Why health care marketers should never target women 35–54 again

Q&A with Brown Parker & DeMarinis CEO, Jason Brown on how to hyper-personalize your marketing strategy

For health care marketers, targeted marketing tactics are nothing new. Usually broken down by age brackets, household income or gender, these demographic buckets have historically helped health care organizations reach and bring in the ideal patients for their strategic goals — but with today’s ever-evolving consumer broad marketing efforts aren’t as effective as they once were.

We recently sat down with Jason Brown, CEO of BPD Advertising, a partner organization of the Optum Consumer Acquisition Services solution, to discuss why traditional marketing tactics are no longer as effective, and what health care organizations should be doing instead.

Let’s get straight to the point — why shouldn’t we be targeting to broad demographics anymore?

Health care consumers today come in all shapes and sizes. And looking at audiences in broad terms can lead to unnecessary noise, waste and overall a lower return on investment.

There are countless examples, but let’s take a look at one of the most common segments: women ages 35–54. For decades, we’ve all been told this group is our core audience in health care. They are often not only the decision-makers for their own care, but for their children, spouses and parents as well. They control the health care dollar. And while this is true, let’s take a step back and realize something — the healthy 35-year-old woman who works and has two small children has little in common with the 54-year-old empty nester, who has a couple of health issues and is taking care of her elderly parents.

While we should still use mass market communications — that doesn’t necessarily need to map to specific demographics — to establish market awareness, image and preference, that’s only half the battle. We also need to engage consumers enough to bring them into our organization. In today’s world, that means hyper-personalized communication that speaks to an individual’s specific needs, interests, preferences, purchasing behaviors and more.

How do you create hyper-personalized communication that engages consumers?

It’s really a two-step process. First, you’ll need to create micro-segments that take into account individual consumer needs and preferences. I don’t want to be prescriptive on how many audiences you should create, though — that’s driven by business needs, priorities, competitive forces and market opportunity. But think along the lines of: a segment of people that are between the ages of 54 and 56, are empty nesters and have high blood pressure. Generally, this kind of micro-segmentation will leave you with five to 20 ideal audiences for each of your service line campaigns.

To achieve outsized market returns, though, we need to understand that the initial audience segmentation exercise is just the beginning. Sometimes we truly don’t know precisely what will best move our audience to action before we launch the campaign. Because of this, the second crucial step is to attach the campaign to a robust artificial intelligence engine that can calculate millions of variables at once and optimize our audience targeting, ad delivery and campaign investment. That way, we just have to be in the right ballpark during the initial micro-segmentation exercise and the system will automatically readjust to keep the ship sailing on course.

In an ideal world, we could create micro-segments and targeted messages for every possible population nuance, but that would take forever. How do you optimize the process?

True — there is only so much time in the day. Clearly our capacity to manually segment and manage more than a few audiences for any campaign is limited — especially when you factor in creating specific messages and delivering them through the most efficient and effective media channels. However, no two people in the world are alike and, as marketers, it’s our job to speak to everyone in whatever way best moves them to action. Fortunately, for the first time in history we have the data and technologies at our fingertips to assist us.

While there is no shortage of data sources, don’t be fooled — not all lists are created equal. We decided to partner with Optum, to better understand health care consumers. The company profiles consumers using more than 200 fields of ethically sourced data on that range from broad demographics, lifestyle interests and everything in between.

One final burning question: Won’t this approach cost organizations more, either in time and/or data investments?

Honestly, no — the overall cost won’t change a bit. Whether your budget allows you to spend $100,000 or $10 million on marketing programs, that’s not going to change. What will change is how your marketing budget gets allocated. Micro-segmented marketing does require a higher investment in strategy, data, technology, creative production and ongoing optimization — but much less in message distribution. So in the end, the total investment won’t change, but the allocation of the marketing dollar will feel a little new at first. However, the return on your marketing spend will be much higher so everyone will feel comfortable — especially your CEO!

Will you be at the Healthcare Internet Conference this November? Chat with experts from Optum and BPD on more #hcmktg best practices or learn more about our work here.

About the author

01_JASONJason Brown
CEO, Brown Parker & DeMarinis Advertising

Jason Brown is co-founder, CEO and Chief Strategy Officer of Brown Parker & DeMarinis Advertising, an internationally-recognized healthcare marketing agency that works with healthcare systems to generate brand lift, boost patient volumes across service lines, improve the payer mix and develop new physician-referral patterns.

A pioneer in hospital marketing, Jason believes healthcare systems should be the most beloved brands in the world. (He knows they aren’t…yet.)

Since the agency’s founding in 2002, Jason has worked with more than 100 healthcare brands, including regional and national healthcare systems, community hospitals, academic medical centers and Fortune 500 companies.

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