Stealth Marketing to "Aging" Clients

by Louis Tenenbaum, CAPS, Independent Living Specialist and member of the ASID Aging in Place Council

Including universal design and aging in place considerations in your approach to design can be a bold step. Passion is common among designers committed to these progressive concepts. Once you start thinking this way there is no going back. The converted think it makes so much sense everyone will get it right away. Unfortunately everyone is not turned on so easily. Subtlety must be employed in marketing, sales and design presentations. People have so little experience from which to draw they may mistakenly picture something ugly or institutional. Even "wise" consumers can be turned off when they bring the wrong images to their mind’s eye.

It may be counterintuitive but the solution in sales and design presentation is silence on the subject. A universal design approach consistently yields good results. Include Universal Design features in your portfolio and design, just don’t mention them. A curbless shower is the latest "euro-trend." Varied sink counter and vanity heights give visual interest and meet the needs of a range of activities, not the range of physical sizes or abilities. A kneespace vanity is for luxury and convenience, not wheelchair use.

In marketing, take a bird’s eye view. Market the value of your specialty to the community, not the individual. This lends itself to PR, radio appearances and a regular column where your expertise and forward thinking can be appreciated. Aging In Place preserves neighborhoods, communities and housing stock. Your service to the community in promoting this forward idea makes you the value added expert people want to call for their best projects, even if they don’t share your special interest. People do not think to call you so easily if your approach forces them to confront an uncertain or fearful future.

It is hard to contain our excitement when we know a new approach and a better idea. Our first inclination is to wear it like a badge, hoping others find our enthusiasm contagious. However, stealth design and marketing from 1000 feet up may help us reach and assist more clients than pushing them to face issues beyond their comfort.