How To Profit From The Aging Of
America Another In a Series of Articles Designed to
Improve Your Bottom Line by Shirley Greene
The one question I'm repeatedly asked by dog trainers, and others, is:
"Where can I find new clients?"
I believe they expect a typical answer: "Any place where there are
people." Or, for trainers, a more specific reply: "Any place where there are
people who like dogs." While participating in community events such as fun runs
and fund raisers is always a good way to meet people (and clients are
nothing more than people who need your services), a much better way to find new
clients is through a concept called TARGET MARKETING.
Target Marketing - What Is It?
Target Marketing has nothing to do with those red bulls-eyes that
advertise a certain discount department store, Target. Yet, it does have
everything to do with throwing darts! If your pool of possible clients includes
anyone and everyone who has been, may be or is actively looking for a dog
trainer - - then the world is your dartboard. Can you possibly appeal to every
person? Can you possibly reach every potential client with your message? Can
you possibly be effective if you try to sell your services, or your dogs, to
every person on the planet? I say: "No way!"
On any given day, in any given city, in any given state - there are
people seeking dogs and people seeking dog training. These people may be short,
tall, rich, poor, urban or rural. They may be looking for a pooch to share
their couch or an athlete to join their morning run. Can you ever create one ad
that appeals to all dog people composing that dartboard? No. But, you can
target different segments of the population.
TARGET MARKETING is the conscious effort to divide that dartboard
into circles and to assign a value to each. Your "bulls-eye" is that group of
people seeking dogs or training that YOU want to reach. It is a proactive
approach to finding the right customer for your business. Here's an
If you train dogs in downtown Chicago, chances are your target client is
a city dweller with a pooch. The dog may be their family guardian or a lap
warmer, BUT it is still an urban dog that must live and be trained in an urban
environment. Wouldn't it be a better return on your advertising dollar to run
radio spots on a popular morning show at 7:00, rather than spending fewer
dollars during a Morning Farm Report on a rural AM station? Of course.
Therefore, whether it's a couch potato or protection dog, one part of your
market profile is "urban." Other criteria determining your specific target
could be clients' age, income, purpose for dog ownership, etc.
Changing Demographics=New Targets
One way to uncover new Targets for your business is to understand the
concept of futurism. By looking at hard numbers for the predicted changes
underway in American lives, demographers are able to give us a preview of
coming attractions. Futurists like Faith Popcorn or Ken Dychtwald are paid to
tell us what life will be like in the next decade. Will our appliances be
avocado green or black? Will we be hedonistic or altruistic? Spenders or
savers? How will Generation X impact the marketplace and what happens when
those who are now thirty-something reach middle age? And, what about those
aging Baby Boomers?
By ascertaining lifestyle trends through extensive use of questionnaires
and models, the experts can profile changes in demographics and how those
changes will impact the way we conduct business. In turn, we can translate
predictable patterns into profit centers for the future. Armed with this
knowledge, you can jump ahead of the competition.
Changing Our Linear Life
When Otto von Bismarck picked 65 as the marker of old age it was 1880,
and he was preparing Germany's first pension plan. The average life expectancy
at that time was only 45 years! Increasing longevity will not only postpone the
arrival of old age, but will cause all of the life stages to stretch and shift
By 2005, American business should consider:
Youth - the period from 18-25
Young adulthood - expands to ages 25-40
New Life Stage called "Middlescence" - will be 40-60
Late adulthood - postponed and extended to cover ages 60-75
Old age - will begin around 75 and end close to 90
Very old age - will encompass the 90+ end of life stage
In addition, our linear life in which we go from education, to work, to
leisure or retirement to old age home and then - the grave - will dramatically
shift. Experts predict we will cycle through life. Education, work and
leisure will be interspersed repeatedly throughout the life span. Grandpa can
return to college at age 60 and start a new career at age 65. The couple
looking for a new home may be 30 or 70. Therefore, we can't be comfortable with
"business as usual" attitudes. The only thing certain about the future is
The Graying of America
The new "middlescent" is an under-appreciated client source for small
service businesses. One-third (1/3) of all Americans - 76 million people - were
born between 1946 and 1964. These are the middle-lifers. These are the graying
baby boom generation.
