In a previous post, we discussed Digital Immigrants, an underserved market segment that might be attractive to computer techs looking to expand their business. This often-overlooked client group consists of residential consumers over age 60.
How does one go after this market? What is expected of you if you do?
Finding Clients in this Market Segment
With any market segment, you need to be seen where the clients are looking. If you’re selling Ohio State t-shirts, you don’t go to Michigan. Older clients are much less likely to be found looking at social media, for instance. They’re less likely to pick a business card off the board at a coffee shop.
Digital Immigrants are of an age where they like to deal with people they know, or failing that, with people their friends know. The sweet spot with seniors is visiting them in their homes and putting your hands on their precious computer. Consequently, they need to trust the person they’ll be inviting into their home and with their personal information.
A warm, confident referral from a friend of theirs goes a very long way in making them feel comfortable with you.
Where Do You Find Seniors?
How do you get known to them or their friends? There are several ways, many depending upon volunteering in the community:
- My Rotary Club is my number one source of business referrals. There are about 70 people in the club, and 80% of them are over 60, though we’ve got some people down to age 25. A caveat: Rotary’s motto is “Service above self.” That’s very important. If you join just for networking, it won’t work. Join a Rotary Club to contribute to your community. Over time, people will get to know you and trust you. You’ll be the one they naturally turn to for technical help. Just don’t make it why you join Rotary…join for the common good and good things will happen. I’m not familiar with Lions Clubs and Kiwanis Clubs, but I think membership there could work out for you the same way.
- Join your Chamber of Commerce, then PARTICIPATE in your Chamber. Volunteer for the membership committee, for instance. You’ll get to know other members of the committee better, and in a Chamber, it’s quite natural to promote your business. While you likely will get business from Chamber members as a result, every one of them has a parent or two who needs computer help. Senior members of the Chamber—especially real estate agents—often are digital immigrants themselves.
- Volunteer your services for a charitable organization or two. In my town I provide free IT support for the Arts Foundation. It’s a good cause, and gets my business name in the programs all year long. Guess who the Board members and primary attendees at their events are? All digital immigrants, many of whom are already my clients. They see my name and mention it to their friends. I also serve on the Board of the Chamber of Commerce, and provide gratis IT support for their two-person office. Besides goodwill, it gets my logo on the website and keeps me top of mind when people are asking for a recommendation.
- Give talks at a local Senior Center. I’ve given talks appropriate for the audience: avoiding online scams, an overview of social media, how to protect yourself from viruses and malware, how to use your iPad…the choices are endless. I also have an agreement with the management of the center to bring in candy once per week for their candy jar. This allows me to have a little rack with my business cards in it, and the chance to show my face to the people who are often asked, “Do you know a good computer guy?”Senior Centers can be a mixed bag, depending upon the demographics of your area. In my area, there is one center where most members can afford my services, and another where I’m just not in their budget. While I do my share of charitable work, each of us needs to decide at what price we’re willing to rent ourselves out.
- Meet with the management at ACTIVE retirement homes, if there are any in your area. Offer your services to their residents. It’s great if they would recommend you to the residents, or at the very least just let you post your information in the lobby and/or advertise in their internal newsletter. You can volunteer to give talks there too, as at the senior centers.Note that I stress retirement homes for active retirees; in contrast, nursing homes are not generally a very profitable venue to focus on. You want active, alert clients.
What Do Seniors Need?
Once the referrals start rolling in, and it may take at least several months for your efforts to pay off, what do these senior Digital Immigrants need? They need you to coach them. They need you to not embarrass them. They need to learn how to do what they want to do on their computers. They want you to answer their questions without rolling your eyes. They want you to explain things slowly, in words they understand. Above all, they do not want you to show off your skills. They do want to come away a better understanding of what you showed them.
Sure, there will be times when you can say, “Do you want to actually learn this, or do you just want me to take care of it? It’s probably something you’ll never need to do again.” There’ll be a lot of those. But these seniors are for the most part people who are accomplished in other fields, and deserve respect. You show them that respect by being patient with them.
Senior citizens are a potentially lucrative and underserved market segment. Go where they go to make yourself known. Learn how to make them happy and they’ll reward you. Better yet, they’ll tell their friends.