism.
Members of the mature market are extremely cautious about the buying process since they’ve had years and years to acquire a high level of skepticism.
Specifically, mature buyers over 70 tend to be more distrustful than other segments of the market. They don’t like to give out their credit card number (because the AARP told them not to!), many refuse to order via Toll-Free numbers and they are on the lookout for anything that seems like a rip-off.
So how do you disarm the skepticism of the mature market?
The mature marketplace prizes value.
Remember even retirees with a comfortable nest egg are still on fixed incomes. The mature market seeks to get the most for a dollar and make their money last. For this reason, mature consumers prize value and look for it in every buying situation.
Experiment with a multi-format approach.
Mature Americans respond positively to direct response television and radio. Direct response radio in particular—primarily in the talk and news genres—produces fantastic results. This is proven by the success being enjoyed by alternative health companies and financial services aimed at retirees.
Also, the use of videos, interactive CD-ROMs and DVDs, in recent times, has been a real boon in marketing to older Americans. Older Americans will watch videos and DVDs and respond very positively to them.
One reason is that the format is more leisurely and more step-by-step. Seniors want to feel that they are making the decision to buy gradually and without coercion.
DVDs and CD-ROMs are also excellent to use as premiums. Studies have shown mature buyers, particularly in older-skewing prospects, have a great desire for media premiums. Consider creating a narrated version of one of your printed premiums for easy viewing.
Consider your optimal products and services.
Generally speaking, the top 2 priorities of the mature market are health and financial security.
In particular, if you’re selling financial goods and services, remember the #1 concern of the mature market is not making wealth, but rather protecting it. Address volatility, safety and long-term capital protection in your campaigns.
Health products and services are another big area. Mature consumers constitute 74% of all prescription drug purchases in the United States and most mature Americans have at least one disabling health condition. However, mature buyers don’t want to dwell on the debilitating effects of old age. Stress how your product or service will keep them fit, active and healthy.
Other hot markets for the next 10 to 15 years are travel, fitness, family fun, convenience and information services. Grandparenting represents another enormous marketing area.
The mature marketplace is enormous and growing dramatically in size and affluence each year. If your product or service appeals to this far-reaching and affluent group, consider creating a specific campaign that targets this group.