5 Medicare Marketing Myths

Oversimplification is always an attractive alternative to the work of examining facts and testing hypotheses.

Professional marketers are as susceptible to lazy thought as everyone else. That’s why it shouldn’t surprise us when we see fiction masquerading as gospel truth.

As I examine what’s out in the blogosphere on the topic of Medicare, I run into a few of these myths that I’ll debunk right here. Some of them are more dangerous than others, of course. But all of them can limit your results to one degree or another.

Myth #1: Only target women for Medicare products. It’s true that women outnumber men in the over 65 age group, and women may even be the primary healthcare decision-maker more often than not. But to eliminate men from your audience is a foolish way to narrow your target. For one thing, men do lose their wives to death and divorce—even at 65—so there may not be a woman in the household at all. Per the US Census Bureau, nearly 30% of all men aged 65+ are not married. Plus, every household is different. You can’t assume there are no male decision-makers out there at all. And since Medicare supplement products are sold on an individual basis, it is also likely there are many married couples that have different supplemental insurance providers.

Graph_medicareMythsOne of the more productive strategies we deploy is to target everyone in the household during the Medicare AEP season using a rotation strategy. If we have the opportunity to send three touches, one is addressed to the wife, one to the husband and the final touch going to the individual we believe has the greatest potential to respond (could be either husband or wife). This way we reach whoever is most interested at least once. And if possible, each touch has a different look and feel to account for the likelihood that both individuals may see the communication, and we don’t want them to dismiss it as something they’ve already seen.

Myth #2: Don’t use scare tactics. Discouraging news doesn’t motivate. While we don’t condone “scaring” anyone into responding, we do find that making our audience aware of the risks involved in not responding is VERY motivating. In fact, fear of loss is one of the most powerful emotional motivators there is.

We’ve had a client prove this again quite recently. They wanted to test a more fear-based approach, outlining the risks of not being covered against a convenience message (i.e., “you need the convenience of a completely bundled plan”). Not surprisingly, the risk-based messaging won.

Myth #3: Never use humor. Getting old isn’t funny. It’s true that humor can fall flat. What’s funny to me may not be funny to you. And I’d never recommend making fun of your audience!

On the other hand, gentle humor can make your message much more memorable. Exaggerating a difficult situation we can all identify with (for example, the confusing nature of the whole Medicare program) lets you make fun of something from the point of view of your target audience. Then you’re both on the same side. It’s us against that crazy government bureaucracy!

Just taking a look at the commercials that have everyone talking after the Super Bowl can demonstrate how effective humor can be. Turning 65 doesn’t mean you instantly lose the ability or the desire to laugh.

Myth #4: Look no further. Our database has everyone. You may run into a list owner who has a database full of tremendous detail about tens of millions of people. They will tell you they have everyone you’ll ever need to talk to right at their fingertips.

If you believe that, you could be missing out on anywhere from 20% – 30% of your target. We find that, besides using that great database, we need to rent four to seven additional lists to complete the universe in a particular geographic area. Expanding your universe by 25% gives you a much better opportunity to hit your marketing and sales goals.

Myth #5: We can do better by focusing on a single Medicare product in our direct marketing. I understand where this is coming from. In most marketing scenarios, you wouldn’t try to sell multiple products in a single package. It only confuses.

However, most people—particularly those aging in—perceive Medicare coverage as a single, extremely confusing issue. So, to try to tell someone they need a PPO (or an HMO or a prescription drug plan) when they don’t even know what they’re getting into is not the best approach when you are trying to maximize your engagement with potential shoppers.

We’ve had the greatest success with selling our healthcare clients as solution providers. It sounds something like this: You need Medicare? Let us help you figure out the best plan for you.

This is a little more complicated for the insurer, who must fulfill with educational materials and retain sales professionals. But it’s a terrifically productive approach that also speaks well for the overall brand. It results in happier, more easily retained customers.

These are some Medicare marketing myths I’ve run into recently. Have you seen others? Let us know about them in the comments section.