Month: July 2016

A Digital Beginning: Medicare Marketing in Our Digital World (Chapter 2)


Chapter 2
A Digital Beginning


The late Dr. Wayne Dwyer said “Go for it now.  The future is promised to no one.”  This is sound advice for life and for ending the procrastination about when your Medicare marketing organization should begin to create a digital strategy.  “Go for it now.”

Let’s address the elephant in the room.  Every Medicare marketer has numbers to make.  It is no secret that direct mail is the primary workhorse of Medicare Marketing, providing the necessary leads for inside sales, brokers and agents and driving self-serve transactional online sales.   Jeopardizing an organization’s ability to meet or exceed the sales goals by moving budget out of direct mail and into digital is not a viable option nor is slicing a digital budget out of DRTV, Print, Events or other high performing channels.

Mobile is No Longer Considered A Channel
To be clear, more than ½ of all digital advertising occurs on mobile devices.  The remainder of this book will incorporate strategies that are as much mobile as they are desktop.   For modern marketers, there is no longer a separate category for mobile, and for Medicare marketers, the reality that our audience is now predominantly mobile must be acknowledged and prepared for.  All of the strategies and tactics contained within are applicable to mobile and I strongly encourage the consideration of cross platform mobile digital advertising, for search, display, video and through mobile specific apps (applications.) Don’t expect to see a “Mobile Marketing” section- everything here is for mobile and desktop.

A Digital Marketing Strategy is More Than A Digital Media Strategy
Who is responsible to create and execute the digital strategy?   Is it the marketing department of the Medicare organization?   Perhaps it’s the marketing agency that works with the Medicare organization, or could it be the Media agency who is responsible?  I’ve seen it all 3 ways.   Due to budget limitations smaller Medicare organizations task their own marketing department to do this, while most of the time it is the marketing agency that creates the strategy, while the media agency is generally responsible for executing the strategy, and implementing the ad spend as directed.

Best practice calls for the Medicare organization’s marketing agency to create the strategy.   After all, the marketing agency is orchestrating all channels, and needs to assume the role of the lead agency directing all marketing endeavors of the organization including media.  The lead agency will best understand the brand, the brand values, and chances are they either helped to write the positioning and messaging of both the brand and the products.

Every best-practice lead agency will depend on input from the media agency and the marketing department of the Medicare organization to develop the best possible strategy and implementation roadmap.

The Digital Strategy and Digital Budget Conundrum
The obvious conclusion is that there can’t be a digital strategy without a DEDICATED digital budget and conversely, how can a digital budget be estimated without a digital strategy?


Let’s pull back from the philosophical to the practical for a moment.  Those who are in a position where they are developing strategy are usually aware of the budget availability and limitations of the organization.   The assumption is that you’ll know if your digital budget is more likely to be a bread basket or a bread truck or a bread factory or a national chain of bread factories with fleets of bread trucks.

There is a great likelihood that your Medicare marketing organization has forayed into the digital marketing game in some way by now, which means that your starting point isn’t at zero, which is a good thing.  Perhaps your organization has experimented with search, and maybe with some display or even with retargeting; and if so, you have some lessons learned, some benchmarks to reference and have been able to convince those holding the purse strings that digital experimentation must take place.

Based on what your organization has tolerated for digital marketing experimentation and what you estimate to be an acceptable budget range for digital marketing is a good starting place for determining a budget range for digital.  When building the actual strategy, a more detailed view of what you will need to spend based on benchmarks and educated estimates will allow honing of the budget to a more realistic number.

Some mistakenly view digital marketing as advertising on digital media channels.   While it is true that digital channels are utilized to advertise, creating a digital strategy is usually tasked to marketing agencies that develop strategy and either have a media department or utilize a media agency to place the media.   Building a digital strategy requires knowledge of the market, the target, direct response marketing, brand marketing, digital advertising, social media marketing and advertising and marketing strategy.

Creating a digital strategy framed within a business case which proves a positive ROI on an estimated budget that can be used to obtain funding can be challenging.

Throughout the Summer of ’16, various types of content will be produced to tell you the story of “Medicare Marketing in Our Digital World.

The purpose of this work is to provide a 30,000 foot view for Medicare marketing CMO’s and other Medicare marketing leaders.

In the next installment I discuss 50 important questions that must be asked and answered prior to developing a Digital Medicare Marketing Strategy.


Medicare Marketing in Our Digital World

Chapter 1:

Why are Medicare Marketers struggling to develop a Digital Marketing Strategy?

Have you recently been to a music concert where more than half of the audience is watching it through the camera screen of their smart phone?  It’s amazing how many people are holding their phones high above their heads in order to capture a personal video memory of the concert rather than just enjoying the moment.

