Year Gold Mine
by Adriana Puckett
and Meemaw lived on an old farm in rural Virginia, with no indoor plumbing and all heat
and cooking done by woodstoves and fireplaces. As a child, Gary Onks, President/CEO of
Fredericksburg, Virginia-based Sold on Seniors and author of Sold on Seniors: How You
Can Reach & Sell the $20 Trillion Senior Marketplace,.
cherished the sun-dappled afternoons on their farm, learning not only such handy
endeavors as fixing things and swimming in the beaver pond, but also such enduring life
lessons as the value of honesty and kindness.
No matter what you call them - Matures, Goldens, Oldsters, or Snowbirds - the financial
situation of seniors as a group has come a long way from Grandpap and Meemaw's farm. The
senior market, defined as anyone over the age of 50, is 81 million strong in the United
States (450 million worldwide) and growing, and it controls over $20 trillion in assets.
Not only is this the largest demographic group of all time, but there are very few
people selling to it. Onks sums up the state of the senior market as: "An unending
customer base, with gobs of money to spend and a starving hunger for your products and
What hasn't changed since Grandpap and Meemaw, however, are the basic life lessons in
respect, honor and kindness that Onks still finds vital in successful selling to
seniors. With these as his base, he offers several guidelines that have worked for him
in the last decade of marketing directly to seniors.
1. Never call or treat a senior as old.
Onks says, "[Seniors] Strongly Dislike being 'grouped' under someone's version of
an aging label. Their desire is to be viewed as, and treated as, worthwhile, important
individuals, of great value to you and your company."
2. Sincerely yours.
Don't be a Slick Willy or Snake Oil Salesman, terms these buyers may be familiar with
from earlier days. Seniors have been adult consumers for quite some time, and as Onks
points out, "not only have [they] seen it all before, they've seen hype that we
don't even know about."
There is an added benefit to cultivating a senior's trust: referrals to their family,
friends, and other members of their personal circle. Onks says, "Sell a senior and
you sell their social network, which is quite large. Believe me, communications go on
3. Play it Again, Sam.
Seniors have fond memories of their youth from the 1930s to the 1950s. Onks recommends
that you spend some time talking with seniors to get a sense of the emotional bonds to
the past, and then use that "Memory Marketing" to reach them.
In his own work of selling houses in a retirement community, Onks learned about such
major events in the area as the factory closing, high school athletic rivalries, major
crimes and political events. He says, "I could touch on these events, and share
these memories with seniors while marketing to them. This produced dramatically