Using Personal Touch to Target Women

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NEW YORK -- When it comes to health care, women are a household's primary decision makers, and direct marketers are reaching them more effectively with newsletters and printing technologies that personalize each mailing.

"If you know what you are trying to accomplish, what your positioning and how you want to be perceived, you can send a newsletter that accomplishes those goals and objectives," said Sally Rynne, president and chief quality officer at Health Newsletters Direct, Evanston, IL, which specializes in the development and tracking of customized newsletters for the healthcare industry.

Increasingly, the aim is to drive new business and brand initiatives via direct messages pitched through the use of color, design and data. Last fall, Rynne's group undertook primary research measuring just how women receive and process healthcare information issued through direct marketing.

"It's not a question of whether newsletters use two- or three- or four-color, it is how color is used," Rynne said. "Women sort their mail standing over the recycling bin -- so they are looking for reasons to throw things away. What makes the mail cut is information that is useful relating to issues to the woman about taking care of herself and her family. If there isn't useful information, it doesn't make the cut. Companies and services need to keep information about themselves secondary to her information needs."

Rynne, along with a number of healthcare and other industry marketers, participated at last week's second annual Marketing to Women Congress here with "Attracting the Women's Market Through Direct Mail" and other direct marketing sessions, including "Very Direct Marketing."

Although services are increasingly embracing a dual brand-and-business strategy, Rynne said, marketers must approach them separately.

"Brand development requires strategies very distinct from business development," she said. "Brand development targets stages of becoming a customer and driving awareness, and business development operations target usage, trial, how to spread the word and reuse. Marketers have to be careful not to buy into newsletters for brand development and then expect to measure it for business development."

Nonetheless, Rynne said both can be achieved through the same medium: "The masthead is your billboard. The billboard helps achieve the goals and objectives, so there is plenty of room in a publication to accomplish both brand- and business-development objectives."

To address the differences, her company launched its own tracking software last week that will let newsletter users run reports based on gender, ZIP code and insurance carriers.

Executives at the meeting said direct marketing -- whether through newsletters or tailored mailings -- is particularly effective for distributing healthcare information.

"Direct marketing will become an even greater element in the marketing mix because it is an excellent forum when you have information-intense products," said Ellen Miller, executive vice president of business development at DraftWorldwide, Chicago, and president of the agency's healthcare marketing division.

"In the healthcare industry, the stakes are so high," said Patricia Campbell, chairwoman of the Direct Marketing Association, who recently was appointed senior vice president of marketing for Advanta Corp., Springhouse, PA. "One of the big issues with health care is that you sometimes have to market to people who may have an illness they can't necessarily see. So, you better make it relevant regarding lifestyle. It is one thing to get a recipient to raise their hand and another to get them to buy a drug that cures a disease."

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