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In marketing, like anything, you need to get the basics right. Otherwise the time and money you invest in marketing will be wasted

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Older clients - how to market your firm to them

Close up photo of Sue BramallSue Bramall gives some insightful advice on how to get your marketing right for older clients

There are currently over 15.3 million people aged 60 or over in the UK and that is expected to increase to 20 million by 2030 – an increase of about a third, and clearly an opportunity for private client solicitors. But that does not mean you should adopt a clichéd and outdated marketing methods when promoting your legal services to private clients.

Six generations of clients

When considering the market for any product or service, it is important to understand the different generations. At the moment we tend recognise six generations with spending power, as illustrated in the following table:

 Born  Age in 2019  Name  Examples  Also known as

 Pre 1930

 89+

 Veterans

 Kirk Douglas
 Doris Day

 WW generation

 1930-1945

 74-89

 Traditionalists

 Ian McKellan
 Judi Dench

 Silent or Swing generation

 1946-1964

 55-74

 Baby Boomers

 Angela Merkel
 Michelle Obama

 Renegade, Woodstock or
 Sandwich generation

 1965-1977

 42-55

 Generation X

 Jamie Oliver
 Naomi Campbell

 Baby Bust
 Latchkey generation

 1977-1994

 25-42

 Generation Y

 Ryan Gosling
 Christina Aguilera

 Millennials
 iPod generation

 1994-2010

 9-25

 Generation Z

 Brooklyn Beckham
 Saorise Ronan

 Snowflake generation

 

This is not a precise science and you should not treat all members of each group as if they are alike. The Baby Boomers are a particularly broad group comprising both fit and active fifty-year-olds who are still working through to the retirees in their mid-seventies with declining health. Don’t assume that all grandparents are elderly – there are 1.5 million grandparents in the UK under fifty.

Members of each group will have varying circumstances, lifestyles, interests, consumer behaviour and disposable income, but extensive research has identified some traits which tend to be common to each group and help to differentiate the type of approach that is required when marketing. Here is a very brief summary for our three target groups:

  • Veterans – Are concerned about health, ageing, financial and personal security, and their legacy. They still read newspapers and they read them thoroughly. Although they need large type, they don’t want to be reminded of their age in a way that makes them feel ancient. But who does? They may use the internet but to a limited degree and may rely on someone else to undertake online transactions on their behalf.
  • Traditionalists – Value saving, morals, ethics, trustworthiness, patriotism, social tranquillity and togetherness. Many have very good health and are active, travelling and enjoying life. They often have wealth in the form of property and savings but can be slow to embrace change. While most are comfortable with the internet where it is useful for them, such as booking travel, it is not integral to their social lives and they enjoy events.
  • Baby Boomers – Many are defined by their careers and plan an active retirement to maintain physical and mental health. They often like the good things in life, such as fine food, travel etc, but may feel concerned about future financial insecurity over pensions and care costs. They are good at online research and look for choice, value, options and flexibility. Challenges include acting as the bank of mum and dad, caring for their parents, or inability to downsize as the next generation has not flown the nest.

Digital use

Of the 11.8 million people over 65, around 3.8 million have never used the internet. Of the eight million who have used the internet, nearly 60 per cent of those aged over 75 have not gone online in the last three months. A quarter of non-users over 65 get someone else to do their transactions – a potential risk which clients and advisors should be aware of.

Only 29 per cent of those over 65 use the internet for transactions, compared to 50 per cent of all internet users. Those who do not use it give reasons such as no need, lack of skills, cost, concerns about security.

While no law firm can afford to neglect digital marketing, it may not be ideal for every client.

Do you know your clients?

In an ideal world (where your law firm has a state-of-the-art contact management system, information on each client’s date of birth and their communications preferences) you could produce subtly nuanced campaigns which appeal to each group appropriately.

Back in the real world, many firms take a one-size-fits-all approach to their marketing. Prior to GDPR there was certainly a move away from hard copy newsletters and invitations towards electronic versions which were also seen as less costly – even when open rates showed that a large proportion of recipients did not open the e-newsletters.

Thankfully, GDPR has caused firms to review this approach and ask their clients whether they would like to stay in touch, and how they would like to receive information. This gives clients the choice of an emailer or a hard copy newsletter.

There are other advantages of the hard copy newsletter in that it has a much longer life than an email, and the recipient is more likely to keep it. It may be passed onto a friend or relative, and with permission it may be left in public places – such as doctors’ waiting rooms, citizens advice bureaux, other professionals’ offices.

Key messages

When thinking about your marketing materials, as well as reviewing the font size, consider what you say and how you say it:

  • Are you sending impenetrable legalese, or something that is in plain English? Are you appealing to a Baby Boomer’s preference for options?
  • If you do have a brochure for private clients, does it build trust and inspire confidence? Do you have a strategy to ensure that it gets beyond your reception area? Are you sending it to every client of your firm?
  • Do you have a list of intermediaries that you pop in on from time to time, who might be interested in your brochure, your newsletter, or working together?
  • Do you volunteer to speak at events? There are numerous voluntary groups that support older people, those with dementia or ill health and their carers, and which may welcome a speaker. Remember that other solicitors may have the same idea, so you need to consider how to make your speech more appealing, or how to make your firm more appealing as a supporter.

If you think you need to work on your public speaking skills, then look out for a local branch of Toastmasters. This is a very cost-effective way of improving your skills and building your network.

Avoid clichés

This brings me neatly to the issue of photography in marketing material. There is a certain stock photograph of a kindly grandfather that must have appeared in thousands of legal brochures – I am sure you have seen it too. Look beyond the obvious clichés of an older man with a younger wife for an article about making a will, or a head-clutcher for an article on dementia.

Avoid using words like: senior citizen; retiree; golden years; silver-splitter, silver-surfer, silver-fox etc; mature; prime of life. Take care, in your images and language, not to stereotype older people as helpless or dependent.

Think of people as individuals

Most surveyed adults agree that, once you reach a very old age, people tend to treat you as a child. Insurers, employers, politicians and public services are no longer viewed as allies of older people – so a solicitor may be one of their few remaining trusted advisors.

While it is right and sensible to ‘segment’ the markets that your law firm serves, never forget that everyone is still an individual – and wants to be treated as one.

Anyone reading this blog who has passed a certain age will probably have already received all sorts of marketing aimed squarely at ‘the older generation’ – holiday cruises, anti-slip bath mats, and so on. Thankfully, I have yet to receive anything related to incontinence – but surely this must be only a matter of time!

 

“Older clients want information that is clear, honest and makes them feel valued as people. They want to be able to quickly connect their needs with the service your firm is offering.” Simon Johnston, head of marketing, Travelers

 

This blog is based on a much longer blog published in PS magazine by The Law Society: Veterans, traditionalists and baby boomers – take care marketing to older clients.

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