Let’s get right to it.

If you’re a healthcare marketer or business leader, you need to know who is making buying decisions for your product or service. And you need to understand them deeply. Who they are drives what information they need, when they need it and how they prefer to consume it. (Note the reference to “them.” It’s about what they need, not what you or I want to give them.)

This, of course, translates into all kinds of marketing strategies and tactics that support the buyer’s journey, from content, to format, to tone, to channel, and so on.

If you aren’t in tune with your buyers, you’ll struggle to make a connection and engage them in your awesomeness. Translation: you won’t sell much, if anything.

Who will it be?

So who’s the new decision maker in the world of B2B healthcare? [Disclaimer: the specific answer depends on what you’re marketing and the role(s) you’re targeting, but you knew that.] Disclaimer accounted for, you may say the new decision maker is a Millennial, which would be a really good answer, and one that proves you’re paying attention to the market. After all, at about 79 million, Millennials are the country’s largest generation, and quickly approaching their peak years in the workplace and as leading decision makers. But…you’d only be half right.

If your answer was Generation X (GenX), congratulations, you’re also half right! Members of GenX are owning it at the top levels of many companies. In fact, a recent report by CNBC found that 51% of leadership roles worldwide are held by GenXers, and that we can expect to see them actively engaged in the workplace for the next 10-30 years. So, from a generational standpoint, the majority of decision makers are a GenX-Millennial combo, versus just 10 years ago when more than half were Baby Boomers.

The generational shift

As any marketer would tell you, that shift – from Boomer-GenXer to GenXer-Millennial – has changed the face of marketing forever, and will continue to do so as the next wave happens and the post-Millennial generation (GenZ) begins its leadership ascent. (Just imagine what it will be like when the majority of decision makers are Millennial-GenZ…but that’s a future blog post.)

So, what’s the big deal? This isn’t the first time a generational shift has occurred – we get it, there are differences. And while that is true, what makes this shift especially noteworthy from a healthcare marketing standpoint is:

  1. How Millennials view health and healthcare
  2. Who they trust for guidance when making purchasing decisions [spoiler alert: they reject traditional advertising]
  3. Their openness to multiple communication channels for consuming information

Just to provide a bit of color (and you can read more in our white paper), Millennials view eating right and exercising as equally important to not getting sick. They have a higher preference for retail care and acute care clinics (over other generations), generally don’t have a primary care physician relationship, do a lot of comparison shopping, and rely on friends and peers for recommendations. All very different from the Baby Boomer generation.

And while all this is true, don’t count the GenXers out of the digital game. Yes, Millennials have been hailed as “digital natives” – the product of an internet-based, always-on, mobile culture – but GenXers are equally as savvy in the social and digital realms, and their expectations for immediate access to information when and where they need it is absolutely comparable to that of Millennials.

So now we have two generations of decision makers with a strong orientation to social and digital channels, self-service, and uber convenience.

Putting it into practice

For marketers, that’s important info, because those expectations translate into the workplace. When considering a purchase, GenXers and Millennials prefer to spend a good bit of time searching for information online, reading reviews, and speaking with colleagues. They don’t want to speak with a company salesperson. By the time they’re ready for that, they’re probably ready to buy, making your job infinitely more important and challenging. You need to satisfy your prospect’s need for information and instill confidence before there’s ever a one-on-one interaction with your company.

That means living in their world. They’re going to be online doing a lot of research, so you need to be found easily and be interesting to them once you are found. It goes beyond SEO strategies and solid content, though. Remember that info about openness to multiple channels and looking to peers and colleagues for trusted recommendations. Invest in the communication channels preferred by your buyers and develop your influencer strategies. And don’t forget to align these tactics with your buyer’s journey. Satisfying their need for information each step of the way is critical, and it helps you to organize your strategy.

Establishing a deep knowledge of the established and emerging decision makers will make the task of reaching and engaging them much more effective. By acknowledging the impact of the generational shift, you can prepare for the changes instead of being surprised by them. Keep in mind that your competitors are doing this. Don’t get left behind!