The world is still trying to figure out millennials. They’ve been blamed and/or praised for just about everything, from replacing children with pets to killing the napkin industry to inventing rosé deodorant.

However you feel about this diverse group of young folks – which includes anyone born between the early 80s and the early 2000s – they’re an economic force to be reckoned with. In fact, millennials are now the the largest living generation, having just overtaken the baby boomers in number.

What does the rise of the millennial generation mean for your dental practice? How will you effectively engage millennial patients and build enduring relationships with them? There’s plenty of useful data out there – and some misinformation, too. Let’s get acquainted with a few myths and facts about marketing to millennials.

 

MYTH

Millennials are all alike.

This should go without saying, but any group of 80+ million people will be quite varied and complex. No simple description applies to all of these people, and even attempts to broadly categorize them risks veering into stereotype. Wildly different tastes, hobbies, beliefs, politics, backgrounds, and lifestyles will be found within this group. Research shows that it’s the most racially diverse American generation in history. In fact, age is the only thing some millennials will have in common.

That said, marketing is all about reducing this complexity. To attract patients, you need to build a voice and a brand that resonates with large numbers of people – and that means building a rough sense of the ‘personas’ you’re targeting, including millennials. There’s a huge opportunity to review the trends and developments among this growing patient population and consider how it might affect your marketing strategy. The takeaway here is that there’s no silver bullet for engaging younger people – but it’s still worthwhile to try.

 

FACT

Millennials are glued to their phones.

Are millennials constantly using their smartphones because they’re selfie-snapping egoists? Or are they just more socially connected and friendly than the rest of us? Either way, this much is true: The millennial generation loves its mobile technology. According to a recent Zogby Analytics poll, nearly 90% of millennials say their smartphone never leaves their side. The same survey found that 88% have deposited a check or would do so via mobile, and more than half would make a purchase using a mobile wallet. 97-98% of millennials own a smartphone.

What does this mean for your dental practice? First and foremost, it means ensuring your website is optimized for mobile devices. Mobile phones have much smaller screens than desktop computers, making old-fashioned websites very difficult to use. Well-designed, “responsive” websites detect the type of device you’re using and reformat themselves accordingly. In practice, this means a whole slew of design changes, like enlarged text (so you don’t have to pinch and zoom) and bigger buttons that can be easily tapped. If your website isn’t responsive, the poor mobile experience it delivers may be turning off a significant number of potential patients – especially millennials.

If you’re advertising your practice online, you should also ensure that your ads are mobile-friendly to reach the millennial audience. Major ad platforms like Google, Facebook, and Yelp allow you to advertise via mobile, but it’s important to meet their specifications and follow best practices for mobile design. The world of digital advertising changes quickly, and can be tough to navigate for a non-expert. If you hire a digital marketing agency, make sure their ads are mobile-ready to boost millennial engagement.

 

MYTH

Millennials require social media engagement.

There’s no doubt that millennial patients are using social media. One study found that 95% of millennials expect companies to have a Facebook page – and some researchers have gone so far as to call it the “best way” to reach the younger generation. But beneath the surface, the reality of social media is quite complex.

First, consider that social media is never off. When a patient tags you in a disgruntled tweet late on a Friday evening, do you have the resources to respond? Your social media profiles are available 24-7, so waiting until standard office hours to respond might be seen as unprofessional, ironically enough. In fact, some researchers have found that “contra-competitive timing” (i.e. at nights and weekends, when other dentists are enjoying their leisure hours) can be the most effective. Is that a commitment you want to make?

Also bear in mind that social media is a fragmented landscape. You may have the time and energy to maintain a Facebook page, but what about Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Tumblr, and Pinterest? There are many different media, and they all have different learning curves. According to a MarketingLand survey, millennials expect “expect ‘omnichannel’ consistency across the board” – meaning your brand presentation should be clear and strong on every network you occupy. A derelict Twitter profile that hasn’t been updated in years could do more harm than good for your brand reputation.

