Tips for a Multicultural Marketing Strategy

We are all familiar with the 5% language threshold requirement by which the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) mandates Medicare Advantage Organizations (MAOs) to make specific marketing materials available in any language that is the primary language of at least 5% of an MAO’s service area. This is the bare minimum. With 8% of the nationwide 65-and-older population being Hispanic or Latino, 8% being black or African-American alone, and 4% being Asian alone, it is important for MAOs to identify the various race and ethnic footprints in their service area and to distinguish multicultural marketing and advertising tactics throughout strategy development. Language is only a piece of the story – understanding variations in culture is key to building a successful and ultimately profitable relationship with potential and current members.


MAOs’ sales and marketing strategies must consider multicultural tactics. Here are four key areas to focus on when developing these tactics:

1. Start with the data. MAOs must always start by knowing their market, both prospective and current membership. To meet this necessary step, a thorough analysis of census data and current membership data should be prepared. If you utilize a marketing agency, this is an opportunity to work with them as they may have market data that goes above and beyond census data that is specific to your service area. The information gained at this step should be refreshed at least annually and serves as the base upon which you will build out the multicultural strategies – without the data, there would be no direction.

2. Represent your population within your sales and customer service teams. If you find you are servicing a multi-cultural/ethnic population, it is absolutely critical to have all ethnic groups represented in your Sales and Customer Service teams. For many ethnic groups, the sales agent/broker is considered an individual’s customer service representative, and they may look to their agent/broker as their trusted partner even before the health plan. To be successful in a multicultural environment, your Sales team must be a familiar face and have a strong presence in the community. In addition, MAOs should not hesitate to work with their Field Marketing Organizations (FMOs) to ensure ethnic agents are in the right locations and to conduct focus groups with brokers to understand how the plan benefits and the MAO overall are resonating with the various cultures represented.

3. It’s not just about the language. Materials should go above and beyond the 5% threshold rule. Important things to consider in developing multicultural materials  are:

a. Colloquial versus formal language
b. Gender sensitivity across different cultures
c. Multiracial/multicultural pictures on advertisements
d. Deliver brand message with social opportunities
e. Mobile tools

Infrastructure is critical when targeting and servicing ethnic populations. It is important to have representation of the various cultures on your team. This is an opportunity to test translations internally. Gorman Health Group (GHG) also recommends performing focus groups with your current membership to test translations and things like gender sensitivity across cultures. In addition, understand what each of your ethnic populations responds to from a marketing perspective.  Are there marketing tactics or channels that work better?  Or do you need to find them in your grass roots campaigns?

4. Network Development. Serving multicultural populations is an opportunity for Marketing to work with Network Development to ensure staff within these areas are aware of the languages and cultures represented within the service area. This information should help guide recruitment efforts, especially for Primary Care Providers (PCPs). And once a provider is part of your network, Marketing may work with the provider to send direct mail pieces to specific current members promoting the provider in the language and culture that provider represents. In addition, the MAO should work with their providers to develop strategies that will enable them to deliver effective healthcare services that meet the social, cultural, and linguistic needs of members.

The archetypal health plan does not typically resonate with small ethnic groups. If you find you are servicing a population that is multicultural, it is important to align yourself with these groups and build unique relationships. All cultures in your service area should be considered in product development, marketing and sales strategies, network development, and customer service representation. Don’t miss out on potential members or lose current members by ignoring ethnic groups and their value in your service area. As the Medicare Advantage market becomes more homogenized and saturated, growth will need to come from other sources – don’t wait until your competition has already figured it out.


The Medicare Advantage marketplace is evolving – are you prepared? Gorman Health Group’s marketing experts have developed strategic plans for hundreds of Medicare Advantage Plans, Prescription Drug Plans, Special Needs Plans and Exchange participants. We will work with you to understand your market, mining demographic data for opportunity and finding the gaps in the competitive field into which your plan can fit. Visit our website to learn more >>

Register now for the Gorman Health Group 2017 Forum, April 26-27, 2017, at the JW Marriott New Orleans.

Stay connected to industry news and gain perspective on how to navigate the latest issues through GHG’s weekly newsletter. Subscribe >>