While you may think your marketing plan has muscle, growing your customer base is important even when business is booming. So don’t forget the wealthiest group of U.S. residents in your promotions—baby boomers. Since 2001, Americans ages 50 and older controlled 67% of the country’s wealth, according to Immersion Active, a marketing agency in Frederick, Maryland. To top that off, the most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that baby boomers account for $2 of every $5 spent on restaurant meals in the United States. To help you promote your business to 50- to 69-year-olds, PMQ tracked down marketing specialists who’ve made boomers their business.
Capture Their Feelings
When marketing to baby boomers, there are several points to consider. Primarily, you should position your service to exploit a variety of this demographic’s feelings. “Boomers feel as though advertising is usually targeted more toward a younger audience, so when marketing, try to connect with this demographic specifically,” advises Derek Dunham, a mature marketing strategist from Varsity, a Harrisburg, Pennsylvania-based national marketing communications agency focused on the mature market.
While some say boomers don’t eat pizza because of health concerns—which may be true in some cases—this generation is more about their “feel age vs. real age,” according to Tom Barry, a marketing professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. He notes that adults with a more youthful outlook generally display better health, which means they’re more likely to eat whatever they please—including your pizza.
Once you have these customers in the door, an enjoyable dining experience is an effective way to gain customer loyalty. “A simple smile is the most effective marketing tool that most restaurant workers forget,” says Michael Bloch from PizzaMarketingGenius.com. “A friendly environment takes a business a long way.” According to Bloch, a pleasant tableside manner is an effective tool for marketing to baby boomers; if they feel welcomed, they’ll come back, because marketing isn’t just advertising—it involves the experience as a whole. Dunham also points out that he’s observed baby boomers show the most loyalty to businesses they feel comfortable in. So having a pizza display and even offering samples is an effective practice.
While making customers feel welcome is a crucial factor in marketing your pizzeria, the actual pizza recipe is equally important, says Tom “The Dough Doctor” Lehmann, director of bakery assistance for the American Institute of Baking in Manhattan, Kansas. Lehmann, who frequently gives presentations
on marketing to baby boomers, has simple advice: “Think healthy.” Ditching the dried herbs in the sauce and on the pizza is also a good choice when catering to boomers; using fresh green leaf basil and fresh oregano can help remove the heartburn so often associated with pizza. “Offer a healthier cheese blend consisting of 50% premium mozzarella cheese and 50% tofu cheese product; this will give the cheese blend a full 50% reduction in cholesterol content,” he suggests. Lehmann also recommends offering a wheat or multigrain crust to capture the stomachs of baby boomers, and using consumer-friendly names on the menu, such as “heart-healthy pizza” or “dieter’s delight.” Having an overall health conscious menu plays a major role in marketing to boomers. Lehmann advises advertising the pizza on your menu or table tents using descriptions such as “made with a special cheese blend that is 50% lower in cholesterol than our regular cheese, on a tasty multigrain crust with whole-grain goodness” or “made with low-fat turkey pepperoni.” Meanwhile, says Lehmann, you can further accommodate the needs of your older clientele by having handrails where there are steps and sufficient lighting throughout the restaurant.
Capturing your customers’ attention can be quite a task, and the 50- to 69-year-old demographic presents its own challenges. The goal is to reach boomers by targeting their interests. According to Business.gov, this generation does a lot of traveling, so a great way to reach out is through advertising at airports, bus stations and tourist attractions. Some experts suggest using loyalty plans in building this customer base, too. Bloch notes that a loyalty plan is essential and inexpensive, and helps keep the customers you already have; you’ll also capture emails of current guests to keep communication with customers flowing. Even though baby boomers have more wealth than any other demographic, offering discounts and specials—such as a senior discount or an early bird special—may appeal to these customers.
Surprisingly, mobile marketing also appeals to baby boomers. Dunham says his company uses a wide social platform, including emails, social networking and online marketing, to keep in touch; email is a very large market for baby boomers, who use email as much as anyone these days. One key to reaching out to your target: Approach them in the type of medium they are most familiar with. Social media is important and the fastest-growing way to reaching these customers, according to Dunham’s research. Facebook and Twitter are easy ways to advertise; create a fan page, buy an ad on Facebook, and upload coupons and videos, and maintain conversations on your pizzeria page with customers.
You may say there isn’t a secret to marketing to baby boomers, but by listening to your customers and anticipating their needs, you can secure greater loyalty. “Baby boomers shouldn’t be alienated,” says Bloch. “They’re simply people identified by the time they were born.”