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Marketing to the generations

Sept. 1, 2006
Technology enables you to run your practice smoothly and efficiently, but when it comes to using technology with your patients, each generation has a unique perspective.
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Technology enables you to run your practice smoothly and efficiently, but when it comes to using technology with your patients, each generation has a unique perspective. Four generations - the Matures, Baby Boomers, Generation X (Gen X) and Generation Y (Gen Y) - currently make up your client base. This article will detail the most effective ways to communicate and connect with each drastically different generation, primarily by creating a comfortable and convenient patient experience. Assist Matures in getting the dental care they need and deserve with basic, to-the-point messages. Cater to the desire for exclusivity and superior service for Boomers, while addressing their concerns for health and beauty. Manage the right balance between technology and personal contact for Gen X to inform them and help fulfill their family priorities. Utilize the tools of the trade with Gen Y and help them through the decision-making process. A basic understanding of each generation will equip you with the knowledge you need to effectively utilize technology and build a rewarding relationship with each and every individual in your care.


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The generation of Americans born between 1909 and 1945, known as the Matures, totals 68 million. Growing up with the repercussions of World War II and the Great Depression, this generation achieved success through discipline and sacrifice. This disciplined lifestyle carries over to several aspects of everyday life for Matures, especially related to financial concerns. Known as a generation of savers, the Matures were the first participants in the American Dream. Today, the Matures are leading comfortable lives in retirement. For many, this is the first time they have had money to spend on wants rather than needs. As a result, they are spending more in retirement than at any prior point in their lives. However, most cannot shake the saver mentality and continue to live on tight budgets. Although Matures spend money on health-related necessities, their frugality keeps them from splurging on luxuries to conserve their youth and looks. Matures are comfortable with their age; happiness, relaxation, and comfort are more important than preserving their youth.


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The Baby Boomer generation, or “Boomers” for short, consists of those individuals born between 1946 and 1964. At 80 million strong, they constitute the largest group of Americans and are the biggest health-care spenders. In their youth, Boomers collected a variety of experiences. As a generation of dreamers, they attended Woodstock in the 1960s and sought to fulfill their passions. Today, they are reconnecting with their past by engaging in adventure and exploration. As this generation transitions from career-focused to newly retired, they will remain adventurous and optimistic. To the Boomers, who embrace the “live to work” mentality, a career was never just a job, but an adventure and a creative outlet. The fact that they are currently entering retirement does not mean they are willing to give up that explorative spirit.

Gen X

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Gen X includes those individuals born between 1965 and 1978, most of whom are currently married with children. These 50 million Americans grew up during the era of mergers, acquisitions, and corporate downsizing, thus perpetuating a risk-aware mentality. Gen X is pragmatic and succeeds through determination, never presuming success. Unlike the generation which precedes them, the motto for Gen X could be “work to live.” Thirty percent of Gen Xers come from divorced households. As a result, keeping families together, happy, and healthy is important. Not only family, but relationships of all kinds are top priority for this generation. They crave a feeling of connection and highly value relationships with the communities in which they work and reside.

Gen Y

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Gen Y, or “echo boomers,” is the second largest group of Americans, boasting 75 million people. Born between 1979 and 1997, this technology-savvy generation is entering adulthood and, as with their Boomer parents, they are dreamers who are health- and image-conscious. While struggling to transition into the real world, they are likely to transfer colleges, city and job hop, and travel abroad. Raised by their Boomer parents, Gen Y members also are intent on following their bliss, striving to live and work according to their passions.

Connect with your patients through technology

Technology is a powerful tool which can help you and your staff better serve your patients, build solid patient relationships, and expand your business. Utilizing technology in ways each generation is accustomed to will ensure your place as a trusted partner in your patients’ care.


The Matures place importance on accomplishing goals and feel that hard work is a reward in itself. As men and women who were consumed by war and economic struggles in their youth, success today means no surprises and predictability. The Matures also are characterized by a strong and loyal belief in institutions. Just as they looked to the government to provide answers throughout their youth and adulthood, they continue to look to institutions to point the way.

