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What Does Gilligan's Island Have to Do With Your Marketing?

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There are five types of prospects in the individual medical market, according to Dave Keller, senior vice president of sales and marketing for The IHC Group — and to make things even simpler to understand, Keller has given those prospects counterparts on the popular 1960s TV show “Gilligan’s Island.”

Keller discusses this segmentation marketing strategy in his June 2009 podcast. For easy reference, see the below explanations of all five market segments. To listen to this podcast in its entirety, visit

Savvy and Sophisticated (Thurston Howell III)
This type of consumer is highly desirable as they have a high net worth and want to hire an agent to ensure the product works as they’d like it to. Their key needs are a health insurance purchase that makes sense and a smooth process from beginning to end. In order to target the savvy and sophisticated prospect, agents should:

  • Build the brand of an expert. Find factors that can differentiate your product from others, such as wellness features and discounts from providers. Also, focus on the lifecycle cost of the plan, which savvy and sophisticated prospects are more interested in. For example, make sure you fully understand and can convey how rate increases work on high-deductible health plans. Also, educate them on the cost of health care in retirement.
  • Sell the account — not just the plan. When selling HSAs, know the custodian well, as well as the safety of the account. Understand the investment options, and be able to set up the account before you leave the sale, making sure it works.

Careful and Covered (Mary Ann)
The careful and covered prospect is largely self-reliant when it comes to health care decisions. They’re most interested in hiring an agent to shop the market for them, especially when it comes to companies they’re not familiar with. Their key needs are access to information and online administration, and value-added services. To target this type of consumer, make sure to:

  • Have a broad portfolio. Add-on sales should be part of this consumer’s health plan. Make sure to have access to online services, or at least screen shots, and have a simple-to-understand product on hand.
  • Build your brand as a go-to person. Go beyond traditional health care coverage with the careful and covered prospect, offering dental and vision (not discount packages), critical illness, and disability benefits. Also, find carrier and product options your client may not have uncovered on their own.

Smart and Selective (The Professor)
These consumers want the option to custom design their coverage and are interested in hiring an agent to show them their options. Their key needs are affordability, first-dollar coverage, and high-quality providers. This client needs to feel empowered, and a budget-driven sales process works best as the client is purchasing the network more than the carrier. Look for values that are part of the health benefits. Also:

  • Be ready with data to help your client make good decisions. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS) offers a set of large-scale surveys of families and individuals, their medical providers, and employers across the United States. It can be located at
  • Know the “free” benefits of the plan. TelaDoc and Nurseline give clients telephone access to a network of doctors or registered nurses, respectively. Some plans will also offer access to RediClinics, which offer care for routine conditions or preventive care with no appointment. You may also want to look into any association benefits available with the plans you’re offering the smart and selective consumer.

Optimistic Shoppers (Ginger)
The optimistic shopper is often uninsured by choice and will hire an agent only to transact business. This may even be an online agent, so they expect you to be online. Their key needs are affordability, ease of enrollment, and ease of use. To them, buying coverage is like checking something off their to-do list — and they’ll almost always sacrifice catastrophic coverage for first-dollar coverage. To target optimistic shoppers, be sure you:

  • Are well-trained on the products you represent.
  • Cross-sell other products. This helps build loyalty, recoups the cost of doing business with these consumers, and creates a value for the insurance you’re selling rather than simply a price.
  • Look to underlay GAP plans and save money by increasing deductibles.

Uninsurable and Unsure (The “Skipper”)
Uninsurable and unsure prospects often have difficulty obtaining health care coverage because of medical conditions or their occupation. They’re looking for any help you can provide, and their key need is coverage. To better help these consumers:

  • Know the system. You should fully understand government-sponsored coverage such as state plans, S-CHIP, and prescription assistance. Also, have a good limited-benefit or GAP plan available to help meet basic needs.
  • Don’t stop selling. Also look for other family members you can insure, and consider add-on guaranteed issue products such as critical illness, life insurance, and accident benefits.

Dave Keller can be reached at [email protected].


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