Navigating AEP during a PandemicPosted on October 9th, 2020 by Cameron Schulz
In March, when human interaction as it we knew it came to a startling halt, many believed it’d only last a short time, a month or two—maybe three. Here we are, in the first weeks of October, still experiencing many restrictions on human interaction, intended to keep us safe from a still very uncertain pandemic.
As Annual Enrollment, or Election, Period (AEP) kicks off, navigating the restrictions on human interaction has been an exceptionally difficult challenge for sales and marketing teams in an industry that relies heavily on human-to-human interaction. With a ‘hoping for the best, preparing for the worst’ mentality, there are a few trends that have emerged in the way that healthcare sales and marketing teams prepared to achieve AEP success during a pandemic.
1. Video Conference
This trend is the most wide-sweeping and obvious—most organizations quickly pivoted to this approach when businesses were shut down to keep things running as smoothly as possible. It’s prominence and staying power make it impossible not to mention. Video conferencing is one of the most popular tactics, if not the most popular tactic for achieving a human interaction amid the restrictions on such activities.
Video conferences or meetings are the most effective means for recreating the environment or atmosphere of the physical face to face meeting. AEP prospects are making very personal decisions. They want the opportunity to full assess the rep they are working with. Does the sales rep's facial expression and body language align with the sincere tone of their voice? Conversely, the rep wants to assess how their prospect is absorbing information. Does the prospect appear to understand what they’re saying? These are important evaluations when coming to a successful conclusion, and they’re things that can’t be achieved with a phone call.
2. Tangible Products
Creating the human touches that are necessary for success during AEP isn’t as simple as replacing face-to-face meetings with video conferences. As The Marek Group’s Chief Visionary Officer (CVO), Tami Marek-Loper, shared during our Webinar, Sales and Marketing Effectiveness in a Digital World, “Zoom meetings are great, we can see each other, we can talk, but it still feels very virtual.” As this pandemic continues, the number of digital communications and materials that a prospect receives also continues to rise. To stand out, smart healthcare marketers are creating human touch points with real, physical items that can be put in the hands of their prospects.
Tangible products and communications will be important. As we’ve discussed in a previous blog, direct mail, print, promotional—tangible products—evoke sentiments that digital touches lack. Using a physical product or piece of material as a follow-up is an excellent way to show prospects that you care about them and, even if you’re unable to personally hand them the item, you’re still thinking of them after the meeting.
3. Format Variety
Maybe sending a promotional product isn’t in the budget, but you still want to put something physical in the hands of your prospect. You don’t have to look any further than the content that agents are sharing during their virtual meetings. In order to maintain human touches in the buyer’s journey, Marketers are offering important, effective content in additional formats—both physical and digital—to create a personal, or human, follow-up.
Information shared in AEP sessions is important, but it’s also quite complicated and not always easily absorbed—especially in a virtual setting. Having all that content available in a variety of versions allows the sales rep to create a human touch with follow-up content that’s hyper personalized. Sending along a physical copy conveys that you are dedicated to making sure they fully understand. It can also be an opportunity to send a digital invitation to view the presentation as-is on their own time. The sales rep may even decide to provide both. What they choose will depend on their assessment of the prospects needs—it'll be personal and unique for each situation.
4. Digital Program Packages/Toolkits
Creating content and making it available in a variety of formats isn’t going to ensure that your sales rep uses them. This trend attempts to make it easier for sales reps to use both digital and human touches with little effort, so they don’t revert solely to the ease of digital. Marketers are creating program packages that contain pertinent information—whether by sales stage, buyer persona, customer renewal—each can be presented in the language of the sales rep.
Based on the data shared in Sales and Marketing Effectiveness in a Digital World, Dara Schulenberg deduced, “Sales teams lack the resource or capability to digitally transform on their own.” Creating these packages is one critical step towards helping the sales team utilize the digital assets without neglecting the human touches. Using the language of the sales rep presents materials in a manner that makes sense to them, not the marketer, and simplifies the preparation process to reduce friction and frustration that usually results in the rep falling back on their ‘old reliable.’
5. Marketing Education for Sales Reps
Ease of use may ensure that your reps use the content you’ve provided, but you’ll have to take it a step further if you want them to use it properly. Your sales team may lack the resources or capabilities to digitally transform, but that doesn’t mean they lack knowledge. Their knowledge is simply different than that of a marketer. Educating your sales reps will help them leverage their own insights and apply it to effectively utilize the marketing packaged content.
This trend seeks to prevent haphazard touches, both human and digital. Marketing content is created with a strategic eye, if it’s not utilized with strategy it may as well be a generic product-centric piece of material. A human touch will not feel human if the sales rep doesn’t put thought into their choices—that is, after all, what differentiates a human touch from a digital one. Bringing together your sales and marketing teams to provide context for the sales reps will help the reps introduce human touches with purpose.
Trends for a Successful AEP During a Pandemic and Beyond
Aside from the obvious fact that video conferencing will likely be the preferred method for meeting for years to come, most of the other trends mentioned in this blog are also likely to last long into the future. Although there is hope that some things will return to ‘normal,’ the way that AEP consumers buy will likely never be the same as it was before the COVID-19 pandemic.
These tactics will have a lasting relevance both because of the impact of the virus itself, but also the benefits they bring to the table. Convenience, clarity, efficiency, and more. AEP during a pandemic will be unlike any of the past, but it will set the bar for AEP seasons of the future. Health insurance marketing and sales teams employed many of these tactics as a means to survive a rapid, unexpected change, but they will adopt and integrate these tactics as a regular facet of their methodology as a means to thrive in a new era.
Interested in how Triptych has integrated all of these tactics to help clients adapt and have a successful AEP during the COVID-19 pandemic? Check out this short white paper for an overview!