We all go through very similar steps when we consider buying complex products and services. 

This, of course, includes healthcare insurance products—something many people find confusing and approachable only with a deep sense of fear and loathing.

Some folks move through their healthcare buying cycle relatively quickly and others may take a year, but everyone generally goes through the phases of discovering a need, shopping around, narrowing the field and making a decision.

Marketers have more control of this process than we often think. For most marketers of complex products like health insurance, the correct approach is content marketing—a much described, and much misunderstood, concept.

Here’s how it works.

1. Marketers now have much more visibility into which part of the buying cycle the prospect is in. We can see when consumers are researching our products. We know how long they’ve been looking around. We can (and we definitely should) know about the solicitations we’ve sent individuals and whether they have responded.

2. Moving someone through their buying cycle is all about the offer, not the product.

So, if someone has just become aware of a need for health insurance—for example, they are about to turn 65 and have started to hear about Medicare, or they recently graduated from college and realize they won’t be covered by their parents’ insurance—it would be smart to offer them an overview of how to select the right type of plan. These offers of insightful content help identify prospects starting their purchase journey and, if well produced, they also provide a reference point of expertise and trust to build preference for your brand.

A progressive offer strategy allows folks to move at their own pace by responding to, and receiving, content that signals they’ve moved to the next phase of their decision-making process. Your goal is to develop lots of content so that you’ll have multiple offers for each stage in the cycle. Think: guides, one-pagers, videos, sales call-back requests, web pages and more.

Here’s a simplified outline of what this could look like for a Medicare program:

You’ll want to map out the content you have and the content you need, based on two key variables: area of interest (what the content concerns) and level of interest (what stage in the cycle the content relates to). Then you’ll know where you have holes you must fill in your content strategy.

3.  Product details only become relevant once the individual has passed into the phase where they believe they need the solution set associated with the product category. Then it becomes important whether you’re offering a PPO or a HMO, for example, or whether a specific provider is in your network.

Gearing up your content to match the prospect’s point in the decision cycle is how marketers generate high rates of engagement and conversion to sale. When coordinated with appropriate trigger messages, bounce-back offers or retargeting, we can help speed a prospect’s passage through their buying cycle by making the process timely, convenient and relevant at each phase.

Tom Reid is vice president of healthcare for Serum, a standalone business unit within HackerAgency.