Agency Hopes to Lure Health-Card Prospects, Boost Bank Loyalty

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Encore Marketing International Inc. hopes to open the door to millions of new prospects for the MedAdvantage discount health card through arrangements that may help banks increase their customers' loyalty.

The MedAdvantage health-card program offers consumers discounts on prescription drugs, vision products, dental services, vitamins and other medical products for an annual fee ranging from $89 to $109.

MedAdvantage, Southfield, MI, previously has done some marketing with banks and also offered its card to associations whose members would choose which of their credit cards to bill the costs to.

Noticing an opportunity to generate new prospects for MedAdvantage and to strengthen customer loyalty for banking clients, Encore, Lanham, MD, has begun marketing the program to the list of banking clients it has cultivated over its 20-year history of selling credit-card enhancement programs.

"We intend to contact and are contacting Encore's banking clients who issue credit cards, and that represents tens of millions of potential cardholders. We see a huge potential," said Encore president Steve Klein.

For MedAdvantage, it was the agency's background with credit-card issuers that made it suited for the marketing effort.

"Encore has a lot of experience and relationships with credit-card issuers, and we felt it could best represent MedAdvantage," said sales director Keith Varhol.

Under the arrangement, MedAdvantage cards marketed to a specific bank's customer base will be tied to the bank's credit card. So, for example, when customers use the MedAdvantage card to pay for medical products and services at discount prices, they will be billed through their bank credit card. The annual fee also will be billed through the participating bank's credit card.

"It's a great loyalty program for banks, because when customers buy eye-care products with their MedAdvantage card, they are going to see discounts being given to them by their bank," Klein said.

Encore has taken on the dual role of marketing the program first to banks and then, once banks have signed on, marketing it to their customers.

The agency has used direct mail and telemarketing to market the program to customers and has found that the message of MedAdvantage savings has not been difficult to communicate.

"We basically tell customers they can get 40 percent discounts on vision, 25 percent on dental and 20 percent on vitamins. It's pretty straightforward," Klein said.

The agency also has set up inbound customer-service lines to answer questions from those who have signed up for the program.

Klein said it was too early to reveal responses to the program, as Encore finalized its contract with MedAdvantage in January, but he noted that it has many proposals out to banking clients.

"We see it as a great opportunity for both sides. "It's a tremendous prospecting opportunity for our client and a great loyalty and retention tool for banks."

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