This generational mass has dominated American culture for four (4)
decades. At each stage in their lives, the needs and desires of those 76
million people have become the dominant concerns of American business and
popular culture. Why? Because they are the largest single consumer group on the
planet. Therefore, if you can attempt to anticipate the movement of the baby
boom generation - - where they are going and what interests them, you can get
ahead of their spending tidal wave and increase your profits.
Why Target Gray America?
Statistically, our thirty-something friends have the lowest
disposable income of any population group. Members of Generation X are the
first generation, ever, who are less affluent than their parents. So,
who is holding most of the pocket money? Aging Americans.
It's the older Americans who have the largest amount of discretionary,
disposable income. Starting as early as 1990, members of the 50+ population:
owned 77% of all financial assets in America
purchased 43% of all new domestic and 48% of all new
spent more money on recreation (including travel) than any other age
accounted for 40% of the total consumer demand
controlled 70% of the total net worth of U.S. households
Okay, so they've got money. Tell me, how are they going to spend it?
Those who are 55 and older value experience over material possessions,
telling demographers they are:
Seeking solutions to problems
Looking for ways to make life easier
Interested in having fun
Impressed by facts, and leery of hype
Searching for suggestions on how to spend their time
Mindful of quality, convenience and excellence in
Extremely interested in education and trying new sports or
Interested in health, security, happiness and family
Within this circle of opportunity, is a sub-culture: the mature,
affluent market (MAMs) - those who are 50-64 years "young:"
two-thirds are married and family-oriented
they account for more than 40% of every consumer dollar spent
are pro-business and admire the self-employed
Members of the Mature Affluent Market also:
Ö See themselves as 10 - 15
years younger than their biological age
Ö Value service above price and
quality over quantity
Isn't there a huge opportunity for breeders and trainers, nationwide, to
jump ahead of this age wave?
A Personal Incident
Apparently, not everyone agrees with me. Several months ago, at a dog
match, I was saying hello to an acquaintance. He owns a dog training business
and employs probably ten trainers, or more, at any given time. While we were
exchanging pleasantries, a couple in their early 60s approached and politely
waited for a break in the conversation. I made eye contact and lifted my brows.
Glancing at the trainer, I noticed he'd cupped his hand to light up and
partially turned his back.
That did it. If he didn't want to make client contact, I'd be happy to
oblige these folks. So, I smiled and extended my hand to the woman, and said:
"Hi, I'm Shirley. What would you like to talk about?"
The lady took my hand and turning to the man beside her, said: "Hey,
Barney, this is the lady from television." (My dog had appeared on a 15-second
promotion spot earlier in the day.) I said: "Hello, Barney, what I can do for
you?" About this time, the TRAINER walked away. No hello, no handshake, and no
business card offered. He was gone.
Well, Barney and his wife told me they sure liked the attitude of my dog
and were impressed that he behaved so nicely inside a small TV studio. (Me,
too.) Barney, a program director for a Public TV station, had just retired. His
lifelong dream was to own one of those "person'sprotectiondogs," as he called it, and when he saw mine on TV, he drove two hours
across the Valley of the Sun just to get more information. Too bad the trainer
didn't qualify this couple before turning away.
A good friend of mine with years of experience happened upon our group.
She stuck her hand out and opened her ears and really listened to what Barney
and his wife wanted. She did a terrific needs assessment on the spot. You know
the end of this story. She became the source who located and trained their
person's protection dog. How do I know this story has a happy ending?
