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Tracking Mail Response in a Digital World – Part 2

In part one of this blog post, we looked at the way direct mail has changed over the years and its connection to digital marketing. In part two, I’d like to discuss how tracking options are incorporating newer technologies to keep up with the ever-changing route to a purchase.


New tools for tracking phone response help marketers import a more robust data set.

Ring … Ring! The future is calling.

Dynamic phone tracking uses IP forwarding to allow for rapid versioning of phone numbers. It requires a software implementation that from an IT perspective is similar in scope to Google Analytics. The real magic of dynamic phone tracking is the ability to add tracking parameters to URLs the same way that campaign links are appended for web analytics tools. Once a visitor clicks, a cookie is placed in their browser. Once the code on the website detects this cookie, it will instruct the user’s browser to render the page with the dynamic phone number in lieu of the default phone numbers. This number will essentially follow the user throughout their site visit, so if they call at any time we know from which campaign their call originated. This method can also be used for tracking phone calls from mail traffic using vanity URLs, as described above.

Google Analytics makes for easy integration.

Many phone tracking solutions have the ability to integrate with web analytics packages, such as Google Analytics. One option is to create an off menu tracking page that a call tracking solution will visit with an automated bot when a call is placed using a reserved number.

For Google Analytics, it requires the creation of a page like, with the normal Google Analytics tracking code installed. Those bot visits can then be set up as a campaign goal similar to online campaigns. This also makes it easy to compare days and time of day when phone calls occur to correlate with site visits. This should make it possible to tease out some lift in traffic as a result of a mail campaign.

Some web analytics platforms, such as Google Universal Analytics, have integration with call tracking solutions. In Universal Analytics, Data Imports can be setup through their Management APIs. This makes it possible to import a more robust data set, for example length of call, into a web analytics platform.

In conclusion, the larger goal for marketers is to find ways to use technology to increase the measurement of our programs. Conversion paths are no longer linear, and there are interdependencies between the traditional offline world like mail and digital channels. Understanding how these programs work together is essential to truly understanding our campaign performance and maximizing our responses.



Greg Marta
Greg Marta has been a leader in interactive marketing for over 17 years. Greg’s experience include virtually every aspect of digital marketing but these days he’s focused on paid search, targeted display, landing page testing and optimization, user experience design and attribution modeling. He has enjoyed working with top Fortune 500 brands both client-side with MetLife and agency-side with Razorfish as well as leading several successful entrepreneurial start ups.

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Tracking Mail Response in a Digital World

As the world of digital marketing has evolved, a divide has emerged between the disparate channels of digital and traditional marketing. In part one of this two-part blog, I’m going to focus on the connection between mail and online response.

Direct mail doesn't need to square off against digital. They're a powerful force when working together. Image source:

Direct mail shouldn’t square off against digital. Their power comes from working together.
Image source:

It’s a digital world, we’re just living in it.
Enabling the digital/traditional divide has been consumer adoption of technology, in particular smartphones, which has in turn created an inherently digital world.  Whether directly or indirectly, the web now plays an increasingly significant role in consumer purchase behavior. To a large degree, digital and traditional marketing channels are now comingled, creating both challenges and opportunities. The challenge is that fewer and fewer consumers follow a linear conversion path. The opportunity is that new digital solutions can help marketers gain more robust insights into consumer purchasing behavior.

Because of digital, direct mail has new life.
Direct mail continues to be an effective direct response channel because of its ability to target, and perhaps most importantly, because it is tangible. Given that the web plays a role in most purchases, it’s important to understand how mail delivers web traffic and how a company’s website helps the conversion process once a consumer gets there. 

Vanity URLs help to identify offline campaign traffic to a website and track corresponding visitor behavior once visitors arrive. Vanity URLs are easy to remember – for example instead of, use XYZInsuranceForMe – and should be prominent in any mail piece.  Vanity URLs can be direct links to a website or landing page, or set up to use redirects, which set a cookie in a visitor’s browser that can be tracked in a web analytics program, such as Google Analytics. The latter process essentially simulates a click on an online ad and is seamless to the end user. When visitors enroll or complete a lead form on a website, we can now tie it back to the mail campaign.

