Anthem National Accounts' Kelly Colbert on the Use of High-Impact Direct Mail
In the B-to-B world, especially when targeting benefits managers and human resource managers from corporations with at least 5,000 employees, sending yet another #10 envelope and follow-up e-mail just won’t do the trick. These folks are bombarded on a daily basis and tend toward the purge/delete response. But they might, just might, stop for a second with high-impact direct mail, especially if it not only catches their eye, but also starts a conversation.
That is what the “Ecosphere” campaign did for Anthem National Accounts, a division of Blue Cross and Blue Shield. Co-conceived with the agency Wikreate, the glass globe containing self-sustaining shrimp and algae was sent in a box, with the message, “Simple … is more complex than it looks.” It went out to 500 companies and earned a phenomenal 22 percent response—with prospects either going to the microsite or calling an Anthem representative. Respondents also averaged 3.5 minutes on the microsite, with 50 percent of them leaving testimonials about its video.
Along with the ecosphere, the mailing included a brochure explaining it (requiring little natural or artificial light or added food, the ecosphere will regenerate itself for two years or longer) and information about Anthem, including a push to its microsite where it hoped to generate leads. I spoke with Kelly Colbert, Anthem’s director of marketing, about how it was developed.
Boldt: Did the marketing message come before the decision to go high-impact?
Colbert: That’s right. The strategic nuggets were: What is our position in the market? Where are our competitors? And what do we really have to offer? These were big brand companies, and the competition is fierce to get some share of mind from them.
What we heard time and time again from these national companies is that everyone has wellness programs of some sort, everyone offers flexible product designs of some sort, but simplicity is really missing from the mix. So we sought to operationally simplify and make ourselves easier to do business with, and then we looked for a campaign theme that really allowed us to express that in a meaningful way. And that’s when we landed on the ecosphere.
Boldt: How did you arrive at the decision to use high-impact direct mail?
Colbert: There is some added expense, of course, so you have to have a really strong strategy to pay out the ROI. Our agency explored high-impact direct mail to reach prospects. We were looking into a positioning that “simple is a lot more complex than it looks,” and these national accounts were looking for a carrier that would make doing business a lot simpler. So that was sort of the genesis of the creative idea.
Wikreate came up with a fabulous way to express that, in a high-impact way, and that really captured the notion of simplify. The ecosphere also expressed the complexity of health insurance but showed that by unfurling that complexity, you can create a really simple experience for your customers.
Boldt: How qualified was your target list?
Colbert: It was a variety of different factors. One were prospects that were on these salespeople’s target lists. They had a pretty good sense when their business was up for renewal, and then there were those companies that we were unsure of their renewal dates. That was what the precampaign sought to answer, as we contacted them with a team of telemarketers.
Boldt: Was the ecosphere chosen because it had staying power, perhaps both in the office and in their minds?
Colbert: That was a key benefit. In fact, I am looking at mine right now. We wanted to earn a place on our prospect’s desk and in their daily work life. The truth is that these are very sophisticated folks with lovely offices, and something that was a branded material that was anything less than elegant would not make it onto their desks. We succeeded and hopefully will be in their life when their renewal date does come up.
Boldt: Does the hectic life of the executive make high-impact a top channel?
Colbert: Absolutely. One can bludgeon prospects with a lot of #10s, which do work. You can do brochures, self-mailers and have a lot of frequency, but that can give you a false sense of efficiency—and that’s not what these people really wanted. Our real focus was to get something that elicited a response, that we could turn into an opportunity. This idea made sense, made an impact, broke through the clutter, all those things …
Boldt: What did you do with those who didn’t respond?
Colbert: Responders went into the sales funnel. Nonresponders received two more touchpoints, an e-version and direct mail version of a newsletter, as [our research showed that] people wanted to understand wellness and the ROI of wellness. So we used material that we already had in our walls and put it into a newsletter. It helped position us as thought leaders in the health insurance space.
Boldt: Will high-impact become a trend?
Colbert: It might be a very smart way to market to these prospects. But a trend? Questionable. The market idea du jour is usually done, such as social media or digital mail. But you have to understand your prospect base and where they spend their time with media. A smart marketer would front-load their marketing budget and do more high-impact because not that many people are. Back to basics. Our e-mail boxes are flooded with offers and newsletters. Go back to direct mail delivery, and get more attention.
This article originally appeared in the September 2009 issue of Inside Direct Mail, a sister publication to Target Marketing. To learn more about Inside Direct Mail, visit www.insidedirectmail.com.