Assignment 2: A New Marketing Opportunity
MHS Winter 2010 12 MHS Winter 2010 13 Marketing to the Mature Marketplace Six pathways to success in challenging times n o matter how you read the statistics, the bottom line remains the same: These are challenging times. Even if the daily economic news weren’t so grim, there’s ample evidence to suggest it’s time to look outside the usual comfort zones when it comes to marketing healthcare services. Newspaper ads have long been a staple for healthcare marketers. Now newspapers themselves are fast becoming a dying breed. Yellow Page ads are costly, with the results often difficult to track. And raise your hand if the response rate from your last direct mail campaign even came close to the former gold standard of a 2 percent return. In an era when decreasing resources are more often than not matched up against increasing competition, nowhere is that challenge more complex than when your target audience is the mature marketplace. We are approaching a unique moment in our nation’s history, when one in three Americans will be over the age of 50, with an estimated 75 million Americans between the age of 50 and 65 and another 40 million 65 and older. As a result, the ability to understand and communicate with this vast target audience will be a pathway to long-term success for healthcare marketers, in times of economic challenge and beyond. Five key concepts are considered universal truths in defining what motivates the mature marketplace. The more these concepts can be incor - porated into not only marketing materials but also conversations with patients and family members, the more success will come by way of enhancing the patient experience and ensuring business growth. By Don MaRSh MHS Winter 2010 14 five Key Concepts Autonomy or self-sufficiency. Regaining the ability to pursue the interests and activities that age or illness may have taken away is a recurring theme in the mature marketplace.
From a marketing perspective, offering choices as opposed to only one solution, whether in the way of medical treatment or even financing options, is a way to help older patients use their need for autonomy and self-sufficiency as part of the decision- making process. Connectedness. This audience has reached a station in life when trigger events begin to affect their everyday lives— children growing up, selling the family home, retiring from a long-enjoyed career, perhaps even losing a spouse. Because contact with patients is typically infrequent, handwritten notes, phone calls, newsletters and other means of B to C communica - tion answer their need to stay connected to your staff, services and place of business. Altruism. Fundraising experts will tell you that people 50 and older traditionally make up the largest segment of any donor population. Engaging your health system, hospital or practice in community-based outreach programs or charitable activities, while at the same time encouraging patients to par - ticipate, will allow them to engage in this concept, defined as a concern for others. Personal growth. The growth of organizations like Elder Hostels is a prime example of how important this concept is to the mature marketplace. It may also be the most easily under - stood, simply by drawing the connection between better health and the ability to enjoy new, enriching experiences.
The moral here is that no matter how old we be - come, we never leave behind the need for personal growth. Revitalization. One of the recommendations I offer clients when reviewing their marketing materials is to use models who appear to be 10 to 12 years younger than the target audience. This is a practical application of the fact that, the older we are, the younger we still like to think of ourselves as being. Use this concept to reinforce the notion that better health leads to feeling younger and more alive again.
physical Changes Vision. Declining vision is often accompanied by an increased sensitivity to glare. Glare sensitivity affects not only office design—bright white walls and harsh overhead lighting being the chief culprits in many of the offices I’ve visited as a marketing consultant—but marketing materials as well. Instead of gloss or enamel stocks, print them on matte or dull finishes that reflect less glare. Because of the yellowing of the retina that occurs with the aging process, the ability to distinguish cool colors—blues, greens and violets—decreases over time. Use warm colors as accents, to create the visual and psychological impact you’re looking for. Using a minimum of 12-point type, indenting each paragraph and limiting paragraphs to two sentences or three lines will also help older eyes and minds retain the information being imparted. Hearing. For many hearing-impaired people, the range of sounds heard over the telephone narrows to 600 cycles, as compared to a range of several thousand cycles for people without hearing problems. For men, the loss is often found in the higher frequencies, making women’s voices more difficult to understand. Speaking slowly, using shorter words, rephrasing often and stopping to get feedback at regular intervals should be part of any “telephone-side” manner.
Cognitive Changes Visual memory vs. verbal memory. With aging, visual memory stays strong, while verbal memory, whether of the spoken or written word, declines. Long copy blocks in market - ing materials or complex thoughts in conversations will be remembered less than short, descriptive word pictures that communicate a simple message. We are also visual creatures and become increasingly so as we age. As a result, the impact of lifestyle photographs showing people enjoying the benefits of better health—in office décor as well as marketing materials—\ will be much greater than any combination of the spoken and written word. Left-brain vs. right-brain thinking. Humans are born with significant, if unequal, capacities for both left-brain thinking, where logic resides, and right-brain thinking, where instinct resides. But as we grow older, there is an inexorable shift from left-brain to right-brain thinking. The right side is the creative side of the brain. It deals with images, colors and sensory inputs like music, art and emotion.
