AEP Marketing During COVID-19 …AND a Presidential Election

Developing a marketing strategy during a Presidential election year is difficult enough. But adding in the current, and eventually, post-COVID-19 environment, which is unprecedented, makes it even more challenging.

As we mentioned in a recent webinar, Medicare Advantage (MA) plans will need to “think outside of the box” when developing and executing a go-to-market strategy for the 2021 Annual Enrollment Period (AEP). Making slight modifications to last year’s plan will not cut it in this “new” environment.

The Medicare Advantage 2021 AEP Will Be Here Before We Know It

Now is the time to dissect your marketing and sales channels; waiting any longer will put you at a disadvantage. Below are a few ideas to consider when rethinking a 2021 go-to-market strategy.

Branding and Creative

Hopefully, you have already been communicating to members and the community about COVID-19 and how to stay safe. Those visuals and brand components, as well as the tone, should extend into AEP communications, especially for localized plans. The messaging should focus on ensuring both prospects and members know you were there for them during COVID-19 and will continue to be there every step into the future. Fear of change is difficult for this population, and particularly for the switcher market, plans must alleviate that feeling of fear through messaging.

Marketing Channels

Advertising during an election year is challenging. The tried-and-true tactics aren’t viable; everything else is more expensive than normal; and it’s even more difficult to capture beneficiary attention. What can MA plans do?

  • TV: Purchasing TV spots is typically a nightmare. When developing your media plan, take into account other ways you may want to utilize TV commercials. Incorporating them into social media, landing pages or websites warrants consideration.
  • Social Media: For the last several years, we have seen plans implement strong, cost effective social media campaigns. This AEP is the perfect opportunity allocate more marketing spend to social media. Recent survey results from Deft Research indicate a continued increase in the effectiveness of online media and websites for growing enrollment. Test different social media and digital channels to find the best strategies to capture Medicare beneficiaries shopping online.
  • Direct Mail: Medicare beneficiaries receive a lot of mail during election season. Postcards may get lost in the clutter. Instead, try direct mail “kits” that are designed and written to stand out. Timing and targeted are also critical. Front-loading your marketing with a strong finish will help you during the heat of the election. Also, developing strong direct mail response models is important for this AEP. This is the perfect opportunity to send more direct mail, but only mail to those who are most likely to respond and cut out the least responsive segments.

Backup Plan

We are in uncharted territory with this pandemic, and no one has a crystal ball to understand how, or if, the market will respond this year. That’s why we recommend having a backup plan. If TV is a non-starter, what will take its place? If results are not what you need them to be, is there an opportunity to send one more direct mail campaign? Is it worthwhile to invest more in social media? Are newspaper ads, Free Standing Inserts (FSIs) or radio ads ways to help increase overall marketing results? Having alternate or additional materials ready, if needed, could be the difference between exceeding lead and sales goals, and falling short.


This AEP, it will be critical for enrolled beneficiaries to feel comfortable about their decision—both during the sales process and long after. Plans must have a strong onboarding process to prevent buyer’s remorse, including materials that clearly explain what to expect during the enrollment process, as well as multiple communications touch points (e.g., delivery of their ID card). Capturing communication preferences early and honoring those decisions sets the tone for the entire member experience. Also, set up multiple ways to communicate benefits, such as virtual town halls and phone calls, to ensure members get acclimated to your plan.


Marketing/advertising strategy is one focus area that plans need to assess and rethink in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and an election year. There are also sales channels. How will your sales strategies and goals need to change for the upcoming AEP? Stay tuned for additional recommendations on the GHG blog over the next few months!

If you have any questions or need assistance with your AEP marketing strategy, contact Diane Hollie.