I was born in 1993, which makes me a millennial. I don’t consider this to be my defining attribute, but our opinions and actions seem to be the most sought-after and criticized in the news today. Millennials make up a quarter of the country’s current population. So there is a huge market of us with new expectations for the services and products in which we invest our money and time. Getting older doesn’t just mean that we’re starting to appreciate stinky cheeses and dark chocolate more. It also means that our bodies are starting to show signs of wear and tear, and we’re on the lookout for the health entities we need and want.
We’re making decisions about our health, getting informed about our options and spending our dollars wisely. We collectively spend around $600 billion of those hard-earned dollars in the U.S. each year. When I’m looking for services related to healthcare, my fellow mil’s and I are all about transparency, time and accessibility (and also shortening words for no reason).
Millennials’ social attitudes play a big role in our values and our ability to detect truthfulness is pretty on-point. We choose to do business with companies that reflect our own views and lifestyles.
Be aware of all your online reviews and address pain points on an ongoing basis. Being transparent is essential, and that goes way beyond any company’s official website. Most of the time, we consult various other online avenues like Facebook, Twitter, Yelp and Google to tell us the real story. The speed at which negative attributes can be posted online means that negative reviews, shady business deals, unhappy customers and other friction points can be found in a matter of minutes. I won’t trust a restaurant with a two star rating to serve great food, and the same goes for any office, clinic, service or provider when the product is my body’s care. When 85% of millennials research before purchasing, your customer base’s voice and experiences are so important to address.
Set honest expectations, don’t exaggerate benefits and be realistic about the online experience vs. in-person experience. It’s important to set expectations with your audience. If your clinic is known to have long waiting periods, don’t boast about quick service on your site. If you feature generic stock photos in your marketing materials, stock-photo-resistant young people will expect that you’re hiding something. Make sure that your online presence gives someone an accurate idea of what to expect and carry that expectation through to the in-person experience. These online avenues can also serve as a feedback loop for your company that can be monitored and addressed to improve the patient experience.
Be straight up about costs and estimates, no matter how painful it might be to publish that big number. Transparency is also key when it comes to paying for these services. Being upfront about estimates and any out-of-pocket costs may be difficult when courting a potential customer, but will be much worse if your customer doesn’t know what’s about to come out of their wallet.
This rings especially true for those in the 23-35 age range who are just starting out in their careers, paying big student loan bills every month and attempting to budget every dollar for services (expensive or not). With the cost of many procedures and name-brand prescriptions being so high, folks become wary if there is any sign of an asterisks or “terms and conditions” that may drastically affect the cost of a service or product. So be upfront about costs right away and make them simple to understand.
Millennials grew up with the start of the internet and instant messaging and vaguely remember the world where you had to go to the library to get a question answered. Make the customer experience fast, or you’ll lose us quicker than Rose let go of Jack after the Titanic sank.
Offer options that save time and can be flexible with any kind of crazy schedule. Because of the influence of direct-to-your-door companies like Amazon, many folks seek out services that work with their own schedules. Companies like Warby Parker allow you to select a pair of glasses online and then send the fancy frames direct to your mailbox (contacting your optometrist to retrieve your prescription for you, which saves you time playing phone tag). Nurx allows you to review and compare birth control brands and then discretely ship the prescription to your door. You can even get NyQuil, Kleenex and a cold Gatorade delivered in a white branded bag through a new service called GoPuff.
Services like these don’t make people lazy, but rather offer solutions to those who are pressed for time or unable to access these kinds of services normally. People who don’t work typical Monday through Friday hours, don’t have access to transportation or are physically unable to travel benefit from these companies greatly and likely wouldn’t have access to these services without these modern conveniences. Consider offers that your company can make to bring you straight to your customer’s front door.
