Cohen feeds growing need with Caring.com

Connecting with an untapped audience is the ultimate form of marketing success. Such is the goal for Andy Cohen, cofounder and CEO of Caring.com.

Connecting with an untapped audience is the ultimate form of marketing success. Such is the goal for Andy Cohen, cofounder and CEO of Caring.com.

Among the nation's fastest-growing demographics, Baby Boomers caring for aging loved ones are hungry for information. However, Web sites tailored to this group have been surprisingly scarce.

"More people are living longer, but not always carefree," says Cohen. "There's really a tsunami of care needs coming our way."

To address these needs, Cohen led the 20-member team that on November 19 launched Caring. com. The site revolves not around childhood necessities, but end-of-life requirements.

The site is "for that 'oh no' moment when the doctor calls and all of sudden you're in a caregiver role," he explains.

The initial concept stemmed from Cohen's personal experience caring for his mother while juggling his own responsibilities halfway across the country. He often found himself frustrated and confused while seeking information. He also learned he wasn't alone.

More than 34 million US adults ages 40 to 60 - about 41% - are caring for an aging parent, and one-third of them are doing it from afar. So why is finding guidance and community such a challenge?

The answer isn't particularly profound, Cohen says. Most people just don't know where to begin. Enter Caring.com, which "tells people what the options are [and] gives them a lot of tools to figure out where to start."

The site conducted beta tests in the two months prior to launch.

In nationwide focus groups, a common theme among those who had recently lost a parent was that they were "totally overwhelmed," he says. They needed information and "to connect with others going through the same thing."

"That was really the key learning," stresses Danielle Simmons, principal of DMS Public Relations, Caring.com's PR partner. "People don't have time to sift and weave through the Internet for one golden nugget of information."

The site's editorial focus is on action-oriented problem-solving. Contributors are established journalists in the fields of medical issues, law, finance, family, and housing, and all have some intimate investment in elder care.

Content also includes an "Ask the Experts" section, featuring tips on subjects from adult day care to avoiding senior scams, Cohen says. And Caring.com encourages community involvement, so users can share information.

"There are so many categories that people must make purchasing decisions around going through this," he adds. "Hundreds of thousands of dollars" are spent on housing, nutrition, estate-planning, insurance, equipment and services, among other elder-care essentials.

As marketing and PR strategies begin to take shape, Caring.com already has begun to position it-self as "the voice of authority on caring for an aging parent," Simmons says.

The site is looking, too, to build strategic-marketing partnerships, Cohen adds, to produce joint research studies or content-licensing arrangements.

Is it troublesome to feature marketing and advertising on a Web site dedicated to end-of-life issues? Not at all, Cohen says. It's all in the name of distributing Caring.com content as broadly as possible, and filling an information void that previously had not been filled.
"If you've been through it," Cohen explains, "you know this help is needed desperately."


ANDY COHEN

March 2007-present
Cofounder and CEO, Caring.com, Palo Alto, CA

2005-January 2007
VP and GM, SuccessFactors, San Mateo, CA

1998-2005
SVP of sales and marketing, Instill, Redwood City, CA

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