Because I called Barney almost four months later to make sure a dog was in
training for him and that he was satisfied. (That's how I keep my referral list
Update Your Thinking
A huge opportunity was missed when my acquaintance was not willing to
take five minutes to speak with the 55+ couple. Yet, later that same day, I saw
this fellow really giving a hard sales pitch to a young man and his pregnant
wife with a toddler seated in a stroller. I wondered if he knew that the
typical late 20-something family are people at a time in their lives when
out-go exceeds in-come. They usually spend more than they earn - think credit
card debt. And, of all the age groups, they are most time deprived.
Yes, they may still need dog training but why over-sell this family when
you walked away from a prime MAM candidate?
One of the most expansive and profitable companies doing business today
jumped on the Graying of American bandwagon back in 1986. Many predicted that
the web site called SeniorNet Online would fail. It was started as a project to
see if computer technology could enhance the lives of older adults. From an
experiment, it developed into a huge profit center for advertisers and
e-commerce. In March 2000, this AOL site had over 25,000 daily active members -
posting on bulletin boards, getting on-line tech help, printing out discount
coupons, entering senior chat rooms and buying on-line. What a captive target
Don't gamble with the future of your company by chasing the youth
market. The generation now ages 18 to 34 is like "501" jeans in hot water - -
shrinking fast. And, it will continue to decline for at least the next 10
years. For the first time in history, the youth market is a bust - - not a
Perhaps it is time to think about changing your marketing TARGET!
Do some homework. Learn more. Add products and services that appeal to
the maturing market. Give them what they want service, value, and respect. Talk
with your graying customers, regularly. Ask them what you can do to enhance
their dog training/dog purchasing experience. Build a relationship and a
database of referrals.
Here's an idea for attracting the 55+ "crowd." Use it as a springboard
for your training staff. Brainstorm and expand other ideas to fit your business
Special hours for special people:
What day of the week or time of the day is your appointment book
consistently empty? Many retirees have flexible schedules. Sounds like an
opportunity to target market those unused time slots.
Don't Insult Your Target Market
Make certain printed materials - ads, flyers, business cards - and your
web site - use their own key words to attract the aging market. (See
highlighted under Why Target Gray America.)
Pictures and illustrations should emphasize that the 55+ client can be
active, sexy, intelligent, independent and safe - - especially with a well
trained canine companion.
In sales videos, include at least one scenario directed to the aging
baby boomer. Not every personal protection dog demonstration must show a
twenty-something woman being attacked in her home or vehicle by a
twenty-something man. Can't an attractive, outdoors, Graying of America
female take her pre-teen grandson hiking, accompanied by their trained personal
Perhaps radio spots should also include a mature voice of reason -
offering advice or a testimonial for others in his/her age wave.
In formulating an ad campaign - whether in a newspaper or a flyer for
your local dog park - think about those who are 50-64. Consider reflecting
their values and interests, such as:
For them, the American dream worked - feature entrepreneurs
They seek convenience - after all, they ate the first TV dinners
The Internet - guide them to your web site
Being thought of as strong and competent is important to their
They are actively seeking new experiences - let them train a
My advice: Sic 'Em. Boldly go after the MAMs and the aging
market. Help them find new interests and hobbies. Address their need for
security and personal safety. Why can't grandma have an agility dog or
participate in tracking? Speak to them as people - not senior citizens.
Re-think your prejudices on "aging." Rework your next ad and welcome the
opportunity to speak directly to those baby boomers.
Don't abandon your core clients. Expand your reach. Try new target
marketing strategies integrated with your current business plan. When you are
moving at the speed of business, waiting until your marketing plan isn't
working only slows you down. And, if you are slowing your market-share,
the competition is growing theirs. Plan now to profit from the aging of
America. Get out in front of the Age Wave.
Good luck, good training and good selling!
Social Security/Medicare Trust Fund Report 1994
US Census Bureau Fact Sheet/Aging in America 1993
American Demographics Magazine
Paul Tulenko, Small business Development Center, Albuquerque, NM
Dr. Ken Dychtwald, Pres., Age Wave, Inc. 1990/Update 2000