Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Boomer Money

I just switched jobs after 8 years last week and consulted with my financial planner about moving my old 401K.

And I'm not the only one that is in this boat:

From Mediapost:

Getting Personal: How Financial Marketers Can Reach Boomers

Today's younger Boomer generation (45-55 year olds) is settling into leadership positions across industries, from politics to business, popular culture to entertainment. Members of this cohort include President and Mrs. Obama, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and entertainers like George Clooney and Bono. While those particular young boomers may not need to worry about their financial heath, the rest of us are concerned. Very concerned.

A cursory survey of these younger Boomers quickly reveals their primary financial fears and concerns: retirement, the stagnant stock market and falling housing prices. These are compounded by common life challenges, such as potentially aging/sick parents and kids' college bills. It's a tough squeeze, and if there are radical changes to Medicare, younger Boomers will be the first to feel the inevitable cut backs. Additionally, it appears that working past 65 may be the reality for those with lower incomes and people who did not start saving early. They know this, and they are looking for answers, but financial and investment firms aren't offering them, at least not in their marketing messages.

These mounting financial concerns offer financial and investment firms' insight into the type of messaging that will resonate with Boomers, and therefore a wealth of marketing opportunities. But instead of addressing these clear-cut needs, financial marketers consistently rely on tired tactics. You know the ads: handsome older couples, straight out of central casting, riding their bikes across Europe or setting up that photo studio, or bed and breakfast, they always dreamed of. Is that the reality facing today's typical 50 year old? Not so much.

The good news is that because financial marketing has been so slow to adapt to media changes, the simple act of addressing and speaking to their audiences' fears and concerns can actually become a great market differentiator. Want even more good news? According to Maxymiser's recent white paper, "Taming the Fickle Financial Services Customer," banking and finance customers are up for grabs, as their loyalty is directly tied to the good deals and value these institutions offer them. All of this is to say, it's a blue ocean out there for the marketers and companies that can effectively target, speak to, and entice hungry customers who are facing a stagnant and stubborn economy as they head into a critical 10-20-year time period before retirement.

Here are some marketing strategies that may engage younger Boomers to build relationships with financial services firms:

The idea is not to put your services at the forefront of your messaging; it's to convey that you have the fact that you have the answers to their problems ... which implies that you know what their problems are. So, instead of waxing poetic about your online transaction solutions and research capabilities, produce meaningful and useful content that helps customers navigate through life's trickiest dilemmas. Instead of touting all of your features, provide tools, calculators and how-to-type advice. There are numerous content topics that can be covered to help establish the firm as a trusted partner. For instance:

  • How to budget and manage your debt while saving the proper amount for retirement
  • How to save for college with 529 plans and other instruments
  • Estate planning for aging parents, and tips for the lucky few who will be inheriting sizeable sums from their parents
  • Health and wellness best practices. After all, the best way to minimize healthcare cost is to maintain your health
  • Since many will need to keep working past 65, how about some ideas on second careers or even advice on how to start your own business?

This type of content on a website that's personalized and customized for a targeted consumer is a recipe for success. Personalization can be achieved by modeling past behavior or creating a predictive model based on how a visitor comes to your site. The act of serving up custom, relevant content will increase engagement and time spent on the site. When this is coupled with a strong call-to-action, the odds of capturing a lead or new customer is increased significantly.

Additionally, financial firms must acknowledge that Boomers are far down the road of making social and mobile media part of their everyday lives. Instead of relying heavily on TV and print ads, financial marketers must embrace new media as a place to distribute content, engage customers and spur conversations. And of course, this segment needs its own messaging and outreach and should not be lumped in with efforts targeting Millennials or Gen X.

In summary, younger Boomers are facing unique and difficult challenges as they look at their financial well being over the next phase of their life. This is due to both market forces and the very nature of being in their early 50s and late 40s. There is a real opportunity for financial marketers to capture new customers by speaking to these unique needs with personalized and useful content and advice.

Gordon Plutsky is the director of marketing and research at King Fish Media.

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