HealthMarkets Answers Mobile Queries with a Human Touch Via Yext
- 200+ Insurance Companies
- North Richland Hills, Texas
The importance of insurance agents has paradoxically become paramount with the rise of mobile. A third of the traffic to HealthMarkets.com is mobile. “That is no small amount of traffic!” notes Mike Stahl, Chief Marketing Officer at HealthMarkets. Nonetheless, insurance is not a simple product to transact online in any way. “I am not saying people don’t — thousands of people do transact there all the time. But we have hundreds of thousands who more who get quotes. We have plenty of people who simply do research online. Enrollment gets an order of magnitude more difficult, and it’s then exponentially more difficult on a small screen. What this boils down to is the fact that at least part of a consumer’s journey, the research or the quoting or the follow-up, or what have you, increasingly happens across new platforms or services.”
Founded in 1984, HealthMarkets is a technology-enabled health insurance marketplace delivering high-touch, customized health and supplemental insurance solutions to individuals, families, small businesses, and seniors. “As one of the largest independent insurance agencies in the United States, we represent over 200 insurance companies including Aetna, UnitedHealthcare, Cigna, Humana, and Blue Cross Blue Shield,” says Stahl. “Seniors who want to supplement Medicare with private insurance, small businesses with less than 50 employees, and families and individuals who don’t receive insurance through work or the government — they come to us. Our service is completely free,” he explains. “We work with them online at HealthMarkets.com so that they can shop the market for all available plans across the country, get a quote, and even enroll 24/7 thanks to our call center operations.” Stahl adds, “We also have over 3,000 local HealthMarkets agents across the U.S. That is where Yext comes in!”
Because the majority of transactions in the health services industry still occur in person, HealthMarkets’ mobile marketing strategy is geared towards discovery across search experiences and then driving offline traffic, rather than online transactions. “Search is hugely important to us, but the difference is that with insurance, much more of the online activity is geared towards research,” says Stahl. “When you’re buying something as intensely personal — and often complicated — as health insurance, it’s very hard to do, especially on, say, a small mobile screen.” HealthMarkets needs to drive potential customers from initial search to booking meetings with local agents. “We have 3,000 agents nationwide who are pillars of their communities, well-known whether in chambers of commerce, churches, synagogues, or volunteering efforts.” And consumers are increasingly finding these agents through Yext.
HealthMarkets’ local-oriented model with its human touch is unique to the industry and differentiates it from its competitors who are all focused on online. As such, the word “local” has a special meaning for Stahl and his team. “With over 3,000 agents, they are the answer to the question of people searching for health insurance offerings in a specific location, looking for results that are most relevant to them,” explains Stahl. “While many people are willing to do most of it online, there are many that want to meet with someone in person first or at least talk on the phone with a local professional. Our local agents are the answer to these queries, and they are what differentiate us from online pure-play competitors.”
With 89% of search traffic originating from unbranded searches — ‘health insurance agent Skokie, IL’ for example — Stahl realized that in order for HealthMarkets to maintain its local competitive edge, insurance agents and branch locations needed to be at the top of organic search results. This would require a major investment in cleaning up brand information across the web at the corporate level. “Very simply we felt that we needed to do a better job of promoting all our agents digitally for when people are making those local queries. A huge part of that involved improving our rankings in organic search results across local listings and directory sites, to make it as easy as possible for people to find our local agents and branches,” explains Stahl. Further complicating matters was the fact that agents have greater mobility and higher turnover than physical locations, making it exceptionally difficult for insurance agencies to manage all of the constantly changing brand information on corporate level. “At first we discussed doing this the traditional way, submitting data manually to every site. As we began researching the various listings and directory sites, that’s when we came across Yext, the comprehensive search experience cloud, and realized it was the solution we needed,” Stahl recalls.
Stahl’s team was intrigued when they discovered Yext would enable them to manage, and verify, update their brand information automatically for every agent location, from one comprehensive dashboard. Yext empowers brands like HealthMarkets to manage their brand information from a single source of truth about their people, places, and products across their websites, mobile apps, internal systems, and the entire Knowledge Network — over 100 maps, apps, search engines, GPS systems, and social networks including Google, Apple, Facebook, Bing, and Yahoo.
“Yext’s technology provided us with the solution we were looking for and didn’t even know existed at such a large scale,” says Stahl. On top of real-time control, Yext’s proprietary integrations allow for unprecedented feedback from the publisher sites, providing HealthMarkets with detailed data about its local listings performance, including search impressions, profile views, and profile clicks.
Once Stahl and his team were satisfied with the foundation of clean and verified information they had built through Yext, they began to explore the other ways Yext could help them enhance their digital engagement, improve their discoverability across search experiences, and empower their insurance agents in their own local marketing, particularly on Facebook. “Facebook management is valuable to us, and we struggled with it prior to Yext,” concedes Stahl. “We wanted to empower our agents to have a personalized voice in their social media presence, but our industry’s strict compliance regulations make it very risky for us to give thousands of local agents free reign to say whatever they want without corporate approval.” Luckily, Yext had a seamless solution for this problem too. Yext’s integration with Facebook allows for extensive customization of permission settings and posting access, so HealthMarkets could maintain control of its brand message, while also helping its agents enhance their local marketing.
The Yext team worked with HealthMarkets to build a custom system for its Facebook dashboard, giving individual agents access to login and manage their listings and Facebook presence from Yext and to post directly from the platform. Yext also helped HealthMarkets highlight the agency’s products and services and so that agents are able to create customized bios to highlight their areas of expertise. “Yext helped us create nice, branded Facebook pages for each local agent, and we can push corporate content out through those pages,” explains Stahl. “Many of our agents don’t feel inclined to be very active on social media, so we wanted to make sure we still had control of each Facebook page at the corporate level, while giving each agent log-in access to a personal local page so the agent can go into the Yext platform and make updates if desired.” The Yext team also conducted rigorous training exercises with the local agents to ensure they were optimizing the benefits of the Yext partnership for HealthMarkets’ local engagement.
A critical element of this social media initiative involved not just agent empowerment but also customer empowerment—in the form of online reviews. “Yext has great review monitoring, which has been really valuable for us. We have consistently high star-ratings with positive customer feedback, which besides being nice to see, is also a huge source of data and testimonials that we can use in our own marketing.” For Stahl, critical feedback from customers is just as valuable as positive reviews. “We can drill down and see if there are problems at local branches or with individual agents that might need to be addressed,” explains Stahl. “To be able to have all of that captured in one comprehensive dashboard is extremely helpful.”
Soon after completing a preliminary pilot with Yext for a sample group of 300 agents, HealthMarkets launched a full rollout and now has over 1,434 agents live on the platform. Yext’s data cleansing technology helped HealthMarkets correct over 627,000 name, address, phone number (NAP), and website errors. “It was fantastic to see how Yext cleared up all the NAP information. That made a great foundational baseline off which we could build our digital marketing efforts.”
The results clearly show HealthMarkets’ investment in local social media has helped the brand significantly improve its awareness and widen its customer reach. While Stahl and his team could not be happier about their results, they claim that it is the Yext team’s customer service that has taken the partnership to the next level.
“We are the only local-oriented insurance agency in the country, with competitors that are online only, which means we are always the right answer when consumers search for local health insurance. We see Google and Yahoo as just the Q&A portals, and we are always the answer,” explains Stahl. “This means that it’s our job to make sure every searching customer finds the right answer. And that’s where Yext has been an invaluable asset to our company. Yext ensures potential customers always find HealthMarkets in local search results, and we plan to continue exploring how Yext can help us drive more local customers through our branches’ front doors.”