It’s the side where major influences like pictures, sounds and smells are linked with positive, or sometimes negative, cogni - tive association. As a result of this shifting, it is more fatiguing for older pa - tients to make decisions affecting their lives by using the left, or logical, side of their brains to process facts and figures, words and numbers. Instead, they become more reliant on making those decisions based on what their instincts allow them to uSe MoDelS who appeaR to Be 10 to 12 years younger than the target audience . . . the older we are, the younger we still like to think of ourselves as being. MHS Winter 2010 15 “feel” rather than what their intellect suggests they should “know.” Of the five human senses, the sense of smell is the one tied closest to memory. Some of the most successful offices I’ve visited have taken advantage of that little-known fact by strategically placing baked goods, beverages, scented candles or other olfactory stimuli as a means of eliciting positive, memory-conditioned responses to circumstances that can otherwise create an atmosphere of uncer - tainty, doubt or fear.
Values-Based Communication One of the most enjoyable, and I hope edu - cational, moments during my presentation on marketing to the mature marketplace often occurs during an interactive features and benefits exer - cise. In this exercise, I ask the audience to take a blank piece of paper and draw a vertical line down the middle. I then ask audience members to write “features” across the top left margin and “benefits” across the top right margin. After explaining that, in the language of marketing, features are defined as the physical characteristics of a product or ser - vice, whereas benefits are defined as how those characteristics improve performance, I ask them to think of a specific product or service their business offers. I then ask them to write three features of that product or service and three benefits opposite those features. Those answers usually list whatever qualities represent the USP of that product or service. When that part of the exercise is over, I ask them to forget everything they just learned and imagine they are 18 years old once again and about to leave for college. Their next assign - ment is to write a letter to Mom and Dad, asking to borrow $10,000 for their first year’s college tuition. The letters will almost never talk about the features of a college education—for example, majoring in science, trying out for the baseball team or preparing for a career in healthcare.
Neither will they describe the benefits of a college education— for example, becoming the head of a large corporation, earning a high salary or retiring in style. What the letters always detail are the values of a college ed - ucation. The writers in essence create a universally understand - able vision using words like “hopes,” “dreams” and “futures.” The lesson here is this: If features are the physical char - acteristics of a product or service and benefits are how those characteristics improve performance, then values are the emotional translation of how those products or services affect people’s lives. And in no other segment of our society is it more important to address values—the core concepts by which all of us strive to live our lives while passing them on to future generations— than in the mature marketplace. Wants vs. Needs vs. Values Motivational experts will tell you there are three ways to influence human behavior: The least powerful is by addressing human needs. Addressing human wants is more powerful. But the most powerful way, by far, is by addressing human values. Values-based communication is key to getting mature consumers emotionally and instinctively involved in the decision-making process. By doing so, the marketer creates an atmosphere of trust, which results in creating relationships that endure. Be aware, though, that values are like fingerprints: All are similar, but no two are identical. Let everyone on staff who is in contact with patients know how important it is to create an atmosphere in which older patients feel comfortable talking about their values and how that leads to understanding them on a more personal level. Perhaps most important, it leads to a greater understanding of the qualities and ambitions that make them unique. It’s an exercise that, at its core, becomes synergistic. Just as this empowers patients to feel comfortable with their own decisions, it also empowers those who interact with them to do a much better job at helping them make those decisions and ultimately improving their lives because everyone involved now has an emotional investment in that extraordinary process. Here are six proven, but often overlooked, methods of marketing to the mature marketplace, especially in challenging times: Retention marketing. One of the universal truths of mar - keting is that it costs two to three times more to acquire a new customer than it does to have that customer return. As a result, an ongoing retention marketing program is almost always at the core of any consulting service I provide. And that effort begins Segmenting the Mature Marketplace The “Matures” Born before World War II • Extremely patriotic • Self-sacrificing • Debt-free The “Baby Boomers” Born after World War II • Instant gratification • Self-entitled • Debt is way of life MHS Winter 2010 16 with mining your database. Back in the 1970s, non-profit organizations, in search of new ways to identify high potential do - nors while reducing their marketing costs created a program known as recency, frequency, monetary (RFM) modeling. In RFM modeling, an entire database is divided into fifths, also known as quintiles, based on these three criteria. The result was an ability to create more targeted appeals that made best use of time and budgets. For healthcare marketing professionals, that goal can also be reached by defining purchase bias—not just the “when” of a patient’s purchase history, but the “why.” No matter which method you choose, by developing a variety of targeted sales letters, rather than working off the assump - tion that all customers are created equal, you’ll be creating a program that ensures consistent growth at a fraction of the cost. Focus groups. Most healthcare marketers are familiar with the concept of the consumer seminar as a means of informing a target audience and motivating them to take action. The focus group programs I’ve helped create were developed as a twist on the consumer seminar, the difference being they are targeted to current patients and not the community at large. Focus groups are basically exercises in relationship market - ing, in which patients and spouses are invited to share their opinions about new technologies or procedures and ending with appointments being set in the days immediately following the sessions. But these types of marketing programs have not only a retail benefit, but an advisory benefit as well. This focus group agenda also involves an exchange of opinions about sample marketing materials—not only yours, but that of the competi - tion as well. We’re all good at what we do, but it’s the marketplace that decides how successful we become. Getting immediate feed - back in programs like these is an ideal way to learn what the marketplace is thinking and how best to make the adjustments needed for long-term success. E-marketing. According to a recent AARP survey, almost 60 million Americans over age 50 are now spending an average of 18 hours per week on the Internet. What began for many as an exercise in e-mailing is now a full-blown pursuit of products and services that can improve their lives, with an estimated 74 percent of those searches focusing on their own community. But chances are your site is not the first place they’re going to look. Power pages are one way to help solve that problem.
