Marketing Healthcare Services to Generation X

by | Dec 1, 2020 | Healthcare Industry Insights

Connecting with Generation X could make or break your healthcare marketing strategy.

They entered adult­hood when flan­nel was the fash­ion and grunge rock ruled the radio waves. While many of them may have reluc­tant­ly wad­ed into the con­ven­tions of respon­si­bil­i­ty, Gen­er­a­tion X (Gen X) is now in the thick of the grown-up stage of life.

Rais­ing fam­i­lies, tak­ing care of aging par­ents and becom­ing well-acquaint­ed with how the body changes through the years, adults born between 1965 and 1980 rep­re­sent an impor­tant seg­ment of health­care con­sumers. How­ev­er, this gen­er­a­tion tends to be over­looked by mar­ket­ing pro­fes­sion­als, accord­ing to Alan Shoe­bridge, direc­tor of mar­ket­ing for Sali­nas Val­ley Memo­r­i­al Health­care Sys­tem and board mem­ber for the Soci­ety for Health Care Strat­e­gy and Mar­ket Devel­op­ment.

“About 10 years ago, those of us in health­care mar­ket­ing were becom­ing much more strate­gic with who we were focus­ing on as the best tar­gets for mar­ket­ing out­reach,” Shoe­bridge says. “What I found frus­trat­ing was that so many of those con­ver­sa­tions focused on what Mil­len­ni­als and Baby Boomers were doing, and very lit­tle atten­tion was being paid to Gen X. To me, it was clear that Mil­len­ni­als were not ready for deep rela­tion­ships with health­care providers, and most Boomers already had very estab­lished rela­tion­ships that would be hard to break. In my mind, the real sweet spot was peo­ple who were 35 to 50.”

Specif­i­cal­ly, Shoe­bridge notes that because they are man­ag­ing health­care for them­selves, their chil­dren and pos­si­bly their par­ents, Gen Xers are cur­rent­ly the most rel­e­vant tar­get audi­ence for health­care mar­keters to address and will be for the next decade.

“In short, they are poised to make deci­sions and act,” Shoe­bridge says. “That will change grad­u­al­ly as more Mil­len­ni­als enter these life stages, but right now, we can­not afford to ignore Gen X.”

Who is Generation X?

Here’s a snap­shot of what some are call­ing The For­got­ten Gen­er­a­tion:

  • Size: 65 mil­lion individuals
  • Edu­ca­tion: 35% have col­lege degrees (the high­est of the three generations)
  • Media habits: 165 hours of TV each month, 7 hours of Face­book each week, blog enthusiasts
  • How they bank: fans of one-on-one rela­tion­ships, dri­ven to man­age debt
  • How they shop: brand loy­al, read peer reviews
  • Influ­en­tial events: The end of the Cold War, the begin­ning of the per­son­al com­put­ing age, ten­den­cy to feel obscured by the Baby Boomers and Millennials

The Value of Messaging

Though the pop­u­la­tion of Gen X is small­er than that of Boomers or Mil­len­ni­als, this group out­spends the oth­er gen­er­a­tions, invest­ing in them­selves as well as their loved ones.

“Tar­get­ing Gen X at their cur­rent life stage is essen­tial for mar­ket­ing many health ser­vices,” says Dean Brow­ell, PhD, prin­ci­pal with Feed­back, a com­pa­ny that spe­cial­izes in dig­i­tal ethnog­ra­phy to help mar­ket­ing pro­fes­sion­als under­stand their cus­tomers in a way that goes beyond data. “Con­sid­er that this is the gen­er­a­tion that will be care­givers for the mas­sive, aging Baby Boomer generation.”

To suc­cess­ful­ly con­nect with the Gen X cohort, Brow­ell and Shoebridge—who have com­piled their insights in a book apt­ly titled “Don’t You For­get About Gen X”—rec­om­mend keep­ing these impor­tant rules of thumb in mind.

“This is a gen­er­a­tion that does not just buy what an expert sells them,” Brow­ell says. “They want to see that oth­er peers have val­i­dat­ed the services.”

Because this gen­er­a­tion val­ues the expe­ri­ences of their peers, get­ting it right as often as pos­si­ble through mean­ing­ful actions instead of fluffy words is important.

“If an expe­ri­ence is not pos­i­tive, I do not think you will get a sec­ond chance to land them as cus­tomers or patients,” Shoe­bridge says. “If mar­ket­ing promis­es do not match the actu­al expe­ri­ence, you will have a major dis­con­nect. Your mes­sag­ing can­not afford to over-promise and under-deliv­er with this group.”

Winning Strategies

Hos­pi­tals who are get­ting it right for Gen X, par­tic­u­lar­ly choosy par­ents and the old­er Mil­len­ni­als who fol­low them, accord­ing to Brow­ell, include:

Arkansas Chil­dren’s—Invest­ing in con­tent and cre­ative social media cam­paigns like the #100DeadliestDays.

Joe DiMag­gio Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal—Reach­ing Gen X through use­ful resources like the Healthy Par­ent­ing Pod­cast.

UNC Rex Health­care in North Car­oli­na—Deliv­ers use­ful health infor­ma­tion through con­sumer-cen­tric chan­nels like the Health Talk con­tent hub.

“These facil­i­ties have tak­en the crit­i­cal steps to real­ly stop and lis­ten, ana­lyze, and take to heart what Gen Xers and old­er Mil­len­ni­als are say­ing,” Brow­ell says. “They have dis­tinct­ly dif­fer­ent pop­u­la­tions but have a sim­i­lar issue in common—low-information and expe­ri­enced par­ents with loy­al­ties that are not cement­ed yet. They form deci­sions based on the con­sen­sus of peers, look­ing to reviews and dis­cus­sions on demo­graph­ic and con­di­tion-spe­cif­ic groups and mes­sage boards. And guess who is most pro­lif­ic in those—who has been mod­el­ing behav­ior for years? Gen X.”

Now serv­ing as deci­sion-mak­ers for their fam­i­lies and lead­ers of suc­cess­ful orga­ni­za­tions, Gen X is one not to for­get or dis­count as you build your next mar­ket­ing campaign.

“Gen X is serv­ing as an impor­tant bridge between the Boomers and the Mil­len­ni­als and will pro­vide orga­ni­za­tion­al con­ti­nu­ity dur­ing the next 10 to 20 years,” Shoe­bridge says. “If you are not think­ing about them, you are miss­ing out.”

Expert Perspective on Earning the Trust of Gen X

“There is a myth of cyn­i­cism that is per­haps bet­ter described as skep­ti­cism. Gen X has wit­nessed the debut, promis­es and fail­ures of so much—technology, pol­i­tics, finances, etc. This leads them to always look for a sec­ond opin­ion, not trust­ing any brand until it proves itself to them. They also pos­sess a desire to be incred­i­bly well-informed. Once they make that deci­sion, they will be very loy­al to and hon­est with your brand.”

—Dean Brow­ell, PhD, Prin­ci­pal with Feedback

NOTE: This arti­cle was orig­i­nal­ly pub­lished in July 2019. It has been updat­ed for freshness.

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