Concerns Over Changes In Nations Health Care Delivery System May Be Justified, But Opportunities Overshadow Them
According to what you’ve read or heard most recently, these are—take your pick—either the worst of times or the best of times for industry marketers. It’s all, of course, in the eye of the beholders—quickly followed by seemingly endless messages of optimism (a few) or woe (a lot). No wonder so many practitioners are puzzled.
To cut-to-the-chase, these are neither the best or worst of times…but something in-between for marketers.
On the negative side, ears continue burning from the words coming out of Washington, D.C. A great amount of the justified concern relates to changes in our nation’s health care delivery system.
These changes—whatever their extent and still to be seen and written into law—have had more than a bit of impact…to the point of some industry marketers folding their tents and going into something else. And, in some situations, that something else isn’t necessarily related to the insurance industry.
The exiting marketers missed something of significance in their haste to leave the playing field to others.
Specifically, opportunities will continue to exist in the health insurance marketplace. They’ll exist via such peripheral products as vision and dental and through supplemental plans … regardless of what changes may occur in the health care delivery system.
And, with certainty, opportunities will continue to exist in many other present and future product areas for life-health and property-casualty marketers. So, while these may not be the best of times, neither are they the worst. Marketing is all about finding a void and filling it; it therefore follows that it’s mandatory to be hardworking, creative, savvy…that hasn’t changed and it never will. It also means to learn as much as you can from your peers every step along the marketing trail.
The sharing of ideas for the benefit of all concerned led to the birth of the Mass Marketing Insurance Institute (MI2 ), which this year is celebrating its 25th anniversary.
A lot has happened since that day back in 1969 when a half-dozen insurance professionals gathered to form MI2. But the basic premise then and now remains: an educational forum and resource for people involved in the marketing of benefits.
I hesitate to use the words “mass marketing” because I’m not convinced they still apply. That’s because, as mentioned, the primary emphasis of the Institute is to serve as an educational forum and resource for those insurance/benefits professionals reaching out to deliver benefits to the masses. That is, to large numbers of people as opposed to the one-on-one type of sale at the dinner or kitchen table.
The steady evolution has been to cafeteria-type plans, to payroll deduction, etc. And although there is a lot of applicability therein in terms of mass marketing, some don’t use that name anymore. Rather, they call it payroll deduction, cafeteria plan sales, association-type sales. But, whatever the nomenclature, it’s distinguished from the old one-on-one table top sale.
MI2 membership, consisting of some 250 of the industry’s top marketers, has also seen an evolution of sorts. In years past, the emphasis seemed to be on third-party administrators (TPAs). Today, that seems to be falling back and we are getting a good deal of response from carriers.
The one constant in the membership profile is that there have always been marketers looking for products from either carriers or TPAs that they, the marketers, can bring into their distribution systems.
As cited, right now we seem to be appealing more to the carrier markets as opposed to the TPAs. This is attributable to the function of marketing in general. With what’s going on in health care right now, a lot of TPAs are battening down the hatches and trying to decide if they are even going to be in business.
Conversely, the carriers have always recognized that in basic change—especially mandated or legislated governmental change—they’re going to be there; they will remain.
So, carriers are presently in the process of doing some serious product development. Related, what MI2 has to offer to the carriers is the opportunity to get new products into the market through the various distribution leads available through the Institute.
Many carriers, of course, use captive agent distribution systems. However, a lot of other carriers are very dependent on the brokerage community and wholesalers who can move their product into the buyer level. Again, MI2 serves as a forum. It’s there for the marketing entity that needs products to survive. And the earners at this point are looking to MI2 to establish a distribution level to channel their products into the marketplace.
Probably the top achievement of MI2 in its 25 years has been its ability to survive in a rapidly-changing benefits marketplace.
The Institute’s members have demonstrated a remarkable ability to adapt to change including the constantly changing legislative environmental. They continue to come up with innovative products or approaches that refill in something to sell and administer within the benefits area.
What has remained relatively stable within the MI 2 membership is the marketer. He/she’s not an insurance company representative; nor are they administrators. Rather, they’re individuals who get products from numerous sources and then re-market the products to an employee or association based universe… or wherever it may be.
Those who have joined MI2 have quickly noted their being afforded the opportunity to not only become acquainted with, but to network with some of the most innovative individuals in the benefits business. They’re also afforded—in addition to an annual meeting which features top marketers as speakers-educational seminars… with current plans being to conduct more such seminars on a regional basis.
Yet all this said, the reality of the situation – of which MI2 is constantly cognizant – is that people/companies continue to watch their dollars due to the current economic situation. In that vein, MI2 offers the best value and content spent of any association/industry program you’re going to come across.
Speaking personally, when I joined MI2 in the early 1980s, I did so because of hearing that it was a very innovative group. People who not only passed on their ideas but, right at the meeting site, often came up with new innovations they shared with others. So, one of the things I’m attracted to, and always will be is that MI2 members represent the most creative individuals in the benefits business.
If they have a clamp placed on them by Washington or local regulators or anything else, they will find another door to open…even if they have to knock it out of the wall themselves. They somehow find a way to survive while always sensing the pulse of the consumer as they come up with a product or service that does not exist now…but that the market will buy.
This, in the best sense of the word, is marketing!