Technology may be initially overwhelming for Matures. Help them become comfortable with the new environment by demonstrating equipment and technology, showing them how you sterilize instruments, and introducing them to staff members.Messages that refer to the “American Dream” will resonate well with Matures. Recognize their hard work and remind them that they have earned comfort and luxury in their retirement.Clear messages are best. Avoid clutter and make your point clearly to ensure that they know what to expect from your dental practice and understand any treatments you recommend to them. Developing a treatment plan within your practice-management software, explaining the potential impact of proposed treatment, and allowing time to answer questions will help make patients partners in their care.Utilize institutions to endorse messages and ideas. Quoting research findings, statistics, or recommendations from organizations such as the American Dental Association may boost your credibility and increase trust in your practice.A little extra effort and a personal touch will pay off in the long run. Matures are intensely brand-loyal, so it is likely they will remain faithful to your practice if they have a good experience the first time around.BoomersBeing the first generation to grow up with debt, Boomers are concerned about making investments which will last a lifetime. Boomers feel confident about their health, as well as their looks, and do not like to view themselves as aging. Boomers came of age during an era of consumerism with marketers competing for their attention. As a result, theyhave developed a feeling of entitlement to superior service and rewarded loyalty. They will expect nothing less from their dental office.
  • Patient education tools, such as CAESY Education Systems, provide informative presentations which can help explain and illustrate procedures, as well as make long-time benefits apparent.
  • It is best to depict Boomers as healthy and active, since it is how they view themselves. Avoid using the term “senior” when addressing this generation.
  • Gently use humor to remind them about the reality of their age and health. Also, Boomers seek the approval of their children, so consider methods of connecting them with the youth of their children.
  • Build a relationship and create a personal experience for each patient. Make them feel special using exclusivity - greet them personally, send birthday cards, and note their personal preferences when they visit your practice. Some practice-management software programs enable your staff to customize each appointment from the moment the patient walks in the door. Begin by reviewing the patient record - including a photo - which prepares the staff to greet the patient by name when he or she arrives.
  • Most importantly, create an experience and a sense of individuality around your practice. Create a psychological reward for visiting the dental office. For example, acquiring extraoral and intraoral images in your practice-management software creates an educational opportunity for Boomers to view enlarged, detailed images of their own teeth in the operatory. Boomers are interested in exploring and collecting experiences, so make visiting your practice an interesting experience ... an experience they would like to have.
  • Gen XA holistic approach to living characterizes Gen X. Members of this group tend to focus on their physical well-being - looking good and feeling good go hand-in-hand. Due to their pragmatic tendencies, Gen Xers want to reduce risk in life to learn all they can about a procedure before committing to it. They prefer to enter health situations in control, with a reasonable idea of what to expect. While Boomers see technology as a resource, Gen X sees it as a convenience. Because technology is the norm for this group, they will expect to receive information and to converse this way. Also important to note is that growing up during the age of consumer-driven culture made this group smart and savvy about the marketing realm. In promoting your practice and recommending treatment, help Gen X patients focus on the effect it will have on their health and well-being, rather than their physical beauty.Be prepared to field questions regarding the topic or procedure at hand. Patient education tools are perfect for providing the knowledge and understanding Gen X patients seek in making decisions.Use technology in your practice to provide the high standard of personal service Gen X has come to expect. Digital radiography that seamlessly integrates with your practice-management and clinical software will allow Gen X patients to see and understand specific problems as they are described.Achieve the right balance between technology and personal contact. The IntelliCare feature in Patterson EagleSoft Version 13.00 allows office staff members to set automated alerts for patients matching user-defined criteria. Message options and settings are limitless and can assist you in staying up-to-date on patient records and needs, ensuring personalized service and high-quality care while creating a high-tech experience.To establish and maintain personal ties, Gen X patients will most likely prefer a phone call over an e-mail. Use this knowledge to your advantage when confirming appointments.Tools such as Patterson EagleSoft’s OnSchedule feature easily allow you to assist Gen X patients with family-friendly scheduling. You also may take notes in each patient’s record regarding individual preferences and dislikes. Taking these extra steps will help promote the personal touch and family-focused service that Gen X patients appreciate.Gen X members may be skeptical when being marketed to, so it is best to avoid hype and use simple, honest, and direct messages. Gen Y The Internet shapes the culture of Gen Y, both as a form of communication and entertainment. In fact, it is their prime communication medium, as Gen Y members spend three hours more online than watching television or using any other medium. Instant messaging and blogging are the norm for this group. Gen Y grew up using technology as a connector and will expect you to do the same with your practice. Because Gen Y is very image-conscious, this tends to drive their health attitudes. Although they have an enormous amount of spending power, this group is still debt-heavy. Like Gen X, Gen Y is extremely marketing-savvy. E-mail, text messages, and Web sites are all useful forms of communication to spread the word about your practice and get in touch with Gen Y members. Consider building or improving your online presence with tools such as CAESY Online 3.0, a customizable Web-based resource that enables dentists to create and deliver patient-education materials from their own Web site.Technology allows ease of use, efficiency, and convenience to accomplish tasks for Gen Y. Mundane tasks such as paperwork can be minimized by using online forms and other resources. Patterson EagleSoft Version 13.00 features Fast CheckIn, which enables Gen Y patients to check in and enter registration information unassisted. This can be done at a computer kiosk or on a Tablet PC in the reception area.With a take-charge attitude about their looks and health, Gen Y welcomes education that enhances their well-being and appearance. For this reason, walking a Gen Y patient through cosmetic imaging to present whitening and cosmetic dentistry treatment options is a good idea and should be well-received.Gen Y patients do not want to be instructed on what to do, but steered through the decision-making process. Help guide them through it, while appealing to their search for passion and identity. As they begin taking ownership of their health, provide them with enough information to make educated decisions. For instance, Patterson EagleSoft offers Real-time Eligibility that can be used to tell a patient if or how much of a specific service is covered by insurance.To widen the constituency of your patient base, tap into the knowledge that your friends are the new family for Gen Y. Word-of-mouth is big among this group, so ideas such as free samples and special deals may help you tap into their community and create a “buzz.” ConclusionCollectively, your patients are marketing savvy and may reject hype and traditional marketing methods. Therefore, maximizing technology - including practice-management and clinical software, patient education, digital imaging, and more - requires employing it in specialized ways with each generation.Use these tools to provide exceptional and personal service to Matures and Boomers, respectively, while educating Gen X and leading with technology when relating to Gen Y. Customize your methods to fit each generation’s needs and preferences, and enjoy the success technology can bring to your practice.
    Michelle Anderson has eight years of experience in the dental industry and is currently the technology marketing specialist for Patterson Dental Supply, Inc. The company offers a comprehensive package of integrated technology products, including Patterson EagleSoft practice management and clinical software, hardware, and CAESY patient education. For more information on the company’s complete line of technology offerings, visit or You may contact Anderson directly at [email protected] or at (651) 686-1965.

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