What goes around comes around! Consumers are excited by the new and different. Image source:

What goes around comes around! Consumers will always be excited by unique communications.
Image source:

The route to a purchase is not always direct.
Mail can also stimulate navigational searches, using a search engine like Google for example. While this is a fantastic byproduct, it leaves a gap in tracking because the visitor is not utilizing the vanity URL. Looking at pre- and post-mail drop web visits or year-over-year site traffic data in a web analytics tool can help tease out potential lift. The numbers may be subtle, but at a minimum this should provide enough directional data for taking a best guess approach to filling in the small gap. 

As you can see, direct mail may not perform the same way it did a decade ago, but it’s still an extremely effective tool. Stay tuned for part two where I’ll discuss phone tracking and how it relates to direct mail and digital.


Greg Marta
Greg Marta has been a leader in interactive marketing for over 17 years. Greg’s experience include virtually every aspect of digital marketing but these days he’s focused on paid search, targeted display, landing page testing and optimization, user experience design and attribution modeling. He has enjoyed working with top Fortune 500 brands both client-side with MetLife and agency-side with Razorfish as well as leading several successful entrepreneurial start ups.

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Becoming a Google Partner

You’re asked a question and you don’t know the answer … what do you do? Google it, of course!  No matter who you are or what you advertise, there’s a good chance your customers are looking you up on Google. For all our clients — health insurance, dental plan, whatever — as their response marketing ad agency, it’s increasingly important for us to help them understand and master all of Google’s tools.

Google makes these tools available to help marketers get the most from their digital efforts. It works great for us, and our clients, and Google as well (the more they help you boost ROI, the more you spend, after all). But it’s a great quid pro quo! It’s pretty nice having a powerhouse like Google help you make your marketing work harder!


As a Google Partner, DMW Direct can use all of Google’s tools to help clients.

As part of the Digital Team’s commitment to deliver industry-leading digital marketing, we are pleased to announce that DMW Direct has become a certified Google Partner. Google Partners is Google’s platform for agencies, online marketing consultants and other web professionals who help advertisers with AdWords and other Google advertising solutions.

As a Google Partner, we can give all our clients full benefit of our:
• Access to the latest product trainings and study guides
• Participation in beta tests – helping Google engineers shape the future of AdWords and other Google business solutions, and be among the first in the world to try new features and products
• Industry insights, case studies, and fresh marketing resources directly from Google

Digital advertising is all about having the right tools to get the job done.

Digital advertising is all about having the right tools to get the job done. Our Google partnership is another valuable tool in our belt. Image Source: Bernie Borges


These tools will help us further enhance our paid search and SEM campaigns, allowing us to increase traffic and conversions for our clients. These are great tools and they are available to everyone. The real key is being a smart Digital Direct Expert – so your agency uses the tools in the best way possible. Not every guy with a hammer is a Master Carpenter, after all. In some future posts, we’ll talk more about how — as a dedicated response agency with decades of direct experience behind us — we use the numbers from Google (and other) tools to generate the numbers our clients need to see: leads, sales and revenue.

As an example of how DMW Direct provides digital marketing solutions not just through Google, we have also achieved certified status with Marin software (one of the first 40 agencies to do so worldwide), a leading bid management program. In addition, our team members have individual certifications with Google AdWords, Bing Ads and Marin.

To find our company profile, visit;idtf=04937888447668259868;

Ed Quigley
Ed has over 8 years of experience in Health Insurance Marketing. As the Digital Marketing Specialist, Ed assists with all aspects of DMW’s digital marketing efforts, including paid search, display advertising, display retargeting, e-mail, web analytics, landing page design/testing and overall digital campaign analysis.

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All Marketing is Direct Marketing — Part 5

This is the final part of my “All Marketing is Direct Marketing” series. So far, we’ve been talking mostly about conventional media—what I like to call “analog” rather than digital—and looking back over the past 40 years there’s been a dramatic change in what we’ve seen.

