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Why You Need to Use Effective Age-Based Targeting for your Marketing Campaigns

“My product is so awesome that everyone in the world is my customer!”

“My services are so power-packed that anyone, literally, anyone, can benefit from it!”

After 17+ years of being in marketing, business development and sales, I wish I can get immune to those statements. I still cringe, and sometimes when Mav’s in a nasty mood, he’ll even not try to hide that smirk.

With my mentors coaching me that learning by metaphor is sometimes an excellent method to reframe their mindset, I’d usually ask them if they think Apple is a great brand.

Most of the time, they would say “yes”.

I will then proceed to ask they use iPhones, or take a quick look around the room to do a rough count of iPhone users. Most of the times, the numbers are around 50% (though I have to admit the numbers dwindle over time. Hmph…)

So, if Apple, a great brand by their own admission, still cannot convert 100% of the market, do their own brands stand a chance to do that?

Way to poke holes in their dreams… Mav.

The Market Is Smarter Now

Look, let’s get serious.

In a time when consumers are getting more and more tech-savvy, they are able to research your brand, and your competitors’ brands in the market. They will look up reviews, read up product spec sheets, watch comparison videos, or even talk to strangers about their experience.

You’ve probably experienced this yourself too. Have you ever been to a retail outlet or service provider, only to find out that you know more about the companies products and service than their staff?

And by that argument, do you think your next prospect will know more about your industry… than you?

So, the days of “wowing” your prospects with your knowledge and features ain’t going to cut it. As my late friend and master-level copywriter Kenneth Yu would say, we’re using a level 2 marketing strategy to sell to a level 4 market.

We Want Products That We Can Identify With

Ah, the good old sense of belonging. Hardly is a man an island, no matter how quirky his behaviors are, or how stinky the BO is.

Most of us want to “belong” or be “labeled” something (as much as we vocally say we don’t). Customers want to carry a product that says a lot about them.

A Rolex will project prestige, so as a Benz or BMW.

A Ferrari will showcase a person’s need for speed, just as how his choice of baseball caps and sport jackets will.

A wardrobe from the monochrome section of Uniqlo will resonate with the minimalist nature of a person, who seeks joy in the simplicity of life.

We all have an identity, and we consciously (and sometimes unconsciously) seek products and services that speak of that.

Which is why in the days of modern marketing, we have to cater our message based on persona, and there are two general ways of doing it.

  • Demographics  Who are the customers? What’s their age, gender, race, location, monthly income etc?
  • Psychographics  What do they do? What are their interests? What brands do they follow? What memberships are they part of? How do they spend their weekends?

Personally, I always weighed towards the latter, but for today, let’s take a shot at Demographics, especially Age.

The Life Cycle & Stages

Disclaimer: I’m gonna be making some general statements moving forward, so if it does not resonate with you, do accept my sincere apologies in advance. This is based on the general population, the middle of the bell curve. It’s great that you’re leaning towards the edges of the curve, and the standard rules may not apply to you. I feel you 🙂

If you look at the general life stages that a normal person would go through:

  • Below 18 – education period
  • 19 to 23 – education too, but probably time to get serious
  • 24 to 28 – First or second job, getting started in career, experiencing life, probably ambitious too
  • 29 to 35 – The first few thoughts of settling down, starting a family, owning a property, getting a new car, maybe even an early career shift in the newly discovered passion
  • 36 to 45 – Building a family, planning for the future, investments, savings, perhaps for some sad few, even divorce and experiencing the first few deaths in the family
  • 46 to 55 – Less materialistic goals, more social-, community-driven activities, preparing for retirement and the golden years, children entering tertiary education and perhaps even the workforce, dealing with their marriage and career

I think you would agree that’s the phases that an average person will go through, plus-minus a couple of years, depending on their background, early failures and successes etc.

And looking any those stages, it is safe to say that during different periods of their lives, there will be different priorities.

For the ease of making an example, let’s use a product that we are all familiar with – insurance – and you are the agent in charge of promoting the policies.

Meet Tommy the 23 Year Old Fresh Grad with the First Job

Tommy just graduates top of his class, and had been in employment for a month. Life is exciting, as he’s bridging what he had learned over the past two decades with the challenges of the real world. When he got his first paycheck, he was overwhelmed with a sense of pride.

“First pay yo!” He exclaimed with his inside voice. “Can’t wait to show this to Mom and Dad!”

Here’s where you enter the picture, with an insurance brochure in your hand, and said,

“Young man! Congrats! You’re in charge of your life now! Hey, now that you’re earning your own income and don’t have to rely on your parents anymore, why not buy an insurance policy for yourself.”

Tommy shifted a while. You’ve just made him think about something that he knows is important, but it’s such a killjoy for him. He was thinking about getting a new phone, perhaps saving up for a new car because he’s tired of relying on public transports.

“Think about it, Tommy. With a policy, if anything were to happen to you, your wife and family will be taken care of. No worries there.”

And now Tommy is thinking even deeper, a frown appearing on his face.

He’s probably thinking:

“Yo, I’m young, and probably nothing will happen to me (let’s face it. We have all said that once or twice before when we were around that age of “invincibility”).

“Plus, I don’t even have a girlfriend, how the heck am I gonna get a wife, let alone start a family?

“And I’m single now, with my very own income! I’m gonna enjoy life! I ain’t gonna commit myself to a policy that ties me down monthly for the rest of my life.”

You probably can resonate with Tommy at that age, because let’s face it, our priorities are very different for a fresh grad who just got his first pay.

So, as Tommy rejected your policy and start browsing through new phones in the market, let’s imagine what if you shift the sales pitch.

“Young man! Congrats! You’re in charge of your life now! And I think your parents will be super proud.

