How Americans shop for health insurance changed forever on October 1, 2013. Whether or not one agrees with the goals of the Affordable HealthCare Act, marketers already have seen one change take place. There has been a huge increase in "brand awareness" for something called the Exchange Marketplace.
Consumers by the millions are experiencing a seismic shift in how to choose an insurance policy that is right for them. They are sharing detailed personal information about themselves in order to access an online marketplace that offers various plans from various insurance carriers. The new coverage game in town is played at a digital Marketplace Exchange hosted by the U.S. government or one of the states.
Nowhere does the need for quality leads have more relevance than in the insurance industry. A National Underwriter's Independent Producer study recently found that 55% of responding carriers named prospecting as their top concern. Many other industries face the same challenge and are experimenting with their own response to the study. Exchanges have begun to generate quality leads at affordable cost in the assisted living category, the specialty education category, the new car buyers category, the home improvement category and others.
Despite the federal government's incompetence in handling the initial launch, the Exchanges signed up 365,000 people in the first two months. By Jan. 1, 2014 more than two million had new coverage provided by the new law. Many more millions of new lookers and buyers are likely to follow this year.
Over the next few years, the behavioral changes facilitated by the launch of health-insurance exchanges will transform the quality lead-generation industry. For example, people applying for health policies on the exchanges will be required to provide personal financial information and citizenship status that will be linked to the Internal Revenue Service and other government agencies.
In fact, many industries completely outside of the government healthcare exchanges are rapidly adopting exchanges to generate quality leads at affordable cost in a number of categories. For example, SeniorHomes.com finds leads in the assisted living category; the specialty education category includes ClassesUSA.com; and CarLoanASAP.com and AutoCricket.com operate in the new car buyers category.
As a pioneer in the commercial development of online marketplaces, it's great to see "the geek in me" go mainstream. For the past two years, I've been evangelizing to marketers in the auto and life insurance industries about automated Ping-Post technology which automatically matches the most qualified lead with the insurance carrier best able to satisfy that specific prospect. It makes possible a highly efficient and effective exchange marketplace for generating premium leads at acceptable cost.
What is fascinating are the similarities in the two approaches. Both "exchange" concepts provide relevant offers from a range of providers in return for answers to personal questions. For example, if shopping for car insurance, the questionnaire starts out asking about the person's car: year, make, model, primary use, annual mileage, ownership status. Then it gets more personal, asking for name, gender, marital status, date of birth, age at first license, email address, accident claims, violations, and more. Hundreds of thousands of consumers already provide the requested information in exchange for offers of auto insurance policy deals.
With the data provided, an exchange offers the "hot" lead to insurance carriers who appreciate the value of obtaining the prospect's current "live" profile. Carriers bid for the posted lead in real time. In addition, there is much more clarity passed along such as where the shopper was and what message they saw in order to request a quote. The result is a marketplace that meets the needs of both buyer and seller. Everybody wins.
If something as complex and individual as shopping for health insurance can benefit from the formation of an online Exchange Marketplace, just think how many other marketing challenges this big idea can impact in the months and years ahead.
James Bayardelle is CEO of Nexus Enterprise Solutions, a B2B lead generation data services firm.