Fitting Generations

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Understanding how wellness organizations market to multiple generations

By Michael J. Pallerino

It’s an interesting endeavor, to the say the least, this generational marketing game. You must establish a marketing strategy that touches a little bit on each of the groups who use your products and services. Baby boomers. Gen Xers. Gen Yers. The Millennials.

Where do you begin?

Bruce Levinson, O.D., F.A.A.O., says the strategy isn’t that complicated at all. As one of the two doctors that run the Eyecare of CNY in Syracuse, N.Y., Levinson says extolling the health benefits of eye care come first – and everything else follows. “It is crucial to start with the health and convenience benefits of a daily lens. If you spend the time to discuss this, multiple generations can see the rationale of a daily lens. When marketing to multiple generations, it is important to discuss all products, from single vision, to toric and multifocal.”

Eyecare of CNY tackles its generational marketing strategy by addressing each segment of the population on a personal basis, with the overriding theme being that all patients are better off in a sterile daily lens. “Each generation has a different perspective on where they are in life,” Levinson says. “Moreover, you have to find out what experiences they have had in the past.”

In a landscape defined by its ever-changing technological virtues, marketing to different generations has taken on a whole new meaning. Mitch Levinson, managing partner of mRELEVANCE, a marketing, interactive, public relations and communication firm with offices in Atlanta and Chicago, says eye care providers (ECPs) first must understand those technological advantages.

“Each generation has a different perspective on where they are in life. Moreover, you have to find out what experiences they have had in the past.”
– Bruce Levinson, O.D., F.A.A.O., Eyecare of CNY

“Being where your buyer is when they are looking for your service has changed significantly over the past few years, especially with the increased use of the internet and social media,” Mitch Levinson says. “Buyers of all ages are using these tools more often and making decisions based on input from different peer groups. They are also making these decisions from mobile devices right now. This has changed with technology, and has been reinforced through the younger generations.

Regardless of how you reach out to the masses, people are going to do business with people they know and like, something Levinson says will never change. “It’s important to be the expert in your profession, but it is also important to be where they are when making decisions – online and mobile.”

That means eye care providers must effectively manage their online footprint with positive stories and online profiles that position them as the experts, but demonstrate why people should “like” them. “Be who you are,” Mitch Levinson says. “Buyers today, in many generations, are still looking for some kind of connection, especially with a service as personal as eye care. Show them, through online social media and local sites, that you are the expert and that you are involved in the community.”

Finding what matters, matters

Dr. Maria Higgins entered the world of wellness providers in a private practice in Pennsylvania, where she specialized in children, behavioral vision and perceptual evaluations. She eventually went on to run her own private practice, Unique Optique in Frederick, Md., a place where she saw her consumer base expand to include a wider range of patients.

One of the most important lessons Higgins has learned over the years is that people of any age want to feel good about themselves and their appearance. “My practice specializes in high end, independently owned, exceptionally made frames, and we know that there is a very loyal market in all age groups for that. I purposefully have a ‘You are unique and we love you for it’ slant to my practice. That [sentiment] speaks to any generation.”

Higgins believes it’s important for wellness marketers to speak the language of all their customers, a strategic approach that makes social media such a valuable tool. “It [social media] is diverse, yet covers all ages. You can reach anyone you want to through the internet. I think that all other kinds of marketing are too specific if you’re trying to catch all ages.”

Another key that Higgins finds successful is befriending a customer of a specific age group you want to target. Ask them questions. Ask what products and services speak to them. Conduct a survey of that demographic to see what you can learn, she says. But be careful not to spread yourself too thin, which may pull you away from other target audiences.

“Accept and love every demographic for what they are, regardless of age, gender, financial or marital status,” Higgins says. “That may sound too simple and hippie, but it works. People can feel when you love them and they like it. You should specialize in order to do what you do best. Focus on one aspect that inspires you and that can [inspire and] span all ages. In our case, it’s fashion forward, independent, unique glasses. In all age groups there are people who need that.”

“Accept and love every demographic for what they are, regardless of age, gender, financial or marital status.”
– Dr. Maria Higgins, Optometrist, Unique Optique

Embrace each generation wholeheartedly

As an instructor in the marketing and professional sales department at Kennesaw State University in Atlanta, Tyra Burton has seen the question of generational marketing pop up from time to time. The topic continues to get bantered around in the ever-evolving world of technology.

The key is to embrace every generation and its qualities for what they are worth. Burton believes wellness marketers must realize that each generation is unique and different from the one before. As the baby boomers have aged, 50 has become the new 40. Life spans are increasing and people want to stay youthful longer.”

So, while Gen Xers may be more cynical than the generations surrounding them,

they don’t define family by just blood – they were the first children of blended households. And when you look at the Millenials, they have grown up in a world that is plugged in and more racially diverse than before, Burton says.

For the older generations, the country’s economic downturn left many living with their adult children, but still wanting to maintain some independence.

“The biggest challenge in the Internet Age is that even grandma is online – or at least on Facebook.”
– Tyra Burton, Instructor, Kennesaw State University

“The biggest challenge in the Internet Age is that even grandma is online – or at least on Facebook,” Burton says. “And people expect their service providers to be there as well. It can be overwhelming to monitor all the sites that have reviews of wellness providers. Determine what are the most popular sites for reviews in your community and start monitoring the feedback about your business. Encourage your customers to not just talk to their friends about you, but also post reviews on the web. Wellness providers are community service providers, so getting involved in the community is the easiest way for you to meet new consumers of all ages.”