There’s a lot of talk and content being generated about Aging in Place these days. But, what does that mean to your marketing strategy? Like any other market, you should factor in the basics. But like any market, aging-in-place requires careful consideration when hatching your marketing strategy. And, all strategy begins with scoping out the size of the market before you embark on tactics.
Probably one of the most comprehensive resources for aging-in-place is the Federal Interagency Forum on Aging-Related Statistics. Older Americans 2010: Key Indicators of Well-Being. Federal Interagency Forum on Aging-Related Statistics. According to this 174 page report, there were an estimated 39 million people age 65 and over in the U.S. in 2008, accounting for just over 13 percent of the total population. That’s expected to reach 72 million by 2030, representing nearly 20 percent of the total U.S. population. And there’s more:
- Americans are living longer than ever before.
- As the older population grows larger, it will also grow more diverse, reflecting the demographic changes in the U.S. population as a whole over the next several decades.
- The living arrangements of America’s older population are linked to income, health status, and the availability of caregivers.
In other words, there’s a lot happening around aging in this country, and the design community – the people with responsibility for meeting the demand for HOW and WHERE we live and work — can have perhaps the most profound impact on just how easy or difficult such challenges are met.
For example, the ASID (American Society of Interior Designers) is a community of people — designers, industry representatives, educators and students — committed to interior design. They have more than 24,000 members engaged in a variety of professional programs and activities through a network of 48 chapters throughout the U.S. and Canada. In Design for Aging in Place Goes Mainstream, they discuss how one of the biggest challenges in the next 30 years will be “how to meet the demand for quality living environments for the burgeoning population of older adults.” Their ASID Aging in Place Council on aging design issues, marketing strategies and resources has great references about the topic that every designer should know about – and read. There is even a 60-page Design for Aging in Place Toolkit you can download for free!
Another great resource for scoping out the market and planning your strategy is from NAHB’s Home Innovation Research Labs. Their Aging-In-Place Design Checklist offers builders and remodelers friendly reminders on everything from little things like contrasting color edge border at countertops in the bathroom to larger considerations such as the need for 32 inches of clear width, which requires a 36-inch door on interior doors. NAHB Research Center’s ToolBase.org is the housing industry’s best resource for technical information on building products, materials, new technologies, business management, and housing system and an excellent reference. Once you’ve determined the size to your satisfaction, you have to dive into the scope. That is, how you and your services are going to relate to that particular market’s needs.
Kiplinger, in “6 Things You Must Know About Aging in Place,” said that the number one reason to consider this market is that renovation pays. Basic design and structural modifications to a one-story home cost an average of $9,000 to $12,000, according to The MetLife Report on Aging in Place 2.0. “Contrast that expense to the cost of assisted living, which averaged $3,500 per month in 2014, according to Genworth Financial, or $42,000 a year,” reports Kiplinger. You can see immediately that you offer, through your design, a financial advantage to the customer.
Even Reader’s Digest covered the issue in “5 Universal Design Needs for Aging in Place” by Michelle Seitzer, SeniorsForLiving.com. Many articles like hers begin with overwhelming statistics about the issue, and then give some tips on what you should – or should not – do when putting those ideas into motion. They are talking directly to your customers – doing some of the groundwork FOR you in showing them how remodeling and design can impact their lives! In fact, in searching news sources, over 800 stories were found on “aging-in-place.” These ranged from Over-50, a website with a story called “Aging In Place – That’s Doable For Both Home Ownership, Leasing” to Shoreline Area News, a newsletter of residents from Lake Forest Park in Seattle that covered a plan for aging in your home in two parts.
One article was Louis Tenebaum’s “8 Things to Consider Before Remodeling to Age in Place,” which points out that some conventional wisdom sounds great, but might be dead wrong. He says, “The first thing to understand is there’s no such thing as one-size-fits-all design for aging-in-place. We’re all unique. Our houses are, too.”
In many of the interviews we conducted at HighPoint Market with designers, that notion was expressed in many different ways. The designers we talked to told us why their clients hired them, and without question, the number reason was that they understood their particular needs. It’s the individualization of the need – or the designer understanding that concept of one size fitting all – that eventually makes the difference.
Answering the question, “What has the biggest impact on the way you design projects?” one of the designers said:
“My goal is never to be like other designers. I have to think out of the box; may be something really small, but it might be something there. It’s just in there. God gave me a gift and there are things you need in a certain time for certain projects in that period of time.”
Designers clearly said that their clients have the biggest impact on the way they design projects. “Making it suit that customer’s needs. What they like. What they are going to be comfortable with. It’s their home. Making it their home. Getting to know that person and what their lifestyle is like,” was a common theme.
Another designer said, “Making people understand cost in value.”
In all, designers were client-driven people who seek to use their talent to create something their customers will be happy with day in, day out.
Another designer put it this way:
“I think today people don’t care about quality, all they care about is price. I have no idea why, but I think the Chinese market has done that because they see product that they think is worthwhile. Why does Rooms to Go or Ashley have 17 pieces for $799? And then you try to tell a client that a $799 sofa is not even made correctly.”
