Digital Fundamentals: Modernizing Print

In our first two blogs in this series, we covered two important steps in driving a digital-first strategy. The first step is understanding what you are sending in print and evaluating it. Is it necessary? Can it be digitized? Who is your audience? The second step is to identify the tools and technologies needed and available to make the digital future state possible. In this blog we will discuss how to modernize the remaining print to be as measurable, personalized and successful as your digital channels.

For the foreseeable future, print communications in healthcare will not completely disappear, and some print will continue to have an important role for three reasons:

1. Some communications for regulatory purposes must be printed and mailed.

2. In many cases, if plans don’t have the digital addresses of consumers, they must rely on print to impart important messages.

3. Even with digital addresses and preferences captured, there will still be a subset of consumers who highlight a preference for print.

What does modernizing print look like? One of the most attractive features of digital communications is the ability to measure consumer response. Did they open your email? Did they click through? And at what time? The print channel will never offer the same insight into consumer action as digital channels, but there is still a lot we can do to better understand how successful print is and where the dreaded “break points[1]” are in using print communications to reach members.

Here are three steps that plans can take to make print more measurable:

Add tracking mechanisms to each letter. Techniques like using UPC codes, special extensions to every member services’ phone line or purls can make print measurable. Another approach is to implement a process that compares print outreach data to the actions that consumers take within a certain period of time. Note that when using the print channel, the response curve, the time in which an action happens for which credit can be given to the outreach, is typically about four weeks in healthcare.

Understand the break points. For important print mailings, primary research can help you better answer the following questions:

  • Did the consumer receive it? If not, you need to work on contact data, preferences collection, and master ID.
  • Did they open it? If not, then your outer envelope looks too promotional or unimportant.
  • Did they read it? If not, then your brand has been sending low-value print, training consumers that what you send is not worth their time.
  • Did they act on it? If not, then you are not identifying the right barriers and levers for that consumer, for that action.
  • Finally, if they did act in response to your print mail, use primary research to understand the “why did you choose to act?” This will give you valuable gold for future engagement.

Create a member-centric repository that marries consumer interventions data with consumer actions data over time, so that you measure and compare how consumers are interacting with all communications including print.

Additional transformations of print can center around advanced personalization that may require the use of sophisticated composition tools and systems. Just personalizing name, address, date and the member services number no longer suffice. Your call-to-action should highlight what this specific consumer needs to do. Does she have two gap-in-care screenings that she needs to close? The right way of addressing this would be to indicate, “You need a mammogram and a colorectal screening.” By calling out the specific screenings a member needs to have, you can increase the likelihood of them closing at least one of those gaps by 3X.

Finally, all communications need to be continually optimized to become successful and remain successful. Consumers are dynamic. Their needs and wants change: they get married, have babies, get a diagnosis, switch jobs, build new interests and evolve attitudes. Organizations should be constantly A/B testing all communications, including print, to remain successful in driving consumer behavior change and action.

Today’s print is no longer your father’s Oldsmobile. Print can be a very successful channel if you bring its capabilities into this decade. Good luck and, as always, if you have questions, call me. I love talking about optimizing engagement.

[1] Break points are interactions during the consumer journey that break down and have a negative impact on consumer experience.
Kathleen Ellmore

Ms. Ellmore is one of the earliest pioneers in bringing the best of consumer marketing and data driven methodologies to healthcare. Instead of getting you to eat when you are not hungry and buy things you don’t need, we can finally use the same strategies to instead change the health equation in America. Kathleen previously led the Consumer Engagement consulting practice for Welltok (formerly Silverlink) for 12 years, leveraging its data repository of over a billion consumer health interactions, the best of behavioral economics, and the latest in clinical research, to create evidenced-based communications on what works to drive consumer healthcare behavior yielding better outcomes and lower costs. She is often quoted in the trade and national press and is a regular speaker on the national stage, having spent the first twenty years of her career in brand marketing at leading consumer marketing organizations, including General Mills and P&G. Additionally, she was a Vice President at Digitas, a leading direct marketing firm. Recently she was selected as Consultant Member of the first ever FDA’s Patient Engagement Advisory Committee.