Baby boomers are getting up there in years. For health systems, this translates into ever-rising demand in service lines that cater to a large proportion of retirees – cardiology, oncology, and orthopedics, in particular.
Moreso than for previous generations, baby boomers live longer with chronic conditions such as arthritis, high cholesterol, hypertension, diabetes, congestive heart failure, and dementia that evolve slowly and lead to complications later in life. Heart disease, stroke, and cancer are the leading causes of death, with obesity impacting all of the above. Age-related functional impairments around hearing, eyesight, and mobility mean more resources are needed just to perform daily tasks and maintain quality of life.
Health systems have long been marketing to baby boomers as they moved from being the sandwich generation — caring for both parents and kids — into retirement themselves. It’s important to realize that most of them have matured apace with the Information Age, or Digital Age. With so much focus on engaging younger generations, including digital natives, it may be time to rethink your patient engagement strategies for seniors. The most strategic campaigns will engage mature patients early on – before their conditions become complex and difficult to manage. They should also be more digital than you may think.
Here are a few tips to align your marketing efforts with the needs of today’s aging population.
Build Trust with Personalized Messaging
There are a host of clichés to avoid when it comes to marketing to seniors. Think about a typical advertisement for an assisted living center or rehabilitation facility: It might feature a photograph of an older couple, relaxing together in rocking chairs or bicycling through a wooded neighborhood, with a header that references the “golden years.” Not many seniors relate to that stereotype. Personalization that speaks to the patient’s underlying motivations is much more effective.
Just as with any generation, there’s no such thing as a “one size fits all” strategy for seniors. They should be targeted using geography, clinical propensities, behavioral patterns, and other insights to create customized messages. A business intelligence tool helps marketers unlock key persona-based insights to build more campaigns.
Marketers also have more success engaging boomers by emphasizing what they can do vs. what ails them. This means different things for different people: It could be the ability to enjoy their grandchildren, play tennis recreationally, or even run a marathon. Today’s seniors want to maintain an active lifestyle and continue to experience new things. If a medical procedure can help them live more fully with minimal disruption, they’re willing to take action.
Use a Multi-Channel Strategy
Where and how you get your message across to seniors is just as important as the message itself. When targeting people 55 and older, it’s important to balance traditional and new media. While many elderly people still embrace print and television, the majority are also active on social media and regularly surf the web for information and entertainment.
What, then, is a thoughtful media approach that incorporates old and newer channels? Radio, television, and newspapers are still widely consumed by earlier boomers, and 34 percent read at least one magazine per day. Yet the younger subsegment spends plenty of time browsing digital channels, with an estimated 68 percent on YouTube.
Channel selection is partially determined based on message. Many seniors prefer a physical sheet of paper for invitations to seminars or events, billing statements, or even when learning about new procedures.
Sending appointment reminders, on the other hand, is best done over the phone via a healthcare CRM-enabled call center (Engagement Center). As we mentioned above, not all seniors have the same preferences, some prefer the person-to-person connection that a phone call provides (many still considering the telephone to be the most secure and expeditious mode of communication), while others prefer a text. The preference data stored in the healthcare CRM (same data that helps with personalization) can guide channel strategy.
No matter what the campaign itself entails, it’s important to have the right technology in place to deploy it successfully. Like other generations, boomers expect convenience and a personal touch when it comes to their healthcare. Your engagement strategy should mirror those expectations. Three technologies that can vastly simplify successful multi-channel marketing campaigns are a healthcare CRM, a marketing automation tool, and an Engagement Center. These tools integrate with one another to create an experience that flows seamlessly between digital, traditional, and alternative channels and tracks engagement across channels throughout the entire patient engagement lifecycle.
When something happens gradually it can be hard to recognize the cumulative impact. Healthcare marketers have long targeted boomers, but they may have lost focus on how to personally engage this aging generation as their digital prowess has progressed. Wellness and preventive health programs designed to manage chronic conditions before they become more complex are a great way to reengage existing patients and attract new ones. With strong motivation to prolong an active lifestyle, seniors can be more willing to engage with a personalized message and schedule a service or consultation.