Posted: August 9, 2017

Marketing to millennials is a hot topic these days — figuring out how to reach and engage them has been the subject of much debate. But they're not the only generation with healthcare concerns and needs, and for healthcare marketers it's worth taking the time to dial back two generations to recognize the oversized clout of baby boomers.

Research giant Nielsen puts the 53 to 71 crowd in sharp perspective: “Boomers have been the most marketing-friendly consumers in the history of American business." Which means they're receptive to the power of marketing to influence healthy behaviors and more.

And aside from being a receptive audience, boomers have accumulated massive buying power, with their reserves still on the rise. Not only do they control 70 percent of U.S. disposable income, they're also heirs to an additional $15 trillion over the next 15 years. As they age out of their working years, boomers have money to spend and the time to put it to use.

Want to connect your healthcare services with this highly valuable consumer segment? Read on for some recommendations.

Watch your wording
An in-depth study of boomers compiled by AARP finds they don't want to be labeled with status quo characterizations. Instead, boomers seek opportunities for personal growth and discovery, and ways to take control of — and enrich — their lives. With an open mind to change and new experiences, boomers want to explore what's beyond the horizon. “The orientation they have about their current life stage is that it is about living, not aging," the report states.

In short, don't call them old.

Boomers may be nearing or already in retirement, but they don't like reminders that they're past their prime or portrayals painting them as largely inactive. Words like “senior," “elderly," and “aged" are also instant turn-offs, notes Ann Fishman, founder of Generational Targeted Marketing, which guides companies on boomer branding.

Be relatable
Boomers want to know the parties they're dealing with. Accordingly, the website of a medical practice, hospital, or health system should feature a detailed “About Us" section, complete with photos of providers and staff.

Additionally, online messaging should convey ways in which the organization connects with the community, says Danielle Kunkle, vice president of Boomer Benefits, a firm that markets Medicare supplement insurance to boomers. Her company funds a scholarship for boomers who return to school as adults. Highlighting that information shows that the business “gives back to the same generation of clients who have made us successful," she explains. Boomers should feel good about interacting with any type of healthcare entity.

Mix media
Don't assume boomers are not tech-savvy. In fact, boomers spend more time online than their younger generational counterparts (e.g., 31 percent of boomers are online 15+ hours per week vs. 27 percent of millennials and 24 percent of generation Xers). More than 80 percent belong to at least one social networking site.

In addition, boomers are “well-versed when it comes to reviews and ratings of healthcare providers, services, and treatments," according to Alcott Marketing Science. They may use this information when making caregiving decisions for themselves or their parents or when acting as advocates for their children.

However, boomers, who grew up during what they consider the golden age of television, still spend a lot of time watching the tube. Along those lines, about 78 percent of boomers have searched for health information online as a result of seeing something on TV that sparked their interest. Marketers should plan campaign strategy or initiatives that integrate online and offline messaging.

Don't delay
A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine reveals that boomers — despite a longer life expectancy — are less healthy than their parent were. They have higher rates of hypertension, diabetes, and obesity as well as elevated levels of cholesterol. The study authors emphasize that their work “demonstrates a clear need for policies that expand efforts at prevention and healthy lifestyle promotion in the baby boomer generation."

Healthcare marketers should emphasize any multidisciplinary approaches to caring for boomers, as those initiatives tend to improve outcomes. Successful models are bringing together qualified caregivers such as geriatricians, nurse practitioners, social workers, pharmacists, dieticians, and audiologists. A model in place at Peace Health in Eugene, Ore., for example, has resulted in use of fewer medications, lower inpatient charges, and lower overall costs.

Overall, boomers have shown adaptability to advancements in patient care and communication with caregivers. That bodes well for healthcare organizations targeting offerings to the still-powerful force known as the baby boomer generation.

Want to learn more about consumer-centric marketing and how your organization can win more engagement and loyalty? Request a free Healthcare Marketing Assessment.