6 Ways to Gain an Advantage in Medicare Marketing

Every industry has unique marketing challenges, but marketing Medicare Advantage products during the Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) may have more in common with a season of Survivor than a seasonal campaign.

Having led Medicare Advantage marketing programs for several years, we’ve seen competitors move in and out of marketplaces and increase and decrease spends as plan offerings change. We’ve also seen consumers’ needs change and priorities shift. Throughout all the volatility, the constant is that it ultimately comes down to driving leads. Here are six valuable lessons we’ve learned about Medicare Advantage marketing and lead generation.

Start early. It’s natural to want to have all the information before you start to develop a campaign, but the timelines and mandatory review periods of Medicare simply don’t allow for it. Don’t get caught waiting for every detail before you begin; work with the information you have and layer in new information as it becomes available. In order to scale the work, we start planning in April.

Align processes. We find the most successful way to work is for the agency and provider teams to be fully in sync. Design for complete transparency around timelines, build shared project plans, created shared sources-of-truth documentation, and collaborate in each other’s systems across everything from project management to communication channels.

Understand your audience. 65+ looks a lot different than it did ten years ago, or even three years ago prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s easy to focus on the overall increase in digital engagement as a tactical challenge, but we also need to focus on listening to our audience about what matters to them. Understanding the 65+ audience as they are this year – today – may unearth less widely understood health needs such as mental health support, transportation, food, virtual care, or mail order prescriptions. These are keys in designing a Medicare Advantage plan, but also in how to market one.

Don’t forget your brand. The market is completely saturated during AEP, often with very similar messaging. We’ve even heard members talk about receiving enough direct mail to fill an entire car! Cutting through the clutter is increasingly challenging for marketers, making it even more important to differentiate your offering with not only product information, but also your brand’s value proposition.

Build omnichannel funnels. It is easy to get caught up in lead generation goals and lose sight of how much awareness is needed to drive individuals through the funnel. How much brand awareness you need is different for everyone, but a good place to start is to be honest with how well your market knows and trusts your brand and how much outside marketing/sales support you have with brokers and other partners. This will allow you to identify any awareness or perception gaps that might create barriers to conversion.

Leverage data. We can’t stress this enough. Data is critical to your success. It starts from the beginning by ensuring you have data that helps you understand your market and audience. It becomes even more critical when determining how you can best use your marketing dollars to target individuals who are more likely to convert. And is arguably the most important when you are optimizing campaigns, analyzing what messages and/or channels drove the best results, and determining the final ROI of your marketing efforts.

As a business, Jump Company has been driving innovation in data-driven Medicare Advantage marketing for a number of years. As individual employees, this makes us a sought-after resource for our parents, grandparents and family friends who “just have a couple questions before we sit down to Thanksgiving dinner.”

A Partner or a Vendor – What Is Your Relationship Status?

It’s important at the start to acknowledge neither of these is right or wrong and both can be valuable business relationships, but it’s vital both the client and the agency know which relationship status they are in and that they treat each other accordingly. Here’s some questions agencies and clients can ask themselves and how to come together to form a lasting partnership.

Agencies ask yourself – Is your success the client’s success or is your success efficient and timely deliverables

Don’t get me wrong, you should always deliver quality work on time, but the nuance here is whether you are evaluating yourself, and being evaluated, solely on the fulfillment of what is asked (that means you are a vendor) or whether you aren’t happy unless the client’s business has grown (you are a partner.) If you are vendor, then your goal is managing your scope of work and building a relationship that leads to more work and the next project.  If you are a partner, you may take occasional losses and provide unpaid added value because you are evaluating your decisions in consideration of growing the client’s business to build a partnership over many years and many connected pieces of work.

Clients ask yourself – do I trust this agency as an extension of my team and a partner in the process or are they filling a gap in my team and providing a service?

If your agency is a partner then you expect them to challenge your status quo, bring you differing perspectives and have a seat at your table for larger strategic discussions. In other words, you trust them and seek out their input and opinion. On the other hand, if you only turn to your agency to offload the volume of tasks from your internal creative team or manage a specific aspect of your department, like video production or digital marketing, then you may just have a reliable vendor. If you have a partner, don’t just throw assignments over the fence and spend status calls only going down the list of weekly to dos. They want to engage at a deeper level. Alternatively, if you are only asking a vendor to support you, then respect their time and always give them the assets and information they need to do quality work in an efficient way.

All relationships come back to the same place – communication.

