Direct Mail Spotlight: Life Line Screening
To truly reach time-crunched consumers in the mail, marketers must find ways to pique their interest. Sometimes, that means straying from the norm-even if the norm typically pulls the best results.
That's exactly what Independence, Ohio-based preventative health screening provider Life Line Screening did in one of its six controls. Over the years, standard white envelope efforts have pulled the best results for Life Line Screening's target audience of adults 50 years of age and older, and each of its controls-it mails every 10 days for different groups of screenings and rotates five to six control packages so recipients don't receive the same package more than once a year-used white outers ... until a year ago.
Then, an outside designer and writer came up the idea to show what it is Life Line does through the mailing itself. And what Life Line does is look inside patients' arteries to help prevent health problems. So instead of using a normal white envelope, the designer and writer decided to go with a translucent, larger envelope, with a diagram of an artery jumping out at the prospect and the copy, "We can actually see inside your arteries - to help prevent strokes, aneurysms and heart disease."
"We use ultrasound technology to see inside your arteries to see if there's something that's going to cause problems," describes Trish Mathe, Life Line Screening's director of database marketing. "The writer and the designer just kind of took it literally and said, ‘Ooh, we can look inside your arteries. I wonder [how it'd work] if we did a piece that brought that to life, so to speak.'"
Naturally, Mathe was hesitant to give the new look the green light. "I was like, ‘I'm not doing that, way too expensive. It's not going to work,'" she admits. "For our offer and our target audience, what we've found over the years is that the more promotional or flashy our invitations are, the worse they do. ... With the added expense on top of it, it was really a risk that I wasn't sure about."
Despite her hesitation, Mathe gave it the OK and is glad she did. Response rates have been 20 percent better than the next best control for Life Line. "It's just so, so unique that people can't help but open it," Mathe says. "And then, once you open the piece ... it just really invites the reader in."
Inside, Life Line hits home with its audience. Folding out into an 11" x 17" sheet, the letter uses large type, making it easy to read, and uses many best practices such as underlined text, bold subheads, short paragraphs, lists and a postscript. And the offer is clearly stated: "Life Line Screening will complete all 4 vascular screenings for only $139. ... That's less than what you'd pay for virtually any medical procedure - even one that's far less important than these screenings, which can literally save your life" (Archive code #585-672152-0902).
On the back, Life Line provides important health information and frequently asked questions, including ones regarding cost and insurance coverage. "We use the questions because they are very engaging," explains Mathe. "Those are the tough questions, the ones that you typically don't want to answer. But by putting them right out there, I think people respond favorably because they see that we're being straight with them. We come right out and say it's not covered by insurance."
With the spike in response, Mathe certainly plans to keep the translucent envelope in the control rotation. However, she hasn't incorporated the new envelope design into the other controls for a couple reasons. For starters, Mathe admits, she believes the package may fatigue a bit over time-lose its uniqueness, so to speak. Secondly, more cost goes into a package of this kind.
Still, Life Line Screening plans to continue to use it as long as it keeps working and may "leverage the uniqueness of the imagery in other marketing mediums," according to Mathe. But of course, Life Line will keep on searching for ways to enhance its direct mail and try to figure out alternatives that are a little lighter on the wallet.