Month: April 2016

10 Medicare Marketing Mega-trends for 2016

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In 2016, there are 10 major Medicare Marketing Megatrends that will significantly impact marketers who are focused on developing programs for Medicare prospects and members:

  1. The Audience Has Changed and So Must Marketers

The most significant megatrend is that the Medicare audience is changing. There is a new senior in town. They’re not only identifiable by their age. Other factors are critical to segmenting the new Faces of Medicare in 2016, as the population moves from the Greatest Generation to leading-edge and trailing-edge baby boomers, who behave much differently than the seniors that most Medicare marketers are prepared for.

We see a digital-savvy consumer that spends more time online and on social networks than previous seniors. But we also see Medicare marketing organizations turning a blind eye and a deaf ear to this enlightened new group of seniors by planning the same old print, DM and TV marketing, and pretending that digital adoption by the new faces of Medicare isn’t a real thing.

Marketers need to create new media and budget strategies. Most are not likely to be wildly successful out of the gate considering that constant reevaluation and optimization on the fly during a compressed AEP might prove to be difficult without a seasoned and experienced marketing agency partner.

  1. New Member Acquisition: Balancing Age-In and AEP Acquisition Strategies

Knowing that new member acquisition is the important lifeblood of any insurer’s success, Medicare marketers are struggling to decide which is the greater pot of gold: age-in, with 10,000 people in the U.S. turning 65 every day, or AEP, during which multiple research documents show only 10% of the Medicare Advantage enrollees opt to switch at all. Should Medicare marketing organizations put their resources and emphasis on age-ins or on AEP?

And continuing with the acquisition theme, Medicare marketers are beginning to wonder what is actually within their control. Are they vying for a piece of the 22% of Medicare Advantage enrollees in AEP? Do they really have any hope of denting the acquisition numbers of the Magnificent Medicare Seven?

3 — Medicare Strategies for Those Who Work Past Age 65

What about the increasing number of seniors delaying retirement, keeping their workplace insurance and entering the Medicare market late? Organizations must have strategies in place to attract and acquire members of this increasingly growing segment. Do you have the ability to identify and engage these important prospective members? Best-in-class organizations either have or plan to have strategies in place to do so for 2016 and beyond.

4 — Marketing Owns Customer Experience

Customer experience is now of paramount importance to Medicare marketing organizations. From the moment a prospective member becomes aware of your organization or has an interaction with your organization, each and every touch point is vital; something as simple as a planned and cohesive customer-experience process can be the difference between a lifelong member and a fleeting prospect.

5 — Retention and Loyalty Transition of Legacy Members

Since insurer members are most likely to remain with the same insurance company when entering Medicare, are those insurers ready to fight to keep those legacy members through extraordinary retention and loyalty efforts?

6 — Star Rating System

Medicare marketers are struggling with the importance of the star rating system, and are grappling with the actual importance of a 5-star rating as it pertains to acquisition efforts. An organization’s star rating is a direct reflection of its level of professionalism in providing an excellent customer experience across all touch points.

7 — New Media Strategies Are Needed

In the Age of the Consumer, Medicare marketing organizations must adopt and evolve to remain relevant and effective. New marketing positioning and messaging must be compelling to the enlightened and empowered consumer. Marketers must be creatively digital and mobile in their thinking, and adapt to a rapidly changing audience’s new media consumption habits.

  1. Medicare is Changing

According to an ABC news article from January 4, 2016, “Whether it’s coverage for end-of-life counseling or an experimental payment scheme for common surgeries, Medicare in 2016 is undergoing some of the biggest changes in its 50 years. Grandma’s Medicare usually just paid the bills as they came in. Today, the nation’s flagship health-care program is seeking better ways to balance cost, quality and access.”

9 — New Perceptions of Life Expectancy

There are significant new megatrends in elder healthcare. From connected healthcare and virtual doctor visits we have entered what some are calling the longevity economy, where 60 years old is the new 40.

Life expectancy has risen to a little over 78 years, which some will attribute to many new life-extension procedures. Just recently, Medicare announced there may be a program developed to support physicians with end-of-life counseling.

