A Simulation: The Buyer’s Journey Of A Digital Healthcare Consumer And Social Media

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Experience The Buyer’s Journey Of The Digital Healthcare Consumer To Improve Digital Marketing And Sales Strategies — Facebook, Google, Instagram, LinkedIn, SnapChat, Twitter, YouTube; A Combination Of Multiple Digital Venues, Social Media, Key Influencers And Personal Needs…

John G. Baresky

Making health plan choices is an annual buyer’s journey for many. It used to be as simple as “signing up for the company plan”. Changing trends in benefit designs (HSAs, HMOs, PPOs, FSAs, ACOs, health system-based plans, etc.) combined with consumer-driven healthcare and healthcare reform cultivated more variation. Digital resources make it possible for employers and health insurers to communicate and administer a variety of plans. Today’s digital consumer (DC) can cover a lot of ground in their unique buyer’s journey to choose a plan which impacts marketing and sales strategies along the way.

…According to inbound marketing, analytics and optimization firm Blue Corona, more than 56% of online adults use more than one social media platform…

This buyer’s journey is a “simulation” integrating a variety of social media, digital channels and key influencers. It serves as a model for other healthcare-related buyer’s journeys like choosing a doctor, a hospital, personal trainer or long term care provider. In this buyer’s journey, DC’s employer is making significant changes to health benefits. To save money and offer more selection, the employer is offering drastically different plans from several insurers. This DC buyer’s journey started before open enrollment began. It then ramped up over the course of several days once their employer posted the new healthcare benefit options and the DC realized their health insurance buyer’s journey would take a different course.

Twitter and Google

…Based on HubSpot data, Twitter has 313 million monthly active users…

Over summer, DC saw the news about increasing healthcare costs, rising deductibles and other managed care trends posted via Twitter and Google. Each year this seemed to be the case but DC always kept the same plan as they were completely satisfied with it. DC didn’t bother with keeping up with changes in healthcare plans because they didn’t have to.

Email

…Three-quarters of companies agree email offers “excellent” to “good” according to information from Econsultancy…

Fall arrived; DC received an email communication from their employer’s benefits department about upcoming open enrollment. The email indicated a lot of changes as the company did its best to provide more choices to accommodate each employee’s needs and keep costs down. The email directed the DC to the company’s benefits website for more details via a link.

Company Benefit Website

At the company benefits website, DC learns the changes are substantial. Plans are available from new insurers plus the company they had always featured. DC realizes the type of plan they had been on for years is no longer offered. Employees are directed to the exchange website operated by the company’s employee benefit consulting firm for complete information and to sign up. DC’s employer had never featured an “exchange” to choose health insurance from. This is complicated; DC decides to revisit this when they have more time.

Facebook

…According to Statista, Facebook has 1.13 billion daily active users…

A couple of days later, DC is on Facebook looking at summer pictures from a family reunion. A cousin had an arm in a cast. The cousin had issues with their insurance when it happened; was it one of the plans DC’s company was offering? DC sent off an inquiry; it triggered a string of family banter over the next 2–3 days about health insurance. No one answered DC’s question; DC did get a lot of feedback about health plans.

Texting

DC was in a long teleconference at work with numerous delays. During the downtime, DC exchanged texts with their associates about the health plan changes. No one had made a decision. Several recalled one of the companies was terrible; their employer dumped them after poor service years ago but the company was back in the lineup. All the texters agreed it was because their CFO was such a cheapskate. LOL.

Snapchat

DC sees on Snapchat the cousin with a cast on their arm in the summer pictures was now in the hospital emergency room, shared images of a monstrously swollen ankle. One of the comments exchanged between friends and family members were, “Your insurance company hates you”; the cousin’s reply included the name of their insurer. It was the one everyone at DC’s work thought was terrible. LOL.

YouTube

While watching skydiving videos on YouTube, DC finds a series of old ads from a health insurer featuring people with risky pastimes like skydiving, ski jumping, motorcycle stunts, etc. DC also sees an ad from their current insurer, watches one and feels betrayed they can’t just re-enroll in the same plan again.

