Seniors Want a Deal Too — SeniorDiscounts.com
A couple of weeks ago I went to a BBQ dinner with some friends of M’s friend. Basically, I didn’t know anyone except M and her friend. Which is a good way to meet new people and expand your horizon, but sometimes you just don’t feel like going through the hassle of meeting new people. One of the people I met was the very gracious host, David Smidt. We got to talking and when asked what he does for a living, he said something like “I run my own website.” Which was interesting to me because I run this site (which makes nowhere near enough money to claim that I do it for a living, but still) and because I’m all about expanding my alternative income with side businesses.
So we got to talking and it turns out his website is a directory for senior discounts called SeniorDiscounts.com. M and I had a good time with him and his wife (and their dog) — but I wanted to follow up a little bit and learn more about the site. So I asked him a few questions that might help some of the other entrepreneurially inclined out there on starting/running a site:
First of all, could you give us a quick rundown of how Seniordiscounts.com works?
SeniorDiscounts.com is an online directory of US businesses that offer discounts to people 50 years of age and older. We currently list over 150,000 business locations, which include the contact information, discount information and other information necessary to receive each discount. We publish a weekly e-newsletter, which is free to everyone and also feature free discounts submitted by seniors each week.
How did the idea of Seniordiscounts.com come about?
What’s the hardest part of running your own business? What’s the best part?
The hardest part to running your own business is the work involved. There always seems to be a dozens things to do and you can never quite get to all of them. A business owner takes a very personal approach to ones business and it can be difficult to separate your work life and your social life. The best part of owning your own business is the flexibility in the work schedule. While you may work many hours, you are not bound to a specific schedule and can work when you want to.
You’ve done a good job of marketing your site out there, what have you found is the best way to spread the word?
SeniorDiscounts has largely used a “Grass Roots” approach. We rely heavily on word of mouth advertising and recommendations from other seniors. We have also worked hard on link exchanges with other web sites, search engine optimization and the press.
What’s the best tip you have for seniors that want to save some money (besides signing up at Seniordiscounts.com, of course)?
The best tip for seniors is to always ask. Most businesses will not advertise their senior discounts, but one would be surprised at just how many companies actually do offer a senior discount. Another great place to look for discounts is through the local Department of Aging with your city. Many cities have created programs for low income seniors. Discounts can include utilities, phone services, food and transportation.
One little thing I noticed about your site is the ability to blow up the font size to a much larger, more legible size. It’s a small, obvious fix that makes all the sense in the world considering your market. Is the site “optimized” in any other way to appeal more to seniors?
We try to make the site as easy as possible to use. We have much of information on the web site available for print, as some seniors like to read our articles and newsletter as they wood a newspaper or magazine. We also provide a toll free number on our site, as seniors like to be able to ask questions and talk with people in person.
From what I gather you get businesses coming to you to get into your listings and then you sell those listings to your members. Which of the two is the hardest, getting more businesses to sign up or getting more customers to join?
We don’t seem to have too many difficulties getting seniors to sign up, although we are always working to improve our member list. Most of the larger business we have listed on our site, we have had to track down, but seniors also have the ability to tell SeniorDiscounts about discounts they know about. Every week, we give away a free membership to a senior that has told us about a discount. We then research the information and add these businesses to the web site. Many of our business discounts have been found this way.
Do you ever get any strange reactions from people when you tell them what you do? What would those be people be most surprised to know about what you do?
I think most people think it is strange that we have a web site dedicated to seniors. Most people do not realize just how many seniors are using the Internet these days. They are also surprised to find out that many of the discounts we have on our site are for people 50 years of age and older. Most people don’t consider a 50 year old person as a senior.
What do you see in the future for Seniordiscounts.com?
We are working on many new aspects to our site and business model. For instance, businesses can now provide SeniorDiscounts to their customers as an added value product. We are also creating a new Question and Answer Blog, where seniors can ask SeniorDiscounts questions and we post the responses in our blog.
If you know anyone that is over 50 and needs/wants a deal (and who doesn’t?), then spread the word about SeniorDiscounts.com. I like how they give away free memberships to people that contribute good discount ideas and I like that they are serving an undervalued group of people that so many businesses take for granted. Even I, as a blogger, rarely think of something to write aimed specifically at “seniors.” Why? I still have that perception that they don’t go on the Internet, that they don’t even know how to turn on a computer, etc.
And by the way, no one is paying me or giving me anything to write about this site: it’s simply a good idea/service run by someone I happened to meet in real life. So I wanted to share, that’s all.
There is a lesson to be learned here too: socializing is a good thing. For lots of people it can be awkward and painful, but it’s the only way to meet new people who may (or may not) have something in common with you. I ended up meeting someone that does something similar to what I do: run a site about ways to be smarter with your money. Now I just have to figure out a way to make more money from it… Thanks Dave for taking the time out to let me interview you!