Can Reverse Mortgage Marketing Adapt to More Seniors Going Online?

TV marketing has long been a mainstay when it comes to reaching retirees and those who fall into the reverse mortgage qualifying age of 62-plus. For the reverse mortgage market, that means ongoing campaigns among lenders focused on reaching and educating potential borrowers via airwaves.

But with the same age segment being the fastest growing when it comes to online use and participation, those marketing to this population now have to consider online as a viable marketing channel—as well as keep up constantly with the way behaviors of their online audience are changing.


In 2012, baby boomers accounted for one in every five users of social media and nearly eight in 10 were social media users, according to online researcher E-marketer. Marketers, then, need to be aware of where the potential customer is spending time online, as well as when they are spending it, and how.

It’s more complicated than simply launching a website, says boomer marketing expert Jim Gilmartin, founder of Chicago-based Coming of Age marketing.

“Putting together a website is fairly easy,” Gilmartin says. “But the key is to be sure the message, imaging, website usability and friendliness is designed with the older market in mind.”

Speaking to the Older Online Shopper

Given the number of people who are making purchase decisions based on their online research, as well as their family members and advisors who are doing so, there’s a big incentive to move advertising dollars away from traditional forms of marketing and onto online, Gilmartin says.

More than 70% of boomers are using the Internet for research before making a purchase, Gilmartin says, citing a recent Nielsen study. But simply hosting a site with contact information will not drive the conversation to build trust with borrowers.

“One of the biggest drivers in moving through fall and winter of life is building relationships,” Gilmartin says. “It should be clear or obvious to visitors that you understand through imaging, copy and metaphors you are interested in having a relationship.”

While boomer studies indicate those in the older demographic are slower to engage than their younger counterparts, once they do, they will expect continued engagement, says Shannon Ingram, founder of Washington, D.C.-based GenAge Marketing.

“Anybody marketing in seniors has to consider content management and content marketing,” Ingram says. “You need to have websites that are not just optimized but also have a content aspect.”

Boomer Behavior Online

Baby boomers and the Greatest Generation have very different media consumption habits from those of their children and grandchildren who fall into Gen X and Gen Y. While a 20-something checks email regularly during the week, the best time to reach the aging population may actually be the opposite.

“The best time to reach boomers is Friday for Saturday and Sunday consumption,” Ingram says. “They’re not used to being there all the time, but Saturday morning or Sunday they are surfing.”

During the week, email marketing is best received at the beginning of the day and the end of the day, she says.

“When the majority of people 50-plus are catching up, it’s early morning during the week or late at night,” Ingram says. “If you send something in the middle of the day they’re not going to see it.”

They are more likely to email the author of an article or blog post than to leave a comment following the post, Ingram has found, and they may do online research upfront before making a purchasing decision over the phone or in person. Ultimately, however, they are adopting social media rapidly with 80% of baby boomers reporting social media use.

Social Media—for the Long Haul

Boomers may be second wave adopters of social media, but once they engage, they do so on a regular basis, Ingram says.

“They’re more hesitant to jump into websites like Trip Advisor that require them to engage and share information,” she says. “But once they start, they tend to adopt.”

Most older social media users began using sites like Facebook in order to keep in touch with family members. One in three who are 65-plus were using social media in 2012, with nine out of 10 reporting e-mail use according to the Pew Research Center.

While marketing spend should first be committed to a site itself and generating a web presence for those who don’t have one already, marketers should look second to social media as a growing trend, according to Coming of Age.

“You can’t ignore social media,” Gilmartin says. “More and more [boomers] are going online and are signing up for social media sites like facebook. Even Twitter.”

This edition of the RMD Report is sponsored by national appraisal management company Landmark Network.  

Written by Elizabeth Ecker

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