The Marketing Tides are Changing

Conventional big brand carriers (the Blues, Mutual of Omaha, Allstate, State Farm, Progressive, Nationwide, the AARP big three) have moved to offline direct channels and direct carriers (GEICO, Liberty Mutual) have evolved into big brands.
Today, they are all embracing the online space and its proliferating consumer access portals, from websites and email, display ads and YouTube videos, to tough-to-quantify social media.


Consumers interact with brands on a daily basis through new marketing platforms like Facebook, YouTube and Skype.
Image Source:

All Marketing Really is Direct Marketing

Twenty years ago, I could not have imagined the advertising atmosphere we live in today. Think about it: There was no Internet, no Facebook, no YouTube, no Skype. Today, consumers interact with brands in real time using new media. All these new mediums require direct interaction, which creates new direct marketing channels. When Facebook began, no one would have thought it was going to become a direct marketing medium. And who could have foreseen marketers putting their TV spots on something called YouTube, with consumers actually seeking out those ads?

With the advent of YouTube, Facebook, Twitter et al., one thing is certain: The revolution isn’t over.

Warren Hunter
For nearly 35 years, Warren has helped marketers reap the fruits of their marketing investment: first as a marketing director and officer at various insurance companies, and since 1988 working with clients as an agency consultant.

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All Marketing is Direct Marketing — Part Four

Now let’s examine one of the country’s most well-known brands, AARP, and continue our discussion of “the new direct” by exploring the integration of social media into today’s direct marketing campaigns.

AARP, a force to be reckoned with.Screen Shot 2013-12-02 at 3.57.42 PM

AARP is the largest membership organization in the world and that means clout. Travel, discounts on just about everything, credit cards, investments, pharmacy benefits, and insurance—not bad for an association built for retired teachers 50 years ago.

Back in its humble beginnings, the American Association of Retired Persons was little known and had not a thought of becoming a brand as we understand the term. Providing member benefits and acquiring new members of a certain age was largely a job for direct mail. To be fair, there was no World Wide Web at the time. Most insurance sales relied on agents, and the phenomenon of selling life, health, and personal lines in the mail was a revolutionary idea in its time.

In the ’70s and ’80s, companies such as National Liberty, Union Fidelity, and Colonial Penn pioneered marketing insurance directly to the consumer, and they all knew that selling to affinity groups was more effective than selling to the public at large. So while National Liberty was creating groups like the American Veterans Group Insurance Trust, the American Family Group Insurance Trust, and the Mature Americans Group Insurance Trust, Colonial Penn was cultivating its relationship with the AARP—which was becoming a real force to be reckoned with.

What’s in a brand?

It’s hard to say when this giant actually became a brand. It seems that we woke up one day and there it was—the organization was known to virtually everyone over the age of 50. And this was a brand and position built largely by direct mail and by advertising in its member magazine and news bulletin. So on AARP went, acquiring members from the masses as they turned 50. A simple direct mail package seemed to do the trick. But as the baby boomers moved through the market like a pig through a python a certain ennui seemed to set in. They were less willing to be cast in the same light as their parents.

Today, AARP uses likeable celebrities like Betty White, to gain attention and members.

AARP has teamed up with Betty White to encourage individuals 50 and over to embrace the aging process.

Join AARP? Isn’t that for old people? It was time for the organization to reinvent itself. Its insurance carriers were all willing—in fact, eager—to help the cause by taking their message of superior coverage exclusively for AARP members to the airwaves. Today we see the big three carriers all advertising their brands and the AARP brand on TV. Not a member? Not a problem. We’ll sign you up with just one call.

And what kind of TV are we talking about here? Not the typical :15 and :30 second brand buys. These are DRTV spots—:60 seconds and longer. Spots that tell a story, create a need, solve a problem—with an eye on leveraging the brand of the carriers and building the brand and membership of AARP, all at the same time.

Warren Hunter
For nearly 35 years, Warren has helped marketers reap the fruits of their marketing investment: first as a marketing director and officer at various insurance companies, and since 1988 working with clients as an agency consultant.

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HA! Health Care Reform — So Easy Even A Kid Can Do It

Health Care Reform has the whole country dazed and confused.

