InteliHealth Builds E-Mail Relationships

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InteliHealth, a medical and health information Web site has developed an e-mail program that reaches 1.5 million readers each week with targeted content covering nearly 20 different health and demographic categories.


To gain a sense of how important this level of precise targeting is to InteliHealth and the medical marketers who sponsor these e-mails, imagine the dismal response rate of a geriatric vitamin offer delivered pregnant women.


InteliHealth, Blue Bell, PA, has considered that scenario and accordingly has built a detailed database that enables the four-year-old Web site to deliver weekly e-mails to people who request information on specific topics such as allergies, AIDS or arthritis and general themes such as fitness or women's health.


Jeff Bredenberg, InteliHealth's vice president of content, said the success its e-mail model has enjoyed with marketers led to the Web site's decision to expand it from one weekly e-mail two years ago to 18 today.


"It provides a wonderfully targeted audience," Bredenberg said. "Everybody who is looking at an e-mail has subscribed to it proactively and has an acute interest in it. If you're a pharmaceutical company with a cancer drug then I would think you'd want your advertising to be in the cancer e-mail." He estimated that the cancer e-mail reached between 60,000 and 80,000 subscribers each week.


Other e-mail categories include caregivers, children's health, diabetes, drugs, heart, men's health, mental health, nutrition, senior health, and two general health e-mails -- one daily and one weekly. The text-only e-mails give the subscriber synopses of a handful of articles that appear on the Web site each week and provide links back to the site for those who want to read the full story.


According to Bredenberg, the e-mail subscribers fall into two broad categories: people recently diagnosed with a disease or some chronic illness and the "worried well" or those people who want information on healthy living.


Like the e-mails, most of the Web site's content is broken down into specific categories, or zones, as the company calls them. There are currently 28 medical/health zones and no ceiling on the number it can develop. InteliHealth also offers a diseases and conditions guide that covers more than 800 maladies. For registered users, the site provides disease management tools such as high blood pressure trackers and diabetes trackers. There are also the medical dictionary and question-and-answer features common with other medical sites like WebMD and drkoop.com.


Unlike at least one of those sites, however, InteliHealth did not spend a small fortune on costly consumer branding initiatives. The company was founded in 1996 with a $25 million line of credit from insurance provider U.S. Healthcare (which has merged and become Aetna U.S. Healthcare). To gain credibility, it named Johns Hopkins University as its official academic partner and reviewer of all editorial content. This July, Harvard Medical School will take over that role.


Over the past four years, the site has focused on developing health-related content, building strategic partnerships and generating revenues. Shortly after its launch, the site debuted the Healthy Home catalog, which sells health products via a catalog and online version, and began selling ads and sponsorships on its editorial vehicles. Another revenue stream includes licensing agreements whereby InteliHealth provides editorial content for other Web sites.


Lisa Zoks, InteliHealth's marketing director, said the site is currently exploring new revenue opportunities.


"We're looking for more interactive gadgets to improve the stickiness of the site and allow other advertisers to come on to our Web site," Zoks explained. These include more advanced disease trackers and possible Web casts of medical or health seminars. Another InteliHealth official, Barry Friel, said the site is also targeting advertisers outside the medical field like automobile manufacturers and food companies.


InteliHealth has won its traffic -- now up to one million unique visitors and ten million page views per month -- via recommendations and its relationships with high-profile consumer media like the Washington Post and Better Homes & Garden, both of whom publish its content, and online partners like DiscoveryHealth.com and Lifetime Online.


Zoks said the site did little, if any, of its own marketing prior to this year. Though she did not provide any specifics, she said it was looking to grow both its online and offline advertising efforts in the near future.
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