Medicare Marketing for Insurance Agents: Tips, Channels, Do’s and Don’ts
If you’re a licensed Medicare agent, the Medicare Open Enrollment Period is your time to shine. And timing your marketing strategy during the Medicare Open Enrollment Period is essential – especially since it only comes once a year.
The Medicare Open Enrollment Period – also known as the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period or the Medicare Annual Election Period – runs from October 15 to December 7 each year.
In this article, we will cover:
- The Medicare sales timeline for insurance agents
- Medicare marketing do’s and don’ts
- Medicare marketing channels and tips for insurance agents
Understanding the Medicare Sales Timeline
Before you think about creating Medicare marketing materials, it’s important to understand the Medicare sales timeline so you can plan your strategy accordingly.
- From January to May: Insurance carriers will start creating plans and setting their Medicare rates for the following plan year. These rates and plans have to be approved by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) before insurance companies and Medicare agents can offer them during the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period (Oct. 15 – Dec. 7).
- October 1: Medicare plan information is released to the public. This is also the first day that insurance agents are legally allowed to begin their marketing efforts.
- October 15 – December 7: Marks the Medicare Open Enrollment Period, which gives eligible Medicare beneficiaries the option to:
- Change from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan.
- Change from one Medicare Advantage plan to another.
- Disenroll from one Medicare Advantage plan and go back to Original Medicare.
- Change from one prescription drug plan (Medicare Part D) to another.
- Enroll in a prescription drug plan.
- Cancel prescription drug plan coverage.
- January 1: Medicare plans selected or plan changes made during the Medicare Open Enrollment Period take effect.
- January 1 – March 31: This is the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period (MA OEP) in which beneficiaries enrolled in a Medicare Advantage (MA) plan can switch to a different MA plan or return to Original Medicare.
- Important Note: Insurance agents cannot use the MA OEP to:
- Target beneficiaries who selected a Medicare Advantage plan during the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period
- Send unsolicited marketing materials to beneficiaries during this time period
- Participate in or promote agent activities that target this enrollment period to make sales
However, you can respond to a beneficiary who requests additional information or a one-on-one meeting. But remember, this is only at their request – an agent cannot initiate the outreach.
Medicare Marketing Do’s and Don’ts for Agents
Before we dive into Medicare marketing tactics, it’s key to understand a few key do’s and don’ts of Medicare marketing for insurance agents. Let’s take a look at some examples.
Do: Understand and Follow CMS Marketing Guidelines
Due to the heavily-regulated nature of Medicare, your marketing must be compliant with the regulations set by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which can change from year to year.
These guidelines are a roadmap for insurance agents and marketing pros to compliantly market and sell Medicare plans (hence why this “do” warrants its own section within this article).
The CMS guidelines cover everything from in-person events to advertising about plan ratings to the methods that you’re allowed to use when contacting prospects. In short, these Medicare guidelines and laws are intended to protect customers, and in turn, ensure insurance agents deliver a safe, compliant experience to customers and prospects.
Download CMS’ Medicare Communications and Marketing Guidelines. which is a combination of both the CY2019 guidance and the CY2019 update (released on August 6, 2019).
Above all, as an insurance agent, it’s crucial to remember that your obligation is the customer, so be thoughtful, ethical, and focus on your clients’ needs.
Other Medicare Marketing Do’s
After you make sure that you understand the Medicare marketing basics, there are still a few central things that you should always make sure to do to make sure you are compliant. Here are 4 Medicare marketing do’s that are especially important.
- Do understand permission to contact rules.
Every customer interaction is valuable. But agents must understand which customers and prospects you can safely, compliantly contact.
In general, insurance agents can contact Medicare customers and prospects who give them permission to do so. However, in 2019, CMS permitted agents to make unsolicited contact with prospects via email – as long as the emails include an option to opt-out.
- Do distribute educational materials.
