HealthMarkets answers mobile queries with a human touch via the Yext Knowledge Engine
Founded in 1984, HealthMarkets is a technology-enabled health insurance marketplace delivering high-touch, customised 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 Mike Stahl, Chief Marketing Officer. "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 enrol 24/7 thanks to our call centre operations." Stahl adds, "We also have over 3,000 local HealthMarkets agents across the US. That is where Yext comes in!"
As Mobile matters increasingly more, access to local agents becomes more important than ever
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 Stahl. 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 all the time. But we have hundreds of thousands who get quotes. We have plenty of people do research online. Enrolment 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 on a phone or tablet."
Because the majority of transactions in the health services industry still occur in person, HealthMarkets’ mobile marketing strategy is geared towards driving offline traffic, rather than online transactions. "Mobile 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 on a small mobile screen." Since insurance is not a physical product, the physical location element is meeting 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 Listings.
With 3,000 agents nationwide, local is core element of success
HealthMarkets’ local-orientated 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, local 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 realised 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 digital knowledge 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 digital knowledge at the 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’s comprehensive Knowledge Engine and realised it was the solution we needed," Stahl recalls.
Yext Platform provides unmatched control and unprecedented data
Stahl’s team was intrigued when they discovered that The Yext Knowledge Engine would enable them to manage and update their digital knowledge automatically for every agent location, from one comprehensive dashboard. The Yext Knowledge Engine enables brands like HealthMarkets to manage the digital knowledge about their people, places and products across their websites, mobile apps, internal systems and the entire PowerListings® 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. "What initially drew us to the Yext platform was two-fold — the platform provided unmatched control and certainty that the digital knowledge actually gets to where it is supposed to go, and it also provides analytics to validate that there is lift."
Clean Digital Knowledge drives improved local engagement
Soon after completing a preliminary pilot with Yext’s Listings product 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." Since the full rollout, HealthMarkets has seen a 63% lift in search impressions for its local listings.
Once Stahl and his team were satisfied with the foundation of clean digital knowledge they had built through Yext, they began to explore the other ways Yext could help them enhance their digital engagement and empower their insurance agents in their own local marketing, particularly on Facebook. "Facebook management is valuable to us, and we struggled with it before Yext," concedes Stahl. "We wanted to empower our agents to have a personalised 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 Listings’ integration with Facebook allows for extensive customisation of permission settings and posting access, so HealthMarkets could maintain control of its brand message, while also helping its agents enhance their local marketing.
Yext builds custom social media management set-up due to industry’s compliance regulations
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 add the Enhanced Content Lists feature to its account, so it can highlight the agency’s products and services and so that agents are able to create customised 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, including an instructional webinar, to make sure they were optimising 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."
The results clearly show HealthMarkets’ investment in local social media has helped the brand significantly improve its awareness and widen its customer reach. Powering Facebook through Yext allowed the brand unprecedented control and visibility of its Facebook community’s engagement, generating a 137% increase in page views and capturing "talking about this" references which peaked at 134% above baseline levels. Customers are also engaging more directly: the brand’s Facebook Likes have increased by 243% and Were Here check-ins have increased by a staggering 417%.
While Stahl and his team could not be happier about these numbers, they claim that it is the Yext team’s customer service that has taken the partnership to the next level. "The service element of what Yext offers is a really big deal. From the beginning, Yext’s team showed such a willingness to help me solve my core problems," praises Stahl. "They are forward-thinking and consistently go above and beyond to make sure we optimise our local presence and identify potential opportunities for improvement. We rarely have to ask the questions because they continually anticipate what we’re looking for."
Looking ahead, leveraging Digital Knowledge remains top priority
"We are the only local-orientated 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 makes sure potential customers always find HealthMarkets in local search results and we plan to continue exploring how Yext’s platform can help us drive more local customers through our branches’ front doors."