Simple Math: Exponential Growth of Health Plan Membership

October 8, 2020  |  Paula Serios, Josh Derouin


Simple Math is a four-part series introducing BVK’s demand+brand strategy for health plans. This first installment provides a broad overview and successive blog posts will offer in-depth explanations of each demand+brand pillar.

The world of health care has always been complex. With the advent of the pandemic, economic recession, and concerns about social justice, the complexities have grown exponentially. Consumers are struggling to make difficult decisions. Health plans are no exception, with consumers increasingly distrustful whether their needs will be met with affordable benefits with the providers they want.

Enter health plan marketers tasked with growing and retaining member volume in this unique environment. Being a sales-driven category with marketing often taking a back seat, the focus has inevitably been on features and benefits that are often indistinguishable from the next plan (and a far cry from features offered by national plans).

The formula for success involves some unique math: 1 + 1 = 3. No, this is not an addition mistake. Rather, it is a multiplication strategy. At BVK, we call it demand+brand. It is our strategy for telling a compelling and defensible story of business growth for health plans. Coupling values-based brand building rooted in trust with lead generation and customer experience best practices produces the potential for short-term sales and long-term growth and differentiation.

Here is why initiating brand building and demand generation efforts in tandem produce long-term member growth. They work over different time scales but toward the same end – driving sales.




The upside of adding brand building (long-term growth/sustainability) to traditional health plan demand generation (short-term growth) is speed. While demand generation sometimes produces long-term sales growth, brand building + demand generation nearly always produces short-term sales growth that continues to build. Simply put: 1 + 1 = 3.

Long-term results cannot be achieved by piling
short-term results on short-term results.

– Peter Drucker

The Demand+Brand Strategy

There are three pillars to the demand+brand model that each uniquely contribute to business growth. 1. Brand Craving, 2. Lead Generation, and 3. Customer Experience.

Brand Craving

Brand craving is the result of brand building grounded in a core human value. Human values are the lifeblood of how people make decisions. They drive our perceived need and desire for just about everything. Values-based branding establishes the soul of a brand and ultimately enables a data-driven, human-centered approach to bridging strategic insights, connection planning, breakthrough creative and holistic measurement to generate results. By finding the intersection of the audience (their cravings and values), the culture (trends, competition, distinction) and the brand itself (the essence and purpose) we can identify a brand value that is distinctive, differentiating and centered in purpose.

To help health plans navigate these challenging times, BVK conducted a proprietary national research study in July 2020. It indicated that locally based brands have a distinct leverage point against national health insurance brands. And it is a big one: Trust. A locally-based plan should root their core value in some facet of trust to exploit a clear, competitive advantage.

Best Practices

  1. Identify a distinct, durable brand platform that communicates trust
    Your brand value linked to trust
  2. Determine brand distance to provider, if applicable
    The closer the better
  3. Develop and deploy an omni-channel, awareness-building campaign
    Your brand expression

Lead Generation

In our perpetually connected digital world, one exacerbated by the isolation of the pandemic, a digital property is the optimal lead generation hub for health plans.

Craving is centered on audience profiles that pinpoint opportunity areas, cravings, and habits that can inform position and message development, tight targeting, and personalization.

The Offer is grounded in messaging strategy that advances business growth in a relevant, differentiated, and compelling way.

Connections Strategy identifies the trigger, timing, and channel in order to optimize results.

Results are measured and optimized in real time.

This is a data-driven approach to precision modeling that defines the customer journey with key inflection points that are mapped to both audience segments and media channels for a fully integrated process intended to build and close leads.

Best Practices

  1. Craft a go-to-market plan
    Content plan, paid, earned, owned media, measurement
  2. Integrate brand and selling message platforms
    Demand+brand messaging across all channels
  3. Leverage demand+brand platform across the agent channel
    Maximizing selling messages and enablement

Customer Experience

The final pillar of the demand+brand strategy is the customer experience during acquisition as well as after they become a member. Customer experience is foundationally about the individual and their desire for service. With four constructs of connection – full continuum, personalized touchpoints, personalized products, and provider integration – we will now focus the marketing driven aspects where trust can be either earned or lost.

The full continuum from prospect acquisition through member engagement, loyalty, and eventual advocacy is encompassed within the scope of customer experience. Most health insurance companies focus solely on net new sales and the importance of member experience is often overlooked. Because of this, retention and brand building through word of mouth tend to be underdeveloped. By spotlighting moments of truth that are crucial to health plan members, experience enhancement can create long-lasting impressions.

Moments of Truth

Member retention is more than a flawless onboarding or exemplary customer service. We believe it must be part of the fabric of a company: an organizational imperative with an accountable cross-functional team. This team should use data-based, insight-driven decision making that integrates member personas and customized messaging that meets each audience’s specific needs. This type of demographic, behavioral, and attitudinal data can inform communication strategies and tactics. A retention team must always have a ‘test and learn’ posture to best optimize what works and find new approaches to engage members. Finally, there should be a concerted effort to listen and empathize with members. Customer service must understand exactly which touchpoints members have experienced so they can tailor an appropriate response.

Best Practices

  1. Build a customer engagement and retention plan
    Data-driven member experience strategy, tactics, and pilots
  2. Create organizational integration centered on the customer
    Operations, sales and marketing integration
  3. Employ personalized connection planning
    Full journey planning focused on personalization

A Case in Point

We would be remiss without a real-world example of demand+brand: Priority Health

PROBLEM: With a number two position in the state, Priority Health competes directly against Blue Cross Blue Shield and other national competitors with broad awareness steeped in well-cultivated brand equity and even deeper pockets to drive membership.

CHALLENGE: Health insurance marketer has focused efforts almost exclusively on promotional lead generation by touting cost, network, and products. Expanding C-suite and marketing mindset to look beyond features and benefits to a stickier brand message has proven difficult.

SOLUTION: Employ a demand+brand strategy that integrates a well-honed brand value that elicits an emotional connection coupled with best-in-class lead generation strategy and tactics in order to drive quotes and enrollment.

RESULTS: Brand and business increases that exceeded every single stretch goal for OEP/AEP and unaided brand awareness.



We welcome the opportunity to talk with you further to discuss the simple math of our demand+brand strategy and how it can add up to plan growth for your organization. Or join us for one of our upcoming webinars where we will discuss our national research and its applications. Feel free to reach out to [email protected] with questions or comments.


is a Senior Vice President, BVK Health


Josh Derouin is a Senior Vice President, Performance Marketing & Analytics

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