These are one-page electronic sales letters that drive people to your branding site. For example, when people search for “(Your Town) health - care,” they are transported to your power page that bears the name: (YourTown)Healthcare.com. Having read the informa - tion, they’re invited to offer their name and e-mail address.
Two things happen afterward: They are transported to your main site and their contact information is forwarded to you for follow-up. Because most Web site visitors linger only a page or two before signing off, a good way to manage the flow of informa - tion is by making sure the landing page, the place they arrive at on your site, is the page with the key information you want to impart. From that starting point, identify the other most popu - lar pages and place additional calls to action on those pages as well. By now, most seasoned healthcare marketers are familiar with the various ways to market their sites. Pay-per-click, SEO, keyword searches and direct referrals are among the most popular. But for maximum results, it’s also important to moni - tor those results on a regular basis. Conversion rates, meaning the percentage of leads that are generated from your site(s) as compared to the total leads, should begin with a goal of 5 percent. Bounce rates, or the per - centage of visitors who bounce away to a different site, should be on the order of 50 percent. And opt-in rates, defined as the percentage of visitors who sign up for the offer posted on the site, should be targeted at a minimum of 3 percent. Results that don’t match these targets suggest it’s time to take another look at your e-marketing. Back in the day, the ax - iom for smart direct marketers was “Test, test, test and modify.” E-marketing is the new direct mail, so the same axiom applies. Referral programs. One of the solutions to the problem of not having the time or not feeling comfortable asking for patient referrals is in developing a handout that can serve as a reminder, long after the request has been made. A template I’ve used over the years is a simple two-sided piece. The first side basically reaffirms the patient’s decision and asks that they pass it on to someone they know; the second side lists a series of premiums being offered to the person being referred. Boundaries, both legal and ethical, rightly exist to limit the • Better communication skills = longer relationships • Longer relationships = more sales • More sales = greater LTV • Greater LTV = higher profitability • Higher profitability = successful practice • Successful practice = where you want to work A Simple Equation for Challenging Times MHS Winter 2010 17 rewards that can be offered. But a gift certificate to a restaurant or movie (examples of the everyday life activities that become more enjoyable with better health) not only brightens some - one’s day but also serves as a soft testimonial that will continue to pay dividends long after through continued referrals. Community outreach. Along with free media, which has the advantage of credibility over most forms of advertising, reaching out to the community is another way to market your healthcare system, hospital or practice in challenging times.
When done correctly, the resulting goodwill simply cannot be measured in dollars. Community outreach programs can involve traditional options like health fairs, but more traction can be gained by working with local print and broadcast media on some kind of program that benefits the community, especially one that encourages patients to participate. Understand that for the mature marketplace, the urge to give is usually intergenerational, meaning they are more likely to want to be involved in a charitable activity that supports either their own generation, or their grandchildren’s generation, rather than the generation in between. Patient outreach. The mature marketplace segment de - scribed in the accompanying sidebar as the “Matures” is, sadly, likely to be the last generation that cherishes the printed word.
The baby boomers, however, have joined the generations that follow them in becoming fully versed in the various means of electronic communication where neither paper nor ink is required. In addressing either segment, constantly reaching out, via printed and e-newsletters, personal notes or even on occasion a surprise gift in commemoration of a birthday, anniversary or other significant personal event, keeps the two-way flow of communication between you and your patients ongoing. It also answers dual needs: connectedness for them and continued business growth for you. MHS About the Author Don Marsh is a San Diego-based marketing consultant with 35 years of experience. He is the author of one book, and more than 200 articles, published worldwide. The information in this article will be the focus of his presentation at the SHSMD Annual Conference in Orlando. Further information may be obtained by contacting him at [email protected] or by visiting www.MatureMarketplace.com. Copyright of Marketing Health Services is the property of American Marketing Association and its content may not be copied or emailed to multiple sites or posted to a listserv without the copyright holder's express written permission. However, users may print, download, or email articles for individual use.