Connecting With Boomers On The Move
This may sound like the beginning of a marketing joke, or the impossible scenario given to graduate students at universities across the nation. This is, however, the challenge facing marketing professionals in the RV resort industry every day.
Catering to the needs of high-end motorcoach owners throughout the United States, RV resorts have been popping up from Key West to Seattle. Despite the decline in traditional real estate markets, the past three years have shown explosive growth in this niche. Resorts such as Bella Terra and Buena Vista on the Gulf Coast to Indigo Bluffs, Hearthside Grove and Traverse Bay in northern Michigan, all face the same challenge: How to develop, launch and sustain a brand with such a nomadic target audience?
For starters, one must appreciate the needs, desires and nuances of the target audience. Sounds easy, right? Well, what if half of your target audience was part of the "Greatest Generation" and the other half is part of the "Baby Boomer" generation -- periods of time that mark dynamic social shifts in our nation?
While current senior citizens are not ignored, I tend to focus on the long-term viability of a resort and pursue the Baby Boomer generation. As the largest buying segment in America, the Boomers represent the generation born between 1946 and 1964.
This puts the earliest Boomers at 62 years old and the youngest at 45. Interestingly enough, by focusing on this group, marketing materials actually connect with individuals in their early 70s, as people tend to feel they look 10 years younger than they actually are.
Within this niche, traditional forms of marketing are difficult to effectively implement. The major restricting factor is the vast geographical area one must cover. This seriously restricts the use of outdoor, daily print, radio, broadcast and even cable television. Mail-forwarding services or friends and family often sort "junk mail," limiting the effectiveness of direct mail pieces. So what's a marketer to do? Turn to the three Ws: www.
- Boomers use the internet at work and in their daily lives.
- Trip planning prior to retirement is done online, and this method is likely to continue.
- The Internet is a place Boomers are comfortable doing business (online banking), communicating (email) and learning about products (blogs/forums/websites).
A study I conducted in late 2008 revealed the following with regard to Internet use by target audiences in this niche industry:
- 95.3% travel with a computer.
- 91.08% have access to the Internet "all the time" or "at Wi-Fi hotspots."
- 62.41% use the Internet to plan trips.
- Don't over-generalize the Boomer.
- Personalization and customization are important to them.
- They appreciate service.
- They tend to be anti-establishment still today, as they were in their youth.
- Don't underestimate their resilience in tough times. They were part of the race to the moon, survived a long war (Vietnam) and brought about sweeping social change (civil rights).
- Many plan on working or furthering their education at some level in retirement.
- Retirement is viewed as a second life, were new hobbies, careers and interests are pursued.
The president and founder of our company started one of the first Internet design companies in the Southeast. During these early days of integrating websites into the marketing mix, he literally had to post signs around the office saying, "Don't forget the Web." This form of marketing was so new that account planners couldn't get their head around how to use it or see the vast potential. For the niche market of RV resort consulting, this couldn't be truer: don't forget the web.
To connect with Boomers, don't forget to "click."