If consumers think something is too good to be true, then they won’t buy it. That’s what AXA PPP healthcare’s Dudley Lusted was told when he developed the first ever six week wait private medical insurance (PMI) plan back in 1979.
Well, whoever told him that was wrong. Back then, private healthcare was seen as the preserve of the wealthy. Making it more accessible, without downplaying it, was impossible, the doubters said.
As you can read this month (page 37), those doubters were wrong. The concept is three decades old this year and, as a result, huge numbers of patients have been given access to first class medical care. Put simply, what was a great idea then is – in the right circumstances – still a great idea now. Back then, though, Lusted was told that it just wouldn’t take off.
However, the doubters might have had a point. After all, if people are sold a concept that they might not even use, how will they ever know its genuine worth?
There’s no doubt that usability is key. That’s why, if you believe some of the messages in marketing bibles like Martin Lindstrom’s Buyology (2008), simple marketing or product placement doesn’t work. It’s not enough to have adverts topping and tailing television programmes. It’s not even enough to have the products appearing in the background of programmes themselves. Products now have to be seen to be used to resonate with purchasers. They have to be integral to the plot and integral to people’s lives.
That’s why intermediaries selling PMI currently face the greatest challenge in their history. Not only is the NHS improving dramatically (page 26) but the tax whammy being shouldered by employers and their staff is almost unbearable (page 24). Moreover, as the health insurance industry continues to improve its efforts in the preventative space, the number of people experiencing – or using – private healthcare should, in theory, fall. While insurers facing rocketing claims costs might raise an eyebrow at that suggestion, it is a trend that should in reality be happening.
And if that does happen – if people use their PMI less and less – then the product could become less and less relevant.
That’s why the benefits of PMI – both to individuals and employers – have to be sold, more so than ever. And that’s why sales shouldn’t be a dirty word. Not even to those consulting firms which don’t class themselves as salesmen. After all, they still have to persuade clients to part with their cash.
That was a key point raised at our inaugural Leadership Debate (page 18) held just a few weeks ago. As insurers’ direct salesforces continue to shrink, increasingly it will be up to intermediaries to continue to drive home the fact that private healthcare is something well worth paying for.
So, if something seems too good to be true, it could just mean it’s good. It shouldn’t stop consumers from buying it – and it certainly shouldn’t stop you from selling it.