The holidays are coming up and as usual, it is a big time of year for planning. Questions are being answered: “How much Halloween candy do I buy?” “Which wine goes best with turkey?” and the all- important: “White or colored tree lights?” Decisions. Decisions.

But one thing that is a constant is having a backup plan – your Plan B. That extra bag of candy to make sure you don’t run out. Both white and red wine for the Thanksgiving dinner; and at my house, any light is a good color light to have on the tree, as long as there are a LOT of them. I call this “Plan B,” and if it is good enough for something as simple as candy and lights, you better bet it is good enough for your AEP marketing plan this year.

You might be thinking, “I don’t have enough time to do a Plan B. AEP is just around the corner and I can’t put one more thing on my plate right now.” But what do you have in your back pocket to utilize if your competition has a better benefit package than you or if you are halfway into the AEP season, and by the way things are going, you are not going to make your sales goals? You know as the end of AEP draws near, people in your organization will be asking you what else can be done to bring in more leads, so go ahead and create your Plan B now.

 What exactly needs to be done for Plan B?

  1. First you need to have a direct mail piece and/or digital media campaign created and approved by CMS. As we all know, getting something created and approved during the last few weeks of AEP is not something most of us want to experience, especially with everyone’s plates being so full that time of year…and I am not talking about Thanksgiving.
  2. Secondly, have your budget for the execution of Plan B approved internally now, so you are not having to spend time to find the right approval you need during AEP, when things can get quite crazy. Also make sure your vendors are locked, loaded and ready to execute your Plan B so they are prepared and know what to do.
  3. Finally, set “go or no go” date on your calendar based on your sales goals. For example if your sales goal is 1,000 new members and your close rate is 4:1 then you will need 4,000 leads for your 1,000 sales. So set a date on the calendar, say November 10th, that if your leads and sales counts are not trending for you to hit those 1,000 members by December 7th, then Plan B goes into effect. You will have your approved creative and budget and your vendor will be ready to execute. The phones will start ringing, goals will be reached and you will be the marketing hero of the year!

Every major event needs proper planning and a backup plan. Don’t let AEP pass you by without making sure you have done everything in your power to make it a great success! Now I have to go untangle all those Christmas tree lights.

Hope you have a successful AEP!

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