Medicare sales agents are always encouraged to share educational Medicare materials. These materials provide information about Medicare Advantage, Prescription Durg or other Medicare programs. Agents cannot steer customers and prospects into a specific insurance carrier or plan. These materials must be unbiased.
- Do collect Scope of Appointments.
In-person meetings with clients and prospects are a very personal and valuable tactic for insurance agents. But these meetings require a Scope of Appointment (SOA), which is a form that outlines exactly what you’re going to present to a client during that meeting. According to CMS, agents must keep SOA forms on file for at least 10 years.
- Do work with your marketing and compliance teams.
Insurance agents may not always have the time or means to research compliance during Medicare AEP. So if you have access to a marketing and compliance resource, it’s wise to go to these in-house experts for any marketing and compliance questions.
Medicare Marketing Don’ts
- Don’t offer meals.
While this can seem trivial, it can be an easily overlooked part of CMS compliance. There are strict rules about offering food and meals to clients. So when in doubt, just leave the bagged lunches or snacks at home.
- Don’t discuss plan-specific information.
We already covered how agents should distribute and share educational Medicare information. But it’s worth mentioning twice: Don’t discuss plan-specific information with new and existing Medicare customers during educational events or within any educational materials.
Agents cannot express bias toward a specific plan or Medicare insurance carrier – it’s against CMS guidelines.
- Don’t pressure attendees to complete a sign-in sheet.
If you hold a CMS compliant Medicare sales event, your attendees are not required to fill out a sign-in sheet or RSVP to the event in advance. All agents must clearly state that signing in is optional.
- Don’t use superlative statements.
As a general rule, Medicare agents must avoid using phrases like “highest ranked plan” or “the best” unless there is clear supporting data to support such claims.
Understanding Medicare Marketing Channels
Now that you understand some of the key do’s and don’ts of Medicare marketing for insurance agents, let’s dive into marketing channels you can use during the Medicare Open Enrollment Period.
Communicating through Social Media Marketing
Social media marketing is an essential tool for insurance agents. And it’s a widely used channel for people to consume news, content and information. In fact, more than 50% of Americans over age 65 use Facebook, which gives insurance agents a powerful tool to target Medicare beneficiaries.
Social media ads can be very effective, with almost a third of internet users saying that social media helps them find new products to buy. Although they are effective, social media ads can also be difficult to perfect. Internet users are bombarded by information and ads very quickly, so it’s key to ensure your insurance ads stand out.
With this in mind, insurance agents should consider investing in good copywriters, graphic designers, or marketing consultants to make sure your ads have a good hook that can actually convert.
Google Ads for Insurance Agents
Google Ads also deserve a special mention because a successful campaign can drive an extremely high amount of traffic to your business. Understanding keyword optimization is essential when planning your Google ad marketing plan. If you’re contracted with an insurance agency or brokerage, you may have access to a marketing team who can help you set up compliant Google ads.
Google ads tend to be very short and to the point. The ads make it clear that they are offering a service to view and explore plans, and have very little fluff. As with social media ads, you really need enticing copy with strategic keywords to make an impact.
Using Organic Videos and Video Ads
Video materials can come in two forms: dedicated video content and video ads.
And running video ads on YouTube could be a wise choice as part of your Medicare marketing strategy. In fact, YouTube is one of the most popular websites online. YouTube ads tend to be effective and fair in price, if you have the means to make quality videos.
Let’s take organic traffic generation as an example. Organic traffic generation refers to content that people will naturally search for via a search engine like Google or Bing. In other words, the traffic does not come from paid approaches like ads.
Organic videos tend to be longer, around 10+ minutes. This is true whether they come from an official source or a third party providing additional guidance about a plan option. These videos go over well because they’re generally informative, relaxed, and easy to watch.
Video creation could be time-consuming and require editing or graphic skills. But if someone on your team is already skilled in video editing, then it can make a lot of sense to pursue.
Blogging for Insurance Agents
An insurance blog is a great way to become an authoritative source of information on a given topic during the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period. But content creation requires a thoughtful approach, which might be tricky when you’re hustling during the Medicare Open Enrollment Period.
