Failing To Provide A Price Starts To Backfire For Boomer Marketers

Last week, I was observing some focus groups that our agency was conducting with older consumers. The intent was to discuss perceptions of retirement communities but, inevitably, the group ended up taking some detours as the discussion evolved. One of these tangents really piqued my interest: The group began discussing its perceptions on pricing.

“My parents weren’t rich. I was taught from an early age that, if a price doesn’t appear on the menu, that’s something too expensive for you to eat,” said one of the participants. “I feel the same way about nearly every product I buy today. If I don’t see a price, I assume it’s not for me, even though I understand that I could probably afford it.”

Marketers who are charged with selling big-ticket items are often hesitant to immediately discuss price — whether this be cars, luxury goods or, in our case, retirement living accommodations. Instead, they focus on intrinsic qualities and the value a product provides. 



“I can’t put a price out on our website!” exclaims nearly every aging services marketer I’ve ever met. “It’s too complicated for people to understand, and they’ll walk away (or click away) from sticker shock.” Of course, this perception is based in reality — many marketers have had quality leads drop from their lists because they perceived something as being too expensive for them. Persuading someone to spend more than they anticipated seems like an easier task than trying to get them to come to the conversation in the first place. However, consumers, in general, and Boomers, in particular, are more educated than ever. They now want to be in control of the buying process, which includes self-selecting if your product is too expensive for them.

In a recent survey by TD Bank, only 49% of Boomers ranked price as “very important” when making a major purchase. By comparison, 63% of Millennials gave it that same rank. One can speculate why this might be. Boomers tend to have more disposable income, especially when it comes to making larger purchases. They also come from a culture where they expect products to last and are willing to pay more for quality. Understanding this, we have to give Boomer consumers the benefit of the doubt when it comes to publishing a price. In general, Boomers know what they can and cannot afford, as well as what they are willing to pay for a product — especially if it meets all of their needs. There is a way to meet in the middle, though. 

For instance, for our retirement living clients, we’re strongly advising that they at least advertise a range of costs on their websites, such as “monthly service fees starting at $2,500 per month” or the like. This is a tactic that new home builders have been using for years, with such standard signage as “new homes from the mid-200s.” Both ads use the same base logic, and it is beneficial to both the consumer and the salesperson. If someone can’t afford a product, they don’t want to deal with the embarrassment of telling a salesperson it is beyond their means. Alternately, a salesperson doesn’t want to spend time talking to a consumer with whom they have no hope of making a sale. 

Remember, as points out, Boomers do trust the advice of a sales associate when they are nearing a sale, with 77% of surveyed Boomers saying they sought the help of a salesperson when making their purchasing decision. Boomers come from a generation where in-store sales associates are an important part of the buying process. While the internet has fundamentally changed the dynamic of the sales process, generationally, Boomers still like to speak to an expert salesperson as they always have. 

As I digested the observations made during the aforementioned focus groups, I tried to hone in on what the underlying concerns were from the Boomer consumers we were interviewing. At the basest level, it’s trust. 

By not advertising a price, you’re sending a message to the Boomer consumer that you don’t trust his or her ability to determine the “cost to value” ratio of your product. In turn, Boomers are dismissing those who fail to advertise their price because they appear deceitful or predatory. 

No one likes to feel lied to. No one wants to fall prey to a bait-and-switch. No one enjoys being embarrassed.

If you aren’t publishing some kind of price for your product, you’re going to end up paying the most of all — as you’ll never know how many consumers you’ve lost that dismissed you without a second thought.

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