Insurer reaches goal with mailer

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Massachusetts Inc. is seeing above-average response rates to a personalized direct mail campaign begun this fall that promotes its fitness and weight-loss programs.

About a year ago, the company decided to take the leap into personalized one-to-one communications.

“There is a trend in the health care industry around engaging members and consumers and giving them information so they can become smart consumers and make more informed choices,” said Kathy Varney, vice president of marketing communications and brand management at Blue Cross. “In the communications industry, there are trends around emerging technologies for personalization and being more relevant to different audiences and different target groups. Not every member is the same, everyone wants what they want, when they want it and how they want it, and we needed to respond to that.”

The state Blue Cross provides coverage to 2.9 million members. It is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.

With personalization in mind, the company this summer organized its strategies around engaging its members so they could make the most out of their plans. The company researched members’ use of their fitness benefits and learned that many did not take advantage of them.

In general, “certain groups of people regularly just don’t take an active role in their health so they don’t take advantage of these types of benefits,” said Kathy Dawson-Townsend, the company’s vice president of member centric and service innovation. “We have a full portfolio around these types of services and programs, and we wanted to make sure that our members not only understood these benefits but more importantly utilized them.”

To get the word out, the company sent direct mail this fall to members who had not taken advantage of this benefit.

“It was an integrated approach,” Ms. Varney said. “Our call to action was to direct members to a personalized microsite, where there were forms they could download to make the application process more streamlined and expedited.”

To help with the campaign, and its personalized direct marketing programs, the company turned to Wilde Direct, a Holliston, MA, full-service agency specializing in traditional and online direct response marketing.

The mail pieces, which were sent via Standard Mail in an envelope, included the recipient’s name and address and also the recipient’s first name when it asked, “Are you ready to be a healthier [recipient’s name]?”

When recipients opened the piece, they were reminded to take advantage of up to $150 in savings at a gym and up to $150 in savings at a weight-loss program. There was no time element on the mailing. The messaging was written in a friendly voice, and many aspects of it were personalized. For example, besides the envelope, after explaining the benefits, the company said the benefits “make it even easier to be the healthiest [name of recipient] you can be.”

The mail piece also urged recipients to go to to download the forms. At this site, members also were encouraged to fill out a survey about their lifestyle interests.

The microsite matched the style of the copy. For example, after clicking on the microsite to download the forms, recipients were addressed by their first names.

The mailings had multiple versions. For examples, different photos appeared depending on the recipient’s gender.

As for the design of the mail piece, “our goal was to be very relevant and right to the point and ultimately drive members to a call to action, because we really wanted the campaign to be measurable,” Ms. Varney said. “We wanted to be able to measure the level of engagement.”

And engaged they are. Ms. Varney said the number of people downloading and processing the forms has increased since the program began.

“The response rate is about three times the industry standard, which is 1 percent,” Ms. Dawson-Townsend said.

Tammy Casserly, president of Wilde Direct, attributed the success to the personalization of the mail pieces.

“We are messaging and communicating relevant information to individual members,” Ms. Casserly said. “So, in my opinion, by doing that, it feels a lot more personal, so therefore someone is more willing to engage in the mail piece because they feel as if it really belongs to them.”

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