Integrate small features on your online spaces that make life easier for potential customers and current customers alike. While I can’t get a root canal delivered to my 2nd floor apartment, I can look for healthcare services that offer online scheduling options. A smooth scheduling experience can also ease anxieties about the actual appointment itself. Once I’m booked, I want to know exactly how long it will take me to get to said appointment, so Google Maps integration is key. What if I want to call and ask a question ahead of time? Enable click-to-call phone numbers on the site for mobile users. I also appreciate text messages that remind me about important dates and appointments.
These aren’t cutting-edge features by any means, but are perceived as the standard by my generation when we operate online. Make the scheduling process easy for a first-time customer and even faster for a current customer. Any effort that helps reduce friction in your online space or patient portal helps save time and sanity.
Millennials grew up with the internet, so we have seen it evolve and transform into a social media-minded, e-commerce-adapted, information-loaded powerhouse. When there are so many avenues that we conduct our lives on, there are just as many avenues for us to get targeted with ads. Good, bad and ugly ads that force us to get selective about where we spend our time and how we conduct our business.
Make things accessible for your target audience to make sure they don’t jump ship at any point during their process. The number one way to lose a millennial when marketing to them is to make their interactions with your content difficult or hard to understand. Most people do extensive research to check out all of their options when making a decision or purchasing a product (and will also look at your competitors to compare). I may see an ad that intrigues me while online or on social media. I’ll click on it and expect to be taken to a page to give me more information. When I’m on the website, I want to be able to easily click around to get my questions answered. Sounds simple, right?
What can interfere with that experience? Busy, complicated ads that feature too much information or unappealing imagery (see bonus section below); an ad that doesn’t click through to a helpful webpage or the company’s website; complicated website navigation structure that isn’t intuitive to a potential customer; a bad mobile site experience that isn’t optimized for smartphones; an unclear call to action that doesn’t allow me to stay informed about your services or products or points me to the next action step.
I have a lot of clients who work in the public health or healthcare worlds. The things that they do are so incredibly important, yet very hard to condense down to a simple paragraph or two. It’s tough to edit down information when all the information is important. But we only want to know the information that pertains to us as customers and not company insiders. So, take a look at your website and imagine that you’re the target audience. Pretend that you have an eight second attention span and try to click through to key areas of the site. Does your website have clear sections and headings? Can a client click to their profile or sign into their account straight from the homepage?
Keep your ads simple and interesting. Make your website informative, but not too jargon-heavy. Don’t leave your potential customers who are on their smartphones behind. Try to do your own research and ask someone in your target audience to interact with your ads, click around on your website and log into an account. Take notes and try to find out where the pain points are, and then address them. Take a look at what your competitors are doing. The main point is to make everything your company puts out into the world accessible and easy to navigate.
We all know that original photography is best, but if you must use photos, use realistic ones and get specific with your target audience. I cringe every time I see an ad for a healthcare plan, dentist, hospital or insurance plan that features stock photography of millennials. They’re so, so bad. Most feature a group of 2-4 millennials huddled around a phone, wearing sunglasses or a funky hat, and all are smiling. Millennials don’t really hang out with their group of friends to huddle around a phone and look at a healthcare-related website. Funky hats and glasses (and other props like guitars, large scarves and expensive coffee drinks) are so incredibly stereotypical. Create a specific target audience that goes much deeper than the “millennial” label. Is it a busy, career-focused woman who books appointments while waiting for takeout? A newlywed couple who make their biggest financial decisions while at the dog park? A server at a restaurant who checks his email when riding the bus late at night? Avoid the red flags above and show a real person in a photo who isn’t glued to their phone.
To recap, here are the benefits that I look for when I see healthcare services marketed to me:
Make an effort to keep up with the changing needs of your largest customer bases. It’s a big undertaking to make these kinds of changes, and most clients are afraid to take the plunge to overhaul. Upgrades are never cheap, but it’s an investment that is so worth it. Millennials will comprise nearly half of the U.S. workforce by 2020, and by 2025, that will increase to 75%. Get millennials while they’re young now, and you’ll keep us forever. Like how ET is in Elliot’s heart forever.