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 the Age of the Consumer


While the empowered and emboldened consumer has caused Medicare marketers to deal with a new dynamic in the past few years. In 2016, we are living our new marketing reality: “The Age of The Consumer.”

Even just a few short years ago, consumers were the receiver of the facts and today, there are a billion journalists, as everyone with a mobile device is now a potential journalist.

We came from a world of Television-centric media to our world where Mobile has become the channel of choice, and to be clear, we’re talking about Seniors and those who are about to enter the Medicare eligible market who have also adopted mobile as their channel of choice.

We used to be a captive audience with a limited vision of attention, whereas now, we are anything but captive.  We have the ability to switch on and off as we see fit, and as it fits our lifestyle.

We have moved from a world of fixed parameters to personalized time and space shifting where we alone, determine what we will view and when we will view it.

Having physically limited access to today’s world of unlimited digital access in an instant has broadened our choices to a world where we are able to function with an “unbounded rationality” of decision making with more choices seemingly appearing by the second.

Rather than being forced to opt-out by simply turning off the source of media such as a radio or television set, today, we must opt-in by choosing to visit a website, by signing up to receive communications from a brand and for tuning in rather than tuning out.

Even the way we used to buy gasoline has changed dramatically, where as recently as 10 years ago Full Service stations seem to disappear.  The “Do it for me” society has given way to the Do It Yourself mentality of today.  I’ll research it myself, I’ll find my own insights myself, and I’ll have to pump my own gas, since no one will do it for me.


Blind brand loyalty has given way to peer validation.  Where we used to rely on brands, today we need to find out what others are saying, writing, doing and tweeting before we are comfortable in making a decision.

Welcome to our new reality- The Age of The Customer, and while this new reality is impacting the way that we will market Medicare to Age-ins and AEP prospective members, there are greater forces at work that will even cause a greater impact for Medicare Marketers.

Saying that 2016 will be an action-packed year for Medicare Marketers is a gross understatement and I’ll cover the 4 forces that will impact Medicare Marketing in 2016 in my next blog article.