No matter what you're selling or to whom you're selling it, if you want to succeed you've got to understand the buying habits of the baby boomers--that massive generation born between 1946 and 1964. "Boomer marketing is the [key to] all marketing in this country for the next 25 years," contends Phil Goodman, founder of the Boomer Marketing & Research Center in San Diego. Goodman has spent 11 years researching the baby boom generation and helping clients such as Fox, USA Today and The Wall Street Journal target these crucial consumers. Here, he shares his insights with Business Start-Ups.
Business Start-Ups (BSU):Why is the baby boomer generation so important?
Phil Goodman: One reason is its sheer size. Not only is this the largest generation born in this country, but at least 85 percent of all working immigrants to this country are boomer age.
The boomers are the most well-educated generation in the history of the United States. They also have a different [attitude] than any other generation: They are what we call "adult teenagers." They'll never follow suit of the older generation.
Small-business owners who have products or services for the 50-plus age group need to realize that the way you reached boomers when they were 35 is the same way you reach them when they're 50.
When I started researching them in 1987, the boomers I studied were 41 years old. In 1997, I asked 51-year-old boomers the same questions I had asked 41-year-olds 10 years before. Less than one-half of 1 percent of the answers changed.
BSU: What marketing techniques work with boomers?
Goodman: First, the boomers were raised to be individualistic. They don't follow trends. So when you reach out to them, your methods have to be personalized.
Second, your marketing materials have to be simple and straight to the point. The boomers have a hurried lifestyle. Explain what you're offering; include a call to action.
BSU: What media work best with boomers?
Goodman: More boomers listen to radio than any other medium. The Internet and television don't even come close.
Whatever medium you use, emphasize market research. This means psychographics as opposed to demographics. Psychographics means looking at how people think and why they do what they do. What motivates them to buy? Find out and appeal to them on that level.
BSU: In addition to their own purchasing power, do the boomers influence purchases made by other generations?
Goodman: No question. Boomers influence their parents, their children and their grandchildren. A lot of what appeals to teenagers also appeals to their boomer parents. You have boomers listening to the same music their kids listen to, which was unheard of with the boomers' parents.
Advertisers and marketers have to accept two things: The boomers refuse to grow old, and the boomers will never be empty nesters.
BSU: What do you mean by "empty nesters"?
Goodman: The boomers have the highest divorce rate ever in the United States. Of the 8 million boomers who are grandparents--that number, by the way, will quadruple in the next 10 years--28 percent have children from second and third marriages who are almost the same age as their grandchildren from their first marriages.
Unlike the seniors, who retired and went off on vacations after their kids left home, the boomers will continue working well into their 70s and will take their youth culture right to the end of their days.
I'm not saying forget the other generations, but the influence the boomer has over other generations is amazing. I've been in marketing for more than 40 years, and this is beyond anything I've ever seen.
Goodman offers a course in marketing to baby boomers. For more information, call (800) 238-0357.
The Boomer Marketing & Research Institute, 3333 Midway Dr., #203, San Diego, CA 92110.