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Just What (the) DR Ordered: A Healthy Approach to Baby Boomers

1 Feb, 2011 By: Jackie Jones Response

As the first batch of baby boomers turns 65 this year, DR proves more useful than ever in reaching a well-educated, health-conscious and tech-savvy generation.


“TV is my core, but my most efficient channel is online,” he says.

Optimizing Online Channels

As more health care marketers continue to complement DRTV campaigns with online components, it’s important for advertisers to focus on search and personalization, according to tech-savvy industry experts. This becomes especially pertinent when targeting baby boomers, who are often more self-reliant and comfortable with independently seeking out information through various emerging channels.

“While seniors and boomers are behind younger populations in online adaptation, the generation has a high comfort level using the Web, social platforms and, to a lesser degree, mobile channels throughout a decision-making and shopping process,” says Karen Helweg, vice president of interactive strategy at WebMetro, a digital marketing agency based in San Dimas, Calif. “Boomers bring considerable buying power and with that a level of entitlement.”

It’s not enough to just have an online presence — health care marketers finding true success must learn to leverage each platform correctly and recognize that boomers are more practical in their use of the Internet.

“Unlike the younger generation, they don’t spend as much time on the Internet,” Armstrong says. “It is a resource tool for them so it is important to make every moment count for them while they are online.”

“The Web and digital platforms are critical, and especially with baby boomers. This demographic is on Facebook, they’re using social media and they’re certainly active on E-mail,” adds Kabir Shahani, CEO of Seattle-based Appature Inc., which provides Web-based marketing solutions designed exclusively for health care companies. “Some of these key channels are great places to reach consumers, but it goes beyond that, as well: the timing, the message, which channel — how do you leverage monitoring consumers’ Web behavior on your site to figure out how to better help them with information they need? What are they looking at, and based on what you know about them, what can you then suggest to them that you know they haven’t seen yet?”

What baby boomers expect from health care marketers and the way they’re seeking out facts is evolving just as quickly as the advancing capabilities of the Web, says Jeff Herman, product manager of Madison, Wis.-based CPM Marketing Group Inc.

“Baby boomers are going on the Web more and they aren’t just going to the nearest hospital anymore. They are treating it more like a shopping experience,” Herman says. “They want to know how to get the best care and they are willing to look for the information.”

One of the latest technologies available to health care marketers that goes hand-in-hand with DR is Open Instant CRM, an interactive Web tool provided by CPM Marketing Group that utilizes patient and prospect data and allows facilities to tailor their Web messaging specifically to the user in real time. A provider using Open Instant CRM can personalize its Web pages to the specific needs of the individual using the site at any given time.

For example, a 45-year-old male viewing a hospital’s homepage might see information regarding educational seminars focused on prostate cancer, while a female logged on simultaneously is offered details on different gynecologists available based on her location. This saves consumers time and ensures a more mutually beneficial relationship between marketer and customer, Herman says.

“In essence, at the very highest level we’re increasing the efficiency of that consumer touch point,” he says. “(Baby boomers) are people we know to be concerned about their health and are interested in your services. It provides marketers the opportunity to up-sell and cross-sell services and drive downstream revenue while at the same time helping patients and prospects to better manage their health.”

A Case of Clear Communication

You can’t talk health industry news without mentioning recent Federal Trade Commission (FTC) policy shifts and changing U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations on medical information provided online. It’s one of the top challenges for health care marketers, and — in a reflection of the core values of DR itself — one that is approached best by continuing to educate and communicate with the public and regulatory agencies.

“The real-time nature of what online provides, coupled with the FDA panel and social media rules, are the obvious challenges. Because you have the ability to launch campaigns based on different consumer behavior, there are several incarnations of those messages that can go out. How do you get all those message variations of copy approved legally through your medical, legal and regulatory process and still be able to move with agility in the market?” Shahani says. “We’re seeing our customers be more successful by engaging the regulatory folks themselves in the process. Showing them the tools and demonstrating to them the health outcomes that can be produced can be beneficial.”

Medicare-compliant companies like Hoveround are challenged every day by new legislation and what that means for the consumer, says Hilton, who adds that open dialogue with consumers is a necessity.

“For us to overcome these challenges, it is about being creative with respect to our message and our delivery — but never about being creative in trying to get around Medicare guidelines,” Hilton says. “It’s important to explain changes to Medicare laws as simply as possible to consumers and ensure we’re giving them the best information and product possible.”

Baby boomers aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. An American turns 50 every seven seconds — more than 12,500 every day — according to the U.S. Census, and the AARP predicts that those ages 50 and older will represent 45 percent of the U.S. by 2015. Recognizing the power of this consumer group — as well as the far-reaching abilities of direct response — is key to health care marketers’ future success.

“When one recognizes that there are 100 million Americans over the age of 45, it becomes more apparent that marketing and advertising to this group will become more blended with other segments,” Pruett says. “Health marketers should approach this group as smart buyers with a keen focus on quality.”

What many in the industry agree on, as well, is that health care marketers have one consistent strength on their side: Their message is more often than not beneficial to consumers. That coupled with effective DR channels leaves the market ripe for health marketers’ taking.

“The real advantage health care marketers have over others is they can truly say they are helping people affect their health outcomes,” Shahani says. “They have the benefit of having the opportunity to educate consumers on something that can change the quality of their lives for the better.” ■

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