Healthcare for the Ages, Part I: 5 Tips for Connecting with Millennials

These days, it seems you can’t open a magazine without reading an article about Millennials: They’re glued to their phones, they’re addicted to social media and they’re, well, you get the picture. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find a demographic that’s been subjected to more generational generalizations.

Such articles are interesting, as far as they go, but they’re unlikely to be of much help if you’re trying to ensure a medical practice’s long-term success because they overlook one other important fact about Millennials: They’re virtually immune to traditional advertising and marketing, which means that reaching them requires a whole new strategy. It’s a subject that RealSelf CEO Tom Seery tackles in the latest issue of Modern Aesthetics and his insights go a long way toward explaining who these potential patients are, what they’re looking for and what doctors can do to engage them:

Millennials consider aesthetic medicine an acceptable part of normal life

While the typical Baby Boomer may have waited until she needed a facelift — and could afford to lay low for two weeks afterward — Millennials barely old enough to sport a frown line are opting for cosmetic procedures. For many, aesthetic medicine is an accepted part of a normal life, which, it’s worth noting, is also helping to diminish the field’s one-time stigma. As Seery writes,

Chalk it up to the proliferation of less-invasive procedures or the parade of celebrities opening up about their age-defying and body modifying efforts; whatever the reason, having some work done is increasingly seen as a natural extension of a regular beauty regimen, not something to be kept hidden from public scrutiny.

Millennials prefer to patronize businesses that share their values

Millennials identify with brands more personally and emotionally than do older generations. According to the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), 50% of of U.S. Millennials ages 18–24 and 38% of those ages 25­–34 agree that brands “say something about who I am, my values, and where I fit in.” Therefore, doctors who hope to connect with them need to take a similar approach, sharing, not just what they can do as medical professionals but also, who they are as people:

Millennials are looking for more than proof of a doctor’s skills, writes Seery. They want to know the person behind the credentials. ‘Authenticity’ may be an over-used buzzword but demonstrating that you’re genuine and transparent aligns well with an audience that factors such values into their buying decisions.

Millennials are savvy (online) shoppers

Millennials often get knocked for having short attention spans but, in reality, it’s a survival mechanism in an era in which they’re bombarded with information from a dizzying array of sources. To cope, they’ve learned to filter information quickly and zero in on the sources that satisfy their needs and interests, rewarding them with ongoing interaction. If you want to be among them, it pays to provide the information they seek, present it in relevant ways (photos and videos are especially appealing) and avoid wasting their time.

Millennials seek seamless experiences and speedy responses

Think of it as the flipside to the above point: Because they know where to go to get the info they need, Millennials are also quick to go elsewhere when their efforts are thwarted. This is not just true for content, but for contact, as well. From contact forms on your online profiles to click-to-call features on your mobile website, the easier you make it for them to connect, the more likely they will. And it should go without saying that, given their need for speed and seamless experiences, the faster you respond, the better. As the folks at BCG put it,

More than other generations, Millennials desire opportunities to interact with brands, to be listened to anywhere and anytime, and to have personal, timely, and straightforward communication about their concerns and experiences.

Translation: If you wait until they walk in the door, there’s a good chance they’ll be walking in someone else’s instead.

Millennials are keenly interested in the opinions of others

As Seery writes,

More than any other demographic, Millennials rely on social content to gather information about the subjects they’re interested in, to read online reviews from others in similar situations and to share their own experiences in a way that’s not about narcissism, but rather, creating connections and paying it forward.

It starts, of course, with getting current patients to post reviews of their experience with your practice, with the key word being “experience.” It’s not just about your skills in the procedure chair or operating room; it’s about your patients’ impressions of your practice from their initial contact to subsequent follow-up care. On sites like RealSelf, such narratives take on lives of their own, encouraging peer-to-peer conversations with other patients that carry more weight — and generate more trust — than the slickest brochure or video.

Put all of the above together and it’s clear that Millennials truly are different than their Baby Boomer and Gen X predecessors (demographic groups we’ll look at in subsequent posts) and, as such, require a different approach. Of course, there will always be those doctors who say, “I have an older clientele so these trends don’t apply to my practice,” but, as Seery notes, that’s not a viable strategy for anyone hoping for long-term success:

Maybe so, at least today, but consider your potential patient base five, 10, or 20 years from now. As the Baby Boomers and Gen X-ers age, those 80 million Millennials will determine who’s still around to treat them.

About Rob Lovitt

Rob Lovitt is a longtime writer and editor who believes every good business has a great story to tell. He has written for dozens of magazines and websites, including NBCnews.com, Expedia.com and the inflight magazines of Alaska, Horizon and Frontier airlines.

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