Friday, August 31, 2012

The Art of Getting the Give

Front Door open
Front Door open (Photo credit: cottonM)
Ding-dong (the doorbell rings).

“Hi, I’m Sarah from NY PIRG, and I’d like to thank for your support.” (NY PIRG is New York Public Research Interest Group, a non-profit education and advocacy organization for environmental and health issues affecting NY state residents.)

“Now is not a good time, I’m in the middle of a big project.”

“Well this won’t take long, since you’re already familiar with us…” and the bubbly young college student at my front door continues without missing a beat.

Smart. She knows that if I close the door she won’t be able to come back. She also knows that if she keeps talking, she won’t leave without a check.

I don’t need to hear her pitch – in fact, I’m barely listening. Instead, I am focused on the fact that this articulate, bright, young adult has chosen to spend her summer as an intern, ringing doorbells, giving the same speech over and over again, sounding as excited as she can (and she is practically bouncing on my front porch), just to raise money for a cause she clearly believes in.

Having recently joined the board of directors for The Kids with Food Allergies Foundation, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what causes people to open up their checkbooks, and how they choose one cause over another.

And as I listen to the intern, it occurs to me – if you want a donation, send a student.

I can’t say no to the college student at my door any more than I can say no to the Girl Scout selling cookies (even though none of her cookies are gluten-free and I won’t be able to eat them). Enthusiasm and passion are part of the equation, but it’s also the innate desire that many of use have to help our children be successful. I can ignore the fund-raising letter that comes from a college President, but when a student from my alma mater calls and tells me how much my gift means to them, they’ll get my commitment for a donation.

At this point, it doesn’t matter whether I support the cause that Sarah is at my door to tell me about (and she’s know her stuff inside and out), she will leave with a check.

When being asked for a donation, what triggers you to say yes?

Friday, August 10, 2012

Are Baby Boomers an Invisible Goldmine for Marketers?

dollars (Photo credit: Tddy)
According to, baby boomers are just 44% of the population, but control 70% of disposable income, spend money online, and dominate in nearly all consumer product goods categories.

And (surprise!) baby boomers care about a lot more than medications that help them feel younger and gadgets that allow them to call emergency services.

Is technology just for our kids? Data shows that 41% of those who purchase Apple computers (as I did when I left my job in Corporate America) are baby boomers. Some of us are even classified as “Techno Boomers” by Nielsen. With my bag full of cool gadgets, I count myself among those who qualify for that distinction.

According to a Forrester Report published in November 2011, boomers aged 56-66 spend the most online, followed by those aged 46-55. Only the oldest Americans spend less than Gen X (and slightly less than Gen Y) online.

Why then are these spenders seemingly invisible to marketers?

According to USA Today
, “The traditional thinking among marketers is that older folks spend less, have little interest in new products and have brand preferences set in stone.”

I admit that I like what I like. But after 30+ years as a dedicated PC user, I am now a huge fan of Apple products. After swearing that I preferred paper books, I now read e-books on my Kindle and on my iPad. My preferences for clothing and home goods brands change from year to year, but are strongly influenced by loyalty programs and customer support.

I am turned off by surveys that request age, with the highest age category being 50+. I am happy to see young people manning the booths at trade fairs, conferences, and expos, but treat me the same way you treat the younger attendees, please.

Consider that the market segment aged 50+ is expected to grow 34% between now and 2030, while the 18-49 segment will grow much more slowly at 12%.

Product marketers, if you want to grow your market you must learn what the baby boomers want and how to talk to them, or you will be missing the boat.