Be honest with yourself and the mindset and needs of your organization or agency, and then address your relationship status in a simple and straightforward way.  If you are an agency that wants to invest in a client’s business and play a larger role in their strategic direction, tell them. Don’t assume a client knows that is a depth of partnership available to them. If as a client, you already have strategic partnerships in place and you just need someone to help carry the load of the day-to-day, make sure your agency knows your expectations. Once you are aligned on what type of relationship you both want and need, then the business of contracts and scopes becomes surprisingly easy and straight-forward.

Jump Company prides itself on being a partnership-focused agency and we’re grateful for our clients who continue to trust us and give us a seat at their table.

Jump Strengthens Technology Capabilities Through Partnership

Over the course of Jump’s first twenty years, the agency has constantly evolved to meet the needs of their clients and to remain current with the ever-changing marketing landscape. Nowhere is that more evident than the advent of digital marketing.  From digital development to analytic dashboards to the marcom technology stack, Jump has grown alongside their clients and developed capabilities and expertise to match.

Jump was committed to continuing that exponential trajectory of digital marketing expansion, but then 2022 presented an opportunity for the agency to shift from solely growing through hiring and employee development to partnering with a native digital company, Integrity. The question quickly boiled down to whether it was better to build it yourself or partner.  There were three main considerations that led to the Jump / Integrity partnership.

We Already Had a Plan

The commitment to expanding our digital and technology capabilities was already in place, so the opportunity to partner didn’t create an objective, it offered a solution to the objective. When it comes to business growth, sometimes an opportunity to expand to something new presents itself and feels so timely that decisions are made before there is time to question whether it’s truly the correct decision.  Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

For Jump, the Integrity partnership was simply another option – and the most compelling option – to advancing an existing strategic growth objective. Instead of continuing to build our technology capabilities internally, we married capabilities of Integrity into our branding, content and performance marketing expertise.

We Were on the Same Page

A key to successful partnership is being aligned with your partner and having similar goals, expectations and approach. It was evident from the start that Jump and Integrity shared a cultural approach to business – a commitment to putting the client first and to fully supporting employees.

That alignment and shared commitment to the success of the partnership was most manifest in the decision to cowork together. While both companies continue to operate independently, to further solidify the partnership and support ongoing collaboration, the decision was made to office together in the Delmar Loop, a burgeoning innovation district.

It was a Win-Win-Win

A key to the partnership was the recognition both companies offered complementary strengths with Jump’s history of branding, content and performance marketing and Integrity’s foundation in technology, digital development and user experience. A partnership naturally expanded the offering of both companies and enhanced their services and scale.

The third win was the benefit they jointly bring to existing and future clients. Marketing in today’s world has seen the convergence of brand and experience. Marketing and product are not separate activities, but one integrated offering. They need to be considered and developed in tandem, and the Jump/Integrity partnership directly answers that need for clients.

Together Jump and Integrity represent over a hundred full-time employees. While the partnership has been a success professionally, it has also been a success in the office having discovered a shared affinity for office potlucks, impromptu happy hours and Pop-Tarts always stocked in the kitchen.

One Thing Higher Education Teaches Students, But Doesn’t Practice Enough

Perhaps the most important thing that can happen for a student on the campus of a college or university is better understanding who they are as a person. What are their strengths and weaknesses? What makes them unique in the impending job market? What do they value and how do they represent that to others? Simply put, they are defining their brand. Whether they do it consciously or unconsciously they innately understand their brand will help define their choices, inform their decisions and lead them to success. Institutions of higher education benefit from the same self-discovery when defining their brand, and these are three lessons they learn along the way.

Your school is not for everyone

Colleges and universities offer unique experiences from size, location, campus life, areas of academic focus and institutional support. That uniqueness is exactly why no one school can be the right fit for every student. School pride goes hand-in-hand with student experience. When those and more factors align with an individual student, then their experience is rewarding and a lifelong commitment to the school crystalizes. One of the most difficult positions a college or university can put itself in is to constantly chase every potential student instead of focusing on being the perfect school for a specific type of student, and then focusing on finding those students. In other words, they must get on brand.

Branding isn’t just for the incoming class

When a college or university does define and commit to their brand, they sometimes don’t take it far enough. Branding not only drives the lead generation and outreach campaign for the incoming class, but it also translates across alumni engagement, development campaigns, long-range institutional planning and academic investment. A brand is foundational to investment and revenue across the campus. The vital distinction is that your brand does not determine what you talk about; it frames everything you choose to talk about. Recruitment efforts can focus on student resources and academic opportunities while a capital campaigns can evoke the historical legacy of the school. A well-defined and positioned brand allows you to talk to each audience about the topics that are applicable and motivating to them, while remaining universally aligned and reflective of a single institution.

