In my travels, I continue to hear about new vendors, new product and service ideas, some just an entrepreneurial gleam in the eye, some pre-launch, some on the market. Hopefully those who haven't launched yet read and heed this previously-published advice -- now updated. And those already in the market, if your entrant doesn't reflect these updated suggestions, maybe it should:
1. Create a boomer-and-senior aware website. Mention the target audience by name – “how this product can make seniors feel safer” rather than hoping prospective customers will figure this out. Make sure the site is friendly to those with diminished vision. Avoid long narrative text in favor of short function lists, images, and clear benefits. And don't forget to specify how the product works and is installed.
2. Test usefulness with the target audience. This seems like silly advice, but so much of the R&D efforts in technology firms and university programs fail to produce a viable product. Consider free trials or demonstration days with senior centers, area agencies on aging, or health centers.
3. Narrow scope, but broaden messaging. Products that serve a narrow purpose can still be described in holistic context as well as how they may fit into a day-in-the-life scenario.
4. Be wary of box obsolescence. Avoid being part of the back-room junk pile of products-gone-by. As products like e-mail appliances age and disappear in the future, customers benefit from referral and resale of newer products (like low-cost PC’s or software to make computers easier to use). Find a way to sell something to them, like offering new software as an online service.
5. Give away device and sell service. Device prices are a barrier to entry to lucrative and long-term service to boomers and seniors. Yet too many vendors have devices that cost more than $100 but the monthly service fees appear to be a very affordable. Offer several alternatives for how to purchase the product to fit within the budget limitations of consumer buyers.
6. Offer the free trial. Try with option to buy is such a time-tested strategy, it is interesting to see how rarely it appears to be used. It is particularly appropriate when selling into large organizations (like senior housing) -- as long as the organization commits to actively participate in the 'trial' rather than leave the technology on a shelf somewhere.
7. Add related and useful value. Finding an independent living assessment on Philips Lifeline (Lifelinesys.com) website is a useful surprise to a baby boomer worried about a parent. Assessment information can be quoted from and found on CDC or AARP websites, for example.
8. Add the community to the site. E-mailed customer testimonials are nice but inadequate to build buzz from early success. Videos of customer testimonials or moderated communities (or moderated blogs with comment) are living organisms for product feedback. (Dell's response to its exploding laptop video is instructive.)
9. Search for your category -- match the terms. If there are multiple synonyms for the category of product or service, make sure your website has content that enables it to be found even when those other terms are used. Likewise, alert yourself to mentions (favorable or unfavorable) of your product or company.
10. Cultivate members of other markets early. Be the first in your space to actively seek out continuing care communities, home renovation, assistive technology, and health care providers, looking for feedback on whether your offering fits workflow and business model. And it's never too early to identify adjacent offerings that can help a single-product vendor evolve into a solution provider -- or appeal to integrators who want to deliver solutions.
Finally, please comment and offer other ideas or modification to these suggestions, on what works and doesn't.