Generational Healthcare Marketing

June 26, 2019 Maria Perrin

Shifting Trends Among Generations

There’s an arms race underway. You are in it—do you know if you’re winning or losing?

Across all industries, the methods used to effectively reach, convert and retain customers have changed dramatically over the last few years.

Healthcare organizations have been slower than some to meet the challenges of marketing to today’s consumers, but the shift is happening, and if your marketing strategy today looks the same as it did five years ago, it’s probably safe to say that you might not be winning this race.

A major factor in this shift is the consumerization of healthcare, which is primarily driven by customers’ access to, and expectation of, high levels of efficient, instant and convenient service in many other aspects of their daily lives. It’s also driven by consumers’ increasing out of pocket costs for healthcare.

Underlying today’s marketing approach is the impact of generational preferences.

Marketing to Different Generations

It’s common for marketers to segment potential customers to ensure maximum relevance, and one important way of looking at a market is by generation.

There’s some disagreement about the exact years that bookend each group, but using definitions from the respected Pew Research Center, the three generations most targeted by marketers break down as follows:

Baby Boomers – Born 1946 to 1964

The second largest cohort behind millennials, boomers are tech-savvy, and, perhaps surprisingly, spend almost as much time on their smartphones as millennials—an average of five hours a day versus 5.7 hours a day for millennials. Eighty-four percent have a Facebook account, so that platform is a great place to reach them, but when it comes to customer service, they prefer communication in person, by phone, or online via live chat.

Generation X – Born 1965 to 1980

This is the smallest group of the three, and they are often characterized as skeptical, but are also the generation most likely to use their purchasing power to support their personal beliefs. If you make a promise to a Gen Xer, you’d better keep it. They are highly active in making purchase recommendations and taking action based on their experience. They are also the best educated generation, with 29% earning a bachelor’s degree or higher.

While a high percentage of this generation uses Facebook, this group also favors YouTube, Twitter and Pinterest.

Millennials (AKA Generation Y) – Born 1981 to 1996

If your marketing efforts and customer service aren’t high-tech, forget about reaching millennials. They prefer (and expect) convenient digital transactions and quality online customer service; and they are willing to move on to the next company if they don’t get it. They are also very willing to post publicly if they feel they have received poor service.

For many millennials, their primary motivator is happiness, not money. Sixty-four percent said they would rather make $40,000 a year at a job they love than $100,000 a year at a job they think is boring, according to the Brookings Institute. For marketers, this means that experience is the most critical component of attracting and retaining this cohort.

Although many older millennials have a Facebook account, they are quickly moving away from the platform. Snapchat and Instagram are the preferred sites for both receiving information and socializing.

What’s Consistent Across Generations

While messaging and preferred channels may be different across generations, some things are surprisingly consistent.

The top four preferred content types—visual content (videos/images), blog articles, comments and eBooks—are ranked exactly the same for baby boomers, Gen Xers and millennials. All three groups list whitepapers as their least favorite content type.

The Race for Customers

Healthcare payers and providers are vying for customers like never before, and so the need for more sophisticated and customized marketing programs continues to grow in importance. This need will be compounded as more tech-savvy boomers age into Medicare, and as millennials (and the up-and-coming Generation Z) continue their healthcare journey—seeking convenience, choice, transparency and great experiences. It’s conceivable that a day will come when consumers demand a single platform to receive information and take action on behalf of their healthcare.

How are you using generational marketing to reach healthcare consumers?

About the Author

Maria Perrin

Maria Perrin is Chief Growth Officer for HMS, where she is responsible for the company’s corporate strategy, marketing, government relations, business development, and oversight of the company’s more than 500 contracts with government and commercial healthcare organizations. She has transformed HMS’ brand and furthered its industry impact through numerous thought leadership and innovation initiatives. Maria rejoined HMS in 2019, after co-founding a successful consulting practice that launched dozens of health tech startups and tech companies in emerging sectors. During her first tenure at HMS, as Chief Marketing Officer and EVP over government and commercial markets from 2008 – 2013, HMS revenue grew fivefold and the company successfully entered the federal market, doubled the volume of state contracts, and expanded services to commercial payers. Prior to HMS, Maria was Senior Vice President, Sales, Marketing, and Business Development for Performant Financial Corp. where she led Performant’s entry into the healthcare market and other sectors. Maria has held financial and operational leadership roles for BestFoods, Nissan and other Fortune 100 companies. She has a BA in Economics from UCLA and an MBA from the University of Miami.

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