One creative team and a classroom of kids have the answers.  


The photo that helped bring HA! to life.

The photo that helped bring HA! to life.

July 2, 2013. Two days before Independence Day we get this assignment from Account Services: “Our client Health Alliance needs a campaign about

how they have people to help you navigate Health Care Reform, and that they have health insurance plans for every need and budget.” And we say, “K, we’ll be in touch…”

Health Care Reform. Affordable Care Act. Obamacare. Whatever you call it, it’s complicated – it’s all about health insurance and health care, copayments and coinsurance, preventive services and prescription drugs (oy, just thinking about it calls for one).

So how do you take a complicated, confusing, sensitive, and boring topic like Health Care Reform and create a compelling, humorous TV spot that generates response?


From the cube to the tube.


“I’m a writer so I tend to think about the words first. Duh. So I’d love to be able to have some great story about how the idea came to me, but that’s not what happened,” said Steve Gupton, Associate Creative Director at DMW Direct.

The HA! landing page provides information for consumers, a live chat option, and easy enrollment.

Searching the web? ~ A new landing page provides more information, a special offer and easy enrollment.

“I was just sitting in my cubicle (or nubicle as my son calls it), and I kept staring at the client name, Health Alliance, hmm, ‘H-A’ … and then it hit me, ‘HA!’ Cool. It’s an acronym for Health Alliance, but it also draws upon feel-great phrases like ‘Eureka!’ and ‘I Win!’ That’s it. Done!”


Now it was an Art problem. Somebody needed to bring it to life. And Associate Creative Director Brian Wible worked his magic. “I found this great stock photo of a little kid dressed up like a professor. And everyone really liked the tone and personality that a picture like that conveys.”

Next, we needed a script for a 60-second DRTV spot. But not just any script. No, this idea was too much fun to do a typical yell-and-sell, direct response commercial. So who ya gonna call? “The kid professor picture made it easy; it’s so engaging, it just sort of makes its own gravy. It was obvious where the concept needed to go,” said Steve Motter, Copy Editor.

From there, the DMW Creative Team debated whether to transform the kids into adults, later in the spot, to signify their having been “educated.” But aside from budget issues, “Kids are just freakin’ cute,” said Someone working on the project. “Bringing in adults would have spoiled the feel.”

“After you set up your story, and the audience has bought into what’s going on, it’s time to go to voice-over and get selling,” said Motter. “But we knew we needed to keep the ‘life’ of the spot going underneath. So we gave a nod (or should we say wink) to the classic classroom scene from ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ and wrote in an innocent note-passing between students. These little touches kept the spot humming along nicely.”


3 weeks from concept approval to completion. A+!


We’ll skip all the back and forth between the client (which wasn’t much because they loved the concept from the get-go), and go right to the production part.

Here's a look at the postcard which complements the DRTV spot.

Multiple direct mail touches were a part of the HA! campaign. The chalkboard graphic appears throughout, including the postcard shown here.

Oh right, forgot to mention that we only had 3 weeks from the time the client approved the concept to air date! Yikes!

“We had to find a production company that could work a miracle, and work with our

budget,” said Tracy Elasfari, Director of Production at DMW Direct. “We also needed a director, but not just anybody. Somebody who would bring something to the party and make the spot the best it could be.” DMW found both, with FreshFly and Jim McGorman.


When working with kids, with a goal of trying to ramp up the ‘cuteness’ factor as much as possible, a practical issue is raised: How young is too young? “Some very young talent came to our casting call. Extremely cute and engaging. We didn’t want too much overt ‘babyishness,’” said Chayne Gregg, FreshFly Producer. 

Jim McGorman, Director at Accordion Films, commented, “We were faced with an extremely tight shoot schedule and budget, so getting great results — fast — needed to be a priority. We were able to find a great group of young kids who were smart, cooperative and were able to give us wonderful performances.”

DMW Direct is a direct response advertising agency, so the spot had to do more than build the brand, it had to generate leads too. “We knew the HA! concept met all the criteria for effective DRTV,” remarked Bill Spink, Chief Creative Officer at DMW Direct. “It’s a simple yet compelling story with strong benefit messaging, and prominent calls to action.”


