Being an independent insurance agent is a rewarding career, but the challenges that can come with marketing yourself and rising above the competition can be daunting. There are some clear and actionable strategies you can put into place to attract more clients and market yourself effectively.
When you think about the insurance products you offer, think about the target audience you want to focus on. If you only sell senior healthcare products, you want to make sure your message is targeting the senior demographic. If you sell Life insurance and Annuities, you have a much broader demographic that you can target. The goal is to reach your target audience with content that is meaningful to them.
People research everything online and that most definitely includes insurance products. If they stumble upon your website and you have little to no valuable information to share with them, they will quickly move on. Make sure your website is up to date, has a clear call to action, has your contact information easily accessible, offers the ability to run quotes, has informative information that educates the visitor about the products you offer and be sure your website is mobile-friendly. These are hard, fast rules that you need to have implemented. If your website isn't current and leaves the visitor feeling that you're not an expert in your field, they will not do business with you. You have one time to make a first impression, and your website is it.
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is a complicated and ever-changing process that search engines continuously tweak. If your website isn't getting much traffic, then it may be time to consider working with a professional. Ranking high in search results takes a lot of work and it's not something that happens overnight.
Meet Them Where They Are
Think about the age of your clients. Baby Boomers who are enrolling in Medicare do more online than you may give them credit for. They bank online, have social media accounts, shop online, research online. Millennials, X-Geners and Gen Z do everything online. I personally, don't remember the last time I picked up a newspaper, listened to the radio, wrote a check, used cash or walked into a bank and I'm Gen X. The point is, people do things very differently today vs. 10 or 20 years ago. It's crucial to pivot and meet people where they are.
Free advertising exists and it's available on your social media accounts. Sharing relevant, educational, informative content vs. the standard, run-of-the-mill content churned out by every other agent is what will set you apart. Paid advertising on social media will get you even further and it won't break your budget.
Running ads on Google is a whole other game that is best left to the professionals. It's a complicated bidding process that no amateur should enter into. If you want to run ads on Google, be sure to research a marketing firm that can assist you with that and be prepared to pay for that service. There are many facets to running Google ads and where they will be displayed, as well as many types: search ads, display ads and video ads to name a few.
Don't let the agent down the street take your clients away from you because you don't have a marketing strategy in place. Be vigilant with your efforts and reach out to us if you need assistance. In this day and age, it's imperative to take the reins and make marketing an integral part of running your business.
After the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period ends on December 7th it's natural to slow down during the last couple weeks of the year after the frenetic pace you've endured since October. And it's important to regroup and plan for the coming year ahead. As part of your New Year's business strategy think about creating a Wellness Strategy for your clients. Sit down, be it virtually or face-to-face, and talk to them about ALL of their insurance needs. After all, they were pummeled with Medicare ads and mailings for months, and that was their (and your) primary focus. Come the New Year though, it's a great time to think about the bigger picture. As you know there are an array of insurance products available on the market that can be hugely beneficial to your clients, but until you talk to them, they may never know about them or even worse...be headed for a catastrophe if they're under-insured.
Let's face it, the last thing anyone wants is to be up-selled, and that's not what this blog post is about. It's about getting to know your clients and learning about their individual needs. We're going to take a dive into some of the insurance products you can discuss with your clients to create a well-rounded solution for 2023.
No one wants to be up-selled, but having sufficient coverage is crucial.
To start off, consider discussing Critical Illness insurance which can be so important if a client suffers a heart attack, stroke or a cancer diagnosis. Some plans even cover other illnesses such as Parkinson's Disease, End Stage Renal failure and Multiple Sclerosis, among others. Explain to your clients how Critical Illness insurance works and that a lump sum is paid out to the beneficiary once a diagnosis has been made that can help cover the costs that add up quickly. It's very affordable and creates a safety net in the event they need to access a large sum of money in the future. Relay to them that it can be used for any number of things, including mortgage payments, rent, groceries, child care, etc. It does not have to be used strictly for medical bills.
