Healthcare Insurers: Welcome to the World of B-to-C Marketing

A major component of the fast-approaching Affordable Care Act is the creation of Healthcare Exchanges. We’ve all heard of these by now. Essentially, they are new marketplaces where American consumers can learn, compare and shop for plans to ensure they select the best, most affordable plans for their needs. This marks a big change for healthcare insurers. Traditionally B-to-B marketers, they find themselves in the world of B-to-C marketing. Today’s marketplace is full of consumers that are connected, on the go, and expect transparency and service. They crave information and connections—practically in real-time. It’s consumer marketing in the age of the “Empowered Consumer.”

Of course, this isn’t anything new. Most every healthcare business, whether an insurer or not, saw the writing on the wall a while back. But it’s not about knowing it’s coming; it’s about embracing, adapting and changing to this new landscape. It’s about shifting the way you see your consumer and putting them at the center of everything you do. As Gartner put it, today’s empowered consumer nailed the coffin in the traditional marketing funnel. It’s time to start thinking differently. 



This past week I was in a brainstorming session with my friend and trusted advisor, Mickey McManus of MAYA Design. We were discussing how my company can leverage the vast amounts of data we gather from millions of consumers each month for the good of the consumer, our partners and our business. We hit upon a phrase that really resonated with the entire group. And at the risk of tipping our hand, I’m going to share it: “We don’t sell leads. We make introductions.” Data can reveal insights that create personal consumer introductions.

Personalization. Targeting. Customer-centric marketing. Relationship marketing. Whatever you call it, marketers—especially healthcare marketers and insurers—must embrace the data to truly learn, understand and communicate personally with consumers. 

Think about it on a personal level. You can strike up a conversation with someone with just a plain introduction or use insights about that person to allow you to grasp their attention—to make a connection. A simple, “Go Gators, I’m a fellow Florida Gator alumnus”… can create a much better connection than just a plain “hello” introduction. Data can reveal insights. 

“We don’t sell leads. We make introductions.”

Welcome to the new world. You need to know your consumer. And they know you have the data and actually expect you to use it. It’s about making introductions, based on insights from data, that help cultivate meaningful, personal relationships. Relationship marketing hasn’t exactly been the strong suit of healthcare insurers. They haven’t had to focus on that before. Now they do. So what should they do? Here are five basic principles I believe healthcare insurers need to focus on for success:

  1. Consumer at the Center: Put yourself in your consumer’s shoes as often as you can. Listen, learn, create, tailor and personalize an incredible customer experience for them—and across all touch points. The traditional “marketing funnel” is dead. Today’s successful marketer puts their customer at the center. They develop relationships. 

  2. Multichannel Engagement: We’ve all heard the importance of “multichannel marketing” uttered across the industry. And it is, for sure. But I’d argue it’s about multichannel engagement. Consumers have more channels than ever before to connect with your brand… and they are constantly moving between their offline and online worlds. How are you connecting the dots and connecting back? It’s essential to provide a seamless and valuable brand experience that extends across digital to mobile to in-store/retail. Engage across all those channels.

  3. Reach People Where They Are… Retail Matters: According to Booz & Company, the average consumer visits retail grocery and drugstores 2.2 times per week, up from previous years. Consumers are still frequenting retail locations and often to pick-up health and wellness items in the pharmacies. What a great real-world opportunity to connect. Retailers today offer many opportunities either through mobile applications, rewards programs and even next-generation digital consumer kiosks. 

  4. Data to Insights: The sheer amount of data available about consumers today is unprecedented. Digital data, particularly direct consumer feedback as with surveys and social media, provide a treasure trove of information about consumers. Aggregate your consumers’ offline and online data to get a holistic view and understanding of your customer. Then you can really start some relationship marketing. 

  5. Be Open, Transparent & Provide Value: The words open, transparent and value are not exactly associated with healthcare insurance. But they are going to have to be.As you are reaching and engaging these consumers what you are saying is equally as important as the connections made. Reach them with empty phrases, meaningless content and vague information... and you might as well not have connected at all.
1 comment about "Healthcare Insurers: Welcome to the World of B-to-C Marketing".
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  1. Andy Roussel from Razorbill Marketing and Strategy, May 28, 2013 at 3 p.m.

    I think you're right on the money, Bart, and the marketing competencies you describe need to go beyond policy-holder acquisition. Many of the member behavior challenges that payers experience today (improper ER use, lack of therapy adherance, sub-optimum Rx sourcing) are also opportunities to leverage targeted, database marketing to influence that behavior. If payers begin to view member actions (or lack of action) through marketer's eyes, they'll find new methods to improve their financials and drive healthier outcomes.

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