Have you noticed that increasingly more and more people in public places have their heads down laser focused on their smart phones?

Just recently, Augsburg, a German city was the first municipality to install traffic signalsin the sidewalk so that smart phone-distracted pedestrians would see them after a 15 year old girl there was killed by a tram when according to police reports she was distracted by her smart phone while she crossed the tracks.

People are tethered to charging stations at airports so they will have digital access throughout their trip, even at 30,000 feet with on-board pay-to-play Wi-Fi.

Some have identified a psychological state known as “Nomophobia” which according toWikipedia is the fear of being out of mobile phone contact, as Nomophobia is an abbreviation for “no-mobile-phone-phobia.”   In Psychology Today, an article that discusses “Smartphone Addiction” points to symptoms such as “Feeling anxious whenever you do not have your smartphone in your physical possession, constantly checking the phone for new texts with the compulsion to respond instantaneously, phantom cellphone vibration symptoms, not listening to people in front of your while checking your Facebook page” and more.

“For the first time ever, time spent inside mobile applications by the average US consumer has exceeded that of TV” noted in Flurry in a report published last month that goes on to say “the average US consumer is spending 198 minutes per day inside apps compared to 168 minutes on TV.”

Digital has become woven into everyday life, and those marketers who are ignoring it or pretending that it isn’t, should check how long their heads have been buried in the sand, because they are in danger of suffocating their careers.

And Digital is not only phones.  Digital is tablets, PC’s, planes, trains and automobiles. The IoT (Internet of Things) is all things connected, and according to Cisco’s Internet Business Solutions Group (IBSG) some 50 billion things will be connected by 2020.

Digital has expanded into home appliances, connected homes, connected cars, and more importantly, connected health.

We are indeed living in a Digital World. 

People are increasing their time spent with newer and emerging touch-points which are predominantly digital.

According to a recent 2015 Forrester report: “US online adults now report that they spend more time online than watching off line TV (20 and 11 hours, respectively).”  Stop for a moment and think of how that statement should impact your Medicare marketing strategy, however most Medicare marketing organizations haven’t realized that the shift from television to digital has already occurred.

Why then, are Medicare Marketers struggling to develop a Digital Marketing Strategy?

“Health Insurers Fall Flat with Consumer Marketing” was the topic of another Forrester report, which uncovered the fact that Health Insurance marketers are laggards in consumer marketing.  “John Bowen of Acxiom said that insurers’ biggest barrier is they don’t have the efficient best practices or similar skills in place as B2C marketing veterans have.”  The insight provided by this report included that “plan providers need to mimic other industries in similar positions (such as auto) and focus on driving an ongoing relationship through relationship marketing strategies that generate loyalty.”

And maybe it’s because up until now, some Medicare marketing organizations have viewed Digital as an additional channel, when it really isn’t.  Digital is a way of life.  Digital considerations must be made for every marketing strategy and tactic, even if the origination tactic is offline, such as television.

The phrase “Omnichannel” has reverberated throughout the hallways of every marketing organization for the past few years, and now, Omnichannel has become the hot buzz phrase for every channel of marketing, which most translate into digital channels, since no one ever mentioned “Omnichannel” until we were well into the digital age.

Up until now, those brave Medicare marketers who dared to peel some budget away from the traditional work horse channel of direct mail to experiment with digital have done so in very limited ways.

For most Medicare marketers, digital only means search and display.  For an adventurous few, digital may include retargeting or remarketing.

And some Medicare marketers are unaware of digital tactics such as programmatic, content marketing, native content marketing, native advertising, direct site alignment, social advertising and marketing automation.

Even for basic SEM (Search Engine Marketing) there are many new cutting edge tactics that marketers from other industries are capitalizing on, such as conquesting, targeted ad copy, targeted non-brand keywords, targeted devices, contextual CPC (Cost Per Click) and targeted day-parting, most of which Medicare marketers aren’t considering.

Considering that the leading-edge Boomers are turning 65 at the rate of 10,000 per day in the United States which will continue until the year 2030, and that according to eMarketer, by 2018 there will be 10 million more 65+ year olds using the internet than in 2014, Medicare marketers must take off the blinders to see that the digital marketing handwriting is on the wall.

There is a great opportunity for Medicare marketers to become great digital marketers for their audience which is becoming increasingly digital as time quickly passes.   And it’s only a matter of time before the same digital consumer expectations that have impacted nearly every other industry will heavily impact the way that Medicare marketing is practiced.

At KERN HEALTH, we have been working on an expanded whitepaper of this subject: “Medicare Marketing In Our Digital World” which will be available this summer.  Please watch for it, and please stay tuned here on LinkedIn for more in this series.

Read the next installment now:

Medicare Marketing in Our Digital World: Chapter 2: A Digital Beginning