10 — Simplifying the Complex is Essential

Some megatrends are not new, such as attempting to solve the complexities of Medicare through simple and concise communications. Consumers have always been overwhelmed with the complexities of making an informed decision regarding their Medicare coverage. Let’s face it, it’s never been an easy or simple explanation regarding plan choices, and marketers must strive to make the complex simple.

And without a doubt, the greatest megatrend that Medicare marketers will need to deal with is The New Faces of Medicare-Eligible Members, which is a topic I’ll cover in my next article.

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Medicare Marketing: What’s Your Tolerance for Testing During AEP?

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Each Autumn, starting on October 15th and ending on December 7th, a sprint to the finish line of AEP (Medicare Annual Election Period) is run by every Medicare insurance marketing team.   During this very compressed period of time of 54 days, those who are enrolled in Medicare can choose to switch their coverage during the Annual Election Period.

Even though various reports have identified the percentage of Medicare enrollees who are likely to switch at 10% or less, the year-long planning which leads to a frenzy of marketing activity packed into 7 weeks and 5 days is traversed by every single Medicare insurer since the “land-grab” of AEP is seen as the greatest single opportunity to add net new members.

As modern marketers, we know that testing is essential to optimization, yet, with the constraint of having Medicare marketing tactics perform at the highest possible level during this finite time period, causes many smart marketers to abandon testing due to the high pressure that’s put on marketing to make the AEP numbers.

And those who attempt to stay true to the best practice of testing, often do so, with testing budgets that aren’t nearly adequate for proper statistical validity in test results which prevents optimization of programs.

What is your organization’s tolerance for testing during AEP?   What are you testing?  We all need to be testing channels, the media selection placed within the channels, the messaging used to move people to the call to action, the format of the communications, and challengers to our direct mail pieces, the reality is, that we aren’t testing what we should be testing.

Why?  Excuses abound.

“We only have “$X budget” to bring in “Y” net new members and we can’t take a chance on using a portion of that budget for testing which may, or may not work.”

“We’ve tested similar things before and they’ve never worked.”

“I can’t hire another agency to create a direct mail challenger and then send it to such a small test quantity- it isn’t efficient enough.”

“Every year we hear about the digitally savvy new faces of Medicare coming into market, and each time we’ve tested digital, it doesn’t provide the same ROI as direct mail or TV.”

“We go to conferences, attend seminars, learn about new digital tactics, and we can never find the budget to properly test them.”

“We’re under pressure to perform, and our jobs could be in jeopardy if we don’t perform.”

The consistent lack of testing during AEP is preventing many Medicare marketers from optimizing their efforts and from achieving future success.

Can organizations break away from this vicious cycle so that they can resume what all marketers really must be doing, which is testing?

How can we possibly know if the “control” direct mail package we are sending year after year really is worthy of being a control if we can’t hire another agency to test against it?   How will we ever know if moving budget from traditional to digital channels is going to result in greater MROI?  Is the event strategy and tactics that we are putting into market really the best use of our budget?   If we flight DRTV in concert with direct mail and digital, what effect will it have on our overall results?  What if we changed it up?  How can we change it up?

What can marketers do to insure that testing is part of their plans for every year’s AEP?

As I am privileged and fortunate to be in a position to speak with many marketers whose sole focus is Medicare marketing, I have found that having and enabling a robust testing program in, and for that matter, outside of AEP, is directly attributable to the initial strategic planning stages of the programs.

Marketing leaders are responsible to include testing as part of their overarching plan from the outset.  The leadership of the organization must be made aware that a comprehensive marketing strategy, must include testing and optimization from the get-go.

If you find yourself in the heat of the battle of AEP without budget and planning for testing, it is because the strategy hasn’t been planned well.  Optimization through testing and learning are basic fundamentals of marketing, and often, fundamentals are foolishly overlooked.

There is an old saying that people can be divided into 3 categories: Those who make things happen, those who watch things happen and those who wondered what happened.

If your organization plans for and conducts testing during AEP, good for you, you are making things happen!

If your organization doesn’t plan for testing during AEP, don’t sit there and just watch things happen.  Be that change agent who stands up to challenge leadership to include testing as a fundamental part of every AEP and Age-In marketing plan.

Without testing, there is no progress, and with no progress, there is no optimization and without optimization, results are eventually going to diminish and falter to the point where everyone will wonder what happened.

Test. It’s not an option. It’s a marketing fundamental. Do it.