You made it! Another AEP is in the books and it is time to take a deep breath and… start again. I’ve been there. I had many post-AEP deep breaths while at Cigna HealthSpring, and I feel your pain. But don’t start running on the ANOC/EOC/AEP-prep treadmill just yet, here are some tips to consider – we’ll call it the “ARCA Approach”:

Assess: How did you do this AEP? Did you hit your lead goals, sales goals, CPL goals? What worked for you and what didn’t? Was television or direct mail your biggest driver of leads and if so, why? If you don’t have the resources to answer these questions internally, it might be advantageous to establish a partnership before next AEP, so you know the smartest way to spend you dollars for those all-important leads. I have found it extremely beneficial to outsource AEP lead and sales analysis, as it can be time consuming and it doesn’t hurt to have another set of eyes looking at results and providing recommendations.

Retention: Your marketing and sales team worked really hard to get all your new members. What are you doing to make sure they feel good about their decision to sign up with you? Are you doing any proactive communication to welcome them, beyond the CMS regulatory notifications? There are many ways to welcome your new members. Some items I found extremely beneficial are welcome calls, town halls, newsletters, birthday mailings and more. Surveys are a great way to get a pulse on member-satisfaction. Think of proactive ways to talk to your members and help them. Treat them as people you care about and not just a number. They will be less likely to leave next AEP and become a loyal member, which means they will tell their friends too.

Compare: You should have a pretty good idea of how well you did with each one of your plans. Which was the most popular? What regions did sales increase or decrease? What does your new membership look like? And then move on to review your competition. I’ve found it extremely beneficial to assess how my results looked compared to them. Since the report data of 1/1 effectives is out via CMS, make sure you use it! And evaluate HOW you using are it. Also, look at what differentiated your brand from your competitors (for better or for worse) – Was it a better product, better network, better marketing and sales process? These items are key to understand to help you with your value proposition as well as with the bid process happening just around the corner.

Acquire: Right now is the time to look at your age-in marketing to see how it has been working for you. Marketing all year long is a terrific branding strategy and helps gain awareness of those getting ready to turn 65. If you don’t give your program the attention it needs, you can bet your competition is doing it. This time of the year was the best time for me to update my age-in data, models, creative, mail plans now before the AEP-prep work took over.

Don’t let the beginning of lock-in go to waste, as AEP will be here sooner than you can say “retention.”
Merry Beth Ward is SourceLink’s Healthcare Marketing Strategist. She was formerly Director of Marketing for Cigna-HealthSpring, so she’s been through her fair share of AEP seasons. She’s a Nashville, Tennessee native and loves her hometown Tennessee Titans football team. You can reach out to Merry Beth at