In December, the American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery announced the results of a study showing that Generation Xers trumped Baby Boomers as consumers of cosmetic procedures in 2010. Gen Xers accounted for 48% of sales, while Boomers comprised only 24%. And this trend is likely to continue as more and more Gen Xers come into their own. Gen Xers range in age from 32 to 46 years old, while Baby Boomers are aged 55 to 64.
How will this trend affect cosmetic surgery practices? It will change the types of procedures you offer, how you market your practice, the channels you use to reach consumers, how you train your staff, and how you approach patients, to name a few.
YOUR MENU OF PROCEDURES
Generation Xers have different cosmetic needs than earlier generations.
- Faces—They’re more interested in preservation than overhaul. This means they won’t be asking for facelifts. Instead, they’ll be gunning for laser skin resurfacing, chemical peels, facials, physician skin care products, scar revision, and tattoo removal.
- Liposuction—Always popular among daters and maters, liposuction (and body contouring in general) will appeal to the many female Gen Xers group as they delay marriage and stay in the dating pool well into their late 30s.
- Breast Augmentation—The younger woman’s favorite procedure will continue to be popular with Gen Xers.
- Mommy Makeover—As women in their mid-to-late 40s reach optimum family size and hope to get back to work again, they’ll be seeking this combination of procedures.
- Eyes—Blepharoplasty, fat transfer, fillers, and other cures for drooping eyelids and undereye discoloration will be in demand.
- Low-Impact and Endoscopic Surgery—Foreheads and other areas that show early signs of aging will drive demand for effective procedures with minimal downtime and no scars.
- Male cosmetic surgery—Gen X metrosexual men will be on the prowl for procedures that keep them looking as young as their Gen Y, 20-something competitors.
Dana Fox, president of the consulting firm Your Strategic Edge in Edmonds, Wash, says that the new demographics will also affect your marketing strategy. “The new Gen X patient signs on to cosmetic medicine earlier in life than Boomers did,” she says. “They’re in this for a good 30 or 40 years once they start. Therefore, your marketing needs to take a longer view. You’ll want to dedicate more money to patient retention campaigns than to drumming up new business.”
Gen Xers have bought the idea that great skin maintenance will postpone aging and the need for high-impact surgery later in life (facelifts). Therefore, they’ll appreciate a rewards program that schedules their skin maintenance, discounting treatments in exchange for dependable monthly credit card payments. “These win patient loyalty,” she says.” In the new paradigm, loyalty will pay off as never before because of the increase in each patient’s lifetime value.”
Also, consider patient appreciation luncheons, birthday gift certificates, members-only discounts, e-newsletters, demo evenings, and skin care clubs.
Staff training matters too. “Approaching patients with real TLC and making sure your staff handles them like an ongoing resource will spell success,” Fox says. Many marketing firms offer customer service training. “If you have any doubts about how your office is treating your patients, take advantage of those training opportunities,” she urges.
EDUCATE YOUR PATIENTS
Gen Xers are quick studies, and they want information about anything they invest their money in.
Talk to them like peers, and provide the scientific evidence behind the lasers, cosmeceuticals, peels and other treatments you are offering. When you talk about surgery, show plenty of before-and-after photos.
They’ve got a reputation for being highly skeptical. They can see through phony claims easily. You need to convince them of the genuine value of a product or service in a sincere, straightforward way—no hype.
If you’ve been contributing educational messages to Web sites like RealSelf, keep it up. Gen Xers notice you on those Web sites, and, if your message sounds credible, rate you a peg above the other doctors in your region.
HOW TO MARKET TO GENERATION X
Which marketing channels should you use to reach this generation? It’s difficult to say because Gen X media consumption is fragmented: mobile devices, online surfing, gaming, satellite radio, iPads, and iPods. That said, there are a few guidelines.
- Radio—If you can wangle a regular half-hour or 15-minute educational show on a local radio station, Gen Xers are likely to find it. A radio show could build your reputation as an expert in your field. Gen Xers who find your show and like it will tell others.
- Television—If you produce a show and book it on your local cable channel, make sure there’s nothing phony about it. Don’t follow a network talk show format with you as the “guest.” They have been there and seen that. Do something straightforward and provide plenty of real, credible, clarifying scientific information.
- Mobile Devices—Gen Xers will happily book treatments on their smartphones or iPads. Program your office software to send them reminders when they’re due for fillers and Botox injections.
- Web Sites—It’s no secret that Gen X is the first generation to grow up on the Internet. Not surprisingly, they like to do research online, so your Web site should be burnished to perfection to get their attention. If your Web site isn’t already set up to reflect your brand and generate leads, invest some marketing dollars there. It will pay off.
- Video—Use video on your Web site. “Unlike Boomers, this group would rather watch video than read,” says Catherine Maley of Cosmetic Image Marketing in San Francisco.
- Loading time—Make sure your information loads fast. Gen Xers don’t like to wait.
- Sell product—This crowd is comfortable with e-commerce, so they’ll buy products straight from your Web site.
- Shorten your Web copy—Long pages of information that need to be scrolled will turn this crowd off. Gen Xers like it “now,” and they like it “easy.”
- Social Media—”These people spend time on Facebook. They’re comfortable with many different social media channels, so reach out to them on all of the channels that interest you,” Maley says.
- Online Reviews—Gen Xers are more savvy about review sites like Yelp! and Healthgrades than Boomers. Be sure to protect your online reputation.
- Direct Mail—Surprise! Gen X actually opens snail mail. According to a study conducted for the US Postal Service, 86% of Gen Xers read their mail and they rate 74% of retail advertising mail as valuable.
Follow these tips to swim with the tide, and your practice will not just survive, but thrive.
Joyce Sunila is the president of Practice Helpers, providing e-newsletters, blogs, and social media services to aesthetic practices. You can contact Joyce at or visit the Practice Helpers Web site at www.practicehelpers.com.