The 80 million millennials (making up over 25% of the population) in the US are leaving their parents’ insurance, and looking for their own health provider. That’s a lot of new, health conscious, digitally savvy business. Let’s have a look at what you can do to attract some of their $200 billion in annual buying power to your practice.
If the word “millennial”, however, induces a crisis within of whether you are still “with it” or not, do not fear; there’s no need to invest in a new recliner and a comfy pair of slippers just yet. While it may seem daunting to have to appeal to an entirely new and different younger generation, there’s one piece of information that should provide hope: they’re just people (albeit a lot of them).
As obvious as that may sound, as millennial blogger Kyle Wong said in Forbes, “What millennials want is not very different than what every customer wants: a better customer experience or product and an authentic brand that stands for something.” So while the thought of a relentless wave of selfies and Snapchats may seem daunting, millennials really just use different tools for communication in finding their health providers.
So how do you leverage these different tools of communication to attract this massive new audience to your practice?
And by this we mean be present online. The American Press Institute estimates that 51 percent of U.S. millennials say they are mostly or almost always online and connected; it makes sense to have a point of contact at their fingertips. Being online is a general term of course, for being easily found on Google, having business listings, a website, and social media presence.
A millennial absolutely expects to find everything about you with a simple internet search. They want to know your location, specialties, credentials, as well as your public-reviewed reputation on the likes of Yelp.com and Vitals.com. They expect to see a concise, intuitive and even beautiful website that reflects upon the professionalism of your practice. Every point of reference they find is a positive indicator, increasing your credibility and social/word-of-mouth validation. This is all done through a strong SEO and digital strategy, which is of course a topic in itself. It may seem like a heck of a lot of work, but this it what that $200 billion of annual buying power expects in 2016 and beyond.
Beyond being online, you have to be present online for those on mobile devices. For one thing, Google will prioritize mobile search results to show a mobile-friendly site above its non-mobile-friendly competitors. But even more compellingly, 91% of millennials in the U.S. will use their mobile phone to make a purchase this month. In fact, 35% of them will make a purchase on their phone today! Put simply, mobile traffic has a huge bearing on your sales conversions, so make sure it’s easy for your patients to make an appointment from their cellphone, or risk missing out.
Five out of six millennials connect with companies on social media. 69% of U.S. millennials are on Facebook, so it makes sense to start there. The science of using social media is another article for another time, but Facebook has a good overview of how to get started. There are also plenty of tips of how to make the most of your Facebook business page.
The fundamentals are simple, however: Facebook is a portal of information and interaction where they can get a feel for your brand. It’s a place where they can find your location, see photos of your practice, your people, and testimonials from the patients your have helped on their road to health. Their peers will see these interactions, and if you do a really good job, your millennial customer will actively advocate you amongst their social media circles. As the Boston Consulting Group said, “the vast majority of millennials report taking action on behalf of brands and sharing brand preferences in their social groups.”
When it comes to best practices with your communication on social media, in short, be prompt, courteous and problem-solving. You should have one staff member dedicated to answering questions on your social media platforms. Think of it as if you were left on hold on the phone, transferred to the wrong department and then given the wrong information; it’s infuriating and it’s no different on social media. In fact, it’s exacerbated because it’s laid bare for all to see. If another potential customer sees you haven’t responded to someone else’s query within 24 hours, it’s not looking good for your customer service. Here’s a good article on how to talk to your customers through social media.
Millennials expect seamless, online self-service where they can research and book their healthcare appointments with ease. Millennials have spent most of their lives using intuitive user interfaces like Google and Apple; they’ve found that technology offers the most hassle-free experience.
In essence, there are no humans in the interaction process to slow down or possibly mismanage their information.
Millennials have had ads thrown in their faces through every medium conceivable — from television ads to within video games — so they know when they are being sold to. They can sniff gimmicky, disingenuous marketing a mile away, and it will turn them off immediately. “Authentic” is the buzzword around millennial marketing: They prefer content and information relevant to their needs, rather than marketing solely designed to get inside their wallets.
Rather than screaming “BUY”, give them messages that appeal to their needs. For example, you could write a small post on your Facebook page as to why a flu shot is often an overlooked procedure. Focus on how it could help ensure they spend their winter doing the things they love, rather than being cooped up with the flu. For millennials, this is far more effective than just saying “Flu shots – 25% off”.
This focus on being “authentic” extends to your values as a company. Millennials make an effort to buy products and services that align with their own ethics and beliefs. According to Adweek, a staggering 90% of millennials will switch from one brand to another if it supports a charitable cause (even if the price and quality are equal). So if your practice supports a charity or cause, let your millennial audience know about it!
It could be that you have a commitment to your carbon footprint, or that you sponsor a baseball team at the local elementary school. Again, leverage this for their engagement; perhaps you could offer a prize for free checkups for one elementary school class, and you would ask your Facebook followers to vote for which class.
When it comes to you and your staff dealing with your millennial customers in person, don’t worry: There are no secret handshakes or buzzwords. While we did say that millennials prefer to take human interaction out of the equation in part, it doesn’t mean they want to remove it all together. Millennials want their customer service to provide the human touch, filling the gaps in where the digital side of things was lacking.
Ensure that your staff are fully familiar with your online activity and marketing; your millennial customer will expect their transition from the digital realm to the human one to be seamless. Keep your messaging consistent with your in-practice interactions (e.g. don’t force hard sells if you’ve attracted them with the soft sell approach), and you’ll keep that millennial customer for a long time to come.
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