But Wait, There's More! Strategies for Marketing Employee Benefits

marketing employee benefits effectively for usage

Ah, the infomercial; purveyor of all we never knew we needed.

They slice, they dice, they shred, they julienne; and if you act now, they'll throw in a second handy dandy gizmo...all for one incredibly low price.

Those commercials may be easy to make fun of, says Dave Shaby, senior vice president of marketing at Bright Horizons and a marketing professor at Babson College. But there's a reason they're so ubiquitous, he says: they work. Get a colorful pitchman, demonstrate the product, and then give people an opportunity to act... right now!  Voila... sales.

Double Your Usage With One Incredibly Effective Program!

The infomercial may seem like an unlikely way to get employees to use their benefits. For starters, benefits are something you actually need (though I'll laud the value of my Chop Wizard 'til I die, thank you).

But marketing generates product awareness, says Dave. And benefits health plans, gym memberships, dependent-care programs, and all things designed to help people work better - need awareness to realize their value. No awareness, no usage, no value, no ROI.

Generating those results, he says, requires a shift in thinking - away from the ubiquitous emails we're all so accustomed to, and toward an approach to marketing employee benefits that gets people to connect with your programs in a meaningful way.

Apply What Infomercials Have Mastered to Marketing Employee Benefits

That's where the infomercial as a benefits marketing strategy comes in. Nobody's suggesting you get a polyester-clad pitchman to hawk health-plan features (though your employees would certainly remember that). "We're not talking about adopting the full cheesy approach," says Dave.

But what infomercials have mastered is the art of urgency - of getting people to do something now.  That action - whatever you make it is key to making a sale later on. For employee benefits, the "sale" is when an employee actually uses that great, but notoriously out-of-mind, benefit. Your goal, he says, is to get people to commit that back-up child care to memory, so when a snow day comes along, your employee says, "Wait...I remember...I have a solution!"

The great news, says Dave, who talked about marketing employee benefits at the recent Solutions at Work LIVE conference, is that what you need is already at your disposal. The key is to package up some classic marketing principles with an infomercial spin:

Step 1. The Pitchman

These are your influencers; the people who are going to talk up your benefits. Influencers aren't CEOs or CHROs. They're the connected and respected folks at your company the colorful ones, the go-to resources, the people who get other people talking. They're going to drive awareness. You'll need more than just one, says Dave. "Create a list of them. Identify people in every segment of your workforce." The payoff is a personal connection and the ability to reach people, whether they're on the retail floor or among nursing teams.

Step 2. The Demonstration

These are your testimonials; the place where your pitchmen "taste the food and then tell people what they think," says Dave. If your pitchmen aren't using the benefit already, give them a test drive. Then send them out with their reviews to discussion groups, team huddles, lunches, after-work events; anywhere they can tell their stories and create buzz.

Step 3. "Act Now!"

This is your call-to-action. A benefits-related CTA doesn't have to get people to immediately use the product, says Dave. What you want is to get people to feel connected; call this number; click this button. He recalls a really successful mailer that gave people a benefits info card to tear off and put in their wallets for reference when needed. It's a great example of knowing what you want people to do and being specific, he says.

Twice the Usage with One Program!

How effective is the approach? Dave recalls one company's benefits marketing program that doubled its benefits usage in a five-month period. Cue the Ginsu man: That's twice the amount of usage with one incredibly effective program!

Like any good infomercial, your promotion can't be a one-time deal; it needs to be ongoing, like a musical earworm.

And the above is only one approach. Because wait...there's more! We'll be talking to Dave about other strategies down the road.

The point is, "If you want people to benefit from your programs, you want utilization," he says. "And marketing employee benefits is the step that's often missed."

Written by: Lisa Oppenheimer

About the Author

Lisa Oppenheimer at Bright Horizons

As Director, Brand Storytelling at Bright Horizons, Lisa writes “from the trenches” about the real life challenges of people in today’s workplaces: from the tensions of being a working mother, to working with millennials in the digital age, and everything in between. With a career ranging from freelance to full-time, Lisa brings a diverse employment background to her perspective.