As some group benefit brokers and advisers supplement or transition their businesses to help consumers and smaller companies enroll on the Affordable Care Act’s public health insurance exchanges, a few are venturing into TV advertising to gain new business and have had varied experiences with the endeavor.

While many benefit brokers told EBA throughout open enrollment 2014 that they simply became certified on the public exchange in their state to help friends, acquaintances and clients with ad-hoc individual enrollments, industry researcher LIMRA estimates about 26% of group brokers are committing to selling individual plans on and off the exchanges as a change in business strategy due to the ACA. For some, that means diving head first into the open enrollment process, opening their doors for walk-ins and advertising on local TV channels so consumers who have never used a broker, or possibly never had insurance at all, know where to go to gain health coverage.

See related: Traditional group insurance brokers open walk-in retail locations

Will Heavin, a small- and large-group employee benefit adviser at Heavin & Associates in Corpus Christi, Texas, had the idea to do both. He started first by opening a retail space in early January where his company could continue to operate their group business but also allow new individual customers interested in signing up for Obamacare to make appointments or walk through the door to get help. Having never advertised on TV before, he decided ACA enrollment was the perfect reason to start — he needed to reach the general population.

“What really opened the flood gates for Obamacare enrollments for me, I did TV advertising starting on February 16,” he explains. “The phones started ringing off the hook after we did spots on ABC and NBC locally. … The TV is what gave instant exposure and instate recognition.”

Heavin and his team enrolled about 700 Texans in Obamacare throughout open enrollment 2014, a number he’s satisfied with. His TV plan was to select the amount of advertising based on budget. He put $1,000 a week into the commercials, which bought him about three commercials a day on one station. Once he saw the success with that, he added the second station. He called his business an “Obamacare Enrollment Center” in the spots to quickly and concisely explain to people what he could offer.

He says as a new broker to TV advertising, he’s definitely going to hammer out another plan to use the tactic again for open enrollment 2015.

Out in California however, Connie Framberger of Framberger Employee Benefits & Insurance Services Inc. in San Luis Obispo, is no stranger to TV advertising. She’s had commercials on KSBY, her local NBC TV station, for years and hoped that shifting her message to tell the community she can help with Obamacare would make referrals pick up. She was disappointed with the results, only enrolling about 200 people on the ACA.

“We have always had people calling us and asking about the ad,” she says. “We get tremendous referrals, people will stop me in the bank or at the grocery and say, ‘Can I ask you, insurance lady, a couple of questions?’ It generates a lot of interest, but interest into revenue is a different matter and question.”

Heavin says his area has a lot of uninsured people, with Texas having the highest number out of any other state, and that’s perhaps what lead to his success.

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