Coming of Age: Marketing to Baby Boomers

Multifamily marketing expert Jamie Matusek shares strategies for how to appeal to the nation's second-largest demographic.

Jamie Matusek

As Baby Boomers continue flooding the rental pool, they have become a market segment that is increasingly critical to overall leasing and renewal success. The nation’s second-largest demographic, estimated at 76 million and controlling 70 percent of all disposable income, accounts for a disproportionate amount in the profitability of a development. Yet, according to Nielsen, less than five percent of advertising budgets are put toward this demographic.

As empty-nesters migrate out of their homes and into multifamily housing communities, understanding how to market to this demographic is critical in getting prospects through the door. There are, however, some important things to highlight before we get started in how to reach out.

1. Many Boomers reaching retirement are looking for a “home base” that allows them the freedom to travel. Highlighting the security features of apartment living is important, along with all-inclusive amenities that aren’t available with traditional home ownership, like maintenance, state-of-the-art fitness facilities, common spaces, walkability, elevators, ease-of-living (no property taxes, homeowner/condo fees), and a sense of community.

2. Don’t forget to showcase features Boomers can enjoy with their grandchildren, like swimming pools, parks, hiking trails, movie theaters, and planned outings. Recognizing the value this demographic places on time spent with family is important in marketing your development.

Having said that, while amenities help sell a property, the marketing channels you use are key in reaching Boomers and vary significantly from those you’d use for younger audiences, particularly Millennials.

Direct Mail
Baby Boomers place a lot of trust in direct mail pieces. Direct mail campaigns may be an antiquated practice to the Millennial generation, but these tactics have proven successful to an audience that grew up before the era of 140 characters. Baby Boomers were born between 1946 and 1965, so many of them have already reached retirement age or will within a few years. This extra free time allows Baby Boomers to take more interest in the direct mail they receive. They have more time to sift through offers and promotions and read through the pieces that interest them. Direct mail also drives results. Direct mail was the top promotional vehicle for driving consumers to websites; three times more than Internet or TV advertisements according to Marketing to Medicare Age-Ins by Deft Marketing.

To be most effective, ensure the direct mail pieces include legible text, a strong call to action, and tie apartment amenities to the personal values of this generation, namely activity, adventure, growth, and happiness.

Social Media/Online Presence
A lot of people assume older adults are lost when it comes to technology. However, Baby Boomers are actually quite tech-savvy. They are using social media, search engines, smartphones and other digital devices to search for information and stay in touch with family and friends.

Baby Boomers like to do their research before making an informed decision, placing a lot of weight on online reviews. Seventy-eight percent of Baby Boomers reported using online ratings and reviews sites to gather information about the community they were interested in, with Google+ being the most used and trusted site, according to Marketing to Different Generations: Emerging Online, Language, and Lifestyle Trends by J Turner Research.

The study also found Facebook continues to be the most favored social media channel across all generations, with Boomers citing LinkedIn as a trailing second. Additionally, more than half of Baby Boomers who use social networking sites will visit a company website or continue their search on a search engine as a result, according to a study by DMN3 Institute.

What does that mean for marketing? As you develop your social media strategy for this demographic, link up your social media tools and make sure everything (Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Twitter) can be found in one place. Have a user-friendly website and ensure these pieces come together to strengthen your message and offering. Lastly, remember this demographic knows what they want and are not afraid to pay for it. Tell a story through your digital strategy about how your property will make their life better and more enjoyable.

While Baby Boomers are active online, they hold more trust in advertisements in print publications versus online ads. Placing ads in publications such as specialty magazines can effectively reach niche audiences that may be more difficult to target online, according to Forbes. To gain Boomers’ trust, marketers should focus on offering information that will resonate based on significance and candor, which means ads should depict relevant, real-life situations with people in the ads who look like them, so they can relate. Communicating with Boomer consumers in a simple manner, with compelling, clear and concise content is also critical.

Customer Service
As reported by Entrepreneur, customer care is your best marketing strategy, particularly for a demographic that preceded online shopping and self-checkouts. Include contact information—a phone number, email address and social media links—on your website and marketing materials where they’re easy to find. Respond to prospective renters’ and tenants’ concerns promptly to help build brand loyalty and the likelihood of future referrals, and never shy away from the opportunity to add a personal touch to your marketing efforts. Follow-up direct mail pieces with a personalized email, send hand-written notes, and pick up the telephone. These gestures go a long way in delivering upon the personal, one-on-one communication Boomers still believe in.

Bringing it All Together
So what does this mean for your properties? Don’t look past this demographic in your marketing efforts. Have an overarching strategy behind your marketing tactics (direct mail, social media, online, print) and ensure they’re deployed within the same time frame to solve a problem or challenge (lease renewals, signing new leases, the grand opening of a new development, etc.). Prior to engaging in one-off-tactics that don’t allow you to see measurable results, have a clear business objective and measurements in place for success.

Jamie Matusek brings more than 19 years of experience in operations, account leadership, sales, interactive, and traditional marketing to her role as vice president of Catalyst. She has years of experience handling marketing for big brands in telecommunications, student housing, multifamily, commercial real estate and many others. Visit to learn more.