How I Beat the Control: Survey Touches Docs' Egos
StayWell/Krames is a respected name in health-care publishing, creating and selling a wide range of instructional literature directly to doctors, physical therapists, medical groups, hospitals, etc. It's possible you've received a StayWell/Krames pamphlet or brochure during a visit to your doctor's office.
StayWell's direct marketing programs emanated from its marketing department, which had developed campaigns and tested aggressively for a number of years, and knew how to track response.
However, with its control package (similar in format and approach throughout all medical specialties), response rates were dropping off. After attempting to beat the control with its internal team and other outside groups, it invited us to take on the challenge. We knew the client's lists had been hit again and again, but over and above the likelihood of tired lists, we could see other likely suspects for the dropoff:
ª Creative executions that had become too familiar to the recipient (size changes notwithstanding, the control had not changed visibly in years in its basic design and copy).
ª Creative executions whose messaging had drifted during typical internal "manipulation," and no longer addressed caregivers' primary concerns/pain points.
ª Lack of strong or appropriate offer.
ª Increased competition from the outside.
We employed a five-pronged approach to beating the control:
1. Try a new strategy to gain the attention of the decision makers.
2. Design a new "look and feel" for the package and its components.
3. Develop a completely new offernot just a new way of packaging previous offers.
4. Create benefit-oriented messaging, i.e., consider the demographic and psychographic profile of the audience(s) to come up with propositions that link directly to their outlook as caregivers.
5. Address, subtly, competitive threats by playing up the value of StayWell/Krames as a proven benefit to caregivers.
The Control Package
The main control package that StayWell/Krames had been mailing was a unique, oversized format. The outer
envelope (OE) was 10-1/2" x 7-1/2". The mailing side was the flap side, and the recipient's address showed through a poly window. A specific tease referred to the small sampler of brochures enclosed which were targeted in content to the recipient's specific practice.
The reverse of the envelope used a window nearly as large as the envelope itself, which revealed one of the brochure covers. The package included a non-personalized letter and an order form, along with the samples being promoted.
StayWell had done its micro-testssmall tweaks in the letter, different brochures showing through ... and nothing made a difference. It was time for a dramatic test!
Concept for Test Against the Control
We kicked off our creative and marketing strategy on this package by going back to the heart of the ultimate decision makers: the doctors.
In examining our past projects with doctors, we agreed that these professionals are time-impoverished ... and they also receive a lot of mail. Much of the mail they get, which is from pharmaceutical companies, is slick and colorful. The Krames brochure shining through the OE wasn't effective competition for these other promotions. We needed to look dramatically different.
We also know that although doctors hate being blatantly "promoted to," they do like to give their opinions and be listened to. They constantly provide expert advicewhich is often ignored. (How many of us lost the 10 lbs. our doctors told us to last year?)
Exploring even more deeply, we know the process of becoming a medical professional is grueling, and creates a mind-set wherein doctors (like fighter pilots) regard themselves as part of an important elite.
So we wanted to communicate in a way that catered to the doctor's need to be an expert.
The first prominent departure from the control came from the outer appearance of the package. Instead of trying to compete with color in the doctor's mailbox, we chose an authoritative grey paper with the teaser: "The leader in patient education publishing needs your opinion ... and we'll provide a special thanks for supplying it." This was significantly different in look, feel and attitude from the control.
Next, we decided how to position the offer. Compared to our new OE, the old StayWell control outer featured a fairly bland offer, which read: "Your professional review copy FREE inside!" To our way of thinking, this was a "non-offer" more akin to an up-front premium. Changing the offer strategy and the creative treatment meant we would not be running a "pure" control test, but we knew something had to be done quickly in this situation.
So now we had to "pay off" our new promise. Our decision was to improve on the offer by testing a "real" offernot just sending them the "premium" of the brochure samples upfront.
So we took the positioning of an "ego-play" that, in essence, said: "We see you as an expert in your field. Your opinion is very valuable to us. So, we would like to request your help in evaluating the quality of our brochures. To thank you, we'll give you a free gift."
The free gift, they would discover, was a package of 25 free copies of the brochure of their choosing, plus a deep discount on their choice of the other titles. We normally never recommend an offer that requires the prospect spend money. But we knew these professionals need and use literature like this, and providing it cuts into their profitability. These days, this is a serious concern for doctors, who are paying, in some cases, hundreds of thousands of dollars in malpractice insurance. We knew they'd appreciate the discount and the opportunity to add value to their patient visits.
We also felt they might get "hooked" long-term by the Krames literature, which is instructional and interesting for the doctors' patients, and tested to improve patient compliance with medical treatment follow-through. This, too, is high on the doctors' list of needs and wants.
We followed through with the messaging and visuals on the inside of the pack to appeal to the doctor's need to be the expert and be heard. Our package included three sample brochures targeted to area of specialty, and a survey asking the doctor to rate the brochures' effectiveness.
The opening lines of the letter read:
Dear Sample B. Doctor:
To maintain the accuracy and relevancy of our Obstetrics and Gynecology patient education literature, we need the opinions of specialists like yourself. So in the hope that you will help us, and to introduce you to our service, I have included three of our most widely distributed titles for your assessment ... along with a brief survey form to enable a quick review.
Page two of the letter continued to explain the offer and highlight StayWell/ Krames' proven competitive advantage. A bulleted list of benefits was followed by a close repeating of the offer.
For our package execution, we chose an oversized envelope, slightly larger than the control, so that our brochures would fit easily, and it would eliminate the question of size as a factor in the test. The envelope was 9" x 12" with a window in the upper left corner, revealing a personalized address field from the letter inside. The blue-grey speckletone paper, while a bit more expensive, gave the envelope a professional look and feel, yet it had a bit of mystery since this is an unusual treatment for outer envelopes these days.
To cost-effectively make both the letter and the reply personalized, the letter and survey were combined on an 11" x 17" sheet, folded in half, with the letter on pages one and two, and the survey and reply form on pages three and four. The survey questions ranged from "Is the subject matter easily understood from a patient's perspective" to "Would this publication help the doctor build confidence and trust with the patient."
When our prospect doctors completed and returned the survey, they received a free gift of 25 brochures on the topic they indicated they liked best. Plus, if they really liked the brochure and ordered a minimum quantity, they were offered a 20-percent discount on their first order plus a free acrylic brochure holder. An easy-to-complete order form concluded the package with the opportunity to indicate a purchase decision ... or simply request free samples.
The client reported that the test had easily beaten the control by a margin of close to two-to-one. It attributed the survey approach to being the driving factor for our success, speculating that engaging the doctors in the survey form not only flattered but also dedicated them to truly evaluate whether the literature would help their practice. In the process of evaluation, they "sold themselves"proven by the fact that a significant proportion of the doctors upgraded from the free pack and purchased more brochures.
The best part of this story is that we provided the client with a control in just one of its medical practice areasOB/GYNbut in fact, this was a repeatable pattern of contact throughout all the StayWell/Krames medical specialty areas. The amortization of learning, we've found, makes this kind of test even more profitable over the long term.
Laurie Beasley is president of Beasley Direct Marketing, a full-service agency in San Jose, CA. She can be reached at (408) 782-0046, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Carol Worthington-Levy is a founder and creative director of San Jose's MarketingBank. She can be reached at email@example.com, or www.worthington-levy.com.