Marketing by Generation: Winning Boomer Business, An Agent’s Formula for Success
Are you marketing to Baby Boomers? Given that the first Boomers turned 60 on the first day of 2006, you may already be behind the curve if you’re not focusing on the largest prospect demographic in the history of insurance, born between 1946 and 1964.
Start with the fact that Baby Boomers generally upend the 18- to 34-year-old focus of many established marketing practices. These 47- to 65-year-old Boomers are not sedentary, they’re not necessarily slowing down their spending, they’re not set in their ways and they are not as blindly brand loyal as prior generations.
What you can generalize about Boomers, at least to a degree, is how they think about purchases. They crave information, and they expect honesty and openness. They want to be able to trust you. They also want to be able to talk back — they expect to have a dialogue with you, not just a one-way sales pitch.
There is one opportunity you have from the get-go: Estimates vary, but Boomers 50 and older stand to inherit between $15 trillion and $20 trillion in the next two decades, depending on which valuation you follow. This does not just mean that they have or will have money to spend, but that they are ripe for discussions about benefits, insurance, financial planning, wealth management, long-term care and more.
An important caveat, however, is that these Boomers are expected to spend much of that inheritance. In other words, they’re not necessarily passing it on.
Starting a conversation with Boomers is really what marketing is, especially for their generation. So, how do you do it?
For starters, Boomers don’t want to feel old, and far too many services and products already are aimed at Boomer maladies and conundrums. Look at the work of any successful major consumer marketing company, and you’ll see that they strive to make Boomers feel vibrant and good about themselves. This market segment doesn’t mind your helping them improve who they are, but fear tactics will turn them off. You’d do well to use strong, positive images and messaging.
Boomers have long been making informed decisions, so you’ll find that they trust their gut instincts. In this way, it can be helpful to appeal to them emotionally, without condescending, in addition to your dialogue of solid information.
This group demonstrates through their activities and buying habits that it is not static. They’re buying cars and homes, undertaking renovation projects and spending on luxury travel. For instance, Del Webb, a company that focuses on senior communities and “active adult” new home construction, says that 50 percent of Boomers plan to buy a new home after retirement.
But remember: This generation will, by and large, not have a pension, so they are used to managing or helping to manage their money, as well as making other complex financial decisions. They also are adept at consulting with experts who can advise them on such — but, again, they expect service, a dialogue and information. This often means dealing with Boomers who are not only making decisions about their own health, benefits and longevity, but also about the needs of their aging parents.
Their relationship with age
Boomers signal their youthfulness through their knowledge and purchase of products. Part of this is likely due to Boomers perceiving themselves as more youthful than prior generations, and part of it is reality: They have been exposed to more and will continue to appreciate service and product innovations. The takeaway for you is to recognize both their sense of autonomy and their idealized self image.
Boomers will generally pay for quality. You can see this in food marketing, which recognizes that most Boomers have had a health-related event that leads them to explore healthy changes — eating less sodium, staying active, etc. The message to them should be empowering, not ageist. They don’t need “fixing” — they want to improve upon what they already are.
Their relationship with technology
And you’re wrong if you think Boomers are failing to embrace technology. They are indeed buying computers, smartphones and other high-tech devices. SeniorNet tells us that two-thirds of people aged 50 to 64 use the Internet. More than one research firm says that email is the most popular activity for those online who are 50 and older. We know that they shop online and that they research major purchases on the Internet, including exactly the kinds of products and services you sell.
Perhaps of great consequence to you, Pew Internet and other research pundits say that upward of 80 percent of people older than 50 use the Internet to research health and wellness information.
Their relationship with you
As you might surmise, Boomers tend to want more information than younger consumers, but only after a service or product qualifies for their interest. Again, this reinforces the need to provide them with a higher level of service, an ongoing dialogue, quality and trust. It also means your sales cycle is likely to be longer, as you’ll have to first engage them and then delve a bit deeper.
The LTCI Market
The LTCI market is a good example of a Boomer marketing quandary: Boomers have been taught that they need such coverage, yet carriers are raising rates by unprecedented percentages or withdrawing the product from their offerings. Wealthy Boomers may be able to afford to go without LTCI and instead self-fund. Boomers on the lower end of the financial spectrum will likely qualify for federal assistance.
So what becomes of that huge middle market? These are the kinds of product and marketing riddles you need to solve in order to successfully market to Boomers.
In this scenario, you might take the opportunity to introduce Boomers and their representatives to the possibility of a life settlement, if they qualify and if it’s appropriate for their situation. What solution will you bring to the table in this and other Boomer marketing opportunities?
Max Zimmermann is director of client services with Habersham Funding LLC, a life settlement provider. She previously handled marketing, primarily to the Boomer demographic, for a variety of business-to-consumer and business-to-business entities