How to effectively access the aging-in-place demographic
by Dave Henderson and Jerry Keiderling
December 5, 2014

In the 1989 movie “Field of Dreams,” struggling Iowa farmer Ray Kinsella hears a voice say, “If you build it, he will come.” The idea is that if Kinsella builds a baseball field, Shoeless Joe Jackson and other players from past generations will come to play. Kinsella turns his cornfield into a ball field—making himself the local laughingstock—and just as he is about to lose his farm, the players do come, along with the crowds of paying spectators. The plot made for great cinema, and the picture was nominated for three Oscars. For real-world success however, “if you build it, they will come” is not a sound business strategy. During the last 10 months, we have reviewed the home accessibility need, the how-tos associated with assessment and modifications and financing strategies, both for your business and for the consumer. All of the information, research and data available are nothing but noise to your business if you are unable to reach the market. The key to your successful strategy is being able to plug it all into the market.

Understand Your Target Audience

There are two main types of customers within the accessibility marketplace. The first is those wishing to age in place. These are individuals who are taking a proactive path to remain in their private residences as they age, rather than moving into an assisted living facility. As these individuals age they have or are expected to have unique physical requirements that necessitate the redesign and remodel of their homes or the purchase of equipment and assistive devices. In today’s terminology, this demographic is the baby boomers. The second group encompasses individuals living with some form of physical challenge. These individuals also have specific physical needs, but they are due to factors other than aging, such as an accident or debilitating illness. Both groups want to learn and understand how their goals of being independent in their homes are possible. As an accessibility provider, you must remember that you are a valuable resource for aging and disabled individuals and their families. While you provide a service to these people by renovating their homes for independence, you must also view your role as extending beyond this service so that you become a go-to resource. You will create a strong image as a company that truly exists to help people in need. This is only achieved by investing time and money, as both are crucial to growth. The investment is in your brand as much as it is in your business. Remember, your brand is not just your logo or store name; it is what your business is, what it stands for and how people feel about doing business with you. Without a brand, you are just a product with a price tag, giving the customer no specific reason to buy from you or come back to you. In a recent article leading up to Medtrade 2014 in Atlanta, Michael Sperduti, president and CEO of Emerge Sales Inc., asks the hard questions about your brand: “What makes your company different, what makes you better, why should people follow you, why should they buy or refer patients to you? Will anyone remember your words, proposals, emails and strategic directives?”

Market Your Story

In today’s marketplace, people like to buy from companies with whom they can connect. Think of some of your favorite brands—brands that make you feel good and to which you default over and over. Why does this happen? Because you have a connection—mental or emotional—that makes you like that brand. This is what you want to achieve in your marketing and advertising efforts. Marketing plays a vital role in successful business ventures. How well you market your business will ultimately determine your degree of success or failure. The key element of a successful marketing plan is knowing your customers, their preferences and their expectations. You must relate to your customers’ needs and wants, and offer them positive solutions. In other words, develop relationships with your customers. How do you find these customers with whom you should develop rapport? Identify your referral sources. (For more about referral sources, turn to page 24 to read our cover story.) At first, target only those sources that are more likely to refer your products and services. As your base expands, you may need to consider modifying the marketing plan to include other sources. Marketing should create a mental experience for your audience and make an emotional connection with them. Tell them a story that includes them. Allow them to picture themselves within your marketing, and they will soon aspire to make changes within their lives. This is often done through advertising mediums. “The advertising man is a liaison between the products of business and the mind of the nation. He must know both before he can serve either.” —Glenn Frank There are two distinct types of advertising, defined below. Echoic (sound)—This type is most prevalent within radio, TV and kiosk stations found in showrooms. Iconic (sight)—This type is the most widely utilized as it relates to visual marketing through brochures, pamphlets, signs, etc. Any and all forms of marketing that you decide to use should be consistent in your message. Focus on name recognition, product awareness, your brand and the solutions your company can offer. Take some time to determine your market reach as it relates to those who will see your material. Who/what is the demographic you intend to reach? When is the best time(s) to reach them? How often do you want to reach them? Consistency across the board will bring customers, repeat customers and ultimately true fans. When planning your marketing strategy, keep in mind that printed materials and audio/visual tools are essential, but a welcoming storefront and showroom are a must as well. As you define your customer base, you will find that they are intelligent buyers when it comes to products they will rely on for their daily lifestyles. This means that they will want to see the products, touch and feel, see them in operation and possibly try them out in the store. Plan to make your showroom a pleasant yet educational experience for them.

Use the Correct Marketing and Advertising Mediums

Websites and Social Media

The baby boomer generation is Internet savvy. After all, this generation invented the World Wide Web. You must connect with them in their homes, on their time and on their terms.

Cable TV and local radio

  • One-third of the 195.3 million Internet users in the U.S. are adults ages 50 and above, representing the largest constituency (Jupiter Research).
  • Two-thirds of Americans ages 50–64 use the Internet (SeniorNet).
  • Adults 50-plus spend an average of $7 billion online annually (SeniorNet).
  • 82 percent of adults ages 50 and above who use the Internet research health and wellness information online (Pew Internet and American Life Project).
  • The baby boomer generation grew up watching TV and listening to the radio. Using local cable channels and radio stations is a great way to start building your local brand. One major hesitation that many have in the use of these mediums is the cost associated with developing advertising and the cost of running the ads.

    Stretch Your Marketing Budget

    Don’t forget the business partnerships you have already developed. Quality manufacturers will often have some professionally designed ads video/commercial spots that you can brand as yours, saving on development costs. Many companies have specially designed packages and a variety of tools and resources that are focused on the market segment that you are seeking to reach. Specialty marketing groups and forums can be a resource as you develop your marketing strategy. Remember that the knowledge and products that you have are needed in the marketplace. Dedicating some of your time as a resource in your local community to educate can give you the opportunity to build your brand and get some free or inexpensive exposure in your market area. Stay connected with key professionals in your community, keeping them informed of the resources and products that you have to offer to solve accessibility needs. You may already be connected to many of these people; they just need to know what you have to offer. Developing a clear plan for reaching your market is crucial to your success in the home accessibility market. Implementing your plan, staying focused on the goal and utilizing the strength of your partner manufacturers and buying groups will help you achieve your real-life “Field of Dreams”—one that you have built, branded and broadcasted, and one that your customers really do come to for their accessibility solutions.

    This article is part of a 12-month home accessibility series. Each segment will focus on a particular aging-in-place need to provide the insight and resources necessary to be successful in this growing market.