"If it's fully permissible to trash upon receipt an intraoffice email from human resources, it seems fine to blow off a friend's check-in."
"Fully permissible to trash upon receipt an email from human resources?" Ouch.
Yet if ever there was an illustration of the woe of the HR benefits marketer that would be it: customers (your employees) feeling fully empowered to ignore (aka hit delete) even as you attempt to alert them to something (company benefits) they already own.
"How do you engage employees in their benefits when they won't attend webinars or read emails?" asked an attendee at a recent HR event.
How to Market Your Benefits? Think Like a CampaignFor HR folks, the Times piece is confirmation of what they already knew; employees are a tough crowd. But it's also a message to consider a change in thinking. Benefits usage isn't a communication problem; it's a marketing issue. "It's easy to forget that marketing benefits is a campaign," says Dave Shaby, senior vice president of marketing at Bright Horizons. So to get employees to engage, you have to think like you're running a campaign.
Five ways to get started:
Stop Relying on Email
Email's easy, so it's the gold standard. But there's no law saying it's your only tool. As the above anecdote makes clear, it's prone to the delete button. Hand-deliver fliers, make interoffice robocalls, mail postcards, make desk-drops of fun stuff with benefits messages attached. Be creative. And use metrics - like a measurable landing page - to understand where you're going right...and wrong.
Enlist your Influencers
Never underestimate the power of a success story, especially when told by an influential employee. Make a list of your company's influencers - managers, tech people - whatever folks have big voices. Then engage them in spreading the word. One employer we know used this strategy to promote their fledgling back-up care program; they're now at 122% usage.
Engage Focus Groups
In the same way influencers can help you reach people, they can also help you figure out what's working ; and what's not. "Sometimes it's as simple as being able to connect to a population through a conversation thread and asking for candid feedback," IBM told us at a recent webinar. "Employees all over the world are so willing to help."
Banish the Word "Newsletter"
Nobody opens an email with the word "newsletter" in the subject line, says Dave. Instead, he says, ask yourself, "How does this benefit help someone?" and then use that as your subject line. Bottom line: to get people to open, they have to see clearly, "What's in it for me?"
Have a Call to Action
Make sure every message is clear on the touch point, aka, "What do you want the reader to do?" Then specifically and clearly ask.
Another Secret to Market your Benefits: Fail! and Fail FastAnd Dave says there's one final critical strategy for marketing your benefits: be willing to fail.
The great good fortune of being benefits marketers is that you're not beholden to gargantuan advertising budgets or worldwide product rollouts that will determine the hit or miss of the entire company's financial projections. That comes with the freedom to try things that might not work. But it also means you have the agility to quickly scrap the fails and go in a different direction.
So be bold; throw something out there, says Dave. If it doesn't work, try something else. "Fail, and fail fast," he says.
It's a small price to pay. Because the bigger risk is that if you keep using the same toolbox you've been using (the one that isn't working), you're going to risk an entire employee population that simultaneously hits "delete."