My good friend Glenna Crooks (see www.glennacrooks.com)
is a well known health policy advisor and former member of the health policy team in the Reagan administration. Glenna actively blogs for disruptive women in healthcare at (disruptivewomen.net). Our careers intersect with our mutual interest in the rising impact of health disparities for American women.
Recents studies verify the women, especially those women in lower socioeconomic conditions with less education, have experienced an alarming decline in life expectancy since the early 1990's. This despite the fact that the medical community continues to make historic progress in medical treatments for problems such as heart disease, stroke and cancer.
The findings have been attributed to several issues including the recent economic downturn in the US which resulted in higher levels of unemployment and loss of health insurance as well as higher rates of smoking in American women. Or as former President Bill Clinton said in a speech that he delivers for his Clinton Global Initiative on Healthcare, some Americans people are dying of a "broken heart" from lack of access and opportunity.
One of the factors that may also play a role is the ongoing neglect and lack of understanding that the male dominated medical industry continues to display for women. Frankly we just have not done a good job in meeting women's healthcare needs in the public or private sector
1) Women represent more than 50% of the U.S. population and thus, companies have the potentially to as much as double their target market just by paying attention here. No doubt virtually all healthcare companies have women in their customer base, but it is worth investigating what percentage that customer demographic represents. If it is less than 50% and you sell a product that is not limited to use by men, then you have some obvious growth opportunities.
2) Women control the checkbook. If one actually believed the stereotypes that have perpetuated about women and our national economy, one would readily overlook these interesting facts:
■The average U.S. woman is expected to earn more than the average U.S. male by 2028
■51% of U.S. Private wealth is controlled by women
■Women account for over 50% of all stock ownership in the U.S.
■Women control more than 60% of all personal wealth in the U.S.
■Women control more than 80% of all U.S. spending
If those figures don’t make you want to figure out how to invest in sales and marketing programs to actively attract the attention of the female marketplace, you are not a very good CEO.
3) Women also influence or control much of how the other 50% purchase healthcare. It is pretty obvious that women decide when and how their children will utilize healthcare services most of the time. I am not saying that fathers never have a say or participate in that decision, but let’s get real. It’s the moms that generally drag the kids to the pediatrician and buy them anti-colic drops at Whole Foods. The global pediatric market is estimated at around $81 Billion by at least one group. With expanded insurance coverage of children courtesy of the PPACA, that market is expanding markedly. Appealing to the moms that control the bulk of that $81 billion is a good way to get your hands on it. On a more global basis, it is estimated that moms represent a $2.4 trillion market.
Women also control or at least heavily influence much of the healthcare purchasing behavior related to the men in their lives. For instance, Kaiser Permanente did a study a few years back that showed that, on average, 75% of health plan choices were made by women and that, overall, 80% of all family healthcare decisions were made by women.
4) Women live about 10 years longer than men. As a result, they represent 10 more years of customer purchasing power than their male counterparts. If the lifetime value of a customer is important to your product line because you have a recurring revenue model (and assuming your product is relevant to the over-50 market), understanding how to serve the female marketplace enables you to create about 10 more years of same store value than you can get out of your male customers.
5) Women are willing to spend money, and lots of it, on health and wellness and related verticals. It is essential to recognize that women’s health does not equal medicine that is directed to areas covered only by a bikini. Yes, women care about gynecology and breast cancer, but in the scheme of things the healthcare issues associated with those two categories are small potatoes. Heart disease, lung cancer, diabetes, orthopedic problems, health insurance, choosing what provider/hospital to go to…those are the bread and butter of human healthcare purchases. It is time to redefine women’s health as healthcare that happens to be for women. When you open your mind to that definition, the market potential rises exponentially. In fact, look at it this way: the U.S. healthcare market is estimated at about $2.8 trillion in 2012. If 80% of all that money is being influenced in some way by women, you should be paying better attention to your mom. Of course this is not exactly the right way to look at it since so much of medicine is based on what physicians (majority: men) recommend to their patients, but no matter how you slice it, the number is large. And women are the ones picking the family doctors, so marketing to doctors who appeal to women is a key part of the value creation chain.
6. Women have the kind of customer loyalty that transmits real value in healthcare. It used to be believed that women are “more loyal” customers than men. That theory has largely been altered to recognize that women and men exhibit different kinds of customer loyalty. Whereas female customers are relatively more loyal than male customers to individuals such as individual service providers, males are relatively more loyal than females to groups and group-like entities such as companies. When you are talking about an industry, such as healthcare, where purchases are extremely personal and largely made as the result of person-to-person, one-on-one relationships (e.g., through physician or pharmacist recommendation, broker sale, etc), attracting a female customer base can be a significant advantage in establishing long-term customer loyalty. In fact, while it is often conventional wisdom that advertising should promote loyalty to company brand names (something we see a lot of in pharmaceutical marketing, hospital marketing, insurance plan marketing, etc.), it would seem that the smart money would be on promoting the personal experience/relationships between individuals (doctors, pharmacists, brokers, etc.) and consumers if women control 80% of healthcare spending. Kaiser has been particularly sensitive to this, I note, in the development of advertising that emphasizes the individual physicians in their employ vs. the corporate brand itself. These guys know where their bread is buttered.
Women use word-of-mouth marketing
7) Women communicate about their experiences. Yeah, everyone knows women talk a lot. But if you are the purveyor of a product or service and you want to proliferate its use, you want them to keep talking. This is particularly so in the brave new world of social media, which the healthcare industry is desperately trying to figure out how to utilize to its advantage. Women tend to do far more research and ask for referrals and advice than men when making a significant purchase decision, including a decision around service providers. Research also shows that women tend to shop around longer and make more “wholistic” decisions about purchases, taking into account more lifestyle factors than do men. It is worth noting that 78% of women in the U.S. use the Internet for product information before making a purchase and account for 58% of all total online spending; 22% shop online at least once a day. Notably 92% of women pass along information about deals or finds to others. When it comes to moms, the primary healthcare purchaser in our country, note that 63% read blogs online and that the average moms mention brands an average of 73 times/week vs. 57 times/week among males. 64% of moms ask other moms for advice before making purchases. Women spend 2 more hours per week on social networking sites. When you combine that statistic with the fact that people over age 55 represent the fastest growing segment of social media users, you know healthcare is going to be a major topic of their social communications.
Overall these statistics have significant ramifications for how marketing should be conducted in this age of social media. If you fail to appeal to women in your efforts to market your healthcare product or service in this day and age, you are missing out on a true advantage of the medium: free advertising through customer testimonial. And perhaps more importantly, if you provide healthcare products and services to women that are not well-received, the blogosphere and everyone else in the world is going to know about it and fast.
In summary, healthcare may be a mans’ world, but it’s a woman’s marketplace. If men want truly to maximize their market success while they still run the world, the way to do it is through walking a mile in our very attractive and uncomfortable shoes. As for the women who aspire to leadership in the healthcare field, keep on keepin’ on and never give up. At a minimum you will get your shot during those 10 years when you outlive your male colleagues.