Digital makes branding more important than ever, not less

As academic experiences move online, strong branding combats the commodification of academic experience. The rise of remote learning and the financial challenges of traditional campus-driven experiences can create a false sense of branding having less importance, but the reality is branding aligns your university across all departments and audiences and that makes it more important than ever. What makes your student experience and your educational approach – wherever it takes place – the right fit for the right student is also the recipe for your school’s lifetime value to that student and the subsequent benefits of that school pride become sustaining energy for your future.

As an agency, Jump is a strong advocate for higher education. Our experience branding companies across a number of industries – including higher education – has enhanced our belief that being the right choice for the right person is always better than being the second choice for every person. And to be frank, that’s true of agencies and clients as well.

To learn three ways educational institutions benefit from working with Jump, read this article.

On-premise Brand Video Is the Customer Communication Channel You Are Missing

Environmental Graphics. Digital Signage. On-premise Video. Whatever your terminology, marketers intuitively understand the digital evolution from physical point-of-sale signage and endcaps to monitors, screens and projectors inside a retail space. While the tactical use of this channel is common – timely promotion of sales, digital menus and wayfinding signage – don’t overlook the broader brand lift that on-premise video provides. Here’s a quick analysis of why you should be doing it and some considerations in how to structure your execution.

Why it makes sense

The first reason it makes sense is that hardware and technology costs have made it a much easier investment. LED screens are less expensive and operate at a higher efficiency for lower energy costs. Additionally, technology provides multiple paths for creating applications or using out-of-the-box application solutions that present polished results with the flexibility to scale and optimize. And most importantly, your competitors are doing it and your customers expect it.

Have something interesting to say

When you place on-premise video in your location you can be sure of one thing – your brand is top of mind when your customers see it and they connect whatever they see on it to your brand. Capitalize on this captive, focused audience with content that informs and entertains as well as promotes. Any positive experience customers have with their interaction reflects on and impacts their perception of your brand. Date and time, weather, local news, community interest or trivia can exist alongside promotion to encourage interaction and engagement.

Set the mood

The pace and the tone of content should be reflective of the display’s location and the customer frame of mind to be truly relevant and engaging. How long are people likely to be looking at a given display should dictate how much variety of content is included and how often that content changes. The entrance to a building and a waiting room are very different approaches. Similarly, if the content is being shown in the customer service area, your customer may be less interested in a humorous distraction than if they are standing in a checkout line, and a healthcare setting requires different sensitivities than a retail location.

Jump Company has an in-house video team that handles everything from pre-production to post-production including sound design, motion graphics and 3D animation. They were disappointed this information was shared via a blog article and not a YouTube video.

6 Keys to a Successful Office Move

One clear impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has been a reassessment of office space and whether what you have meets your current business needs. There are many reasons to move. You need more or less space. You want to decrease overhead costs. You want to be closer to a center of business activity or a more dynamic neighborhood filled with dining and entertainment options. The reason you are moving doesn’t matter, but when you do move your office…you must do these six things to make the move a success.

Share the responsibility

Remember the office is moving and everyone who works in the office plays a role. Whether it’s some light manual labor in moving boxes and furniture or the administrative tasks of organization, make sure the office move is overseen by a team and not on the shoulders of an individual. This is especially important because when you have an important challenge – like an office move – you turn to your best and most reliable employees. And then you put them in an often thankless, high stress situation which makes them a target for a company-worth of questions and concerns. You can’t afford to burnout your best employees at a time when you need them most, so make sure you all contribute and don’t isolate the responsibility.

Plan the move, communicate the plan

With your team in place, create a plan for the move and it needs to have more detail than have everything in a box by the end month. Creating – and communicating – a clear timeline of milestones for the move is vital for success. The timeline not only holds everyone accountable, but it communicates your expectations of all employees during the move. Providing regular updates on where you are in your timeline – what you have achieved and what comes next – keeps everyone informed, engaged and reinforces the reality that “this move is happening.”

Donate things away

Whether it’s a violent purge or a Marie Kondo-inspired appreciation for each unused office supply, you must get rid of stuff. It lowers your moving costs, and it makes unpacking and setting up the new office easier. And the reality is that the speed of technology outpaces the utility of many traditional office supplies. That said, what doesn’t have a place in the modern office may still play a role in your local school or non-profit. The wired mouse gives way to the wireless. The paper cutter, spiral binding machine and laminator give way to the digital storage in the cloud. You don’t need it; someone else does. And if no one does, then the trash bin wants it.

