Boring title changes and ho-hum marketing message will not reach the savvy aging Boomer. Fitness professionals that diversify within the mature market will profit for years to come.
- Identify three distinct generations with different life experiences.
- Identify four mindsets and what motivates them to seek you.
- Identify five ability levels within the older adult market.
There are 88 million Boomers. They don’t think of themselves as “senior yoga” candidates. They never will. If you’re marketing to the “after 50” market with a “seniors” tab on your website it’s time to Boomer-ize your marketing.
There are three generations with distinct values that each requires its own message. Inside those generations you have five different ability levels and at least four mindsets. Throw a huge net and hope to attract all and you’ll miss everyone. Marketing to the older adult market requires diversity.
There was a time when few people over 50 exercised. Changing the images in ads or titles of services to “senior something” may have been enough to attract them. Now, they see right through it. The physical ability levels of the second fifty range from barely able to get out of a chair to barely able to sit still. Their motivating interest in your services ranges from decreasing pain to getting faster.
Few older adults seek “fitness.” They seek experience. The end-experiences they want lie outside your doors and your website. They don’t wake inspired to exercise in a gym. That is simply the vehicle for the important things they do when they aren’t with you. They also want to socialize. Don’t hush all the extracurricular conversation when you teach older adults. It may be the reason they keep coming.
That’s not to say they don’t want outstanding customer service experiences. They do. They want you to recognize they aren’t just “older adults” they’re each unique.
One 70 year old wants to get up from his chair with less pain. One wants to hike mountains with her family. Targeted messages for your targeted programs are required. Fitness professionals that have a narrow target within the older adult niche will be most successful. Your marketing message needs to match the values of the specific segment you want. Create a powerful marketing message by first looking at three ways of classifying of your target. If your message matches your prospect’s outlook on life, life history, and physical ability you’re more likely to gain a new customer. Here’s a look at different outlooks.
- Lifers are empowered by longevity and have a live-forever attitude. Some in this group may seek ways to live forever with good health. Some have a que sera sera outlook and might do some adventure fitness with you but aren’t seeking disease prevention.
- Influencers are your early adopters. They’ll read an article or see a news segment and seek your advice about it. They want trendy. They will not respond to dull average marketing. They both rely on and spread word-of-mouth recommendations. When they talk peers listen.
- Givers include the 44 million adults who are caregivers for older adults and the 25 million who care for children. The average age of a caregiver in the US is 49. Half of all caregivers are spouses. Seventy-two percent skip their own doctor’s appointments, though 36% have their own health problems including depression.
- Dreamers thrive on aspiration and optimism. They are focused on the business of living rather than of aging well. Your marketing will not reach this group if you’re focused on fall prevention or how to prevent osteoporosis. Inspire them instead. Share stories and images of engaging older adult members actively engaged in giving back.
Generate Customers Within Generations
Think of the over 50 market. You may think of Boomers first but there are diverse life experiences within three generations of 50+ prospects.
- Boomers are born between 1946 and 1964 and have always been treated as a “special” group. They love anything focused on them. They think of themselves as forever young.
- The Silent Generation born from the mid ‘20s to the mid ‘40s sit between the more well known Boomers and the G.I. generation. “Silents” grew up impacted by war and depression. These now 70 and 80-year-olds have good reason to be “tight” with their money. They’ll spend it with someone they trust on something they value though.
- The G.I., or “Greatest Generation,” babies were born 1901 to 1924. They include World War II veterans and came of age during the Great Depression.
Consider characteristics of these unique generations in addition to their outlook and you better understand mindset. Add physical ability level and you’ll be able to create the most effective programs and marketing message. Look at five physical ability levels of older adults based on the International Council on Active Aging’s categories.
Attract By Ability Not Age
- Needs ongoing assistance. This older adult is likely to live in a retirement community or have a caregiver. Target your marketing efforts at adult children or an administrator.
- Needs some assistance. An individual in this category may live alone and perform most daily activities of living independently but require the assistance of a walker or cane. This candidate may seek strength and balance motivated by remaining in her own home. Market to administrators, adult offspring and to individuals in this group.
- Getting started. Someone in this category may be getting started or re-started. The older adult in this ability level is often intimidated in your environment. They hate being sold. They don’t like mirrors. This person is still gathering information about what they need. Answer the questions they have before they know what to ask. Show them a step-by-step system.
- Already active. This is low hanging fruit for fitness professionals. This is a person who wants to keep moving and will naturally seek an environment that provides options and accountability. He may want to move beyond twice a week regular exercise. Reinforce what’s already happening. Show the already active how to make the most of his time.
- Athletes are exercising regularly at least three times a week enthusiastically. They are likely to continue. They may compete with others or just themselves but enjoy a physical challenge. They’re not limited by an age-ability mentality. Offer ways to test progress and healthy challenges set up for these “masters.”
By 2030 there will be 160 million 50+ adults. They spend $7 billion online annually now. They’re inheriting 17 trillion in the next 20 years.
You or some trainer is going to hear “I haven’t been able to afford this until now.” Betty Boomer is going to be ready to spend money on training in the future. Are you ready to market to her?
Not all older adults will be lucky enough to inherit the farm, however. Serving older adults on a fixed income presents a challenge. How can you appeal to them with an attractive program at a price that is not prohibitive? In Part II of this article we’ll address ways to enhance your affordability without reducing your profitability.