No matter what business you are in, it’s important that potential customers know who you are, what you do, and, most importantly, what you can do for them. That is the basis of effective marketing. While there are an unlimited number of ways to market hearing health care, from airing a professionally produced 60-second commercial on your local television station to placing a small ad in your local newspaper, marketing strategies that have proven most effective always begin with a clear understanding of the potential customer or target you are trying to reach.
KNOW YOUR MATURE MARKET
Individuals over the age of 50 are considered part of the “mature market” and make up the largest potential patient base for hearing health care professionals. Currently, there are more than 92 million Americans who are in this age category, and they represent about one-third of our population. By the year 2020, Americans over the age of 50 will grow to about 35% of our population, fueled by the aging Baby Boomers. While the growth and size of the mature market are impressive, what is even more important is the financial power they control. The mature market represents only one-third of our population, but they control three-quarters of the wealth. The mature market wields $1.7 trillion in annual buying power and controls 75% of the nation’s financial assets, 70% of the nation’s net worth, and more than half of its discretionary spending. So in terms of both sheer size and financial strength, the mature market is the most powerful consumer segment in America today!
Surprisingly, one of the most common misconceptions about the mature market is that they care only about price. That they are stingy with their money and don’t make large purchases like hearing aid technology because they can’t afford it. This can’t be further from the truth. While it may be true that many members of the mature market are on fixed incomes, that doesn’t mean they stop buying products and services, especially those that make their lives easier or that allow them to live healthier. The reality is that most mature consumers are more than willing—and more than able—to spend money as long as they feel that the product or service adds value to their lives.
PROMOTE VALUES, BENEFITS
The mature market can be broken down into three distinct segments: preretirees, active retirees, and seniors. Preretirees aged 50 to 62 are the generation more commonly referred to as Baby Boomers (the oldest Baby Boomers turned 62 in 2008).
It is estimated that more than 10 million Boomers have some degree of hearing loss, but only 14% of them actually use any form of hearing assistance. To attract this segment of the market, you have to offer real value and communicate real benefits. Marketing your services by promoting sales, “price cuts,” and discounts is not the most effective way to reach this segment of the mature market. A better strategy is to focus on the value of the service and technology that you provide while promoting the availability of financing or credit. Boomers have grown up with credit so they are accustomed to using it as a financial tool to pay for goods and services. Offering a patient payment program, then using it to promote no-interest financing in your marketing and advertising efforts, is a strategy that has worked very well all over the health care industry.
When communicating with the Baby Boomer segment, be aware of the language and terminology you are using. Don’t use terms like “old” and “senior.” No one really wants to be called old, but Boomers in particular don’t like it. Also consider that in addition to communicating with Baby Boomers about their own hearing health, to a much greater degree than ever before you may be communicating with them as caregivers for senior parents. Although the ultimate decision-maker in situations of this nature is the senior, be aware that the Boomer is often the catalyst that motivates the senior to take action. Crafting a compelling message to use during your hearing evaluation for the Boomer as caregiver can be a very effective marketing tactic.
OFFER SOCIAL CONTACT, CONNECTIVITY
Active retirees are age 63 to 74. Having retired from careers and work responsibilities, they are often ready to reinvent themselves by trying new things and taking on new tasks. So it’s important to communicate how hearing assistance will help them get the most out of their new active lifestyle and experiences. Messaging geared toward active retirees should be positive and speak to the aspirations they have. Don’t use negatives, scare tactics, or emphasize the problems associated with hearing loss. Instead focus on how hearing instruments help individuals maintain social contact and highlight the relational benefits.
Use intergenerational visuals of active retirees interacting with their grandchildren. This can be a very strong marketing platform and can help bring a real positive emotional element to your communications. Connectivity is an important part of the human experience. As we age, circumstances and the world we live in often take away a lot of our social interaction. Once an individual retires, they will still have friends and family, but they no longer have work relationships. Staying connected is a real desire as people age, so the more you can show that connection in your marketing and advertising efforts, the more impact it will have.
KEEP IT SIMPLE
Seniors make up the last segment of the mature market. Marketing messages that communicate comfort work best with this segment of the population. Don’t get too technical or put so many messages into your communications that they become overwhelming and unreadable. Keep your message simple and straight to the point. Three solid points logically sequenced is far more effective than 30 crammed into an advertisement.
Be sure to instill a sense of respect for tradition and values. Remember, many members of this generation believe that calling people by their first names, without permission, is disrespectful. When creating printed materials, such as advertisements or brochures, consider the visual changes and dexterity issues that this demographic may be experiencing. Avoid using white or light-colored type on top of photos or illustrations. Use high-contrast colors to increase legibility and always ensure that the type is large enough to be read by seniors.
Another communication strategy that works particularly well with this demographic is the use of testimonials in your advertising and marketing materials. It’s one thing for you to say in an ad that you can help a patient to hear better and another thing for a satisfied customer to communicate the difference improved hearing health has made in their life. You can even select a patient and tell their story in your advertising or marketing materials. This story-selling approach will resonate a lot more with all segments of the mature market than just detailing technical facts.
CRAFT CREDIBLE, CONSISTENT COMMUNICATIONS
One of the most important rules to marketing is consistency and repetition. Say one thing and say it often. Research has shown that there are few things that the mature market responds to on a regular basis; one of them is consistency, another is simplicity, and a third is credibility. As we age, one of the changes that take place is a shift from left to right brain thinking. So if you are consistent in your marketing message, it will help the mature consumer to instinctively feel more comfortable about your practice. If, on the other hand, you are constantly changing your message, you may lose credibility with mature consumers. And remember, research has shown that consumer may need to be exposed to a message as many as 20 times before they retain the information and respond.
People beyond the age of 50 respond to many of the same things that younger people do, including respect, connectedness, independence, personal growth, and revitalization. If you keep your marketing message simple, be honest and direct and you will gain the attention and respect of the mature market—and ultimately their business.
With more than 35 years of experience in direct response marketing and more than 15 years as an independent consultant, Kurt Medina is the only direct marketing consultant in the United States who specializes in the 50-plus marketplace. A sought-after lecturer, Medina created the Direct Marketing Association’s 2-day intensive seminar, “Mastering the 50+ Marketplace,” and speaks regularly at the World Aging Conference, the Baby Boomers Marketing Conference, and the American Association of Retirement Communities—in addition to giving addresses all over the world, including Japan, Holland, Switzerland, Norway, Mexico, and Brazil. Medina is also a published author, having cowrote “77 Truths About Marketing to the 50+ Consumer,” and contributed to the “Guide to Senior Marketing” and “The Definitive Guide to Mature Marketing.” He can be contacted via e-mail at .