Brokerage Ops the October 2014 issue

Message Control

When marketing consumer-driven health plans, you need to sweat the details.
By Harry Gottlieb

I’d also bet these clients are more than a little apprehensive about marketing these plans to employees in a way that makes it attractive and minimizes fears. This is especially true if the employer phased out some employee options.

Because you’re not only the broker but also a smart and useful person, you might be sought out for advice and direction. And even if your clients don’t approach you, do yourself a favor: approach them and offer guidance. Which begs the question: what might you say?

For every communication, consider your employees’ point of view. Anticipate their concerns, fears and questions. Don’t waste their time being confusing or long-winded. Consider the real-life context in which they will encounter your news.

Anticipate their concerns, fears and questions. Don’t waste their time being confusing or long-winded.

So how might that guiding principle translate to actually creating cool and effective communications for a CDHP rollout? To keep things simple, I’ll focus on the humble-but-effective postcard mailer.

The ACME logo, clearly displayed, helps distinguish this mailer from the metric ton of junk mail most employees get at home. It also helps prevent them from immediately tossing the postcard in the trash.

The message on the front of the card is funny in a clever, good-natured way. (It’s neither snarky nor overly wacky.) Studies show that people make better decisions when they’re in a pleasant mood, so why not try to put them in one? If your client is phasing out some of the “old-goat” options, you might change the tagline to read, “This open enrollment, your choices are changing to make room for a new kid on the block.”

The main visuals (old goats, new goat) are unexpected—unlike, say, stock art photos of laughing business people. Or business people staring at a computer. Or clip art of a heartbeat monitor.

The “new kid” option (our friend, the young goat) is made to look bright and shiny compared with the grayer, darker “old goat” options, reinforcing the point that new (though unknown right now) just might be better.

The name of the new plan is “Low-Premium Plan.” Doesn’t that sound better than “High-Deductible Plan” or that old chestnut,“I’m-Confusing-You-With-Insurance-Jargon-In-My-Plan-Name Plan”?

So now we flip the post card over.

A brief elevator pitch for the new plan is offered in the upper left corner. It sounds appealing but doesn’t stretch the truth. (Never do that. Employees will see through it and stop trusting anything you send.) Don’t presume employees understand the inherent benefits of the CDHP. They don’t.

A “Learn More” call-out is prominently displayed, with a URL that’s short and to the point. Keep in mind that someone other than the employee could be the healthcare decision-maker in the family. If possible, include a public-facing URL that lets anyone in the family get access to benefits information without needing to enter the employee’s user name and password.

Lastly, the “Heads Up” box reminds employees of the time frame they’re working with—and creates a sense of urgency. The “Heads Up” information is included because the person plucking the postcard out of the mailbox might not turn it over.

Now that you’re ready to write a doctoral thesis on ACME goat-themed postcards, let me get back to the point: being strategic while being creative pays off big-time for clients who put in the effort.

Does it take more of your time and effort? Sure. But considering the risk employers face with lower CDHP enrollment if they don’t sweat the details when properly calibrating their message, it’s an investment worth making.

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