3 Ways Insurers Can Integrate Digital Strategies into the Marketing Mix

Andrew Fischer is co-founder and CEO of Choozle.
Andrew Fischer is co-founder and CEO of Choozle.

There seems to be a consensus that digital marketing and healthcare just don't mix. Between regulatory compliance, data limitations, and privacy constraints, healthcare marketers have plenty of reasons to justify staying away from digital. 

While it's true that digital marketing isn't the panacea for all healthcare marketing strategies, avoiding digital advertising is simply no longer an option.

There are impressive statistics on the increased consumption digital information among consumers determining a new healthcare insurance plan and the opportunities that increase can bring.  

See also: Can Marketing Accelerate the Health Insurance Buying Cycle?

1. 77% of online health seekers said they began their last session at a search engine such as Google, Bing, or Yahoo.

2. 72% of Internet users said they looked online for health information within the past year.

Marketers in every industry, including health insurance, need to find the right mix of digital campaign strategies. It's just like finding the right combination of treatments to cure ailments. But why is digital becoming more appealing to marketers of health insurance?

Targeting: Historically, insurance marketers have cast a wide net through TV, radio, and print ads to build brand awareness. But with such a wide variety of targeting available in digital marketing, advertisers can skip the guesswork and directly target an online audience that is most likely to convert. Data targeting uses online and offline data from third-party data companies to reach individuals across video, mobile, display, and social mediums. These data segments can include everything from past purchase behavior, including health products, to demographic and psychographic behavior, including household income or family size.

Flexibility: Unlike traditional marketing channels, digital marketing allows for the optimization of campaigns on the fly. Not only does digital advertising offer transparency across ad inventory and audience pools, but the programmatic model of media buying allows you to make adjustments to these areas in real time. Knowing what inventory and audience lead to the strongest web traffic equips marketers to make smart and efficient campaign optimizations. Success in the world of digital marketing depends on marketers being clever, willing, and able to adjust budgets quickly as inventory, market conditions, and customer focus fluctuate.

Measurable: With the ability to carefully monitor digital campaigns and act on real-time metrics and feedback, health insurance marketers are empowered to optimize their campaigns to drive results. Healthcare marketers say digital's measurability helps them defend their budgets and track progress. “Our objective is to provide our clients full transparency and visibility into the performance metrics of digital campaigns for healthcare insurance,” said Matt Russell, a media planner at Clarity Coverdale Fury, an agency that works with healthcare brands. He added, “Through targeted digital advertising on a programmatic basis, we can provide our clients instant optimization and metrics to support using digital advertising as a continued strategy.”

More marketers are flocking to digital for their health insurance marketing, and there's no denying that the American healthcare landscape is shifting: individual health plans now make up 40% of the health insurance market—a major increase compared to the 10% they had represented before the Affordable Care Act was implemented. The ACA has opened new opportunities to healthcare consumers, who are taking a more proactive role in shopping for and selecting their health plans.

So how can health insurance companies integrate digital strategies into their marketing mix?

Align digital marketing budget with open enrollment periods. Just like traditional marketing strategies marketers of healthcare insurance need to reach their customers as they are at the moment. Both commercial insurance and Medicare have minuscule windows through the year when consumers can switch insurance agencies. Plan digital campaigns around those times to capture the right audience at the right time.

Test audiences and creative. In digital marketing, it is essential to use multiple variations of creative and targeting strategies to determine what resonates most with health insurance shoppers and convert the most visitors into enrollments.

Utilize retargeting. Being that health insurance is such as consumer-driven, open marketplace, it's essential to continue targeting users after they have left a website. Users are going to shop around, get frustrated with long application processes, take breaks, and delay enrolling until the last minute. Retargeting allows healthcare insurance brands to stay in front of the potential customers that are most likely to convert into enrollments.

See also: How IBM's cognitive computing platform might help make healthcare smarter

Patients are increasingly more likely to interact with digital channels as they move closer to making decisions for healthcare insurance. As more healthcare patients move online, it is imperative that marketers use the right marketing strategy to keep them engaged—a strategy that should always include digital advertising.

Andrew Fischer is the CEO and co-founder of Choozle.