Nobody likes a stereotype, but when it comes to healthcare marketing, looking at segments of your audience by their overarching generational characteristics can improve your effectiveness. Look at these generally accepted generational truths:

  • Generation Z won't buy products or support brands unless they resonate personally.
  • Millennials aren't loyal to businesses that are not vetted by their peers.
  • Gen-Xers value sincerity and transparency in a brand.
  • And Baby Boomers respect excellent customer service with a human touch.

The way each generation thinks and behaves is a product of their background and life experiences, and these factors influence how they come to participate in a brand or form loyalty to a product or for a service, even if that product is a healthcare provider or that service is a healthcare practice.

Healthcare marketers must take a page from each generation's core behaviors in order to understand how to gain their attention. Your biggest mistake could be to not study the differences in how these generations respond, want to be reached, and buy into a brand and instead blanket all generations with the same content on the same channels. So, how can you successfully market to each of these generations?

Generation Z
Born between 1996 and 2014, Gen Z practically had technology in the womb and are the most technologically fluent generation. If you think that makes them a generation you can skip in your marketing efforts, you'd be wrong. They're expected to make up 40 percent of the population by 2020. Gen Z is about keeping it real — skip celebrities, hard sales, and junk science. Gen Z asks "What's in it for me?" And they expect products and brands that provide value and meet their needs.

How to reach them: Use a storytelling approach with content marketing and video but get in and get out quickly. Their attention span is 8 seconds, vs. 12 for Millennials. Think quick provider intros, scannable content on procedures or conditions, and anything in an engaging visual format. Gen Z won't do ads, watch commercials, or get bogged down in gate-kept content. If your marketing doesn't resonate, they'll click off. They've grown up online and know what design should look like. Everything a brand produces must be mobile-friendly, user-friendly, and up-to-date. This segment considers their smart phone a way of life. While Gen Z shops almost entirely online, they don't want to buy "things." They want you to help them, entertain them, or provide information they need — which means your valuable healthcare services, preventative care content, and more are perfectly poised to capture their attention. Do that and you might succeed at marketing to the youngest segment of the population.

Born between 1981 and 1996, this tech-savvy generation (some Millennials, like Gen Z, don't know a world without the internet) aren't necessarily the easiest to influence with advertising. A large majority of this generation doesn't buy a product or engage with a service without the advice of their peers. You can thank Millennials for popularizing platforms like Yelp and physician rating sites. In fact, they don't eat at a restaurant, purchase a product, or patronize a business unless it's backed by plentiful five star reviews. User-generated content is highly valued, and social media influencers began with Millennials.

How to reach them: Consumers of multiple social media networks, players of video games, and fans of memes and Internet humor, Millennials look toward brands with a significant online presence and a transparency around reputation. Leverage your website to promote your star ratings, solicit positive reviews from satisfied patients to publish, and make sure you're showing up prominently in search. For other marketing campaigns, social media and mobile campaigns are your best bets. This segment uses their smart phone hourly. Delivering information right to their fingertips is the best way to snag their loyalty. Infographics, video, and visuals work well, as will on-point storytelling, humor, and music.

Generation X
Earning more money than any other generation, and willing to spend it, Gen Xers, born between 1965 and 1980, are plenty tech-savvy, stream video content frequently, and use most social media platforms. They also shop online. As skeptical latchkey kids this generation became less traditional than their parents but hold strong family values while having adopted — or invented — the tech revolution. Eighty-nine percent use a smartphone.

How to reach them: Transparency and authenticity. Just like their younger counterparts, being honest about star ratings, providing transparency about pricing, and showing the people behind the organization will earn their respect. Mobile campaigns, email campaigns, content like blog posts, and even direct snail mail may still resonate with this segment. Gen X gravitates to the personal and eschews a generic approach to marketing. Think warm communication between friends and relationship building. They have neither the patience nor tolerance for incompetence and deception, may foster loyalty for brands with a social impact, and since they spend on travel, luxury, and technology, they enjoy digital discounts. For healthcare this could translate to promoting the value of your services, whether that's preventative care saving them from a costly procedure or how a high-quality service will enrich their lives.

Baby Boomers
The second largest generation behind Millennials, born between 1946 and 1964, is a little more tech-savvy than given credit for despite their letter writing reputation. A Google survey found Boomers spend more time online than they do watching TV, and 82 percent use the internet and have at least one social media account.

How to reach them: The best way to reach Baby Boomers is Facebook advertising (Boomers prefer Facebook more than any other social media platform). What's more, Boomers use email nearly as much as other generations and respond well to email campaigns. Direct mail also still appeals. But Boomers do consume online content, so content marketing is not lost on this generation. It's best to avoid hashtags, abbreviations, and nonsense like clickbait (a good rule of thumb in general), which Boomers won't buy into. Providing excellent customer service with a human touch is one way to successfully speak to this generation, and promoting the quality of your customer service, including quotes or testimonials from satisfied patients, can help influence their behavior.

In order to market effectively to each generational segment, you must tailor your marketing accordingly. An omnichannel approach, which offers consumers across multi-generations the access and digital experience they relate to most is key. Baby Boomers appreciate a direct email offer while a Millennial likes a text alert. Gen X prefers a warm relationship via content and Gen Z wants a socially conscious micro video.

Each generation's likes and dislikes when it comes to digital experience must resonate with them on a personal level in order for your brand's digital efforts to appeal and succeed.

Want to learn more about creating generational personas and campaign strategies to reach them? Download our Healthcare Digital Marketing Toolkit.