Click to view the spot. Plus behind-the-scenes footage.

Click to view the spot. Plus behind-the-scenes footage.

The HA! spot is currently airing throughout the state of Illinois. And since it’s being developed as a full campaign, additional tactics are being rolled out, including multiple Direct Mail touches, Banner Ads, a Landing Page, an Email blast, and Paid Search text ads. 


The End. HA! Not until you’ve seen the finished spot …




Steve Gupton

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All Marketing is Direct Marketing — Part Three

The definition of “direct marketing” is changing. BlueCross BlueShield is a brand that understands that. In part 3 of this blog series, we’ll discuss how it’s made the journey from direct to brand to what we now call the “new direct.”

BlueCross BlueShield

BlueCross BlueShield, a more than 75-year-old association of independent BCBS plans, is clearly one of the most recognized brands and brand icons in the country. Over the years, these insurance giants have reaped the benefits of terrific brand equity. When the Johnson administration signed Medicare into law in 1966, the Blues were right there with Medicare supplements to round out the coverage. In fact, so many BCBS plans handled the administration aspects of Medicare that consumers were often confused as to what role a Blue Plan played: Was it an arm of the government, a private insurer or both? BlueCross BlueShield owned the Medicare market.

BlueCross BlueShield was there at the very beginning of Medicare.  (Image source:

BlueCross BlueShield has been there since the very beginning of Medicare.
(Image source:

Until 1982. That’s the year someone woke the sleeping giant that was the American Association of Retired People. AARP severed its long-time exclusive relationship with Colonial Penn Insurance and put its entire account out to bid. Enter Prudential. In addition to providing members with supplemental health products, Prudential made a major push to provide affordable, easy-to-get Medicare supplements to AARP members. Consequently, for the next few years, the Blues saw their market share decline at a rapid rate.
They were still operating on an “If you build it, they will come” mentality. Many of the Blue plans seemed to be doing the right things, but that’s different from doing things right. But one by one, the Blues took up the best practices of direct marketing and clawed their way back to the top.

So, what happened? This was—and for some still is—a marketing anathema: Some aspects of direct just don’t feel right to the keepers of the brand. This is especially true when deployed in broad-reaching media such as broadcast/cable and print. David Ogilvy’s credo for the direct marketer, “We sell, or else” doesn’t resonate for those whose charge it is to protect the brand. In fact, today some point to GEICO and say, “Look—they can do it with :15 and :30 second spots. They can build the brand and still generate leads and sales.”

Yes they can—with an incredible media spend, aggressive integration of every medium known to man, and a willingness to take risks with their messaging.

BlueCross BlueShield is one of the best examples of a brand marketer that became a brand/direct marketer. There are many carriers providing health insurance to consumers of all ages, but none as credible as the Blues. Over the past 25 years they’ve emerged as the Cadillac of health plans for individuals who need to buy their own insurance, whether they be self-employed, retired early, without insurance from a small business employer, or just between jobs. The strength of the Blue brand coupled with a new strategic focus to dominate this market led the company to certain success when deploying direct tactics to generate leads for agents and/or to take products directly to the consumer.

Today, the one-two punch of brand advertising and direct response advertising has propelled the Blues into a leadership position in the individual insurance market. Could the brand, like GEICO, more strategically deploy resources by making all their advertising brand-direct?

Sure, but for them the revolution is not yet complete.

Warren Hunter
For nearly 35 years, Warren has helped marketers reap the fruits of their marketing investment: first as a marketing director and officer at various insurance companies, and since 1988 working with clients as an agency consultant.

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The Data is Solid. But Is It Sold?

Billions of dollars are spent on data. Analytics. Business intelligence. Modeling and profiling. Data warehousing. Surveys and focus groups. This data is presented to decision makers. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that data is driving the decisions. 

Has this ever happened to you? You’re in a meeting with executives. The Marketing Department presents data supporting the necessity of a change in the way your company is currently doing business. The execs politely listen to the data presentation, then announce their plan to continue pursuing the current course of action. Why?