You are moving more than boxes

An office move also means updating email signatures, client contracts, subscriptions, business cards and so much more. It also affects your IT department not only in the move of physical equipment but the saved logins and passwords on all employee machines that need to be updated in the new location. This is why the plan for your move and a timeline is so important, because it should also incorporate all these things. A successful move aligns all these changes to take place as simultaneously as possible. And it’s also a necessity for what comes next…

Announce and celebrate the new location

Your move won’t feel complete until everyone knows about it, and that includes your employees. Don’t focus so intensely on sending corporate communications to clients and press releases to the local business journals that you neglect to throw an office happy hour or order in lunch. Make sure everyone knows the move has taken place and, more importantly, that the move process is complete and you are launching into the next phase for your company.

Seize the opportunity to institute change

You have completed one of the biggest changes a company can make, so why not add a few more at the same time. Channel the energy that comes from the trepidation and excitement of a move to institute organizational changes in a way that makes them part of the new normal going forward. New seating locations can set a new tone of the relationship between management and the broader team. Standing meetings can go away or new ones can be created. You can send a message around priorities by recommitting to adherence in time tracking, instituting a lunch and learn program or building a new approach to finding the next great partnership. Promotions or team restructuring can recognize employees’ past contributions or new expectations in the new space.

Jump Company recently completed our own office move in June 2022 and are happy to report everyone survived and six boxes of CDs and twenty years’ worth of advertising printer proofs did not.

When Everyone Is Working from Home, Where Do You Put the Water Cooler?

I may be showing my age with this reference, but there was a time before bottled water and filtered drinking fountains, when people in the office came to common area and grabbed a glass of water from a 5-gallon tank called the water cooler.

The point of the water cooler wasn’t hydration as much as an occasion to strike up casual conversations to build personal relationships or spitball ideas (another dated reference) about current projects. And it’s this spontaneous, unfiltered, unjudged aspect of agency life that is most at risk with the rise of remote work.

So what is the solution? How can you keep the spontaneous benefit of the water cooler in a work environment where no one is in the office? Consider scheduling some standing meetings with no pre-determined agenda.

I know this goes against the grain for those that scream about a workday consistently filled with unproductive meetings, but the key here is to change your perspective on what is success. Is developing culture, building trust and creating a short-hand with coworkers something that is unproductive? I’m not suggesting you arrange times to chat with every employee, weekly for an hour, but standing meetings with some key coworkers every other week for 15 or 20 minutes may be the way to get back to “how are you?”, “what are you doing this summer?” and “while I have you, I wanted to get your two cents on the way we ran that last client call.”

Three Reasons Higher Education Needs an Agency Partner

Jump is fortunate to have several team members who have worked in higher education as administrators or faculty, and one thing those expats agree on is that colleges and universities benefit from having an agency partner.  These are three reasons why.

Off-campus perspective

The internal voices within a college or university can be deafening against new ways of thinking and objectivity can suffer under the pressures of tenured leadership. One of the key benefits of an external agency partner is having a broader perspective and more options to solve key challenges. Agencies can also bring proven solutions from other industries that can apply to higher education challenges like lead generation, retention, and alumni engagement. While higher education is an industry all its own, the communication platforms, the media landscape and the principles of data-driven, strategic campaign management are applicable across industries, and an experienced agency partner can provide a depth of experience you may not find in your on-campus resources.

Full-service solutions

The right agency partner can provide colleges and universities with a single point of contact for a myriad of marketing needs. Most higher education clients are not in need of a single service, but a little bit of support across a number of services like branding, campaign strategy, design, video, media planning and buying and reporting and analysis. A full-service agency may have the ability to offer all those services to whatever degree necessary as opposed to having to build all those disciplines internally and often to a greater capacity than what is required. An agency partner can offer fractional team members while an internal team requires hiring fully-dedicated individuals.

100% focus on marketing

Jump understands the multiple directions that internal marketing teams are pulled in at colleges and universities. Between managing leadership and addressing the needs of key faculty and academic departments to coordinating with student organizations, alumni organizations and campus events, there are only so many hours in the day and it becomes necessary to maintain periods of status quo simply to meet the volume of demands. The greatest benefit an agency partner can provide is a singular focus on the challenges they undertake on your behalf to free your internal teams to focus on the relationships and communication that is often the priority.

Jump Company brings an appreciation of the unique challenges of higher education environments to our work as an agency partner without losing sight of our responsibilities to help identify the right students, drive enrollment and retention and strengthen the branding of the school across all the audiences it touches. And we do it without having to pull an all-nighter.

To learn one thing higher education teaches students but doesn’t practice enough, read this article.