Medicare Marketers Are Struggling to Develop Digital Marketing Strategy

We live in a digital world. The signs of people’s ever-increasing passion for digital communications are all around us.

Digital has become woven into everyday life, yet, Medicare marketers aren’t prepared to develop a digital marketing strategy. KERN Health’s informal polls at the 2016 Medicare Marketing & Sales Summits in Orlando and Nashville suggest that most (65%) of Medicare marketers felt that their organizations were struggling and were unprepared to develop a digital marketing strategy.

According to Pew Research Center, 76% of older (leading-edge) Boomers (ages 60–69) use the Internet daily. Even the Silent generation (ages 70–87) now has an adoption rate of 61% who use the Internet. And when we look at the younger (trailing-edge) Boomers (ages 51–59), we see the handwriting on the wall for the future of Medicare marketing—with only 17% of this group not using the Internet daily.

Furthermore, 84.9% of Boomers and Medicare beneficiaries are sharing information, talking about politics and engaging on Facebook.

Medicare marketers: Your audience is digital, so why isn’t your marketing?

Some organizations are even struggling with B2C communications. Until the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), the majority of marketing was aimed at employer groups rather than individuals. Health Insurers Fall Flat with Consumer Marketing was the topic of a Forrester report, which stated: “John Bowen of Acxiom said that insurers’ biggest barrier is they don’t have the efficient best practices or similar skills in place as B2C marketing veterans have.” The insight provided by this report included that “plan providers need to mimic other industries in similar positions (such as auto) and focus on driving an ongoing relationship through relationship marketing strategies that generate loyalty.” And, of course, the best relationship marketing strategies are digital…

And maybe it’s because, up until now, some Medicare marketing organizations have viewed digital as an additional channel, when it really isn’t. Digital is our way of life. Digital considerations must be made for every marketing strategy and tactic, even if the origination tactic is off-line, such as television.

The phrase omnichannel has reverberated throughout the hallways of every marketing organization for the past few years. Now, the phrase omnichannel has become the hot buzz phrase for every channel of marketing, which most translate into digital channels, since no one ever mentioned the phrase omnichannel until we were well into the digital age.

On city streets, more and more people have their heads down, laser-focused on their smartphones.

And at airports all over the world, people are tethered to charging stations so they will have digital access throughout their trip, even at 30,000 feet with onboard pay-to-play or free Wi-Fi.

The challenge for Medicare marketers

Even if you’ve dipped your toe into digital marketing through search and display, there is a definite learning curve to digital strategies. Strange new terminology to absorb and learn with best practices, methodology and jargon are evolving every day. Many organizations simply don’t have the infrastructure to support the inclusion of digital. And old habits die hard—direct response historically has been successful, so why change? What’s more, few organizations really have the expertise to enable relationship marketing.

If Medicare marketers don’t go with the digital flow, they’re destined to fall behind projections, not make their numbers or achieve their goals.

The digital benefit to Medicare marketing

Digital considerations must be made for every marketing strategy and tactic, even if the origination tactic is off-line, such as television. Because digital marketing solutions allow Medicare marketers to segment and target individuals in real time, in a way, that’s more immediate, more personal, cost-effective and profoundly efficient than any other medium. And at just the right moment, digital marketing solutions reach out and influence them in a way that’s more meaningful and believable.

In short, digital marketing enables Medicare marketers to compete in an extremely competitive environment.

So think digitally. Because your competitors already are.

Up until now, some brave Medicare marketers have dared to peel a portion of the budget away from the traditional workhorse channel of direct mail to experiment with digital, but they’ve done so in very limited ways.

When you understand just how much Boomers and Medicare beneficiaries are utilizing digital channels, you’ll see why there’s the urgent need to do more.

  • 1 in 5 of Twitter users are over 50
  • 53% (percentage of Americans 65+ who use the Internet, and 70% of those use the Internet daily)
  • 27 hours per week (average amount of time Boomers spend on the Internet)
  • 48% (percentage of adults 65+ who own a desktop computer)
  • 63% (percentage of adults 50–64 who own a desktop computer)
  • 27.4 million (number of adults 55+ who engage in social networking to communicate)
  • 1 in 3 of online Boomers use social media
  • 59% (percentage of online Boomers who have made an online purchase within the last 3 months)
  • 80% (adults 50+ account for 80% of all online luxury travel spending)
  • $7 billion (average annual amount spent online by adults 50+)

Sources: Pew Research Center, Immersion Active, Forrester and eMarketer


And when we’re speaking about digital, more than half of what we’re speaking about is mobile. According to a 2016 Pew Research Center report, mobile now accounts for more than half of all digital advertising spending, while digital ad spending grew from $43 billion in 2013 to over $60 billion just two short years later.

Digital finally surpasses TV

A recent Flurry report (May 2016) noted: “For the first time ever, time spent inside mobile applications by the average US consumer has exceeded that of TV” and went on to say that “the average US consumer is spending 198 minutes per day inside apps compared to 168 minutes on TV.”

Furthermore, according to a 2015 Forrester study, “US online adults now report that they spend more time online than watching off-line TV (20 and 11 hours, respectively).”

Digital is more than smartphones, however. It’s also tablets and PCs. The IoT (Internet of Things) is all things connected, and according to Cisco’s Internet Business Solutions Group (IBSG), some 50 billion things will be connected by 2020.

The reality is that people are spending more time with newer and emerging digital touchpoints. Communications have expanded into home appliances, connected homes, connected cars and, more importantly, connected health.

The huge opportunity

Leading-edge Boomers are turning 65 at the rate of 10,000 per day in the United States, and this will continue with the rest of the Boomers until the year 2030. According to eMarketer, by 2018, there will be 10 million more people aged 65+ using the Internet than in 2014. Medicare marketers must take off the blinders to see that the digital marketing handwriting is on the wall.

Becoming a great digital marketer

There is a great opportunity for Medicare marketers to become great digital marketers for their ever-increasingly digital-savvy audience. And it’s only a matter of time before the same digital consumer expectations that have impacted nearly every other industry will heavily impact the way that Medicare marketing is practiced.

Understanding the leading edge digital marketing techniques and tactics will help Medicare marketers better target their communications, track their results and achieve the response they want.