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The Two Stages of Payor Marketing: Planning Your Year

When it comes to payor marketing, or marketing for insurance companies, planning for the year falls into two primary periods of the year: your open enrollment/AEP period and the off-season.

In this week’s podcast, our CEO Jenny Bristow breaks down how to plan your marketing efforts for these two stages of the year to maximize marketing success:

Always On

During your slow time of year

  1. Focus on brand awareness efforts for paid media, some acquisition (don’t go dark!)
  2. Now is a great time to do website updates/redo
  3. Ensure measurement plans and dashboards are in a good place (including patient privacy clean-up work)
  4. Integrate new tools, like CRM, email marketing, etc.
  5. Put some time toward persona development and user journey optimization
  6. Roll out and test content marketing strategies

Open Enrollment & AEP

During your busiest season

  1. Ramp up your conversion-oriented media programs
  2. Limit website changes, testing and tracking programs only
  3. Test persona-based messaging and optimize, optimize, optimize!

Implement the right marketing tactics at the appropriate time of year to leverage both stages of the payor marketing year.

Connect with Jenny:

Jenny: [00:00:00] Hi friends, welcome to today’s episode of “We Are, Marketing Happy,” a healthcare marketing podcast. My name is Jenny Bristow. I am the CEO and founder at Hedy and Hopp, a full service and fully healthcare marketing agency. I’m very excited to chat with y’all today about payor marketing. So often, we talk about marketing for patient acquisition for providers, but a lot of the work we do here at Hedy and Hopp is actually on the payor sides of health insurance companies.

It’s something we’re equally as passionate about, and we’re doing a lot of strategic planning and some great conversations right now with clients. And there are some baseline fundamental best practices that we do here at Hedy and Hopp in the way that we think about payor marketing that I thought I’d share today.

So today let’s dive in and talk about the two stages of payor marketing. So as anybody who is on the health insurance side of the health care marketing [00:01:00] world knows there is an open enrollment period in the fall, whether you are doing Individual and Family or Medicare plans, there is a flurry of activity in the fall when folks have an opportunity to change the plans they are enrolled in.

And then there’s typically a more dormant time, which we are in right now. So, open enrollment for both Individual and Family or Medicare is in the fall, bleeds a little bit into January. But then it really closes up. And some folks still, of course, still apply if they have a change of circumstance, or if they turn 65 and newly qualify for Medicare, but in general, it’s a much slower period of time in the spring, leading into the fall. 

And so we at Hedy and Hopp really start thinking about two different stages of the yearly cycle. And I wanted to talk about those two stages and the activities that we like to think about and approach in each of those stages. Because too often we see folks kind of tackling projects at a weird point [00:02:00] of time throughout the year, where we would actually recommend doing it at a different time of year for a variety of reasons.

So let’s dig into it. The two stages are open enrollment, which is in the fall, like I just talked about, and the rest of the year we like to call “always on.” So let’s talk first about always on. So the dormant or slower time of year where you are having some people sign up, but in general, it’s relatively quiet because you don’t have most people in your area looking to switch plans.

A couple of things, there are six core things we recommend doing during this time of year. The first is continuing a media program for brand awareness and for that chunk of the population that still is able to enroll in your programs. The biggest problem we see folks doing is actually going dark with their media planning.

It’s much more difficult to turn a campaign on for open enrollment when you don’t have some you know, wind in your [00:03:00] sales as far as Google’s algorithm and all of your other media placements, it’s much more difficult to turn something on and then turn it back off again than it is to have something on at a lower level and then ramp it up, you know, in time for open enrollment.

So, again, always have a media program going that’s focused on brand awareness, keeping your brand top of mind and building that consumer affinity leading into open enrollment. Number two, now is the time to do website updates or redo your website. The traffic to your website is going to be massively lower this time of year.

So if you’re wanting to build a completely new website, build a new user journey, new landing pages for your plans, whatever it may be, now is the time to do it. Number three, investing time and resources in the measurement planning and dashboards. This is a great time to do it. So looking back at what worked and didn’t work for your last enrollment period, and really understanding, you know, through the lens of reporting on my campaigns, what were the gaps?

What were some things that my leadership team asked for that maybe I wasn’t able to get to the level of granularity that they wanted? [00:04:00] Or perhaps there’s things that I would like to just proactively report on about campaign efficacy that I wasn’t able to do last year. So stepping back and really making sure you’re measuring your campaign success.

Your dashboard or whatever reporting functionality you’re using is technically set up accurately. Something I would do here is a little sub bullet is any patient privacy work you need to do. So any cleanup to make sure that your analytics tools are not collecting IP addresses, device IDs, et cetera, that’s part of that measurement planning and dashboarding.

