At the end of an unsuccessful enrollment campaign, do you find yourself wondering why participation was so low after spending time and money on communications? I am here to tell you the game has changed. Repeatedly, I see brokers employing the same strategy because that is what they have always done. It may have worked in the past, but not now.

First, what we are trying to do is provide education, not communication. As a broker or enrollment firm, you have vetted each product on price, availability, administration and claim management to determine the best portfolio to offer your client. You understand that the portfolio offered is one that applies to this client, so the intent now is to educate the consumers. If presented in a way that is meaningful to the consumer, they can make an educated decision on whether the value of the portfolio meets their individual needs. Communication is nothing more than announcing the availability for the consumer to make a purchase. It has nothing to do with creating a need.

Many groups have been successful in education in the past with things like group meetings, but as we all know, these can be difficult, if not impossible, to coordinate across multiple locations. Much less the fact that employer groups are somewhat resistant to having employees away from their daily duties to attend the meetings. What about the presenter and their travel expenses and time away from other tasks? Then, after you have conducted the same meeting multiple times in a row, the fatigue sets in and the last meeting may not be as engaging as the first. Group meetings are good, but not cost-effective or scalable.

Snail-mail? Really? Let me ask you; when was the last time you receive a piece of junk mail and even took the time to open it? The last one I opened was an invitation to the next showing of the newest Jaguar model. If your portfolio is that exciting, then keep doing what you are doing. Ninety percent of the population immediately discards payroll stuffers, and if they have direct deposit, it is most likely never seen at all.

So what do we do? We must evolve our education efforts and adapt to each client’s needs. While listening to a round table discussion at a conference, I heard one person refer to employees as consumers. This really struck a chord with me and from that moment on, I have made a conscious effort to refer to all our clients’ consumers as such. Each consumer is different. We can employ many strategies, but we must use them selectively, based on the target audience.

Let us look at the group meeting scenario. We already reviewed the cons, but what are the pros? An industry expert is able to define clearly the product offer and portfolio as well as how it applies to that one particular group of consumers. This is invaluable knowledge and provides better insight than any call center support product specialist provides. Nevertheless, you would not want the carrier representative answering the support calls, so recording the group meeting as a video captures valuable information. Make one to three different videos explaining the products and portfolio for each benefit group. Once the group meeting is digital, you have countless ways to communicate that to the consumer (e.g. QR Codes, emails, posters, during the online enrollment).

DIY

There are many tools, some call them avatars, that claim to have this same capability, but nothing can match a true product expert. How do you convince a carrier representative to do what I am suggesting? Think of the time and cost involved with organizing all those group meetings, versus taking an afternoon off to read the same script and presentation to your mobile phone on a tripod and uploading it to YouTube. It is a no-brainer. Anyone can do it these days. Each of us has a full video production studio in our pocket.

Snail-mail, stuffers, and booklets are kindle for the fireplace; do not do it. Use electronic communications to distribute education. End of story.

What if you don’t have the email accounts? Get them. Get the HR department’s help to gather the communication preference of choice for the consumers and then provide the data back to the HR depart so they can use it, too. You can use micro websites to gather the information, or interview the consumers as they walk out of the building. Leave postcards out. Just do whatever it takes to convey information to the consumer.

OK, so now that I have the email accounts, how many do I send? Some people have used the Aristotelian Triptych method for communication; tell them what you will tell them, tell them, then tell them what you told them. This is a very good method used in classroom teaching and presentations for thousands of years. I signed up for news from Healthcare.gov two years ago to get insight on what they were doing. I received no less than eight emails in two weeks reminding me of the February 15 enrollment deadline. You run the risk of seeming pushy or impatient if you send out an email a day to consumers who have taken no action if — and only if — you try to communicate and not educate.

But hey, what do I know? I’m just the IT Guy.

Melton is a solution architect at EnrollVB. Reach him at david.melton@enrollvb.com.

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