Anyone know what a hogitat is? No, me neither. Well until 24 hours ago, when Keely Stone (one of our best managers), told me her gran had purchased one. It’s one of a number of purchases Keely’s gran has made in the past few months. And it was a useful bit of research for this article.

Like most of you reading this, I’m a business owner-manager. And all my clients are business owner-managers. And I’m also a pragmatist.

What else?

Oh yes. An accountant. Which means I love to work out the Return on Investment on any kind of business decision as Pete (Head of IT) and all the marketing team will attest. Probably through gritted teeth!

Which is why I think that there’s a massive opportunity out there for many businesses which is going untapped. The grey market.

And I’m not talking about me thank you very much, even though I now technically qualify to go on a Saga holiday. I’m talking about the huge chunk of the population who are retired.

They are mostly over the age of 65 and represent over 10 million people in the UK.

10m! If your services are appropriate, then there are a lot of potential customers out there for you.

Recent government figures estimate that the number of people over the age of 65 will have nearly doubled to around 19m by 2050.

And when you hear someone on the TV blithely saying that “everyone’s struggling with money at the moment” do what I do and shout back at TV “no they’re not”.

Because if you’re on a final salary pension scheme, your income hasn’t dropped but your outgoings have plummeted because you haven’t been able to go out for about four months! Like Keely’s gran – which is why she’s on Amazon buying hogitats.

And then there’s the triple lock pension rules which ensure that over time, pensions will outpace inflation. Although how long that will last when Rishi Sunak surveys the bare cupboard next Spring is a debateable point.

Of course, I realise that the grey market is a wide-ranging group. There’s a big difference between a fit 65-year-old taking five holidays a year and beating me by two or three minutes at the weekend Park Run (annoying!) and a 92-year-old who’s in poor health.

So, I don’t want to generalise too much about how you tackle that market for fear of patronising some much valued clients.

But there are a few changes you might want to make to your marketing approach

The first thing to remember is that this group of customers have more time than those who are working. As one of our now retired members of staff told me a year after leaving “I’ve got time to do everything properly now”. And that includes researching potential suppliers and products.

And reading things.

Now I’ve always had a suspicion that some of our clients who run growing businesses don’t always read our well-crafted thought through letters and emails. It’s quite possible they might jump straight to the bit about the tax bill.

But retired clients do things properly. Woe betide any member of staff who lazily includes a paragraph of no relevance to the client they are writing to.

But how do you market yourself to this section of the population?

Well for the half of retired people who are internet savvy (a growing percentage of course), not that much different to the way you market yourself to the rest of your client base with a few tweaks. Put together a marketing strategy that considers Inbound, Outbound and Referral aspects but pay attention to the detail. Maybe a bit less social media (not many pensioners are on Instagram or Tik-Tok) and a bit more attention to Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).

Many people forget the fact that most searches online have a location in the search bar i.e. the searcher is looking for someone in their town, village or borough. And when they find your website, make sure it explains the benefits and features of your product or service. Add some testimonials to validate the quality. Retired people are more likely to read this stuff.

But what about the significant number of pensioners who are not internet savvy?

I’ve been conducting a surreptitious research programme. My friends at Relish Research would refer to this as qualitative research rather than quantitative because the subject group consists of one consumer. My Mum.

So, what have I learnt?

Well first of all, my Mum’s number one criteria for using someone’s services seems to be that they are busy but don’t advertise. That’s pretty heart-breaking if your business sells advertising space!

There is a logic to this of course. If they’re busy but don’t advertise, then clearly they are getting all their work as a result of word of mouth. And if they’re doing that then they must be good.

Of course, my Mum is a big part of this word of mouth marketing. The tree surgeon and the dentist get 5-star ratings on “word of mouth not dot com”. The plumber and electrician solid fours. But let’s just say that the company who sorted out the drains will not be welcome back not just to Mum’s house but anywhere in the road. Ever.

But how do you encourage word of mouth marketing?

So, word of mouth marketing is key to being successful in that market. But if you provide a service, how can you encourage something that’s done by other people? Here’s our top 10 tips:

  1. Get your van(s) sign written. Make it professional not gaudy. Your van parked up outside someone’s house is advertising your services the whole time it’s there. And it’s also letting the neighbours know who to ask if you’re any good
  2. Ensure you have a landline not just a mobile. It implies that you’re solid and trustworthy
  3. Have a simple website that explains who you are and what you do. Make sure there’s a picture of you on there. And your staff. Preferably smiling.
  4. Get yourself on something like Checkatrade or whatever is the equivalent in your industry. Just being on there provide reassurance that you are reliable, allows satisfied customers to leave reviews and advertises your services. Remember that people often move to an entirely new area in retirement and need an entirely new list of suppliers
  5. Make sure there’s a personalised answerphone message on both lines that say who you are and politely asks someone to leave a message
  6. Be tidy and look smart. Your customer will not necessarily understand the intricacies of what you do but they will recognise if you’ve left a mess or look unprofessional
  7. Turn up when you say you are going to turn up or if you are running late make sure you call your customer to apologise and explain why. Pensioners hate waiting in all day for someone who doesn’t turn up just as much as the rest of us do!
  8. Be prepared to explain what you’ve done or are doing to over-protective sons and daughters who treat you with suspicion
  9. Ask your customer afterwards if they are happy with your work. If they are, tell them that you are trying to grow your business and ask them if they would refer you to their friends. They probably will.
  10. Transmit all these qualities to your team. You might have spent 10 years building up your reputation only for your first employee to ruin it by being rude, scruffy or untidy

Further tips and advice

But of course, sometimes customers will come to you. If that’s the case, ensure parking is easy even if that means some of your staff need to park elsewhere. And if some of your customers are likely to be at the older end of the range, ensure that there is easy access to your premises.

If you provide a service that needs repeating (e.g. an MOT), a personalised reminder in the post works really well. Who doesn’t like the novelty of opening post nowadays!

Some of this is obvious – it’s just selling by being nice. But get it right and your reputation will spread. And if you want to give your business a boost, consider direct mailing through doors or local “handy pages” type publications. My Mum still misses “letting her fingers do the walking” (remember that?) through the Yellow Pages.

If it’s a product of some kind you sell, ensure that you are able to deliver (especially at the current time) and also remember that whilst your product might be for someone more senior in years, your buyer might actually be a grandchild looking for a present for their grandparent.

If you’re selling online, make it really easy to order. And have a phone number prominent so that exasperated silver surfers can call you with any questions. Remember even if your product is for young children, a significant proportion of your customers might be grandparents buying presents.

And that doesn’t just apply to small stuff either. A swimming pool manufacturer once explained to me that whilst he sold swimming pools what some of his older customers were buying was a way of ensuring the grandchildren still came around for a few more years even after they’d become teenagers.

Most important of all, make sure you have time for your customer. Pensioners are not as price sensitive as you might think. But they are value sensitive. And part of the value of what you do or sell comes from providing reassurance and explanations. Ensure you have time for that reassurance and explanations and also to just get to know your customers and let them get to know you. That’s how trust is built.

And finally, if you’re still wondering what on earth a hogitat is, it’s a hedgehog shelter for your garden. One of many products whose sales have boomed in lockdown when we’re all stuck at home.

We can help

If you need any help with your marketing strategy or approach, get in contact with our marketing team by emailing and we’ll give you a call back to discuss how we can help you. 

Contact me today!

Malcolm Palmer


Managing Partner

01474 853856

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