It's not easy keeping the interest level high when there are lots of facts and figures being thrown around. Wake up! Choose a presenter who knows the data AND knows how to sell it too.

It’s not easy keeping the interest level high when there are lots of facts and figures being thrown around. Wake up! Choose a presenter who knows the data AND knows how to sell it too. (image source:

Lots of reasons. The data went against their intuition, so they didn’t believe it. The data was presented by a department other than their own. The data threatened someone’s fiefdom. The data pointed to a course of action that was difficult or complex. The data was too math-intensive to hold their interest.

But the execs are not entirely to blame. If they were presented data, and then made a decision against their best interests, they weren’t sold. It’s not enough that the data is solid. It must be sold. And yes, selling the story the data is telling is part of our mission as analytical professionals.

Sometimes the people who are the best at crunching the data aren’t the best at presenting it, or at persuading others that it’s important. That’s why the presentation of data is best when it’s collaborative. Gather the data, make it bulletproof, and weave it into a story non-geeks can understand. Then, let the best communicator on your team (or someone else’s team) tell the story and sell the story to the people who need to make decisions from it.

Make the rest of your company love (and understand) data as much as you do. (image source: spotfire.tibco)

Help the rest of your company love … and understand … data as much as you do. (image source: spotfire.tibco)

Visuals are good. Prose is good, too, if it helps illustrate a real-world story about what the data is indicating. Eye-chart slides of Excel spreadsheets in 8-point type? Not so much.

Good analysis only gets you halfway there – now it’s time to direct your attention to making it come alive to your audience.




Cathy Carleton
Cathy leads the DMW Direct Data Analytics group with a passion for turning complex data into plain-English insights yielding positive results. With 13 years on the corporate-side, Cathy is a champion of the client’s point of view in crafting any analytical strategy.

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All Marketing is Direct Marketing — Part Two

Welcome to part two of my blog series! If you didn’t get a chance to read part one, you can find it here.

In this post, we’ll consider a few brands that have made the journey from direct to brand to “the new direct.”


The many faces of GEICO work together in a non-traditional way to create a unified (and successful) marketing campaign.

Government Employees Insurance Company. Yes—I’ve been around long enough to remember that’s what GEICO stands for, even before the recent campaign that actually explains it. Back in the day, the company focused on government employees at the federal, state, and local levels. It did a lot of direct mail and pioneered more effective segmentation methods, response modeling and the like—all pre-credit data. But about a decade ago, Berkshire Hathaway bought GEICO and Warren Buffet put the full muscle of his company behind the objective of making the GEICO brand a household name.

Berkshire went after this goal in a most unconventional way, not with the standard approach of one campaign followed by another over the years, but with each new campaign idea building on the momentum of the last. Remember when GEICO was running numerous ads on multiple media, including online and social: The Gecko, The Cavemen, Money Eyes, and what I call the “Does the bear . . . in the woods” campaign, with the little piggy crying “wheeee all the way home,” the flagship of the series? Some of these spots are still in use, and have now been joined by the “Happy as…” series, which was new for 2012.

Most DRTV advertisers scrupulously measure cost-per-lead and cost-per-sale by the specific medium and creative that generates the response. When advertising becomes ubiquitous in every medium, the only way to fairly attribute outcome is to accept the fact that all media are working together to produce the remarkable results that GEICO has achieved. In the most simplistic sense, GEICO looks at the entire flow of leads and quotes and sales, and divides each metric by the total media spend to measure high-level effectiveness.
So, is GEICO a direct marketer? Unequivocally, YES. A brand marketer? Of course.

Stay tuned! In upcoming posts, we’ll explore the direct marketing efforts of BlueCross BlueShield and AARP.

Warren Hunter
For nearly 35 years, Warren has helped marketers reap the fruits of their marketing investment: first as a marketing director and officer at various insurance companies, and since 1988 working with clients as an agency consultant.