More than 25% of Americans become disabled before retirement, and on average the disability lasts more than three months, making Disability insurance an important topic to discuss. Go over the fact that there are Short-term and Long-term policies available and they typically cover 60 - 80% of a beneficiary's monthly income. The policy will include details about what constitutes a disability and how the payout will be made. The funds can then be used for bills or day-to-day living expenses. Remind them that premiums can vary depending upon the insurance carrier and their job occupation can also affect rates.
Dental, Vision and Hearing insurance is hugely important. Original Medicare Parts A and B do not cover dental, vision or hearing, as they're probably aware. And unfortunately Medicare Supplement policies do not cover these items either. Some Medicare Advantage plans may cover portions of the costs, but it depends upon the plan. Having an affordable DVH plan to help cover the costs of cleanings, fillings, tooth extractions, dentures, eye exams, eyeglasses, contact lenses, hearing exams and hearing aids just makes so much sense. Talk to your clients about getting them on a plan if they don't currently have one in place.
Now let's get into long-term care. This is a must-have conversation with your clients as 70% of people over the age of 65 will need some type of long-term care in their lifetime. Explain to them that Medicare does not cover the costs of long-term care and the costs of private nursing home rooms or even semi-private rooms are absolutely staggering. You can share the 2022 costs for long-term care services provided by Mutual of Omaha's '2022 Cost of Care' study below.
Life insurance is for the living. We've all heard that phrase, and if your clients haven't heard it, be sure to use it. Explaining how Life insurance works - that it's not for those who've passed away - it's there to protect and help loved ones during an incredibly difficult time - will help them understand the need for it. You can review the different types of Life insurance available below and review any existing policies they may already have in place.
The New Year is a great time to have conversations with your clients to learn about their health, wealth and lifestyle so you can create the best solution for them. Setting aside time with them after the holiday rush is over and resolutions kick in is ideal. Take the time to reach out to your clients and create a Wellness strategy to set them up for an amazing year ahead. If you need assistance with product selection, have questions about rates or underwriting, simply reach out to us. We're always here to help.
CMS Closely Monitoring Agents Marketing Medicare Advantage & Prescription Drug Plans During AEP
CMS released a memo last week regarding the marketing practices of TPMOs (Third Party Marketing Organizations - which includes independent insurance agents.) during the Annual Enrollment Period. They are quite concerned because they have reviewed thousands of complaints and numerous recorded phone calls and have identified issues with regard to the information that is being provided to consumers.
CMS has been conducting a "Secret Shopping" program by calling numbers associated with Medicare Advantage and PDP marketing efforts (tv and newspaper ads, internet searches and mailers) and these secret shoppers have been receiving inaccurate or misleading information regarding plans they inquired about. Additionally, some TPMOs are not complying with the new regulations put into place, and some are even pressuring consumers into purchasing plans that may not be the best fit for them or have been misrepresented.
CMS is closely monitoring all activities during the open enrollment period, and will take compliance action for activities and materials that do not meet their requirements.
To learn more...
CMS recommends that TPMOs immediately implement the following:
MedicareCENTER Enhancements Including Call Recording, Mobile App, Personal URL and LeadCENTER Integration & More
Big things are happening with MedicareCENTER and these new enhancements are making it even easier for our agents to sell more, earn more and grow more.
Let's dive right in! The call recording feature built into MedicareCENTER allows agents to compliantly record their phone calls when they're selling Medicare Advantage and Prescription Drug plans. It also allows them to access those calls any time they need them - as they'll be stored for 10 years. And there is no charge for this service. As with all the tools built into MedicareCENTER, the platform is complimentary for agents working with us.
The MedicareCENTER mobile app is now available in the App Store and the Google Play store and has all of the same capabilities as the web version. This makes managing your business even easier! Download the app and login to take your business where ever you go on your phone or tablet.
