What financial marketers and advertisers must know to profit from the senior market
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Its Not About a Big Font


I’ve been marketing to seniors for 20 years and most of the advice I see is elementary:

  • Use large type use black ink on white paper for contracts
  • Speak with greater diction and speak more slowly
  • Don’t use technical terms or industry jargon

Not only is this type of advice elementary, it fails to uncover the real differences in marketing to an older person. I use the terms “older person”, “seniors” and “retiree” synonymously in this article. You cannot define “senior” by age and if I see another writer define seniors as someone age 55 or better, I’ll punch them. With people living to age 85 routinely and life expectancy increasing at by one month each year, age 55 is middle aged in case you haven’t noticed.

As a marketer, here are the real issues that are important when you market to seniors

Seniors like to learn. The largest travel company in the world is Elderhostel. Elderhostel defines itself as “We are a not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing extraordinary learning adventures for people 55 and over… Discover more than 8,000 all-inclusive learning adventures in all 50 states and more than 90 countries abroad.” When you’re retired, it’s fun to learn things that you could not pursue previously for lack of time. What does this mean to a marketer?

The financial services industry capitalizes by attracting seniors through seminars. These seminars are typically daytime meetings on a financial topic, and are used as a primary tool for many financial professionals to meet new clients. The HMO industry also uses seminars to win new clients. Seniors attend because they want to learn about issues important to them—finances and heath. But seminar offerings can be expanded into many fields as a way to capitalize on seniors’ desire to learn. No senior marketer should overlook this method.

Similarly, seniors like to read. They have the time to do so. Just look at these statistics from the State of the News Media 2006.

Daily Newspaper Readership by Age Group

Percent Reading Newspapers in an Average week 1999-2005

As the study concludes:

"Americans 34 and older generally came of age at a time before the emergence of the Web as a mass information tool. Moreover, they are usually more likely to have higher incomes to spend on a newspaper subscription. But they too seemed to have abandoned the newspaper—at least in its print form—and at the same rate as younger Americans, in 2005."

None of this is to minimize the generational dilemma newspapers face. As some of their loyal older readers are literally dying off, the youngest adults look first to the Internet for news. In a study for the Carnegie and Knight foundations, Merrill Brown found that baby boomers read newspapers a third less than their parents and Gen Xers another third less than the boomers."

It's darn clear that if you want to market to seniors, the newspaper is a fabulous place to do so. The rates keep getting cheaper as the papers reduce their prices to try and survive and as time progresses, a percentage of readers are seniors. So for the senior marketer, the "cost per thousand" is decreasing making the newspaper a fabulous advertising medium.

Listeners to News-Talk-Information Stations, by Age


If you want to advertise on radio, the talk stations are where its at for seniors. But take this beyond advertising--in the financial services industry, smart marketers get their own radio show. They either buy the time or convince the station they can bring in advertising dollars. How much more credibility can a marketer to seniors have then having their own radio show? Ask the rich financial advisors who have done this. There's plenty of room in this market for healthcare professionals, lawyers, real estate agents, and almost any profession to get unparalleled credibility with a radio show.

Direct Mail for the Senior Market

You and I sort your mail over the trash can seeking to toss out as much as possible. We don't have time and don't want to be bothered with any mail that does not demand our attention. We just came home from a long day at the office.

Not so with seniors. They take time to look at their mail and consider each piece. They open huge amounts of junk mail and are reluctant to throw out anything. When I practiced as a financial advisor, it was common for an older person to come to a meeting with a trash bag of financial junk mail they had saved up and ask me, "Is any of this important?"

According to Jim Warren of Warren Direct, "Many segments of the mature audience enjoy receiving direct mail and are the most likely demographic to read it. This medium lets them read at their own pace, absorb information, review the facts and make leisurely, qualified decisions. According to The Customer Focus 2002 survey by Vertis Inc., seniors are most likely to open a direct mail piece that has their name on the envelope, meets a timely need, is visually interesting and appears important."

So for the senior market, build your campaign around newspaper, radio and direct mail. Of course, television viewership is highest among the senior audience but only the largest advertisers have a budget for TV.

Resources for Specializing in the Senior Market:
Marketing tools to attract seniors
Senior Investment and Insurance Leads
Books and Tapes


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