Finally, remember that there is a social media lifecycle. Every cool network (Snapchat) eventually becomes uncool (Myspace) – and some (Google+) never become cool in the first place. Are you OK with investing energy into a strong, consistent social media profile that ultimately becomes obsolete? If not, you might want to stick with more traditional forms of marketing.

 

FACT

Millennials expect convenience.

Is breakfast cereal a convenience food? Not for millennials. According to the Washington Post, younger folks don’t bother with cereal because they don’t want to deal with a single dirty dish. Whether you think that’s because they’re chronically lazy or because they’re overworked and stressed, it’s a fact: millennials want faster, more convenient transactions. And healthcare is no exception.

For older parts of the US population (including Generation-Xers and baby boomers), a great relationship with their healthcare provider is the most important factor. Not so for millennials. In a recent study analyzing healthcare preferences, about half of millennials surveyed said they wanted interactions with healthcare professionals to be “fast, convenient or instantaneous.” Only 40% of Gen-Xers and 28% of baby boomers gave the same response.

So how do you market quality dental care to a population that’s too rushed for corn flakes? First and foremost, prioritize communication. Some dental consultants recommend answering every phone call within three rings – and if you can’t, returning the patient’s call within 30 minutes. That may be an ambitious goal for a busy office, but worthwhile in the goodwill it creates.

Secure email and text message communication is also beloved by younger patients, with one study showing SMS as the number one preferred channel for millennials to communicate with businesses. Patient relationship management  software (like NexHealth) can automate your appointment reminders and other digital communications, and power one-touch online scheduling – which in turn frees up office staff for in-person patient interactions. However you manage your patient communications, make sure you abide by HIPAA regulations.

Quick, seamless communications are just a first step. Consider also opening your office during non-traditional hours. Millennial patients will notice and appreciate every effort you make to accommodate their busy schedules.

 

MYTH

Millennials are shallow.

Since they first burst into public consciousness, millennials have been lambasted as entitled and narcissistic. Time Magazine famously called them The Me Me Me Generation. Fortunately for all of us, the data shows a very different picture.

According to the 2015 Cone Communications Millennial CSR Study, millennials are “prepared to make personal sacrifices to make an impact on issues they care about, whether that’s paying more for a product (70 percent vs. 66 percent US average), sharing products rather than buying (66 percent vs. 56 percent) or taking a pay cut to work for a responsible company (62 percent vs. 56 percent).” Another study from Horizon Media reports that “81 percent of Millennials expect companies to make a public commitment to good corporate citizenship.”

Simply put, millennials want to support businesses that do social good. Fortunately, there are any number of ways for your practice to fill that role. Programs like the Halloween Candy Buyback – which ships excess candy to needy children abroad – are meaningful, fun, and a great team activity for your office staff. The Dental Lifeline Network runs a fantastic program called Will You See One, which makes it easy for providers to treat low-income patients who couldn’t otherwise afford care. And investing in green technologies and following best practices can help your practice improve its environmental footprint.

These are just a few starter ideas. You and your team probably already participate in activities you’d be proud of. So how do you let your patients know? Social media can be a great place to share these updates, as can the occasional patient email. A framed picture of your team working together for a socially meaningful cause might look great on the office wall. If it feels wrong to “humblebrag” about your good works, that means your heart’s in the right place! Just remember that patients want to know about your good work so they can support it.

 

The bottom line

There is no one-size-fits-all marketing strategy to bring millennials to your practice. But there are some big trends you should pay attention to, and important ideas to bear in mind:

  • The millennial generation is a large, diverse group of people. What works for some won’t work for others.

  • Millennials use their smartphones constantly, so make sure your website and advertising are mobile-friendly.

  • Social media can be a great way to reach millennials, but it requires a serious, ongoing commitment. Proceed with caution.

  • Convenience is huge. Deliver quick, punctual patient communications (using SMS and email if possible) and consider amenities like non-traditional office hours.

  • Millennials want to support socially responsible businesses. Let patients know about the good work your team is doing.

If you would like to take the next step in elevating your practice, feel free to reach out to NexHealth today and schedule a demo with one of our specialists!

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