[Guest Blog] AEP, COVID-19, Certifications, Oh My!

[Guest Blog] AEP, COVID-19, Certifications, Oh My!
Mike Gattorna

This guest blog post was written by Mike Gattorna. Mike co-hosts a weekly vlog, Medicare Cafe, with Olivia Richardson at Senior Marketing Specialists. As co-hosts for the weekly vlog, Mike and Olivia sit down, drink java, and talk shop on what's going on in the Medicare industry.

How to prep for AEP 2021

This Annual Election Period (AEP) is proving to be one of the most challenging to plan for in the last decade. No one has a concrete answer if COVID-19 will be slowing down or starting round two this fall. 

Over the past few years, the internet has been the #1 source for Medicare information among seniors, dethroning mailers, and family/friends. Agents’ books of business are becoming larger, forcing many to find ways to service them all in AEP and still find new clients.

With all this in mind, let’s talk through the top 5 preparation tips agents can do now for a successful AEP and 2021.

1. Remember, you are certifying for all of 2021, not just for AEP

Many agents go into certifications, thinking of what production they will have in AEP. “I am not going to focus on the dual market, so I will skip the DSNP certification.” 

Yes, your focus may not be on the Medicare/Medicaid market during AEP. However, what about in June, when AEP is over, and a potential client is telling you about their sister who’s looking for help with Medicaid. If you are dual certified, you can say yes to helping her.

Put yourself in a position to say YES to business in 2021 by certifying all product lines a carrier has to offer.

2. Technology will play a key role

Paper apps are still an extremely popular form of enrollment in the senior market. Many agents still meet their clients face-to-face, and a paper app is a creature of comfort. Fumbling through a carrier’s e-app on a tablet or trying to connect to your client’s internet can be frustrating—so back to paper they go.

However, without a clear vision of how COVID-19 will affect the fall season, your clients may go into self-quarantine and choose not to meet with you in person. Agents need a method to enroll clients effectively and easily from a distance.

Getting familiar with your carrier’s digital enrollment options now is vital and cannot be pushed off anymore. The sooner you start to use e-apps, the easier AEP will be when you are using them on a greater scale.

3. Your clients will be marketed to online

Have you ever looked for a product online? Let’s say you are shopping for a new desk (as I am now). I Google the type of desk I am looking for, visit a few online furniture stores, get some ideas, and then decide to pick up this venture later.

However, the online marketing machine does not want me to put this off. On my Facebook feed, I get sponsored posts (read that as ads) from the sites I just visited. My email has ads for desks at the top of my inbox. Google is displaying desks at the top of my searches, regardless of what I am now searching for online.

What does this have to do with you?  

The same type of marketing will appear for your clients when they are looking online during AEP. Carriers, call centers, and other competition can (and will) place targeted ads to seniors across the nation. Even if your clients aren’t looking online for Medicare information, that does not mean they won’t see ads. They will see carrier ads on their Facebook feed, their email will have targeted ads at the top of their inbox, and Google’s search results page will have ads at the top displaying carriers’ offers.

What can you do about this? Two things:

  • Run your own targeted online ads, which can be complicated and costly.
  • Ensure that the personal relationship you have with your client is up to date. How? Read on to #4.

4. Retention is more important than ever

Now is the time to make sure your clients hear from you. Generic ads cannot match the personal touch you provide as their agent. A retention plan is no longer an option; it is a necessity

Letters, emails, calls, text messages, keeping up your social media, and other forms of communication should be embraced this AEP. Do not be afraid to mix and match these forms of communication as well. 

Follow up your mailers with phone calls. Did you just leave them a voicemail? Shoot over an email to give them another touchpoint and method to return your message. 

You are going up against multi-million dollar ad campaigns that will replay the same ads strategically to entice your clients to act “just for some information” that can quickly turn into an enrollment. 

Map out an AEP communication plan for your entire book of business, whether they should stay on their current plan or contact you for updated options. Then, launch this plan on 10/1 and plan on running it through December 7th. 

It is not your client’s job to remember you; it is your job to make sure you are not forgotten.

5. Key Partnerships

Your clients may use other professionals like P&C agents for their auto and home, estate planning attorneys for their living wills, financial planners for their investments, etc. These are potential referral sources for you. 

When a professional refers someone, the decision of who to use is dissolved. If a client’s financial planner, who they trust, tells them to call you for Medicare options, there is an exceedingly high probability they’ll call you. This also helps break down that wall of trust many have during an initial meeting.  

Rather than guilt by association, you can embrace trust by association.

This also helps protect your book of business from being solicited by others.  Example: You’re having a conversation with a client, and they are concerned about their 401(k) plan they still have at their old employer. You inform them that this is not your area of expertise, and they should seek out a financial planner. Your client finds a financial planner. This financial planner has someone in their office who also does Medicare and encourages your clients to “keep everything under one roof.”  

You just opened the door to your competition.

However, if you have a financial planner that you have partnered with, you can refer your clients, knowing that the financial planner will send them back to you when they have Medicare concerns. 

How can you find others to partner with? The easiest way is to talk to your clients and see who they use. This gives you common ground to reach out to that professional and discuss a potential referral partnership or value-add service.

In conclusion...

There have been some big shifts in the market and ramp-up in technology in the senior arena. The old ways of marketing, selling, and prospecting are becoming obsolete. The age of digital convenience is here.

The market and your clients will be moving forward, will you?

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By Mike Gattorna on August 25, 2020 in Productivity


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