Number four, any new tool integration. So if your company is wanting to roll out a CRM, for example, or a new email marketing tool, now is the time to do it. You do not want to roll out Salesforce during open enrollment, your busiest time of year, you’re going to have way too many priorities. Do it during your slower period where you really can have time to invest in the infrastructure and the rollout in an appropriate way.

Number five, persona development and user journey optimization. Coming [00:05:00] out of your busiest time of year, you’re going to have a lot of data, fresh data at your fingertips. Now is the time to really dig in, look at it and try to fine tune your personas. Better understand who your customer is, who are people, who’s the average buyer?

Who is the person that, you know, is going through and perhaps getting close to enrollment, but not actually completing that action. And what can you do as far as your user journeys on your website to improve it next year? It’s a great time to invest in those sort of research programs. And then number six, roll out and test content marketing strategies.

So if your persona, uh, marketing work that you did, and you develop some new personas and some content strategies rolling up to it, begin rolling it out. Now, roll it out during the slower period, begin putting a little bit of media budget behind it to increase invisibility and see what kind of engagement numbers you can get.

Again, you want to do it earlier in the year. So you have time to fine tune it leading in. To when it’s time for open enrollment, but testing new content marketing strategies [00:06:00] during this time of year is really great. So you have these six priorities, things that you want to tackle kind of during your slower time of year, and then it’s going to get chaotic for open enrollment.

So everybody now is thinking about actually going and switching their health insurance plan. You have, you know, ACA actually like running, uh, nationwide broadcast campaigns around it, raising visibility and awareness that now is the time to do it. What should you be doing as an organization to really look at the volume of new users and customers that you can get into your plans.

We limit this to three. Core areas. The first is conversion oriented media programs. Now is the time to kind of dump those awareness campaigns and get into conversion oriented campaigns. I have an entire episode on media strategies and talking about awareness campaigns versus conversion campaigns and what that means.

Now is the time that if your budget is limited, you’re going to dump that [00:07:00] awareness and you’re going to dive directly into conversion. If you have the budget to support both, that’s fabulous. They really can feed off of each other to really keep people in that conversion consideration. If they perhaps come to your website and then don’t make a decision immediately, you can perhaps pull them back in again.

Uh, not with retargeting though. Remember friends, retargeting is dead to us. So if your agency is doing retargeting or in house, stop it right away. Message me to learn more about why, but don’t do that anymore. Number two, we’re going to limit website changes testing. and tracking right now. Like we’re not going to make any changes to any of that, right?

We had like a whole part of the year at the beginning of the year to do that, and now is the time to just kind of sit. We can collect data, right? We can have a conversion rate optimization tool on the site, begin collecting a lot of user data. Perhaps we’re going to begin doing a little bit of A/B testing on landing pages as far as headlines and call to actions.

That’s all great, but we’re not doing any widespread website changes right now. We’re not launching a new website in November, for example, [00:08:00] I’m not going to do that. And then the third is to really begin testing that persona based work that you did. So any you know, reasons to believe or core messages that you landed on now is the time to test that and market.

So think about your media, creative, uh, landing page, creative, and ways that you can test that to be able to understand with real world data, what can improve conversion rates on your website. So again, we find it really helps if you think about your year as two separate phases. If you’re a healthcare marketer in the payor space, you’re going to have a more dormant time of year, which we think about as always on.

And then you’re going to have a busy time of year, which we like to think of an open enrollment. You’re going to do all of your research, big changes, structural changes, et cetera, during your dormant always on period. Then we’re going to buckle down and focus on conversions. For that always on or for sorry for that open enrollment.

So if you have any questions about any of this, feel free to reach out. We’re really passionate about pair [00:09:00] marketing here at heading and hop. We think that our work with providers is only good if people have health insurance to actually be able to afford that care. So we really see it going hands and hands.

And please do not forget to rate. And, uh, review. We are marketing happy. We have received lots of feedback recently from folks that have tuned in and found the content helpful. So if there’s a specific topic you want us to cover, shoot me a note, uh, Jenny at heady and hop. com. We’d love to hear from you.

So until next time stay, we are marketing happy, stay joyful in the work that you do, and we’ll see you for a future episode.



About the Author

The Hedy & Hopp digital production team is the glue that keeps all activation work running. From auditing websites and tagging, to content strategy and CRM implementation, our digital production unicorns ensure the tiniest detail is reviewed and accurate before it gets to our clients. Their determination in finding solutions for any challenge makes this team marketing happy.

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