How Health Insurers Can Adapt to the New Normal


In order to navigate the new landscape COVID-19 has brought along with it and connect with consumers who may be feeling confused and stressed out, lesser-known health insurers will need to introduce themselves to this new audience.

Whether you’re embarking on your first telemedicine visit or you’re trying to find the closest rapid testing site, COVID-19 has undoubtedly transformed how consumers interact with health insurance. The “new normal” poses novel challenges and big opportunities for health insurance providers.

In order to navigate this new landscape and connect with consumers who may be feeling confused and stressed out, lesser-known health insurers will need to introduce themselves to this new audience. In addition, all providers will need to ensure their messaging reflects the uniquely difficult health environment we find ourselves in. This requires the right message to be delivered at the right time in the right context – and advice from the right partner can help providers hit all three targets. To do this, providers need to lean into holistic communications planning and measurement.

Introduce yourself

Roughly one in 10 Americans lost their job because of COVID-19, triggering a dramatic shift in health insurance coverage as consumers look for new providers or more affordable options.

For many consumers, this may be the first time they’ve had to “shop” for an insurance provider. This choice has been traditionally dictated by their employer, which presents a challenge for health insurance providers trying to establish brand awareness. Especially as we head into open enrollment season, health insurers of every size are going to have to make a conscious effort to guarantee consumers know who they are and communicate how they are proactively responding to the pandemic.

Message to consumer signals

Whether they recognize it or not, consumers constantly send out signals that can be helpful for health insurers navigating uncharted waters during the pandemic. Each signal provides information about customer intent, and by evaluating and tapping into those signals, providers can gain new insights into how to better connect with and serve consumers.

For example, a top-funnel signal may be someone who is still employed but searching online for what happens to their health insurance if they lose their job. Health insurers armed with this insight can react appropriately, perhaps by helping consumers get to know their options so they are better prepared if they do lose their job. A mid-funnel signal may be a consumer searching online for a specific provider. Responding to this type of signal, health insurers may provide messaging on why their brand is better than the competition – and they could even offer free virtual screens or no-cost COVID-19 tests.

For low funnel signals, such as searches for “just laid off, how to get health insurance,” providers can deploy paid search campaigns. Searches could link to relevant content about what to do first when you’re laid off and provide a link to request a quote and speak to an agent.

Monitor real-time engagement and long-term awareness

It seems like every day the news around COVID-19 changes – whether it’s the best testing options, the latest CDC guidance or emerging hot spots. This fluctuating landscape requires providers measure, not only for a lift in awareness and long-term brand health (like familiarity or “likely to recommend” scores), but also for current indicators. During COVID-19, health insurers should adopt real-time metric monitoring, including social listening and consumer sentiment to optimize messaging. This real-time monitoring will highlight opportunities for brands to engage in the conversation with relevant messaging and solutions.

Calibrate your marketing efforts

A single, static marketing strategy isn’t going to cut it in this environment. Health insurance marketing needs to be dynamic and responsive to the changing landscape. To assess what’s working and what’s needed next, providers should ask themselves, “Where is consumer confidence today?”, “Have new opportunities emerged?”, “What is our audience’s life like right now?” and “What do consumers really need from healthcare brands?” The marketing strategy should then be calibrated (and recalibrated) based on the answers.

The bottom line

As health insurers adjust to the “new normal” and try to attract and serve consumers managing the same uncertainty, it’s critical to stay engaged with the crisis and healthcare needs as they evolve. This is an entirely new mandate for many providers and may require a partner that understands the new landscape and can provide guidance on how to navigate evolving consumer needs and shifting business conditions. Whether it’s helping a consumer who recently lost their job or reacting to new social distancing guidelines, health insurers must constantly take the temperature of the market and adjust their messaging accordingly – something many media agencies have already perfected. Those providers that can show they’re listening and understand the needs of today are likely to see the most success tomorrow.

Steve Wendling is Media Director of Media Kitchen.

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