A blog is a website that hosts short articles, or serves as its own section on a specific website. Each article, referred to as a blog post, centers on a specific topic relevant for your audience.
Blogging can help you speak to your current audience while increasing your website’s search engine performance. Directly marketing towards regular readers of your blog ensures that your content goes towards an audience that you already have a relationship with. In this way, many blogs are similar to newsletters, as they have a specific target audience.
Blog posts can also help improve your website’s search engine optimization (SEO). This has a variety of components, but two main ones are linking and organic search traffic.
When you put high quality content online, other people will link to your blog posts. The more links you have going to your website, the more trustworthy search engines will consider you to be. This means that your content will be higher up on the Search Engine Results Pages (SERP).
This helps readers naturally come across your site through search engines, links and other ways resulting in an increase in organic traffic. The more you build up your blog to be an authority on a given subject, the more organic traffic you will receive. This is a great way to grow your audience and market to more and more people.
Licensed insurance agents shouldn’t just post a blog and hope for the best. They should have a good understanding of:
- Their target audience
- Their marketing/sales goals
- Their budget
One effective way to get started is to run a competitor analysis to understand what other Medicare agents, insurance companies, or Medicare resources are writing about. From there, you can create a content calendar that includes your blog topic ideas. But you’ll also want to conduct Search Engine Optimization (SEO) research – it’s a crucial part of a successful blog. Agents can invest in SEO tools, but it may require training and time to fully understand how to use these tools.
Blogging takes time and patience. If you produce high-quality content on a regular basis, you may begin to gain a dedicated following.
But if you aren’t able to write blogs yourself, that’s ok. You can ask your in-house marketing team for help (if you have one), or hire a content writer. Just make sure the content writer understands Medicare marketing rules and guidance, and infuses those principles into the blog post.
You can find a content writer through platforms like Upwork or LinkedIn, as examples.
Optimizing Your Blog
Content optimization tools like Clearscope can help you further optimize your content for search engines. Although SEO is important, it’s just as important to make sure that the content itself is optimized for your audience.
Content optimization is ensuring that content is written in a way to reach your target audience. Optimizing content may include adding meta descriptions, title tags, and incorporating keyword and relevant links into your blog content.
Lead Generation for Insurance Agents
Before you market to Medicare customers and prospects, you need to understand your target audience and have a list of people to reach. These targeted consumers are known as “leads”, and the process of finding leads is known as lead generation.
Lead generation is important if you want to contact people directly. There are many ways to generate insurance leads, and the process can be time consuming if you want to have a good collection.
Here are 4 steps to take to boost your Medicare lead generation:
- Manage your SEO needs. This can involve using SEO tools to track keywords, creating a content plan, and making sure that your website is easy to find online. The goal here is to maximize how many people find your website using search engines. Whether you are making sure to write keyword dense content or researching which search terms are most popular, some form of SEO research can help make sure you get more traffic, which translates to more leads.
- Create one clear call to action on your site. A “call to action” can be buttons or forms that urge visitors to take a specific action. For example, insurance agents could use “compare Medicare plans” or “get Medicare quotes” to urge customers to contact them for help during the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period. If someone clicks the call to action button or fills out a lead form, you’ll have that person’s contact information in your pocket.
- Offer something in exchange for information. It can be helpful to have free, general information on your website, but then to require contact information for some information that may be more sought after. This exchange can make your audience more comfortable with sharing their information.
- Never let a lead go to waste. If you gather information at in-person events, or even meet people in ordinary life who may qualify as leads, don’t let their information go to waste.
The process of creating Medicare leads is often known as creating a “sales funnel”. You can read more about sales funnels here.
Email Drip Campaigns
Email marketing campaigns involve sending a series of strategically timed emails to a group of subscribers as part of a specific campaign.
