Healthcare Group's Postcards Make Personalized House Calls

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Advocate Health Care is moving toward a more personalized marketing strategy with a patient retention program that uses postcards produced with variable data technology.

Using a postcard bearing information customized for the recipient, Advocate sought to increase loyalty and persuade members of its service area in and around Chicago to get recommended checkups and make greater use of its healthcare services. In an 11-month period after the postcards mailed -- November 2003 to September 2004 -- consumers receiving the cards were about 15 percent more likely to use Advocate services than a control group.

The postcard campaign, managed by CPM Corp., Middleton, WI, represented a shift in strategy for Advocate. It was the healthcare group's first foray into targeted marketing.

"A lot of our marketing initially was ... mass marketing," said John Ruhl, director of CRM-technology for Advocate, Oak Brook, IL. "It was more blanketing of area and not a lot of segmentation."

One of the nation's 10 largest healthcare systems, Advocate operates eight hospitals and three physicians groups in Chicago and its suburbs, serving a market with 1.5 million households. In the past few years, Advocate has moved toward one-to-one marketing communications out of a desire to get a better fix on how effective its communications were, Ruhl said. Another goal was better coordination among the divisions of the healthcare group, which previously were left to do their own independent marketing.

The four-color postcard was printed on 8 1/2-by-11-inch paper, folded down to an 8 1/2-by-5 1/2-inch tabbed, double postcard. It offered consumers the chance to schedule a mini-physical by calling a toll-free number.

The postcard's variable, customized elements included the location and business hours of a nearby Advocate healthcare center or physician practice; a sidebar listing services relevant to the recipient based on household demographics; and the recipient's age. The card also contained a message from a relevant Advocate physician along with a photo and signature.

The campaign involved two of Advocate's practice groups, and each targeted a different set of consumers. Advocate Health Centers targeted more than 27,431 consumers as old as 75 who had specific types of insurance and had not had a routine health exam in six to 12 months. Advocate Medical Group targeted 7,455 consumers aged 50-75 who had not been seen by other Advocate physicians.

For each set of consumers, Advocate also measured the activity of a control group to set a baseline rate to determine how many of the targeted consumers would have used Advocate services without receiving a postcard. Consumers targeted by Advocate Health Centers used services at a rate 14.98 percent over the control group. The consumers targeted by Advocate Medical Group were 15.55 percent more likely to use services.

Advocate looks to do more one-to-one marketing efforts, Ruhl said.

"We were pleased to see how successful it was," he said. "It was good to see it confirmed."


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