By RICK BEAVIN
With no end in sight for the impacts of this year’s pandemic, health insurance brokers are relying on digital and virtual methods to reach consumers now more than ever. There are a variety of digital tools and strategies that can make selling easier and more personable, but using them effectively is critical to success.Although people with Medicare may be unfamiliar with some of the social media platforms and online communication methods we’re seeing more and more of these days, it’s becoming clear that they are realizing the potential benefits of staying in touch online. Studies show Boomers and members of the “Silent” generation have both increased their Facebook use by double digits since 2015.
Reaching people in their homes digitally or virtually may be just as effective as the traditional in-person methods brokers have relied upon for years. In addition, many are dealing with isolation and loneliness—meaning, helping them get the plan that’s best for them is of heightened importance in these times. Brokers would do well to adapt their communications methods accordingly.
With Medicare Advantage and Prescription Drug Plan open enrollment happening now, brokers can better leverage the following three digital strategies to ensure they are reaching potential members where and how they want to be reached. These methods include the use of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems, digital marketing and digital enrollment software.
In most cases, these tools are also useful for your customer satisfaction and retention after the enrollment period is over; for example, CRM systems are helpful to track your customer communications. These methods will prove useful during the immediate crisis and well after the pandemic is over.
Connect to your customer with CRM
CRM systems help brokers build stronger relationships with consumers by providing a history of their interaction, preferences and experiences with your brand. Such tools allow you to turn a lead into a customer with efficient, timely methods of contacting the prospect. In today’s digital world, this type of tool is essential to tracking all of the customer relationships you’ve built and followed up on. There are many CRM tools out there—some health insurance companies have even set up their own internal CRM systems.
CRM tools may save you time on administrative tasks, allowing you to focus on other work critical to your business. These also prove useful for tasks like sending birthday cards, keeping track of client benefit details, and much more.
Your CRM tool will oftentimes have a customer service portal that allows you to respond to client inquiries in a timely manner. Utilize this feature to increase your responsiveness and, in turn, your customer satisfaction rates.
Reach your customer with relevant digital marketing
Since brokers are not hosting as many in-person sales or educational events, it is critical to put time and effort into your digital marketing strategies, including strategic email campaigns, blogging, and online advertising. Brokers also need to be aware of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) communication and marketing guidelines, which may change year-to-year. For example, text messaging and other forms of electronic direct messaging, such as through social media platforms, would fall under unsolicited contact and are not permitted.
“CRM systems help brokers build stronger relationships
with consumers by providing a history of their interaction,
preferences and experiences with your brand.”
You may consider email marketing as one of your digital marketing tactics. According to Statista, 84.1 percent of adults over 65 used email as of November 2019. Instead of focusing entirely on sales, you may want to consider including educational, informative (and sometimes entertaining) content that provides value. Remember to follow all CMS requirements (including the use of pre-approved materials, as necessary) and make sure your content is accurate and not confusing or misleading. You must also include an effective opt out process on each email to comply with CMS guidelines. You can request, but not require, email addresses through your website (as long as you’re following all of the relevant CMS and Federal Trade Commission rules!) or through a digital ad.
Your website is often the first place new customers may visit, so it is important that you put your best foot forward here. Consider investing in a search engine optimization (SEO) audit so that your customers are able to find you. Make sure your website is easy to navigate, contains relevant information for your target customer and that the contact form or contact information is easily accessible and it is evident what plans they are requesting information on. Be clear that you are a licensed sales agent and, again, ensure all content complies with applicable laws, rules, and regulations.
Online ad services allow you to easily track leads coming in, including how many phone calls you receive as a result of ads using the platform. These types of ads encourage clicks on your website via advertisements. It’s important to start with keyword research and create ad copy that targets those keywords. You can even test different versions of your ad to see what performs best.
Social media should be a key component of your client acquisition strategy as well. Before embarking on a new social media strategy, brokers need to know which platforms your audience is using. A 2020 AARP survey showed that Facebook was most popular among adults 50 years of age and older, followed by YouTube, Instagram and LinkedIn. After deciding what social media channels you will use, based on what is permitted by the carriers you contract with, make sure you are using best practices specific to that channel. For example, images paired with text perform better than text on its own with no image. On some social media platforms, you won’t be able to include links, so ensuring the information is embedded into the post is more effective. After you know what channels you will prioritize, be sure that your business profiles are up-to-date and that you are posting regular content to ensure the page looks active. Also ensure you are adhering to each carriers’ policy and requirements for use of social media.
The bottom line is there are plenty of ways you can go here depending on your experience and comfort level. If you are interested in learning more about digital marketing best practices, there are many resources and classes available—you guessed it—online. Or, you could always try to find outside help from a digital marketing professional if you need it.
Make it easy for your customer to enroll online
Those who have historically relied on paper applications for enrollment may be in a tough spot this year. It’s important to give your customer the option to sign such items digitally, as allowed by the carrier, during this new normal. Ensure that you are following each carrier’s guidelines for appropriate use of the digital signature.
The good news is that having this information easily accessible digitally will make it easier for you to track prospects and customers, as long as you are accustomed to working digitally.
2020 has been an extraordinary and challenging year for many of us. The good news for brokers and agents is that you are not caught entirely unprepared; much of the information in this article should be at least a little bit familiar to you. However, we’re approaching this year at an entirely different scale when it comes to use of digital tools.
Now is the time to get your online presence and digital marketing in order, especially given the current environment. So what are you waiting for?
Rick Beavin is the California and Nevada president of Humana’s Senior Products. In this role, Beavin is responsible for oversight of Humana’s Medicare HMO and PPO health plans, prescription drug plans, Medicare supplement policies, and private fee-for-service health plans offered to those eligible for Medicare. Reach him at 1-949-777-8853.