Two-Screening

While watching a tennis match on television, DC sees a commercial for health insurance. DC ends up ignoring the rest of the ads during commercial breaks and misses a lot of the match. The DC is on its iPad visiting a site evaluating health insurance companies. DC feels more informed but not close to narrowing down choices.

Exchange Website

DC goes to the exchange website on a fact-finding mission. It was an enormous amount of information; DC chose two plans to look at further. One featured a direct link to other resources that DC thoroughly reviewed; the plan included a program to save money by participating in a wellness program using a wearable. DC downloaded each plan’s PDFs to revisit later.

Pinterest

…Based on data from Pinterest, they now have over 200 million active users on their platform…

DC was on Pinterest for home improvement ideas and saw an infograph from a health insurer. DC reviewed it (wondering why infographs seemed to explain everything so well?) as the topic of the infograph was deductibles. Both plans DC was considering featured deductibles and DC wanted to know more about them.

Webinar

DC’s employer learns there is a lot of concern regarding the new health plans and using an exchange. The employer and their benefit consultants offer a live webinar to go over key details and take questions. Many employees log in and participate with questions. DC learns more about the plans and using the exchange but can’t decide which plan to choose.

LinkedIn

DC goes on LinkedIn to find out about a new person just hired in another department they will work with. DC also sees a friend’s profile who sells insurance and immediately calls them for their opinion on the plans they are considering and emails the PDFs to them. After viewing the PDFs, the friend believes the plan with the wellness program is the right one for DC, the tiebreaker is the prescription coverage is slightly less expensive plus the added discount if the DC participates in the wearable wellness program.

Instagram

…Instragram says over 95 million photos and videos are shared on its platform each day…

DC goes to the exchange website and signs up. The email confirmation they receive communicates cards will be sent via mail and there are additional links with other information. DC visits their Instagram link for the wearable wellness program and feels even more confident about their choice.

Mission Accomplished

The DC buyer’s journey featured deliberate and coincidental touchpoints. Managed care organizations and employers maximize the use of digital resources to effectively communicate, enroll and manage plans employees select. Social media and digital channels made it possible for DC to collect a lot of information from the top to the bottom of the marketing funnel. Throughout the process, various elements of digital engagement emerged; including inbound marketing, content marketing, e-commerce, social media, two-screening, mobile and dark social. Various influencers had roles in the DC buyer’s journey.

Challenges and opportunities are clear for healthcare marketing and sales stakeholders. Inbound-marketing / content marketing strategy needs to be solidly planned and fortified with appealing features to increase engagement through the buyer’s journey to better the odds in cultivating strong interest and triggering direct or indirect sales outcomes. Peripheral social media offer ways to reinforce marketing initiatives. Intervals of dark social in the buyer’s journey are difficult to account for. Ongoing changes with and new competitors to Facebook, Google Plus, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Snapchat, Tumblr, Twitter plus text messaging capabilities give digital consumers and healthcare marketers an array of options.

Moving Forward

For optimum digital marketing ROI, healthcare marketing and sales stakeholders need to understand the DC buyer’s journey to strategically budget, precisely deploy resources, develop quality content, know digital touchpoints and identify key influencers. As the DC buyer’s journey changes direction based on personal needs, technological advancement and marketplace developments, healthcare marketing and sales strategies need to continually realign digital marketing / social media approaches to succeed.

Thank you for reading this story

Learn more about the healthcare industry; read my articles about its medical and business trends, content marketing and digital strategy, brand and product management, mergers and acquisitions, consumer wellness, managed care and market access strategy.

About me

Hi, my name is John Baresky ( pronounced “ buh — ress — key “) and I have over 25 years of experience in healthcare.

Throughout my career, I have been writing about healthcare while developing and sharing important information with physicians, nurses, pharmacists and other clinicians plus consumers, patients, healthcare business professionals, investors and other stakeholders.​​

Healthcare is a vast industry. I organize its clinical, business, academic, technical and consumer topics into precise messages and stories that are easily understood and immediately useful. The content I write resonates across audiences with objective accuracy and clarity.

Visit my website and connect with me via LinkedIn and Twitter

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