Your Guide to Marketing Health Insurance to Millennials

Let’s take a look at the convergence of one of today’s most dynamic industries and the largest consumer generation on earth—and see how health insurance marketers can effectively connect with millennials.

While millennials are well represented in our agency’s account and creative teams today, we started working with clients in healthcare, insurance, and health insurance back when most millennials were still in grade school. So while helping companies reach and engage primarily boomer audiences with health insurance offers, we watched the younger generation grow up and become healthcare consumers in their own right.

Like marketing professionals everywhere, we’ve had to continually develop new strategies to connect with these consumers. Not only are they fundamentally quite different than their parents and even their Gen X siblings, but their needs and preferences are still evolving—and driving our collective efforts to serve them with the healthcare and insurance education, products, and services each new life stage requires.

Here, we’re going to share our insights into what we believe are the most compelling facts about millennials—where they came from and what makes them “tick”—plus reveal our best practices for effectively marketing health insurance to this increasingly influential consumer group.

Millenials: A Generation to Call Their Own
They’ve been referred to as the Harry Potter generation, the Unemployables, Gen Y, and Gen Z, depending on who you’re talking to or which report you’re reading. No matter the nomenclature, millennials were born (roughly) between 1982 and 2000 and now outnumber baby boomers in the population and Gen-Xers in the American workforce.1,2

Millennials have a unique mindset: they’re the first generation of digital natives, coming of age in an uncertain post-9/11 economy and weak job market. They’re empowered by technology yet less trusting of the world around them. They may not out-earn their parents yet they’re largely optimistic about the future and their ability to enact change.

The Millennial Healthcare Consumer
In order to get a feel for millennials as health insurance customers, consider these stats-based insights:

They’re family healthcare decision-makers:
• Nearly 30% of Millennials are parents, shaping the healthcare habits and outlooks of their children.3
• 52% control healthcare decisions on behalf of others, whether that be a spouse, parent, sibling, or friend.3

They’re particularly cost-conscious:
• Cost is the primary reason 34% of younger millennials and 27% of older millennials are uninsured.4
• Nearly half of millennials have minimized healthcare costs by skipping, delaying, or stopping care, instead attempting to solve medical problems on their own.5
• 47% have student loan debt, 51% have a mortgage, and 75% of 20-somethings earn less than $50,000.6
• Millennials are more concerned about cost when choosing a carrier or health insurance plan than all other consumer groups (55 percent vs. 46 percent).7

They do their research…:
• Millennials (vs. non-millennials) are more satisfied with various sources of healthcare information:
• Online resources such as WebMD and Mayo Clinic: 39% vs. 29%
• Blogs and message boards: 30% vs. 13%
• Friends, family, and public health figures like Dr. Oz: 29% vs. 16%3

…but are they informed about health insurance?:
• While 35% say they are very informed about how to prevent disease, only 27% say they are very informed about health insurance options available to them.7
• 23% didn’t contact their carrier at all in the past year and 21% contacted their carrier only a single time. Even so, 76% trust that carriers have their best interest in mind, compared to 69 percent of the general population.7

Millennial Health Insurance Marketing Guidelines
In addition to the research we’ve done to understand millennial healthcare consumers, we’ve developed deep insights into what works for our industry clients, whose goals have included attracting new millennial consumers (and even sales agents) to online resources, engaging more effectively with existing millennial policyholders in order to cross-sell or help them make better use of their benefits, and driving more millennial sales leads.

Use the following guidelines to help you make the most of your strategies—and boost your success with millennial healthcare consumers:

Empower Their Ongoing Learning Process
While they’ve shown proficiency with researching medical conditions and staying on top of their day-to-day healthcare needs (e.g. diet and exercise), much of your millennial audience may not be insurance literate—and this is an important distinction. As younger consumers with less experience with financial services and insurance, most millennials sit on a relatively early point on the learning curve. They may not have personally incurred any significant major medical claims, or they may not know why supplemental lines of coverage might be a good fit for them. They may confuse the terms “copay” and “coinsurance” or not realize that certain medical services are covered by their plans first-dollar.

The average millennial simply might not think about health insurance when they aren’t shopping for it or using it. So when they are out there researching their options—online/on-demand or working with an agent—make sure they have access to information that makes common sense of insurance terminology and benefits. This is especially important in the product selection portion of their customer journey because of the large volume of options they have available to them, from plan types and deductible levels to supplemental coverage.

If you provide helpful, relevant, and even entertaining content that helps them learn about both insurance and your particular products, they’re more likely to turn to your website (or sales team) next time they’re looking for information.

Think Partner, Not Expert
As evidenced by their trust in a variety of sources for healthcare information (e.g. WebMD, Facebook, members of their social circle)—and the fact that they’re using these sources in the first place—millennials prefer a “trusted partner” over “venerated expert.” It’s not that they don’t consult their doctors or insurance agents for guidance, but they like to come to the table with information. They’re owners of their healthcare process, actively looking for answers to fill their knowledge gaps. They want to be spoken to at their level and not simply told “what to do.”

In communications, this sentiment can shine through in your tone and word choice. Think authentic, friendly, and open-minded. And here are some other best practices:

Keep Talking. Ongoing communication helps earn credibility and trust—especially when you’re approaching them as partners who want to provide helpful, convenient healthcare and insurance information.

Skip the Hard Sell. Your millennial-targeted offers need to reflect their values, not so much your product features. Sure, there’s some nuance to navigate here, but these consumers are responsive to content that helps them make their own decisions or that’s simply entertaining and engaging.

Personalize. Forget the one-size-fits-all approach. Milliennials grew up with technology—and the personalization that technology makes possible. They expect brands (even their health insurance company) to provide a thoughtful, individualized experience that anticipates their needs and respects their values.

Think Multi-Channel
Most health insurance companies have already launched the basics: responsive websites, 24/7 access to customer service, engaging content, online quoting and applications, and other offerings that meet people’s call for fast, on-demand service. When it comes to marketing, there are still plenty of opportunities for insurers to elevate their game.

What we’re talking about is taking advantage of every marketing channel to ensure that your messages and offers reach customers, attract their attention, and drive action. Your campaign materials need to work together to communicate clearly and make it easy for recipients to respond—in whichever way, at whatever time, works best for them. Go ahead, use direct mail as the traditional anchor for your offer, but promote it over email, social media, and mobile, providing various response mechanisms, from BRCs and phone numbers to web forms.

And we wouldn’t be a direct response marketing agency if we didn’t encourage you to test, test, and test. You want to make sure you’re using the right marketing mix and maximizing your opportunities in your channels-of-choice. You might enjoy 5 Healthcare Marketing Assumptions That Could Cost You.

1 https://www.census.gov/newsroom/press-releases/2015/cb15-113.html

2 http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/05/11/millennials-surpass-gen-xers-as-the-largest-generation-in-u-s-labor-force/

3 http://media.mmm-online.com/documents/274/952165_ghe_white_paper_final_68382.pdf

4 http://www.exploremidtown.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/nielsen-millennial-report-feb-2014.pdf

5 https://www.transamericacenterforhealthstudies.org/health-care-research/2016-millennials-survey-highlights 

6 https://www.moneyunder30.com/20-somethings-money-survey

7 http://www.millennialmarketing.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Barkley_Report_NewPicOfHealth_FINAL2.pdf