Insurance agents can follow these 4 steps to create an email drip campaign:
- Outline your timing. Identifying when to send emails before you even write them helps you to put a clear plan in place and determine your email message. So let’s say you’re setting up an email to go out to your subscribers on December 1, during the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period. The email subject line shouldn’t say “Medicare Open Enrollment Is Here” if the Medicare AEP is ending in 6 short days.
- Create your materials. You can draft the email campaign on your own, but you may want a copywriter to help fine-tune the content to ensure it entices your Medicare prospects. Also, always be sure to have your compliance team or resource review the email content.
- Choose which email automation service to use. You can’t send all of these emails on your own, so finding a reliable automation service is essential. There are many automation services to choose from, no matter your budget.
- Begin your campaign. At this stage, it’s just a matter of starting the automation and responding to any follow-up that comes through. You can also typically view email analytics through your automation service platform to see how your drip campaign is performing.
Virtual Events and Webinars For Insurance Agents
Now more than ever, hosting online events is an effective way to engage with Medicare customers and prospects.
There are a number of formats and platforms like Zoom to use when hosting a Medicare webinar or virtual event. It’s also now possible to set these virtual events up on Facebook.
We might think that print marketing is a thing of the past. But it still holds power and value for insurance agents.
People ages 65 and up still like to pick up their community newspapers to read local news. That’s why print advertising could be a cost-effective way to reach Medicare prospects and customers.
You can start by contacting the newspaper’s advertising department to compare rates and find out which print source is best for your budget and target audience. Each newspaper will have differing rates and schedules for publishing your ads.
You can then work with a copywriter or graphic designer to make sure your ad looks professional before submitting your ad to the newspaper. Just be mindful of the newspaper’s deadlines.
Direct Mail Marketing
Like print advertising, direct mail marketing (“snail mail”) still has its value. This Medicare marketing tactic isn’t as old school as people might think. And direct mail campaigns can result in high lead and conversion rates.
Direct mail includes items like postcards, letters or brochures. But it’s key to time your materials appropriately and make sure you have the resources to send them all out. Direct mail campaigns require you to have a mailing list as well as a printing and mailing source, if you have the budget for one.
There are many of these out there for you to explore, and you should compare the rates for your direct mail campaign well in advance. Overall, the steps will be:
- Generate a mailing list
- Create materials to send
- Contract with a direct mail service provider
- Begin your campaign
But remember: The Medicare Open Enrollment Period is a very tight, specific time of year, so be sure to develop your direct mail plan and timeline months in advance.
In-Person Events and Networking
In-person events can be a personalized channel for insurance agents to reach prospects. But before they can organize their events, they will have to ask themselves: Is my event defined as an educational event, or a Medicare marketing/sales event?
According to CMS marketing guidelines, educational events are designed to inform attendees about Medicare Advantage, Prescription Drug Plans, or other Medicare programs in an unbiased manner. Meanwhile, marketing/sales events are designed to steer potential Medicare enrollees toward one Medicare plan or a limited set of plans.
Agents should always know the difference between the two types of in-person events or they may risk going against CMS guidelines.
For example, all educational events must be clearly marketed as “educational” to Medicare beneficiaries on any event promotions like newspaper ads, flyers, and direct mail as examples.
Another item worth noting: Educational events may be held in a public venue that falls within CMS guidelines, but agents can never host events at a prospect’s home or in one-on-one settings.
Simply stated, agents should always know their event goals and intentions before creating invites and conducting any outreach.
Medicare Marketing for Insurance Agents: 4 Takeaways
Though we can’t tell you which marketing method is best for you, it’s essential to understand your Medicare marketing options, the time and planning involved, and how to execute these marketing tactics.
No matter which Medicare marketing approach you take, here are 5 key takeaways:
- Always stay compliant with CMS guidelines.
- Make a plan to distribute and share educational Medicare materials that are relevant to your prospects.
- Choose a method that works with your time and budget.
- Generate and serve leads: The more people you can contact directly, the better.
- Remember: The customer comes first.
For more Medicare marketing tips for agents, check out our “Agent Guide to The Insurance Enrollment Period.”