LAS VEGAS—One session at RISE’s Medicare Marketing & Sales Summit made us rethink our digital marketing campaign strategies. Justin Stauffer, vice president of integrated marketing at DMW, an agency that specializes in marketing for the health insurance industry, spelled out the six most common mistakes that organizations make and how to fix them. In this article, we examine four of the biggest blunders, and what marketing, sales, and product development professionals can do to avoid them in the future.

1. Misaligned marketing & business goals

While marketing, sales, and product development professionals at local and regional Medicare Advantage health plans need to focus on enrollment, Stauffer warned attendees not to become too excited over “soft metrics,” like impressions, click-through rates, and conversation rates. While these measures may help you gauge success, they have one fatal flaw: they don’t focus on revenue, he said. Instead, look at revenue-based marketing metrics, such as cost per lead, cost for acquisition, and return on ad spend. “If I’m your manager, I want to know two things: How much is it costing me and how many people have I reached,” he said. “Marketing strategies must be aligned with business strategies.”

2. Attempts to close the sale too early

Stauffer said he thinks of marketing like dating, and no date is successful if you only talk about yourself and your perspective. “Your date has to like you, trust you, and after that, then you can pop the question. When you pop the question in marketing, it’s foolish to think the average shopper will say yes after only seeing an ad one time,” he said. Indeed, it can take as many as eight or nine touch points to convince a potential member to enroll in your plan. Therefore, Stauffer said, it’s crucial that marketing and sales professionals educate potential members about their health plans before the annual enrollment period (AEP), so they can focus on converting them during that short time frame. During the non-AEP period, work on capturing and nurturing leads to get ahead of those eight touch points. Then, he said, push for the harder sale during the AEP an “pop that question.”

3. Failure to understand the role of each tactic

Digital tactics can be grouped into four categories: awareness, consideration, conversion, and retention. While there are only a finite number of tactics, there are many strategies that can apply to those tactics. For example, to raise awareness about a health plan, organizations need to consider how all tactics work together to achieve that marketing objective. While select tactics, such as search engine marketing (SEM) and search engine optimization (SEO) are further down the sales funnel, marketers need to realize that only a certain amount of people will search for a term in its geographic footprint. Therefore, they need to use certain tactics to augment search behaviors. For example, some people will search introductory terms, such as “What is Medicare,” but they may never enroll in a plan. You can use educational terms in SEO blog posts and educational content, but carefully consider them within paid search, he said.

Facebook is one of the most effective digital marketing channels, but new prospects won’t necessarily search for a health plan on the social media platform. It is a good tool to educate consumers, however. Because there is a lot of messaging on that channel, the posts will need to be high on their newsfeed. People will most likely click on posts that have videos, he said. The most effective ones may be short (two- to 10-seconds) animation that is a series of still images with captions. The good news is that there are several free or inexpensive programs available for download that you can use to create these promos, he said.  

Stauffer also recommends objective targeting that will allow marketing professionals to target individuals based on your organization’s specific business goals. For example, you could target individuals who are more apt to make a purchase or install an app.

However, the key is to get people to visit your landing page or website as quickly as possible. Conversions are most likely to happen when people get to those pages, he said, unless you…

4. Allow unnecessary obstacles to get in the way

Every landing page should have a primary objective and the audience must be able to achieve the objective on that page, Stauffer said.

But you could lose that opportunity if the audience encounters obstacles on the landing page, such as a page that doesn’t load quickly or isn’t optimized for all browsers and devices, a phone number that is not prominently displayed, an unnecessary number of required fields on a form, or a navigation link that takes users away from the page. “Once you pay for traffic to arrive, you don’t want them leaving until they convert,” he said.

If the information on the page isn’t essential, get rid of it. Stauffer advises.

Finally, if you are lucky enough to get them to convert, consider what you want that member to do next. “Leverage the real estate,” he said. “Find things for them to do now that you have them in your contact list.”

To listen to Stauffer’s take on other digital marketing missteps, DMW has made his full presentation available here.