As a marketing professional, I understand why healthcare marketers would reach out to me. After all, I'm the one who is theoretically at risk and the one to whom any related product would be sold to. But, since my snoring doesn't seem to be slowing me down any, I know full well they won't make any real progress in convincing me to take action.
So who should the healthcare marketers be talking to? I suggest they consider turning to the real sufferer. In my case, that's my wife. Wives are likely the case with many men. You see, while I'm convinced I'm getting a sound night's sleep, my wife is the one who is up all night as a result of my (alleged) snoring and (alleged) gasping. And she's the one who is tired all day because she wasn't able to get any sleep the night before.
The truth is, men tend to ignore symptoms and are generally physician-averse. "It's just the way they're socialized," says Lorraine Fitzpatrick, a medical doctor and associate professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. (as quoted in The Complete Book of Men's Health by the editors of Men's Health books, 1999, Octopus Publishing Group). "A woman is much more likely to come in just because she's just not feeling right." So it's no surprise that women are responsible for approximately 80% of all decisions about a family's health (U.S. Department of Labor, General Facts on Women and Job Based Health).
We, as marketers, must identify the most influential targets, and also recognize when that target isn't just the most obvious one. Here are a few things to consider:
The Afflicted vs The Affected?
When considering a target audience for a healthcare-related product or service, challenge yourself to identify not just the afflicted but also the affected. Those who are impacted by a spouse or child with a condition may just be the one with the greatest motivation to find a solution.
While it is important for sufferers to have greater conditional and risk awareness, consider who is actually driving decisions and action. Contributing to efforts aimed at driving more men to get prostate cancer screenings (most are reluctant to do so on their own), Lauren P. Wallner, lead author and graduate research associate at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor (Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, 2008) said, "In terms of motivating people to get screened, there may be a benefit in targeting wives and significant others as well as men." Look for the audience that makes things happen.
Help or Hindrance?
When considering your true target audiences, think about those who help and those who may be hindering your efforts or blocking progress. While the U.S. Army's efforts were successful in converting candidates into believers, the organization recognized that one of the barriers to their recruitment efforts wasn't the prospect they traditionally targeted; it was his or her parents. Armed with that knowledge, the Army modified its "Army Strong" campaign and slogan to include messaging aimed squarely at parents: "You made them strong. We'll make them Army strong."
I recently told my wife she should see a doctor about my snoring. And she did, without hesitation.