Health Plan Marketing: The Digital Channel

Over the past decade, as digital advertising has grown, advertising dollars have shifted from television, radio and print, and into digital media. It’s generally less costly and allows plans to generate higher frequency with the flexibility to quickly test and change messaging. Most importantly, results can be tracked in real-time. And as true direct response marketers, we love to track results!

This shift in media spending naturally aligns with the increase of individuals researching health-related information online. For those health plans that are targeting Baby Boomers, the increase has been dramatic. Limelight Networks reported that Baby Boomers spend more time online than millennials; 51% of Baby Boomers spend 15 hours per week online, while only 41% of millennials spend the same amount of time online.

Those stats alone are why we continue to encourage our clients to include online advertising and paid search efforts into their overall media plan. Chances are if you aren’t there, your competition will be.

However, we do caution our clients that when evaluating digital campaigns, you need to look beyond just online enrollments. Yes, online enrollments generally yield more efficient CPAs (cost-per-acquisition), and this is certainly an important metric to consider, but success shouldn’t just be determined based on this alone.

The consumer shopping process for health insurance plans has evolved greatly. Today’s consumers are more Web-savvy. They are comfortable conducting research on their own before having any type of interaction with a real, live human being. However, once they are ready to start the plan enrollment process, many individuals still prefer some type of human assistance, which could include attending a seminar and/or meeting with a plan representative or a broker one-on-one. This is especially true for Medicare Plans. Deft Research reported that nearly 75% of enrollees enrolled through a human assistance channel in 2016 and 2017.

This preference for human interaction can make understanding the true attribution for digital marketing very challenging. We caution health plans to evaluate digital campaigns beyond just online enrollments.

Here are a few other Web metrics that health plans should review when evaluating their digital programs:

  1. Site Conversions Rates

The first step in generating an online enrollment is getting prospects to your site. If this isn’t happening, you fail. This is one of those measures where “the more the merrier.”  It means the prospects going to your site have an interest in what’s being offered.

  1. Lead Conversion Rates

After consumers reach your site, what are they doing? Beyond including a clear call-to-action for online enrollment, we recommend health plans provide multiple options for individuals to choose their next step. Those options include:

Request more information — Include a lead capture form that allows consumers to interact with your plan in multiple ways, such as reserving attendance at a seminar; scheduling a one-on-one appointment; requesting a callback from a plan representative; or a way for them to request additional plan materials via mail and email. Generating traffic to these pages that include “shopping” activities is a positive sign as you move to convert prospects to members. However, these prospects may not choose to enroll online.

Compare plans – Individuals that are ready for this step should be given a clear call-to-action to begin researching and comparing plans. We know today’s consumers are more comfortable researching plan options on their own. If you are seeing high traffic on these pages, it means that your digital advertising is working.

  1. Additional reporting through Google Analytics – Google Analytics is an extremely useful digital analytics software tool that provides a set of measurements to help you understand your website performance. It’s easy to use and best of all, it’s free for the basic package. We strongly encourage clients to use Google Analytics. Here are a couple of reports, best used in conjunction with third-party tracking tools (e.g., DoubleClick), that we recommend as a first step:
  • New vs. Returning Visitors – Getting prospects to visit your site for the first time is great. But having these same prospects come back as a returning visitor is a major success. These returning visitors are usually more likely to continue the plan shopping process.
  • Behavior Flow Report – Not often looked at as frequently as Sessions, Pageviews or even Bounce Rate. This is the piece of the puzzle that will give you a better view of what actions your visitors are taking on your site, no matter where their entrance point was. You’ll be able to see important information such as where consumers abandon, what pages are the most popular and if the path users take through the site is the path you expected.

Digital advertising is a great way to drive and track enrollments, but be willing to look beyond online enrollments to see your success.


About the author:

Diane Wiles has more than 12 years of media planning and buying experience, 10 years of which has been spent specifically with health care advertising.


Selected by CMS to launch the Medicare Prescription Drug Program, GKV has deep experience engaging Baby Boomers and Medicare beneficiaries for local, regional and national health plans and providers.