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Thursday, September 22, 2011

The spirit is willing, but...(or, what does it mean to become consumer-centric?)

by Torsten Bernewitz

Yesterday I mentioned that - for a number of reasons - it is a key success factor for the health insurance industry to create effective ways to win and retain consumers, who for a long time have not enjoyed a lot of the payers' marketing attention (
I also observed that although many companies proclaim their intent to be more consumer-centric, the industry still has a very long way to go to become really good at this. New capabilities will have to be created, and perhaps a change in culture is also necessary.
Direct-to-consumer marketing must not be misunderstood as running a TV campaign or placing radio spots, buying ad space in newspapers, sending direct mail or advertising on the internet. Although these means may create a “background noise” – albeit frequently for a significant price tag - they are much too crude to address the diverging needs, preferences, expectations and questions of many consumers, let alone influence their behaviors.
Modern direct-to-consumer marketing is something different: a continuous, multi-channel two-way (or even multi-way) relationship that integrates communication and feedback, sales and service, activities and measurement, in a synergistic way.
If we want to embrace the direct-to-consumer marketing model, we must excel at a number of things:
(1)   Consumer insights
(2)   Consumer engagement
(3)   Simplicity and openness
(4)   Stakeholder alignment
The first two elements will require building new analytic capabilities, channels and technologies. With the right resources, they should be relatively easy to achieve.

The third element will likely may require a significant culture shift – and will potentially be much harder.

The fourth element, finally, calls for a holistic and synergistic approach in the engagement of all stakeholders, not just consumers. Considering the exceedingly complex (and often conflicting) interests and influences across the healthcare supply chain - as well as differences in local markets - this may be a difficult task that requires careful attention, and time, in order to get it right.

Over the next few days, I will post a few more detailed thoughts about these four success factors.

Torsten Bernewitz is a healthcare industry analyst and management consultant.
He is Managing Principal, Healthcare Insurers and Payers at
ZS Associates.

This post is the author’s own and does not necessarily represent ZS Associates’ positions, strategies or opinions.

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