Featured Health Business Daily Story, July 17, 2012
Reprinted from MEDICARE ADVANTAGE NEWS, biweekly news and business strategies about Medicare Advantage plans, product design, marketing, enrollment, market expansions, CMS audits, and countless federal initiatives in MA and Medicaid managed care.
There will be many keys to success for Medicare Advantage plans in this fall’s difficult Annual Election Period for 2013, and MA sponsors will need to do all of them well to have strong results, suggested two MA marketing veterans speaking at a June 27 AIS webinar on MA marketing strategies for the coming AEP. Among the reasons for the envisioned difficulty this year is the fact that much of the now-shortened AEP falls during the peak pre-election marketing period (MAN 6/7/12, p. 1).
In direct mail, for instance, said consultant Mary Kaye Thibert, vice president of Gorman Health Group, LLC, political bulk mail will be heavy, and there is a risk of “getting lost in the mailbox.” Direct mail still is useful because it yields the lowest cost per lead and sale, she noted, but even if the MA plan mail gets noticed, it may take 10 days for a Business Reply Card (BRC) to come back to the plan, and that time period can be a big problem for the 2013 AEP.
In light of this, she recommended that MA sponsors “mix it up” in their direct-mail approach, using more than one mailing, and “stay away from [pure] branding” in favor of exploiting the plan’s “competitive differential” in ways that will lead to responses from beneficiaries. One approach, she added, should be to drive beneficiaries to call in response to the mailing rather than mail something back via a BRC.
Television advertising, continued Thibert, is a “great way to build brand and generate leads,” but runs the risk this year of getting lost in the political environment and being even more costly than usual because of it. She said that MA plans need to have call centers fully ready for the volume that TV ads generate and suggested that MA sponsors use “21st century technology to get sales representatives into the home the same day.”
Print advertising is not as crowded as are TV and mail marketing, and allows “the ability to target geographic territories within your market,” according to Thibert. But print has one of the lowest response rates, and newspaper subscription levels are declining, so placement in the paper is the key to success, she asserted. Thibert suggested testing various print options, such as freestanding inserts and “sticky notes” as well as standard “ROP” (i.e., run of pages) ads, and four color versus black and white. She also advised using three-quarter or full-page ads to drive the best awareness of MA products.
For online marketing, she recommended plans utilize specific website “landing pages” for Medicare beneficiaries interested in MA products, as well as use search-engine optimization techniques.
Jeff Fox, president of Gorman Health Group and the other webinar speaker, stressed the MA plans’ call centers need to be “scalable” so that they can accommodate high volume at peak times. Compensation should be clearly “aligned” between individual customer-service representatives and the overall call center, he said. Fox added that call centers need to “triage” calls from prospects during the first five minutes, especially since sale “close ratios” in call centers are much lower than they are at beneficiaries’ “kitchen table.”
It is very important that sales leads get disseminated in “real time” since beneficiaries often make immediate decisions — close ratios go up with an earlier “touch point,” he noted. Technology can aid in this, said Fox, by shortening the contact time between agent and prospect from days to minutes and using hand-held computers to allow the home office to have “constant and robust compliance access” to field representatives.
Fox suggested that technology also can aid in compliance itself by enabling “Web-based credentialing” involving such aspects as license checks, review of databases for disciplinary history and criminal background checks. But beyond that, he continued, best practices include testing sales agents on plan products; fraud, waste and abuse; and HIPAA, among other things. Also helpful, according to Fox, is interactive voice response “scope-of-appointment” technology that allows “electronic scoping over the phone” to help ensure that agents talk with beneficiaries only about the products the prospects have agreed to consider.
A key to success in sales channels, Fox said, is knowledge that the product determines the distribution strategy. MA HMOs and chronic care Special Needs Plans, for instance, are best sold by internal representatives, while brokers are best on PPOs. Medicare-Medicaid dual-eligible products are “state dependent” and usually best sold via an “impartial enrollment broker,” he added.
© 2012 by Atlantic Information Services, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
To purchase a recording and accompanying materials of the June 27 webinar, "Medicare Advantage and Part D Marketing for 2013: Innovative Strategies for Overcoming a Compressed Fall Calendar," visit http://aishealth.com/marketplace/c2a25_062712.
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