This week, small business editor Caitlin Sykes talks to business owners about targeting baby boomer consumers.

Richard Poole is a co-owner of GrownUps, an online lifestyle magazine and social club with daily brain training that's aimed at those aged 50-plus.

What was the opportunity you saw with the baby boomer market when you set up

My co-founder in GrownUps and I first met in December 2004 after some mutual friends suggested we might have some similar ideas about business. Shane had literally grown up in a retirement village because his parents owned one, and he'd also just recently started a commercial website, so was already in the game.

I had a book of ideas from my university days and targeting the impending 'wave' of baby boomers was top of that list; we'd spent quite a bit of time on the topic during marketing papers when I was at uni about 10 years earlier.


At the end of our first meeting, Shane and I decided we should build a site that older New Zealanders - like our parents - could trust and visit regularly, to learn from, meet others and essentially have as their portal to other sites. The equation was: 'predicted growth of the 50-plus market plus growth of online equalled GrownUps'.

Before our intended public go-live in early 2006, we were approached by a home equity release company, who'd been thinking of something along the same lines as the GrownUps concept. A few weeks later they invested, and bought 20 percent of the company, which was a huge help in getting underway and growing quickly.

Oddly though, it seemed to be a market not many brands were talking about, and equally the internet in many ways still seemed in its infancy - particularly from a commercial angle.

What changes have you seen in the baby boomer market more generally since that time?

I think finally there's greater recognition that this is actually a market that's vibrant and worth speaking with.

In the early days some brands voiced the opinion that they didn't feel the older market was 'sexy', and that it might impact negatively on their brands if they were seen to be speaking with an older audience. But I think just through a growing awareness over time of the sheer size and spending power of this audience, more brands are now naturally investigating how to reach and speak with what is actually a large portion of their consumers. So the number of firms actively looking to target the 50-plus audience has grown over the past ten years, although I have to say not as significantly as we would have anticipated.

What strategies do you think work well for connecting with baby boomer consumers?

I think you need to remember to speak with this audience just like you would with any other person. It's not just about age; it's about attitude, stage and mobility or ability. Also, recognising who is actually buying your products and services would be a great first step for many companies. If an older person sees that a company is avoiding speaking with them or assuming they're aged 30, then they might not bother to buy their product if there's an alternative whose marketing resonates.

COMING UP: Blogging is one way some small businesses are building brands and creating a following for their products or services. Why and how have some small business owners started blogging and what benefits are they seeing in their operations? If you've got a story to share, drop me a note:

And if 70 is the new 50, then images, language and offers that motivate people in the right age group is key. So for example if you're promoting an expensive car, I'm not sure a 68-year-old who's just sold their business and for the first time is able and wants to buy a luxury car, will look at an advert with a 30-year-old behind the wheel and actually be attracted and motivated to buy that model or brand. How many 30-year-olds are buying luxury cars compared with their older counterparts?