The next feature we're going to discuss is the personal URL which allows your clients to shop and enroll on our consumer-facing website, MedicareEnroll.com. When clients use your personalized link, they will see your contact information. They’ll be able to shop, compare and enroll in the Medicare plans you’re appointed to sell — and you’ll get the commission!
The newest feature to be integrated with MedicareCENTER is our LeadCENTER which allows our agents to receive leads directly into MedicareCENTER with the flip of a switch. This new tool allows agents to receive verified leads as soon as they're online and ready to receive phone calls.
Save time and produce more with MedicareCENTER this AEP and year-round. Quoting and enrollment tools built in to MedicareCENTER allow you to enroll clients in Medicare Supplement plans as well as Medicare Advantage and Prescription Drug plans. MedicareCENTER combined with LeadCENTER is the most powerful tool a Medicare agent can have at their disposal. To learn more about all the capabilities of MedicareCENTER visit our MedicareCENTER page. And to begin working with us so you can have access to all these free tools, please visit our Contracting page.
New Marketing & Call Recording Requirements for Medicare Advantage & Prescription Drug Plans
On May 9, 2022 CMS put into place the following rules for marketing and communications with regard to offering Medicare Advantage and Prescription Drug Plans for 2023.
When marketing Medicare Advantage and Prescription Drug Plans the following language must include:
“We do not offer every plan available in your area. Any information we provide is limited to those plans we do offer in your area. Please contact Medicare.gov or 1-800-MEDICARE to get information on all of your options.”
The message above must be:
If you're using marketing materials this AEP be sure to update them or request marketing materials from us with the disclaimer above. It's crucial to be compliant and be sure to follow the rules put forth by CMS.
You are NOT required to use the disclaimer when meeting with a Medicare beneficiary in person, if you only sell plans on behalf of one carrier, OR if you sell plans on behalf of more than one carrier and you sell ALL commercially available MA or PDP plans in a given service area. Additionally, it's always best to include “Not connected with or endorsed by the United States government or the federal Medicare program.” on any marketing materials you use.
Learn more about the CMS Communications & Marketing Guidelines.
Download the Agent Dos & Dont's from CMS.
Additionally, recording of all phone interactions between agents and consumers discussing MA and PDP must take place and recordings must be stored for 10 years. You should record ALL calls in their entirety beginning on October 1, 2022.
You must record all your calls with every beneficiary in their entirety. This includes all inbound and outbound calls including lead generation, marketing and the enrollment process. If you call an existing client or receive a call from an existing client and you believe that the call may lead to enrollment, then you should record the call from the outset. This can include: lead generation, marketing, discussing different plans, mid-year reviews, Medicare educational discussions on options, annual check-ins, or any other topic that involves the selling/enrollment of a Medicare Advantage or Prescription Drug plan.
Many states require that consumers be notified that their call is being recorded. As a best practice you should tell the consumer at the start of each call that the call is being recorded and explain to them why the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has put this rule into effect. Make sure the notification is documented on the recording. If a consumer stays on the line, they have consented to the recorded call. If they don't wish to be recorded, then it's best to politely end the conversation.
“I understand that you may not wish to be recorded; however, new government regulations require certain calls with Medicare beneficiaries be recorded. In order for me to my due diligence and be compliant I must get your permission to record our conversation. The purpose of this rule is to ensure that the information that I give you is accurate.”
Read more about the CMS rule here...
How am I going to record my calls?
New call recording capabilities will be available in MedicareCENTER and will include the following:
What else can you do in MedicareCENTER ?
By utilizing our MedicareCENTER, you will be compliant and will have access to all of your clients' information. To learn more and get registered for MedicareCENTER, please visit our MedicareCENTER page.
Should you choose to use a different vendor for your call recording, please keep in mind that you are responsible for entering into an agreement with that vendor and paying for their service.
If you have questions about this CMS rule, please reach out to us for further information.
Carolyn Portanova is the Director of Marketing at The Brokerage Resource and has been with the firm since 2012.