This is the point. The ability to narrate “quality” in relationship to “price” to a customer is critical to achieving the designer’s goal (which is the satisfaction of the client). This is no different in the Aging in Place movement. As discovered in another piece of research we conducted, defining how a designer measures quality is difficult. Defining it for a client is perhaps even a greater challenge. How do you convey the “feel” of the product, the finish and the details other than having clients touch, see and feel for themselves? The lack of education – down the line from the manufacturer to the consumer – is one of the “missing links” in how designers feel their clients think about quality, despite the ability to learn online. In the research, we concluded:
Fortunately or unfortunately, no matter what a manufacturer does to enhance or harm his brand, it’s the consumer that determines its eventual success, and the designer is the one that is closest to the consumer. It’s been said that if you take apart the entire organization of Coca- Cola Co. and left only its brand name, management could rebuild the company within five years because they have such a powerful “brand.” However, if you remove that brand name, the company would probably die within five years. This is because over the course of the years, “Coca-Cola” has come to stand for everything about the company – the way the soft drink tastes, the way it’s delivered, the way it shows up on the retail shelf. It has become something more than caramel water, and the mark placed on the soda contents is the consumers’ assurance that what’s inside is quality… The designer shapes these perceptions, using the manufacturers’ products. It is a complex thing, this brand/quality relationship, and a delicate thing.
Staying in Front of Your Customers with Aging-in-Place
In our highly successful and popular webinar and in-person presentation called Staying in Front of Your Customers, we discuss the tactics designers and architects need to stay relevant in this -overloaded marketplace we work in. When you have settled on a market like aging-in-place, those proven tactics still work. You simply have to use the target market as a “filter” on the tactics. Here are some ideas to get you started.
Remember that once you’ve determined your value – what makes you different than the competition – use that value to demonstrate to customers you can get the job done. There are six tactics you can use in any staying in front of your customer venture. We’ve put the aging-in-place filter over them, and offer you some of the following ideas for your consideration.
Advertising. First, the assumption in all of the execution of these tactics is that you want aging-in-place to become part of your value proposition. That is, it is being used to differentiate yourself from your competitors. If that is so, you MUST begin with your website! If you Google “interior designer websites” you will get a montage of over 6 million pages! These are all SEO’d by Google to appear when people type in those words, including the Top 50 website hubs out of the UK. Here’s the good news: NOT ONE OF THEM TALKS ABOUT AGING-IN-PLACE! So you quickly realize the opportunity!
Naturally, if you qualify your search with “aging-in-place interior…” you’ll begin to narrow the field. However, even then you are served up with bios form LinkedIn or other, not clearly relevant, results! In other words, the opportunity to SEO is there, waiting for you.
You’ll quickly discover through your journey that there is a designation called CAPS (Certified Aging in Place Specialist) from the NAHB. There is also a section on the NAHB website that will give you the list of these people, so you can immediately see if there are any in your area. In fact, there are only 3,262 of them. The table below gives you your count by state. Here too you can immediately see the competitive climate, if you want the designation.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 54,900 interior designers in the U.S. in 2012. But as a discipline, interior designers can also be architects, or work within architectural firms. So CAPS are only 6% of the total interior population in theory. The question for marketing is: will the investment in time and money in CAPS pay off? Only you can answer that, but the designation is, in fact, a form of advertising your expertise.
Advertising your aging-in-place differentiation can be done also on your website. Consider doing a special section that highlights your efforts and success stories, using all of the tactics like testimonials, photography, and so on.
Phone. Our CEU on using the phone is always interesting, because it gives clues to a very difficult topic: cold calling. All of the tactics and techniques in our Survival Guides can be used in your aging-in-place strategy. For example, in our guide we point out that Michael Jordon shot 82% from the free throw line. It was not an accident, but anyone who does anything well does it through practice! The concept of practice has been around for centuries, and the reason it works is because it “prepares” you for what may or may not happen. You will never know what will happen until it really happens, but practice allows you to simulate events in order to “practice” your response to variable events.
Using the phone follows the same principle. People sense who you are over the phone (have you ever talked to someone and heard through their voice that they are doing something other than listening to you?). Seniors as a group represent an interesting opportunity for you, including “interviewing” them! For example, aging-in-place is on the other side of the scale of assisted living centers. Yet, the needs are the same! Calling up such centers, arranging to “drop by” as an interior designer looking for ideas on aging-in-place not only open up the door for communication. You’ll be amazed by what you can learn to apply to your designs! So while the phone may not be your major tactic for new business, it certainly is your main tactic for nurturing your prospects and customers. A phone call says, “I’m thinking of you” like no other ways says it!
Activities/PR. Community involvement and using PR to spread the word about your aging-in-place focus are powerful tactics. For example, the church you belong to…the community…all have a need for aging-in-place consulting. Why not talk to the community newspaper about creating a column about aging-in-place? Why not interview some seniors “in their homes” and publish the results either in a white paper on your website, or in an article you write and create for the local magazine!
Opportunities are everywhere for staying in front of your customers. And, when you overlay an aging-in-place strategy, it gets even better!
For more information on this topic, or to share your ideas, please contact: Jim Nowakowski, Interline Creative Group, Inc., 847-358-4848.