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It’s a Brave New World for Health Insurance Marketers

I was skimming an article about marketing and consumer engagement the other day and came across a couple of interesting quotes from Kevin Roberts, CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi Worldwide in the U.K.:

Kevin Roberts, CEO, Saatchi & Saatchi

Kevin Roberts, CEO, Saatchi & Saatchi

Marketing is dead. The role of marketing has changed now. There is nothing new anymore. If marketers are just hearing about something going on, then it is already old in today’s world. The further up in a company you go the stupider you become and the further away from new things. Speed and velocity is everything today. Marketing’s job is to create movement and inspire people to join you.”

“Everyone wants a conversation. They want inspiration. Inspire people with your website. Don’t just interrupt, but interact. Asking about Return on Investment is the wrong question today. You should be asking about Return on Involvement.”

These are some interesting insights from the head of one of the advertising industry’s leading global firms. As I absorbed Mr. Roberts’ words, I got to thinking about some of his key points that I agree with:

1.     The primary job of marketing – especially direct response marketing – is to create movement by inspiring action in the target audience.


2.     Involvement with our prospects and customers is key to brand growth and success – we need to engage with relevant communication (AKA “content”) that will drive the action we’re seeking in #1 above.


I also discovered one key marketing insight that Mr. Roberts doesn’t address: Marketers are no longer in control. The customer is. The balance of power has shifted to the consumer, and it isn’t coming back to marketers anytime soon … or perhaps ever.


What’s a marketer to do?

So, what does this mean for marketing during the upcoming Medicare AEP and the Under-65 Individual Health Insurance open enrollment being implemented as a result of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA)?


·         Many of the old rules no longer apply. We need to initiate a dialogue with our prospective customers on multiple fronts – we can’t just try to force-feed our marketing message. For health plans to be successful, it will be mandatory to use traditional direct response tactics and supplement them with digital elements (microsites, response capture landing pages, Paid Search and online display advertising, email contact, and online video ads). If we truly want to establish a relationship with our prospects that can lead to a sale, we need to be everywhere our target audience seeks out and consumes information. While marketers may control the message (to some degree), the consumer clearly has total control over defining their message delivery preferences.


·         As Mr. Roberts notes, our key focus is to inspire action. With that as a given, it is important to keep top-of-mind that we can no longer dictate how that response will be transacted. The consumer is king and queen – mostly queen, given the preponderance of influence that females exert on purchase decisions – and so will be the arbiter of when and how response takes place. Just because we have licensed agents sitting in the Call Center waiting to take that inbound call, we can’t force prospects to pick up the phone and dial. Perhaps they first want to go online to do some self-directed research … if so, we need to be there. Or maybe they simply want to send an email request for more information – we need to be there too, ready with an electronic fulfillment option. And if they are online doing research, a “click to call/chat” option could really help spur engagement and conversion.


·         The “inspiration to action” that Mr. Roberts talks about will come about only once we have earned the trust of our target audience. (And, we’ll have to continue to earn that trust once our prospects become members in our health insurance plans). Trust comes from providing timely, relevant and useful information. Information that the prospect can easily grasp and then quickly take action on. This means that our communication must extend beyond the AEP/open enrollment period. Once we convert a prospect, our marketing communication priority shifts from enabling the sale to nurturing enhanced customer lifetime value (CLV) through focused and effective retention efforts.


·         Marketing is no longer a linear process. We will of course continue to sequence communication over time, with messages of increasing urgency as decision deadlines approach. Beyond that we need to be able to read and react to the marketplace, revising our communication touches and timing to meet emerging needs or address unexpected occurrences. If we are not ready to leverage the power, flexibility and speed of online marketing tactics, our competitors will be there to siphon away our prospects.


During the upcoming 4Q 2013 Medicare AEP and Under-65 open enrollment, the game will change. None of the old trends can be depended upon to offer insight as to what will shortly happen. The influx of Boomers into Medicare eligibility and the implementation of PPACA have seen to that. So, smart marketers – and their agency partners – are preparing now to compete in a brave new world. Let the chaos begin!

To view Kevin Roberts’ quotes in context, visit


Kevin Kane
Kevin’s professional portfolio encompasses over 25 years of strategic and brand marketing, new business development, and direct response marketing. His background includes a broad range of business-to-business and business-to-consumer engagements.

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