6 pointers for effective benefits messaging

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Every day, employees are bombarded by marketing messages. Estimates put the number in the thousands — maybe even tens of thousands.

This clutter certainly makes the task of conveying really important messages — like benefits-related communications — all the more difficult. And it’s why advisers and their clients need to be deliberate with the information they share with employees and pay attention to how it’s delivered.

Perhaps the most important element in effective communication is understanding the target audience. Advisers may know that a client’s typical employee is a 44-year-old female homeowner with two children. While that knowledge is useful, it’s more important to identify the employee population’s key demographic segments, such as single parents, millennials or dual-income homeowners. Think of clients’ employees as individuals instead of averages. With this in mind, advisers can better personalize important messages.

And that’s the second point. Understanding demographic segments allows you to go beyond one-size-fits-all communication. Recognize, for instance, that millennials tend to consume information differently; whereas other generations might prefer print, twenty-somethings prefer digital media. Single-parent households may have different priorities or time-constraints. To successfully get a message across, they key is to make sure that its tone and content — as well as the way that its delivered — resonate with those demographic segments.

A third factor is visual appeal. Brand communications so they stand out. Be sure they are recognizable, engaging and interactive. Supplement clear writing with compelling visuals like infographics, videos and striking images.

Keep it simple
Given the complexity of most benefit plans, another consideration is to keep the message simple. Communicate using examples that employees can easily relate to, such as how they can save some money or some time. Create tip-sheets and checklists to help employees organize their thinking about what’s most important to them and their family. Materials tailored to a certain group will help drive key concepts home.

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A fifth thought is to strike a chord. What employees need from their benefits varies from year to year, and they shouldn’t get stuck in the rut of simply re-enrolling in what they already have. Convey this in a way that helps the audience focus on what they need today and how that might be different from what they needed last year. The messages should get folks to stop and think — to really pause and consider what they truly need right now to protect themselves and their families.

“Early and often” sums up the sixth tip. Benefits communications is not a once-and-done process. Regularly remind employees about key dates and deadlines. Create prompts and don’t be afraid to repeat messages. Repetition works. And remember to continue to reach out to the target audience after open enrollment has ended. To gauge the effectiveness of messaging, use surveys and focus groups to gather feedback. How aware of open enrollment were the employees? How interested were they? How did they respond? Continue to engage with employees throughout the year, perhaps with reminders about life changes, helpful ways to use their benefits or taking advantage of their flexible spending accounts.

There are certainly more things that go into good benefits communication, but if advisers do a good job with these six pointers it will go a long way toward meeting clients’ open enrollment objectives.

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