Behind the Scenes, Part 2: Follow the Tech Leader

“Marketing on steroids.” That’s how we heard online marketing described at the Jupiter/IAB AdForum two weeks ago, and we couldn’t agree more. Email gives marketing and sales departments an unprecedented agility to communicate with prospects in new interactive ways, without all the heavy lifting that used to prevent so many well-intentioned projects from getting off the ground.

We interviewed one of healthcare’s most tech-forward companies, Oxford Health Plans, to discuss how it’s using technology and email to improve communications with insurance brokers and to dramatically shorten the sales cycle.

Instant, Interactive Proposals Accelerate

Patience. Until now, it’s been an important attribute for anyone buying or selling a health plan. A broker who represents a client looking for a plan would go back and forth with a healthcare company, sending census information, reviewing plan designs, adjusting benefits, and more to assemble just the right plan. Phones would be ringing, faxes beeping, and paperwork multiplying by the minute.

Those days are over for Net-savvy health insurance brokers who deal with Oxford Health Plans, says Krishnan Sridharan, manager of acquisition and brand marketing. The new Oxford Consumer Options Suite enables the company to email brokers Excel spreadsheets containing 30 existing plan designs. Brokers can then work with the document and “run the numbers.” They select up to three plan design recommendations, which they then can forward via email for the client’s consideration. Once the client and broker reach a consensus on the best plan designs, they simply attach a copy of the finalized proposal and send the new group submission package to Oxford.

An innovative technology called Interactive Distribution and Electronic Administration (IDEA) Management System is changing the way health plan renewals are handled. Instead of a deluge of paperwork and the requisite back-and-forth process, brokers can log on to a password-protected section of Oxford’s Web site and view all renewing groups and their current plans. They can review, examine options, and finalize the renewal option with their clients without wasting time faxing rate information between parties. This convenience gives brokers and their clients the immediate answers to make more cost-effective healthcare benefit choices. IDEA Management System increases productivity, saves time, reduces frustration, and lowers the cost of securing renewals.

Oxford Consumer Options Suite is currently used by a core group of “early adopter” brokers. The first phase of IDEA Management System becomes available to all brokers in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut in December. Oxford’s goal is to get all brokers online. Meanwhile, Oxford’s current system for sending information on new services and product launches delivers an email whenever possible, with a fallback default to a fax number.

Oxford, awarded several Webbys for its Web site, views this new technology as a competitive advantage and point of differentiation. By shortening and streamlining the renewal process, Oxford hopes to become the health plan of choice for time-pressed brokers and clients.

In the weeks ahead, we’ll talk with marketers from all areas of business-to-business (B2B) email about their successes, challenges, and inventive marketing techniques. Do you have triumphs and tribulations to contribute? Questions you’d like answered? Let Karen know. And thanks to everyone who has responded so far. We’ll be getting back to you soon!

Please join us at ClickZ Email Strategies in San Francisco, November 18-19.

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