Earlier this year, my colleague Athena Mandros wrote about current best practices in discovering new business opportunities with health plans in The Golden Rule Of Payer Marketing. What we know is that even great programs don’t sell themselves—and marketing is key to repackaging current services for the new market.
In my many discussions with executive teams, they often talk about their “creative” or “innovative’ programming and their concerns about the uptake of these programs (and getting the programs to breakeven). This points to the dilemma for many innovators—innovation does not assure financial success. In order to have the best shot at financial success, executives teams need to use best practices for market research, service line development, payer contracting, and referral (for more, check out my keynote, What’s Your Leadership Strategy? The Challenges Of Leadership In A Time Of Innovation).
OPEN MINDS Circle reader Don Fowls, M.D., president at Don Fowls & Associates, offered a very interesting first-hand perspective on this issue in his comments about the payer marketing. His key point—payer marketing means a lot more than just a sales pitch. It means taking the time to see how payers understand the market and hearing the solutions they need. He explained:
The one thing I always ask is, “how can we help serve consumers and add value?” A common and big mistake, in addition to seeing the consumer as “enemy”, is jumping to close a deal without first engaging the consumer and making sure they understand and believe in the value we bring.
As you probably know well, health plans and payers are extremely busy these days. It can be hard to get their attention. They also may think they already have the solution in-house or can build it. So, while one may know the trends and issues impacting them in general, it’s best to assume nothing for a specific plan. It’s very important to do the research on a particular plan and really understand what their pain points are, and what their customers really want from them.
Then show, “in laser like” fashion, how your solution solves their problem. This is a balance of communicating the bigger picture and vision, with the ability to drill down in detail, so that the payer experiences it as a potentially real solution. Also, support the solution with data and results; this means examples of success with outcomes and dollars to demonstrate the value proposition (value = outcomes/dollars). Well-known, respected references also help.
Then the tough part—leave yourself behind, enter their world, see things from their viewpoint, and communicate it in a way they can hear. Make this message resonate. Really try to enlist and engage them in what you have to offer in ways they can positively respond to.
And finally have a thick skin. If you hear “no” as an initial response (however that is given, e.g. plain no, not returning calls, etc.), view that simply as an interesting initial response. Don’t necessarily give up, but find alternative and better ways to deliver the message. All too often people give up when what they haven’t really done is taken the time or made the effort to truly enlist or engage the payer in what they have to offer.
As the health and human service market changes, what customers want (whether employers, Medicaid, Medicare, health plans, government agencies) and what consumers want will continue to evolve—often fueled by new competitive offerings. Executive teams need to develop the competencies to listen to the market and interpret market intelligence information, which allows them to tie their innovations to successful new service line offerings.
For more on health plan business development:
- Finding The New Opportunities With Health Plans: How To Market Your Services To Managed Care
- Looking Ahead To The Era Of Configured Networks
- Sustainability Management = Portfolio Management
- Big-Picture Approach: How To Tackle Value-Based Care-Winning Business & Improving Care Outcomes
- The Future of Health Plan & Provider Organization Business Relationships
- Creating Innovative Partnerships With Managed Care Plans
- Payer, Provider, Partner
- The Golden Rule Of Payer Marketing
- Together Is The Way Forward: Creating Successful Patient-Centered Outcomes Through Creative Payer & Provider Partnerships
- Five Questions To Ask To Build A Health Plan Proposal
And for a first-hand deep dive, join me on February 15, 2018 at The 2018 OPEN MINDS Performance Management Institute for the opening keynote session, “Building Commercial Health Plan Partnerships: Magellan’s Model For Mental Health Management,” by Gus Giraldo, the President, Commercial Markets, Magellan Healthcare. In addition to his keynote, I will be facilitating a follow-up discussion session with Mr. Giraldo to gain more insight on his work at Magellan.