There have been numerous articles, studies and surveys to help builders and marketers understand today’s 55+ audience of buyers and renters. The intent of this article is to offer user-friendly insights about marketing to this diverse segment of consumers based on lessons learned from those 45 to 75 and older.
As marketers of 55+ communities, we’re not reaching out to strangers. We’re interacting with our peers, our siblings, our friends and neighbors – not our grandparents. They may be grandparents, but they’re not our grandparents, and they’re not old. Just ask them! They are spirited people with attitude who don’t want to be called “senior.”
Today’s 55+ audience is made up of educated, sophisticated Boomers who are partial to a little more “edge.” They remember the music, politics and protests of the ‘60s and ‘70s. They lovingly recall the pop culture, fashion, lava lamps and flower power that made theirs the generation everyone still wants to emulate. 55+ consumers are armed with smart phones and tablets, laptops and desktops and the know how to use them. They’re silver and social, fit (or health conscious), full of life, and determined to keep up with their grand-kids, nieces and nephews. Many are still working. Many are serial volunteers, giving their time and talents to causes that matter. All of them want choice and control of their daily life. They have a fierce determination to live life their way for as long as they can, and they seek connectivity and socialization with like-minded people.
The 55+ buyer/renter wants a low maintenance home that is easy to live in, easy to entertain in, and easy to lock and leave.
Empty-nesters and early retirees, both male and female, are telling us: “Now, it’s my turn. The kids are set. My commitment to my career is done or nearly done. Now, I want what I want.”
Building or buying a new home is a huge decision at any stage. Most 55+ buyers don’t have to move. For many it’s simply easier to stay where they are, even if they know the downfalls of staying and benefits of leaving. It’s a choice, and they’ve earned the right to take their time making it. A marketer’s job is to position a community and its homes into their consideration process and inspire them to believe that ‘now is the time’ and X community is their place.
A builder or community’s sales collateral, website, print and digital ads need to appeal to this buyer’s strong sense of self, independence and freedom to choose. Data tells us that women are often the primary influencers about where to live and what type of home to buy or rent. It’s essential that the home designs, the community amenities, and the marketing efforts connect with and engage with a female audience. Of course, using a variety of messaging to also engage the male audience is important.
What About Social Media?
Our marketing team is often asked: “Which platform should we use: Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Houzz?” Our answer is always the same: “Use the one or ones you can manage consistently well – or outsource to a team who can do it for you.” People don’t care how many social platforms you use. They care whether you use them well and post content that is relevant to their interests and needs. It is preferable to have fewer platforms managed well, than to sign up for several of them and have a weak presence.
It’s a Diverse Audience
We’ve been working with and marketing to mature audiences for over 20 years. In that time we’ve found there to be three easily identifiable groups: seekers, planners, and reactors. These segments are not age specific.
Seekers are looking for a change. Theirs is a lifestyle decision. A decision that could be influenced by changes in family dynamics or the desire to be near grand-kids, but the decision is based on choice. They are seeking a new place to call home and generally want it to be low or no-maintenance and main level living. They also value both onsite and local amenities.
Planners are actively thinking about their future and planning ahead in a way that sustains a sense of control and security. Many in this group have been caregivers for their parents and want to move where their own future care will be easily accessible, and their home will be easily adaptable to their needs.
Reactors have typically had significant change in physical status that has made staying in their current home less practical. They too want a great location, independence, flexibility and control of their future, but will likely lean toward a choice that is move-in ready and has easy access to care – onsite or nearby.
Older Adults Online
Considerable research has been done about the various layers of the 55+ audience. We simplify this multifaceted demographic into two groups: under 65 and over 65.
The under 65 group will dig deeper within a website and multiple online references before reaching out to you. This group is highly web savvy. They know the consequences of filling out a web form. These buyers ‘self-qualify’ and/or do their homework before you hear from them. Data tells us that many will visit a website 3 to 5 times before filling out a contact form, using live chat or calling. By the time this group contacts you, they have vetted other options. This group expects you to provide solid verification that your option will meet their needs now and in the future. They will look for that verification before contacting you. It is essential to make it easy for them to find you on multiple platforms, including website, social and print.
The over 65 group – has declared they feel and live as if they were 12 years younger than they are — so don’t try to lure them with photos of people who are 75 and older (even if they are). This group is also web savvy, and they still like to read print media. They too value credibility and verifiable facts to support why your homes and community are the better option for them, but they will take longer to make a decision. They value what their peers think and want to meet people who have already selected what you offer. Video testimonials or blog interviews with photos are an excellent way to fulfill that need until they’re ready to reach out to you. Once they do, you only get one shot at winning their confidence.
They’re not “old.”
Effectively reaching the 55+ audience boils down to recognizing one thing: being over 55 is not old! Even those over 70 say that “senior” is not who they are – as demonstrated by a 72 year old competitive equestrian who says, “that term is for those over 80.” I wonder how my 82 year old friend who is a champion pickle ball player would feel about that.
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The article above was published in the Fall 2019 issue of the NAHB “55+ Council Magazine” and in the Spring 2020 issue of Atlanta Home Builders Association’s “Atlanta Building News” magazine. About the author: Kerrie Gilbert, VP Gilbert & Sheppard Group – brings real life lessons and over 20 years of award-winning creative insight to the ever-changing motives and attitudes of mature audiences.