As marketers continue to develop their Medicare marketing plans for this year’s Annual Enrollment Period (AEP), the impact of COVID-19 means we are no longer marketing within a business-as-usual setting. While some AEP tactics will change, and others will remain the same, direct mail will remain a key part of an omnichannel strategy.
For example, many providers have traditionally directed prospects to local Medicare meetings where Medicare coverage options are explained in face-to-face interactions. Much of this will need to move online and be done with conference calls, which will be especially important for an older, more COVID-19 vulnerable audience. Telehealth options will be much more prevalent in AEP messaging. Supplemental benefits may need to evolve to meet non-medical challenges caused by COVID-19, such as access to food, pharmacy, and transportation. The future of AEP marketing is evolving as you read this blog. But one constant for marketers will be the continued use of direct mail for the following reasons:
Direct Mail Remains the Dominant Channel
Let’s take a moment to revisit which marketing components make for a successful AEP program. For the 2020 AEP campaigns run in the fall of 2019, direct mail was the dominant channel, accounting for roughly 85% of marketing spend, with email at 10%, and online display and video at 5%. Omnichannel marketing, integrated with direct mail, continues to grow.
Superior Targeting for Medicare Marketing Campaigns
Why, when marketing spend has often migrated towards digital, do healthcare marketers stick with direct mail? One answer is there is no other marketing channel that enables us to target and reach qualified prospects so effectively. No matter how prospects consume media, you can reach some 99% of them via the mail, followed by an 80% open rate. Offline data coupled with custom analytics enable us to help marketers zero in on those prospects that are likely to respond and enroll, letting them maximize return on marketing investment (ROMI). Through the use of analytics, we can also predict which product (Medicare Advantage vs. Medicare Supplement) will be of greater interest to the prospect, and adapt their offer accordingly.
Just like data, creative plays an important role in Medicare marketing offers. Medicare is a complicated program, and many prospects do not understand the limitations of Original Medicare vs. supplemental programs like Medicare Advantage or Medicare Supplement. Direct mail creative formats provide the space to explain this, communicate program benefits, engage, and drive response with an effective call-to-action. A well-written letter speaks to recipients in a conversational, familiar, one-to-one manner. A well-designed series of varied direct mail creative touches—prior to and over the course of the AEP enrollment period—keeps the healthcare provider brand top of mind and provides multiple invitations to take action. We know that some “early adopters” will enroll the day that AEP enrollment begins in October, but others require prompts over time, and still others need last minute reminders. This is why a series of targeted touches works best. We see many AEP postcards and self-mailers out there, but in our experience, a letter will generate twice the response of a postcard, more than paying for itself.
AEP creative content and messaging are also changing. Low or zero-dollar premium plans are demonstrating the highest growth rates, and the market is shifting accordingly. Regulatory changes have led to innovation in supplemental benefits to address social determinants of health (SDOH). SDOH examples include telehealth, gym membership discounts, eyewear allowances, 24/7 nurse helplines, hearing aid allowances, and over-the-counter pharmacy allowances.
Direct Mail is More Relevant than Ever During a Pandemic
Let’s consider the advantages of direct mail from a COVID-19 perspective. Millions of people are isolated at home, unencumbered by commutes, with more time on their hands. Many are now unemployed. Internet and social media usage is way up, dominated by news and conjecture about the virus. TV news content is almost 100% about the virus. Unlike these marketing channels, there are few distractions when reading direct mail. When the envelope is opened, there is no flashing headline above, nor friend sharing his Top 10 music albums below. You have the time and space to tell your story. We can help you anticipate the barriers to response, and address them. Direct mail will be particularly effective at reaching an older, more vulnerable audience more likely to remain at home.
Build on Direct Mail with Email
Although direct mail is the backbone of most successful AEP programs, I recommend developing an opt-in email program to supplement and support direct mail efforts and help fill in the gaps between direct mail touches. We see more and more healthcare providers sending email. As long as email CAN-SPAM regulations are followed, CMS (Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services) marketing guidelines do not prohibit the use of opted-in email programs. There are multiple opportunities to connect with prospects and to have them opt-in to receive your emails. These include direct mail business reply cards, phone inquiries, and web opt-in pages. An effective email program, rather than continually promoting enrollment, also provides useful, relevant, and interesting content.
Direct Mail Coupled with Digital Means Greater Success
Although direct mail is a key AEP channel, I would be the first to recommend an omnichannel strategy, where we help you reach the same prospects with multiple, integrated contacts across channels. An offline direct mail prospect file can be pre-selected via analytics and then matched to the digital universe to reach those very same people via social media and display advertising. This approach can lift response 10-120%. Another successful, integrated approach is pixel-to-postal targeting, where we identify website visitors that have failed to enroll or request information, sending them a triggered direct mail package to take action.
In these uncertain times, a well-planned direct mail campaign will power a successful AEP program. It is the right prescription for Medicare marketers. It’s reliable, measurable, and delivers the ROMI you depend on for a successful Medicare marketing campaign.
Subscribe via email to our Stevie® and Feedspot award-winning blog and get a fresh post delivered weekly to your inbox. We promise to keep it interesting, but you can easily unsubscribe if we don’t.