Back to the Future

Call us what you will – members, enrollees, patients, customers, clients, etc., – we’re all just consumers. And as consumers, we’re slowly but surely taking the time to research and purchase our own health insurance plans and select healthcare services that meet our very specific and personalized needs.

Let’s take a little trip back to the future. The year is 1993, and two relatively unknown authors by the names of Don Peppers and Martha Rogers publish a small book entitled “The One to One Future” – it really was small, measuring only 5”x 7” – that at the time and for years afterwards ushered in BIG changes in the world of marketing and customer relationships. An excerpt from the forward reads:

“We are facing a paradigm shift of epic proportions – from the industrial era to the Information Age. As a result, we are witnessing a meltdown of the mass-marketing paradigm that has governed business competition throughout the twentieth century. The new paradigm is one to one (1:1) – mandated by cheaper and faster data management, interactive media, and increasing capabilities for mass customization.”

Personal Note: Every decade has it’s notable terms and phrases that eventually get so overplayed that they end up meaning nothing and often become an early indication of personal and organizational obsolescence. “Paradigm” belonged to the 90’s and should stay there.

For the next two decades nearly every industry in America heeded Peppers and Rogers plea for less mass communication and more customized marketing. Their basis for 1:1 marketing was share of customer, and not just market share.

Fast forward 22 years, and we see that most of us have become accustomed to 1:1 marketing in our lives (what we now refer to as personalized marketing) – whether we’re buying groceries, purchasing music online, signing up for a credit card, or considering what movie to watch on-demand or at a theater. Some brand or service is always following us online, in an email, or sending us a text. We’ve come to expect it – and in some instances – even demand it. Companies, brands, and entire industries have responded – with one major exception. (You already know where I’m going with this and have since the first sentence.)

All this to say, “welcome to 1993 all over again.” Our healthcare industry is finally coming to and taking notice that American consumers have passed them by. They’re looking back over their shoulders wondering when we’ll catch up and start treating them like the valuable and discerning consumers we all covet. But here’s the beautiful and beneficial truth – we don’t have to invent personalized marketing the way others did decades ago. We can follow the trailblazers of the last 10-20 years, study and implement best-in-class examples, and learn from their failures and success. We should be able to respond and implement in months and years … not decades. Plus, we have technology that few could dream of just a few years ago.

The need for healthcare reform – not the ACA-type, rather the 1:1 type – always becomes more apparent this time of year when we brace for Open Enrollment. Billions of dollars will be spent attracting members to one health plan over another. But what becomes of them once they sign up? What’s to keep them from bailing next year and every year afterwards as they chase the next shiny offering, benefit, product, and promise? The answer is personalized marketing.

Take for instance these research findings that support the power of personalized marketing:

  • 86% of consumers say that personalization influences what they purchase to some extent
  • a majority of recipients of emails containing personalization drawing from previous buying behaviors and preferences are more likely to increase purchases and engagement with that brand
  • 60% of consumers say they find it appealing when an online brand remembers their personal and payment information to speed up purchases.
  • 99% of marketers said personalization is important to the long-term growth of their brand. (Shame on us if we’re the 1%)
  • and perhaps most telling – 51 million consumers (1 in 5 Americans) are now engaging in health plan online resources to inform their choice of health insurance

These statistical tidbits, their implications, and what health plans need to know about personalized marketing are part of a white paper we’ll be publishing later this month. (More on that and how you can get a copy in my next blog installment.)

As some of us prepare for AHIP’s Consumer Experience & Digital Health Forum in Chicago this month, let’s keep an ear open for how often we hear member/enrollee/patient/customer/client used rather than the more appropriate “consumer.” That’ll be a true indication if we’re about to come kicking and screaming into 1993.

October 8, 2015
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