“Hmph, about that…. I think they have put in a lot to support you over the years. Healthcare, education, your various hobbies, or even some of your earliest travel experiences. Now that you’ve got some income, ever thought of perhaps buying a policy for them?

“Let’s be real: they are not getting any younger, and having some form of protection will ensure that if the worst happens, your whole family will have the necessary means to survive, and even thrive.”

Now, Tommy may be frowning still, but that’s because he’s deep in thoughts. You’ve just reminded him of the love his parents showered him with, and how he may have to postpone on that new phone.

He’s thinking that it’ll probably be something his parents will be proud of, and it’s a feeling more satisfying that just having the new gadget. The phone can wait, but his parents may not.

Meet Tommy who’s about to Settle Down with the Love of His Life

Tommy had been dating Kelly for a few years now, and as they are approaching the big 3-0, they made a commitment to each other, ready to settle down and start a new chapter in life as husband and wife.

And as the insurance agent, you met up with Tommy, and the pitch will probably go like this:

“Hey, congrats, bro! All set for life eh? I’m happy for both of you. I really am.

“Oh yeah, you know how some women place more importance towards the sense of security? I’m sure Kelly is different from the rest, but I’m also pretty sure she would appreciate if you can provide that as well, on top of the financial support and love.

“Ever thought of getting a couple-link policy? I think it’s something that can add some form of additional assurance for Kelly and her family. It will also project that you’re a responsible husband and family man.

“What do you think?”

Tommy will be in deep thoughts now.

What you just said is true, because he did notice that when Kelly decides on purchases and career moves, she did lean towards security. Sure, he’s more adventurous in his decisions, but he knows that Kelly may seek some form of stability and peace of mind. Plus, getting a couple-link policy will show to his in-laws that he’s serious for the long game.

Meet Tommy the Family Man Climbing the Corporate Ladder

Ah, Tommy had lived the good life. With the second kid on the way, he’s living the dream as he just got promoted a few months back. With a house under their name, cars to ferry them around, and Brandon, his eldest son, getting ready for primary school, life is good.

And as the insurance agent, a coffee meetup would lead to a conversation like this:

“Wow, Tommy! I can tell you’re happy with the new baby coming. Jenny is a nice name indeed.

“Not to pour cold water on the good news, but I’ve just come from a friend’s funeral. The man was barely even 40, an avid gym-goer and in superb health as well. And I’m talking about having raw food diet, daily meditation, the whole works. He had a freak accident, a bad fall really, that broke his neck, as he was leaving home a few days ago.

“And he left behind two young kids and a young wife, who soon have to move in with her family because they couldn’t afford the place they are currently staying at. The kids have to switch schools as well, as the grandparents are living in another part of the city.

“A tragedy, really. And the worst part was, he didn’t have any insurance policies, so now the wife had to go back to work after being a full-time mom for ten plus years. She had to settle for low pay because she’s the sole breadwinner now, and their savings can’t last long.”

Now, even though you may not have mentioned it directly, Tommy would probably be thinking if something similar could happen to him, which, “touch wood” would not. Life, after all, is uncertain, and he’s reminded of his colleagues who had sudden deaths too. Healthy, happy business associates who were just fine on one day, and gone the next.

As a precaution, Tommy started to look through his finances. He wondered if he should allocate a higher amount from his new salary to getting additional protection for Kelly and the kids. The last thing he wanted is for them to suffer the loss of a close family member, and also go through a significant shift in lifestyle if he ever passed on.

Same Product Different Pitches

You want to know something funny?

In those three scenarios, the product remains the same. Sure, the premium amount and policy details may differ, but they are still insurance products.

So as you can see, in different stages of Tommy’s life, your pitch will have to be different. There’s no such thing as a one-pitch-fits-all approach, and the same applies to your marketing messages as well. An iPhone could mean “coolness” to a young professional, but “ease-of-use” to a grandparent.

Different baits for different fish. Heck, even if it’s the same fish, their dietary preference will change according to their age.

And that’s just based on one factor – age.

Human beings are way, way more complicated than that. Throw in family background, upbringing, education, gender, race, and various interests and brand affiliations, and you’ve got a diverse, dynamic mix. This means your pitch has to be even more refined to tailor to the individualistic nature of your customers.

Action Time

One message will work tremendously well for one group, and fail epically for the next. It’s not about having different products for different groups, though some companies do practice it, which may be costly.

A cheaper way, is to have different “packaging” of the same product or service.

Think about it: your offerings will have a list of benefits. Identify how individual customer segments will resonate with different benefits, and highlight them. Have different landing pages with varying sets of ads, complete with different messaging too.

One way that I help my clients seek a better understanding of their customers is through this Client Avatar worksheet. You can download it here, and I’ve even included a simple video tutorial on how to use it as well.

It can be a solo activity, though if you have a team, I would highly recommend making it a Friday afternoon exercise. Get the team together for an hour or two, and brainstorm how you can fill up the different Demographics and Psychographics sections for your most profitable markets.

Let me know how the session turns out in the comments below. Heck, you can even attach a completed Client Avatar and probably get a few hits from it.

And here’s a bonus tip: the avatar is never final. It’s always in “drafting mode”. As you understand your customers more, the “richer” your avatar worksheet will become. You’ll realize that they prefer certain brands over others, are part of different online groups, or have different influencers in their lives.

And it’s a good thing, because “Knowledge is power”, and the more you know about your customer, the deeper you will be able to connect with them. You will also be able to craft marketing messages that are more powerful and impactful, driving more sales and even build raving fans!

p.s. The next time you’ve got a friend who is overly enthusiastic about his products or services or business idea and thinks that the whole world is their customer, send them this article, or tag them in the comment sections below. Help them “niche” their marketing message, and refine their approach. I promise you, when they take pride in their success later in life, I’m sure they will forever be indebted to you. 

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