The annual enrollment period (AEP) is always the busiest time of year for Medicare Advantage Plan marketers, but AEP this past fall may go down in history as the most demanding on record. Not only were we inundated with AEP marketing responsibilities, but many of us were also involved in marketing initiatives arising from the roll-out of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The good news is that if you’re reading this, you survived!

Now that AEP is over, here are three timely actions health care marketers can take to enhance their Medicare Advantage Plan marketing efforts:

1. Compare your AEP results to your competitors’ results
You may have already spent some time analyzing your own plans’ AEP membership data: noting plans that were popular, regions where you gained or lost membership, etc. But take that information one step further by also looking at the AEP results of your competition. Any day now, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will report the enrollment figures for all plans through January 1, 2014. We dig into this data for our clients to provide insights on how they performed versus their competition on a plan-level and county-level basis. This market intelligence can help you to understand and capitalize on your value proposition.

2. Compare your AEP marketing to your competitors’ marketing
Now is also a good time to make sure that your library of competitor AEP marketing pieces is up-to-date. Hopefully you know some local seniors that are helping you collect your competitors’ direct marketing pieces. Another place to review marketing material is your competitors’ websites, where you can get a feel for their positioning and often find examples of their educational collateral. Also typically listed on websites of Medicare Advantage Plans are links to social media profiles, and some health plans post marketing pieces on their social streams. For example, Gateway Health and Blue Shield of CA promote their TV spots on their YouTube channels.

If you want to take your research a step further, you can invest in a service that collects marketing materials, such as Competiscan or Kantar Media. Cross examining your data analysis from action #1 (above) with these marketing pieces will provide you with valuable insights into what influenced the decision-making of the seniors in your markets. Don’t forget, some plans may use different marketing tactics and messaging in different regions, so it’s important to consider this if you notice outliers during your review.

3. Enhance your age-in marketing program
A major reason why Medicare Advantage Plans have experienced such growth is the baby boomer generation aging-in to Medicare. Having an effective marketing program in place can help your brand — and Medicare Advantage Plans — gain awareness and trust among the aging-in (turning-65) audience. This audience is not (yet) brand loyal because for most, their health plan and health care decisions have been made by their employers.

In our research, we’ve found that most Medicare Advantage Plans have age-in marketing in place. However, we’ve also found that many plans don’t give their age-in marketing the regular attention it requires. Every year, we work with our clients to update their age-in program based on the latest trends, behaviors and attitudes of the age-in audience. Now is the perfect time of year for you to scrutinize your age-in efforts in a similar fashion.