Cluster Marketing and Communications Challenges

This is a term that a friend of mine introduced me to a few years ago. How do you coordinate messaging across channels and the timing of the delivery of those messages to drive a behavior?

  • Do I send an e-mail and then call the individual if they don’t open it in 72 hours?
  • Do I send a postcard before I send a letter?
  • Do I call someone to tell them that I’m sending them an e-mail?
  • Should all the messages be the same? Or should they show a progression of urgency (for example)?
  • Do you have a single view of the consumer so you know what they have historically responded to?
  • Do you manage your communications as an integrated process so once they take an action you can immediately stop the next communication (e.g., the patient logged into the website last night so don’t send the e-mail scheduled to go out in the morning)?

These things aren’t easy especially in healthcare where the technology to manage direct marketing is several years (being nice) behind consumer markets like banking or consumer goods. But, this is one thing that Silverlink Communications does for clients. Understanding these challenges, providing industry experts to design solutions and test plans, and having a technology platform to execute, track, and report on these challenges is what we do.

Another common challenge is determining frequency. Should I call the person once a day, once a week, once a month, or once a quarter? How is that different based on the result of the prior interaction? How is that different based on their condition? How is that different based on the drug they’re taking?

For example, I might call a patient recently diagnosed with depression in the initial few weeks to remind them to stay adherent with their medications as it may take a few weeks for them to feel a difference. For patients on drugs with immediate side effects, I might need an earlier intervention.

A few points from Dan Ariely, author of Predictably Irrational (Spirit Magazine, pg 46, July 2010):

  • He observed that people doing work that involves decision making needed more positive feedback during the process. Do patients need more positive feedback for doing the right thing? Should you reach out and say good job for going to the physician?
  • He observed that people lose motivation if the work they do goes unnoticed. Should companies call patients and say thanks for moving to mail order and saving them money?
  • He observed that large rewards cause pressure which distracts from the task at hand. How do you break down your rewards into more near term reinforcement and don’t forget about non-monetary rewards?
  • He observed that people are more committed to change when it’s there idea. How do you get patients to think about things they should do? One of his suggestions was to ask more questions.

But, this is only part of the challenge. How do the attributes of your intervention affect their likelihood to act? Could the name of your call center agent matter?

A study by the Edinburgh International Science Festival found that people make assumptions about people based on their names:

  • People with royal names (James and Elizabeth) are assumed to be highly successful and intelligent.
  • People with soft sounding female names (Lucy and Sophie) are assumed to be the most attractive.
  • People with short male names (Jack and Ryan) are assumed to be more rugged.

If you’re using an automated call, does the voice talent you use matter? (see prior article)

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that a mother’s voice is as comforting as a hug which lowered levels of stress inducing cortisol and triggering the production of oxytocin (aka, the love hormone). [What’s a male’s reaction to their mother’s voice?]

And, of course, all of this has to be thought of from the patient’s frame of reference. Calling a recently diagnosed diabetic about adherence is very different than someone who has stopped taking their medications after 5 years. How do you treat them differently?

What about their current location? Is reading an e-mail on the blackberry during a commuter train different than reading it at your PC while eating lunch…YES!

This is why communications is a blend of art and science. You have to use data to drive fact-based algorithms which are adaptable in scale (i.e., across millions of people) and are adaptable as people, situations, and messages change.

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