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Print's Not Dead! How to Use Direct Mail to Drive Patient Compliance

Print's Not Dead! How to Use Direct Mail to Drive Patient ComplianceIf you're in charge of building awareness and motivating patients to use relevant healthcare services, you're probably pretty focused on Internet and mobile tactics.

Or at the very least, you're thinking about how to use them to keep patients compliant with their care plans.

And you should be. Websites, blogs, landing pages, emails, social media, and mobile apps are an essential part of your communication toolkit. 

But should they completely replace your direct mail programs? The short answer is no.

Just because Internet based strategies are all the rage right now, it isn't the only answer – especially if you have a population that is largely unsavvy with the Internet.

If it seems like your on-line, social media, and mobile campaigns aren't driving appropriate utilization of your health services, it might be time to add some good, old fashioned, direct mail back into your mix.

So what do I mean by good, old fashioned, direct mail?

I'm not talking loads of direct mail pieces that go into the recycling bin. I'm talking about highly targeted and highly personalized print materials that will increase awareness, create loyalty, and motivate your patients to follow their care plans and use available support services.

But how do you determine what materials will work for your population? Seven things:

1. Population Analysis & Patient Personas

Take a good, hard look at your population demographics. Find out what your patients' needs, motivations, concerns, and goals are – everything that influences how they choose to use (or not to use) healthcare. Then take that information and create patient personas.

Personas are character representations of your real patients. They will serve as your blue print when creating promotional materials – ensuring your messaging resonates with your audience.

2. Define Frequency

Will it be a one time communication blast focused on a single message, or will it be multiple, ongoing messages that are topically relevant and designed to drive top-of-mind awareness?

3. Set Your Budget

What can you afford to invest in your direct mail efforts? Budget plays a huge role in determining how your campaign will come together. Using what you've outlined in steps 1 and 2, you should be able to create a reasonable budget.

The good news is, with the advancements in digital printing over the last couple of years, you have a lot of options when it comes to material creation – allowing you to get much more bang for your buck.

4. Choose Material Specs

You must consider material types – paper stock, color options, mailing options, fulfillment fees, postage, design fees, printer, etc. Using your budget and communication plan as a guide, choose materials that fit your program best – but fair warning, too cheap of materials can reduce the impact. 

Heavier stocks, specialized pieces, and individual mailings all cost more. Some materials won't cost as much because they can be stuffed into current mailers, while others will cost more if they are mailed individually and incur postage fees.

5. Use Variable Data Printing

Variable data printing allows you to create highly customized direct mail pieces, while still taking advantage of high-volume printing processes. What this means is that you can personalize individual communications to each patient by using different text, graphics, and images based on your patient personas, what you know specifically about each patient, and what steps they need to take to adhere to their care plans.

One of the biggest reasons direct mail fails in today's world of information overload is because we, as consumers, have trained ourselves to ignore mass marketing. To be effective, you need to provide personal, relevant communications.  

6. Create Your Calls to Action

This is probably the most important part. What do you want your patients to do after reading your material?

Do you want them to use your Nurse Advice Line service before they go to the Emergency Department? Are you trying to get them to register for a preventive care class? Will you be calling them to schedule a follow up appointment with their doctor? Is it time for them to refill their prescription?

You need to be crystal clear with your CTAs. It's the whole point of your direct mail program. 

7. Tying Direct Mail In With Other Communications

If content is king when creating effective materials, then continuity is surely queen.

Direct mail, on-line, and telephone based engagement programs need to work together, providing a consistent message across all mediums. This is critical to motivating patients to follow care plans and use appropriate healthcare practitioners and settings.

Key Takeaway: Don't focus all your efforts on just one communication medium. Finding the right balance between print, on-line marketing, and telephone engagement will drive better connection rates with patients, providing more opportunity to connect them with the services that will improve their healthcare outcomes. 

Image credit: juliejordanscott

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