Reforming for Reform: Eight Reforms for Health Insurers

2014 Starts Today - Following the passing of the healthcare reform bill, insurers face an unstable market full of new risks and opportunities. The market changes will affect not only the marketing models of insurance companies, but also their entire business models. Forced to compete in the B2C space, in addition to the familiar ground of B2B, insurers must adapt now, or suffer the consequences.

There remains a great deal of uncertainty about when and how healthcare reform will actually take place. Still, we can say the following with certainty:

  • It's confusing for everyone
  • Responsibility is shifting
  • Relationships are evolving

 

To meet the challenges of the post-reform B2C marketplace, healthcare marketers must reform themselves. Here, then, are the eight key reforms that all marketers must implement:

Reform # 1 - Simplify to Amplify

In an increasingly complex and noisy environment, full of new and competing claims, clarity will win consumers' ears. If they don't understand it, why should they buy it? So make it simple.

Reform #2 - Converse to Connect

Top-down communication is a thing of the past. It's not enough to lay out your wares, you have to take questions, too. With the aim of engaging the consumer in an ongoing dialog, the insurer who opens a dialog with customers about their needs will be rewarded with customer loyalty. We're not talking smoke and mirrors. Marketers will win the loyalty of newly-empowered, health-conscious consumers by supplying useful products and clear information on preventative care, health choices, and wellness management.

Reform # 3 - Practice Efficiency to Market Effectively

As reform laws mandate reduced administrative spending, including marketing budgets, organizations must make every marketing dollar count. Stripped of their heavy artillery, marketers need to take aim with smart communications. It won't be enough to talk the talk; they'll need to walk the walk, too. Corporate, internal communications, sales, and marketing need to work together as a single tactical unit with a common goal. So momentous is this change, organizations must start training for it immediately. The battle to win consumers' hearts and minds begins now.

Reform # 4 - Target Intelligently to Grow Exponentially

Insurance for everyone means insuring higher-risk individuals. Maintaining a balanced portfolio becomes more important than ever. Getting enough lower-risk individuals into the risk pool means marketing to them effectively. To do that, you have to find them first. This means applying the most advanced analytics to the most comprehensive available data, to find those customers and bring them into the fold.

Reform # 5 - Create Intimacy to Inspire Loyalty

The strict rules governing insurance plans offered through the proposed Health Exchanges will make it difficult for consumers to tell your plan from a competitor's. This is part of what makes an ongoing dialog with the consumer so important. Content and innovative offerings that are relevant, personalized and easily digestible -- delivered via an experience or channel that is appreciated and welcomed -- will win consumer loyalty.

Reform # 6 - Prove Value to Create Credibility

Consumer definitions and expectations of value have changed dramatically over the last decade, and will continue to do so. As personal focus on wellness, healthcare costs, and confusion in the market place all raise, consumers are becoming less trusting and less tolerant of higher pricing. As these trends progress, insurers must act swiftly and strongly to get through these consumer barriers.

Reform # 7 - Innovate to Stimulate

The newly empowered consumer must cope with a welter of confusing, even contradictory, information. Insurers have the opportunity (and the market imperative) to help consumers cut through that noise. Given concise, relevant, and meaningful information, consumers will not only be more likely to make healthy, appropriate lifestyle and plan choices, but they will create a bond with the insurers who provide services outside of the direct purchase and provision of care. Such information, clearly presented, is more than a value-add: it's a marketing necessity.

Reform # 8 - Partner to Profit

The successful post-reform insurer will be more than an insurance vendor: it will be a health partner. Partnering with customers creates an active state where real, positive behavioral change can occur, while also benefiting both sides. By helping lead consumers towards healthier choices, insurers can win loyal customers and lessen their aggregate risk. By doing so, they can help their customers achieve their ultimate goal of happier, healthier lives. It's a game in which everyone wins.

New Rules for a New Game

Often, it takes an upheaval to effect change for the better. Healthcare reform is certainly that. But by adapting intelligently, with equal weight given to the needs of the consumer and that of the organization, insurers have the opportunity to transform their relationships with their customers, to the benefit of both. It's a market-driven symbiosis, where each party has something to offer the other - something whose true potential has yet to be tapped.

By doing so now, the insurer can gain a competitive advantage in an unstable market. It will take every ounce of smarts, empathy, and analytic intelligence than an organization can muster, but the results - a profitable organization, proactively tuned to the needs of its customers - will be worth the effort, to everyone.

Ron Cappello is the founder and CEO of Infinia Group, a brand strategy and design firm based in New York City. He can be contacted at 212-463-5101 and rcappello@infiniagroup.com.

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