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Jennifer Benz September 20, 2016 4 min read

How benefits providers can help employers deliver segmented and targeted communications

Inertia is one of the greatest forces we need to overcome to help employees make good health and financial decisions. By making communications more relevant, we can get employees to take that next step toward choosing—and using—your programs correctly.

Employers of all sizes, especially those tied to one-size-fits-all communications, have a tremendous need for communications that target specific employee groups. Benefits providers—administrators, technology companies, and carriers—can provide tremendous value by helping employers target and segment their communication effectively. You have a dual role to play here: first, by offering meaningful data that helps employers understand their population and opportunities for targeted messaging; and second, by providing sample materials and templates that take the guesswork out of building a targeted campaign.

Our client UMB did just that when one of its clients, Garmin, asked for help increasing employee participation in its high-deductible health plan and increasing employee contributions to health savings accounts.

Health savings account (HSA) messaging is a perfect example of where your clients can use different targeted versions. We know that HSA account holders exhibit two types of key behaviors:

  1. Some people use an HSA like a spending account. 
  2. Some people are really focused on saving for the future.

You can identify who is who by looking at the HSA account data, or make some pretty good assumptions from demographics and salary levels alone.

UMB conducted research to determine why Garmin associates were rejecting its high-deductible health plan (HDHP) and its associated HSA. With the results of that research, we then developed a framework for targeted messaging that encouraged Garmin associates to take the next step toward financial wellness—including enrolling in the HDHP, increasing HSA contributions, and more. Combined with the robust toolkits, the rollout of this framework resulted in a 31% increase in plan enrollment and a 22% increase to the average HSA contribution for Garmin.

All benefits providers would be served by creating a framework for targeted messaging of their product and services and by creating sample campaigns.

Connect the dots for your clients

Developing a targeted messaging framework—one that connects the dots between your programs and employee engagement data—is one of the ways you can add value for your clients. If they’re launching a new program, for instance, what does the data say about employee receptivity to the program? Can you look at current program usage to see which employees might be most in need of or most interested in the new benefit? We don’t often connect the dots across plans and across the different data sources with benefits. This is a huge opportunity for any new program launch.

At the same time, some benefits may be more valuable to employees as a result of their life stage or their family situation. This is especially true when it comes to work/life benefits or niche health or financial benefits, and this, too, will show up in the data. Often, these benefits appeal only to a segment of employees, and getting information out to those individuals versus the entire population would be a better use of communications bandwidth and budget.

Each of these opportunities gives you better insight into what’s going on with your clients’ employee populations and where you can help them use different forms of targeted communication to help them drive better decisions by their employees.  

Create targeted launch and ongoing campaigns

Launching a new benefit is often the best opportunity to get engagement. But ongoing communications can also push employees to helpful resources and reinforce what’s available at the time of need.

Creating multiple versions of print or online communication pieces helps you highlight what is most meaningful for each individual and gets the best results from launch or ongoing efforts. There’s a slight increase in the amount of upfront work for a much bigger payoff when the piece reaches employees.

The most common ways we version materials are fairly simple:

  • Create multiple versions of an email or postcard.
  • Create multiple versions of one page of a mailer. For example, you may be introducing a new plan. Five pages of your mailer might focus on the new plan, and the sixth could focus on how the new plan compares to your existing plan.
  • Create multiple versions of a webpage, and let employees self-select what’s relevant for them. We do this a lot for new-hire education, simply showing different options if employees are new to the company or new to benefits, too (for example, this is their first job out of college or they have transferred from another country). 

To create these versions, for the data source you might use plan or program participation, plan or program eligibility, employee demographics, or personas. Whichever source you use, your communications will become all the more relevant, and, therefore, the targeted employees are more likely to engage in them and their messages.

For a deeper look at creating segmented and targeted communications, listen to our master class, Data drives decisions: Segmenting and targeting benefits communication.

Jennifer Benz

Jennifer Benz, SVP Communications Leader, has been on the leading edge of employee benefits for more than 20 years and is an influential voice in the employee benefits industry.