Marketing to millennials: Tips for payers and providers

Marketing experts stress that payers and providers must find new ways to communicate with these young patients. Here's how.

Marketing to millennials-defined as tech savvy, mobile-first, mostly 20-somethings seeking real-time access to information-is a daunting task for healthcare organizations: payers and providers alike. Many millennials insist they're too young and healthy to need health insurance.  And, when they do seek medical attention, they come armed with information, sometimes inaccurate, gleaned from the Internet.  

Seven millennial marketing tips 

We asked the experts to share their top tips for marketing to millennials. Find out what they said here

TumultyYet marketing experts stress that payers and providers must find new ways to communicate with these young patients. “Healthcare is behind the curve in addressing the importance of this [millennial] generation and how you reach them,” says Denise Tumulty, senior director of client services at Wax Custom Communications, a Miami-based healthcare marketing agency.

Health plans tend to target Medicare members and use a catch-all category for others, she says, while hospitals, although they are starting to segment their customer base, also tend to target older customers.

The obvious reason is that aging baby boomers are the largest users of services. Thus, Tumulty says, hospitals tend to focus on them to drive that bottom line, boost volume and fill beds.

Related: Aging in America

But she cautions against this age-biased approach. “Fifty- and 60-year-olds may be your sweet spot right now,” she says, “but if you haven't invested in millennials, found a way to speak to them in an authentic way, you're not setting your organization up for success.”


NEXT: The long-term perspective


The long-term perspective

This year millennials are expected to surpass baby boomers as the nation's largest living generation, according to an analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data by the Pew Research Center. The number of millennials-patients ages 18 to 34 years old in 2015-is projected to reach 75.3 million this year, while the number of boomers-patients ages 51 to 69-is projected to reach 74.9 million. The number of millennials is expected to peak at 81.1 million in 2036. Gen Xers, in the middle, are expected to outnumber boomers by 2028.

Targeting millennials is “a long-term brand goal,” Tumulty says. “You're strengthening your brand for the long term. Organizations are being forced to evaluate who they are and make sure their message and brand are forward-thinking.” If they don't, she says, it's an immediate turn-off to millennials.

Her firm recommends that hospitals, in their marketing initiatives, include a focus on young families in transition: whether they're moving, getting new jobs, deciding where to give birth or where to bring children for pediatric care. “We're not saying, 'Move away from targeting baby boomers,'” Tumulty says. “But make sure you're targeting millennials as well, because they're the ones most likely to change or they don't have a strong brand affinity yet.”

Related: The best states for elderly patient care

When forming marketing initiatives, keep in mind that millennials conduct more research online when selecting hospitals and providers, she says. Two of her firm's clients, health systems in Georgia and Florida, are offering live and on-demand webinars on health topics, and are using Twitter hashtags in social media ad campaigns. “A lot of our clients are moving toward finding new ways to communicate and make people interact with [their] brand, and turning to social and digital media, not just traditional media," she says.


NEXT: Promoting health and wellness


Promoting health and wellness

Weber, RNMillennials are looking for hospitals that focus on promoting health and wellness, not just treating people when they are sick, says Diane Weber, RN, executive director of the American Hospital Association's Society for Healthcare Strategy & Market Development.

“Hospitals can help to make it easy for [young consumers] to interact online by offering a user-friendly mobile experience and by taking the time to engage with them on a personal level,” she says.

Read:Four trends changing the health insurance market

For effective marketing to millennials, hospitals “might work to strengthen their branding and digital strategy,” Weber says. “This includes everything from search engine optimization and value-added content for websites, to having an interactive presence on social media.”

NEXT: Making an emotional connection



Making an 'emotional connection'

Heidi Grunkemeyer, an account supervisor at Swanson Russell, a firm specializing in healthcare marketing for payers, hospitals, health systems, physician groups and academic health centers, agrees that insurers are further behind the curve on marketing to millennials than hospitals and health systems.

GrunkemeyerShe says this is probably because the health insurance industry is “more regulated and much more traditional, with slow-moving, bureaucratic processes.”

Payers and providers should keep in mind that millennials value an "emotional connection" with brands.

“They don't want to be talked at,” or given a “buttoned-up and polished” marketing pitch, says Grunkemeyer. “...They're going online to shop for doctors, doing all their research online. They're totally an online, on-demand generation.”