Health insurance used to be the kind of product where business-to-business marketing and sales determined what employers would buy and their employees would wind up with. The shift to marketing directly to consumers, as a result of Obamacare, means a whole new world for insurance giants, which have never had to find customers on an individual level before.
Health insurers, meet search marketing.
As health care moves from the B-to-B to B-to-C realm, insurance companies must brush up on their search-marketing game if they want to be considered by the more than 15% of Americans who are uninsured and may be seeking coverage during the open enrollment starting this week.
The disorganization of the insurance industry in these uncharted waters is pretty clear, with Blue Cross Blue Shields across different states competing for the same search terms -- even though they do not compete for the same customers -- driving the cost-per-click up astronomically to nearly $10.
The field also is getting crowded with aggregators ("aggravators" from the insurance perspective) who are seeking to jump into this new landscape, generate leads for insurance companies -- and charge a convenient finder's fee. They are increasing the challenge for legitimate insurance providers seeking to inform consumers of their offerings online, and compounding the frustrations of insurance providers by being the best source of information.
To understand why search marketing will be critical for health-insurance providers, consider the typical purchase decisions for this market, as tallied by Google/Shopper Sciences:
- 68% of consumers looking to purchase insurance individually take at least one month to research insurance options before they make a decision. It's a high consideration purchase where search plays a key role.
- 48% of insurance purchasers look to a search engine to begin their search, and 27% continue to refer back to search engines to comparison shop.
- Insurance shoppers on average use 11.7 sources of information to help them make their decision.
Insurance providers need to have an aggressive presence on paid and organic search listings, as this is the key to capturing people researching insurance options. Because those doing research haven't made a decision, make the comparison process easier for them by hosting comparisons on your site, instead of sending them back to search engines and buggy exchanges to find the information. Finally, streamline the buying process so that it's as simple as possible to allow a smooth enrollment online.
Insurance providers' websites are no longer just fulfillment portals; they're acquisition engines and should be rewired to serve that purpose. The goal of your digital marketing and online platforms should be to get people to your site and keep them there.
Search marketing is obviously only one part of a robust marketing strategy for insurers as brand building will become a business critical objective, but it's likely the most important component as we get out of the starting gate with Obamacare.