A Digital Beginning

The late Dr. Wayne Dyer said, “Go for it now. The future is promised to no one.” This is sound advice for life and for ending the procrastination about when your Medicare marketing organization should begin to create a digital strategy. “Go for it now.”

Let’s address the elephant in the room. Every Medicare marketer has numbers to make. It is no secret that direct mail is the primary workhorse of Medicare marketing, providing the necessary leads for inside sales, brokers and agents and driving self-serve transactional online sales. Jeopardizing an organization’s ability to meet or exceed the sales goals by moving budget out of direct mail and into digital is not a viable option, nor is slicing a digital budget out of DRTV, print, events or other high-performing channels.

Mobile is no longer considered a channel

To be clear, more than half of all digital advertising occurs on mobile devices. The remainder of this ebook will incorporate strategies that are as much mobile as they are desktop. For modern marketers, there is no longer a separate category for mobile, and for Medicare marketers, the reality that our audience is now predominantly mobile must be acknowledged and prepared for. All of the strategies and tactics contained within are applicable to mobile, and I strongly encourage the consideration of cross-platform mobile digital advertising for search, display, video and through mobile-specific apps (applications). Don’t expect to see a “Mobile Marketing” section; everything here is for mobile and desktop.

A digital marketing strategy is more than a digital media strategy

Who is responsible for creating and executing the digital strategy? Is it the marketing department of the Medicare organization? Perhaps it’s the marketing agency that works with the Medicare organization. Or could it be the media agency who is responsible? I’ve seen it all three ways. Due to budget limitations, smaller Medicare organizations task their own marketing department to do this, while most of the time it is the marketing agency that creates the strategy, while the media agency is generally responsible for executing the strategy and implementing the ad spend as directed.

Best practice calls for the Medicare organization’s marketing agency to create the strategy. After all, the marketing agency is orchestrating all channels and needs to assume the role of the lead agency directing all marketing endeavors of the organization, including media. The lead agency will best understand the brand and the brand’s values, and they most likely helped to write the positioning and messaging of both the brand and the products.

Every best-practice lead agency will depend on input from the media agency and the marketing department of the Medicare organization to develop the best possible strategy and implementation road map.

The digital strategy and digital budget conundrum

The obvious conclusion is that there can’t be a digital strategy without a DEDICATED digital budget and, conversely, how can a digital budget be estimated without a digital strategy?

Let’s pull back from the philosophical to the practical for a moment. Those who are in a position where they are developing strategy are usually aware of the budget availability and limitations of the organization. The assumption is that you’ll know if your digital budget is more likely to be a bread basket, or a bread truck, or a bread factory or a national chain of bread factories with fleets of bread trucks.

There is a great likelihood that your Medicare marketing organization has forayed into the digital marketing game in some way by now, which means that your starting point isn’t at zero—which is a good thing. Perhaps your organization has experimented with search, and maybe with some display or even with retargeting; and, if so, you have some lessons learned, some benchmarks to reference and have been able to convince those holding the purse strings that digital experimentation must take place.

Based on what your organization has tolerated for digital marketing experimentation and what you estimate to be an acceptable budget range for digital marketing is a good starting place for determining a budget range for digital. When building the actual strategy, a more detailed view of what you will need to spend based, on benchmarks and educated estimates, will allow honing of the budget to a more realistic number.

Some mistakenly view digital marketing as advertising on digital media channels. While it is true that digital channels are utilized to advertise, creating a digital strategy is usually tasked to marketing agencies that develop strategy and either have a media department, or utilize a media agency to place the media. Building a digital strategy requires knowledge of the market, the target, direct response marketing, brand marketing, digital advertising, social media marketing and advertising and marketing strategy.

Creating a digital strategy framed within a business case, which proves a positive ROI on an estimated budget that can be used to obtain funding, can be challenging.