Do You Even Market Your Wellness Program?
By David Whitt, Employee Wellness Manager, City of San Antonio
You spent hours upon hours researching biometric and claims data. You identified the type of programming needed to address your organization’s top health claims. You worked overtime designing or partnering with vendors to address those identified needs with appropriate wellness program components. You promote your kickoff event, and you’re all geared up to see your hard work finally pay off. And then, six of your 7,000 employees show up to the party.
Trust me, we’ve all been there. But don’t worry, there’s still hope!
Sure, we all know that offering your employees a wellness program is a good thing for everyone. The employer, employees, their families, the dog and cat, everybody. But what makes it fresh, unique, and personal to its audience? Are you confident that your employees know the answer to this question? Because they should! You may have developed the best wellness program in the world, but if a wellness program falls in a forest and no one is around to…well, you know. At the end of the day, even the most well-planned program is only as good as it’s marketed to be.
The mecca of modern-day marketing, The American Marketing Association, defines marketing as “the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.” Now think for a moment about how that definition applies to your wellness program.
Without a doubt, we feel that we are offering our employees something of value. Either that or we’re in the wrong business. So shouldn’t we then, use a process for “creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging” those offerings?
All too often, however, wellness professionals lack a true understanding of what marketing is and why it’s important. There is yet a greater shortage of experienced marketers working in the wellness space that are using even some of the most basic marketing principles when promoting their programs.
So while we’ll only be scratching the surface of the topic, let’s get back to the basics and talk a little about what’s at the core of any successful marketing strategy, the four Ps of marketing:
- Product: Health! Easy right? Yeah, at this point we know better than to think it’s that simple. It really should sell itself. I mean, a product or service that prevents or manages chronic disease, gives you more energy than a fresh cold brew, erases your stress like a glass of whatever you’re drinking these days at a Friday happy hour, improves your relationships full circle, and is likely to have you looking better than you have in at least a decade? Sign me up! Wait, what’s that? Beers and burgers after work tonight? Ummmmm, well I was supposed to go to the gym buuuuuuut, sure let’s go!! See, not that easy after all.
- Price: Oh if it was only as simple as covering the cost of a program to engage your employees. In fact, research shows that employers are probably going to have to go even further by providing a financial incentive of some sort. From the employee perspective, you’ve really got to think about what your employees’ perceived costs are too, from monetary costs to their precious personal time and everything in between, when designing your program and its marketing campaign.
- Place: Think about where your employees are going to “buy” into your program. Will the education session be hosted in the staff break room, or should it just be offered as a webinar? Should employees be offered an onsite health coach, or just telephonic and web-based coaching? You’re going to want to take a lot of things into consideration when choosing the most appropriate venue, so choose wisely my friend.
- Promotion: Emails, newsletters, text messages, posters, direct mail, branded freebies, your website, word of mouth, and on and on and on. There are endless ways you can promote your program, but which combination is going to be the most effective in engaging your employees? Decisions, decisions, decisions!
Now you’re ready to go out and save the world. Okay, so maybe not just yet. But the marketing mix is undoubtedly a vital element for careful consideration in the design and implementation of your wellness program. And it would likely serve you well to revisit that Marketing 101 class you took your sophomore year in college. Just because you’re selling it, doesn’t mean they’re buying.
David Whitt has managed the employee wellness program for the City of San Antonio since 2014 and currently serves as Chair of the San Antonio Business Group on Health. The City of San Antonio has received multiple recognition awards for David’s wellness efforts. In a prior life, he spent 7 years as marketing & promotions director at Clear Channel Radio, now iHeartMedia. He earned a Master of Science in Health Promotion and a Bachelor of Arts in Communication from the University of Texas at San Antonio. If you’re starting up a new wellness program or are looking to breathe new life into an existing one, don’t miss David’s session, “Bro, Do You Even Market Your Wellness Program?” at the Healthier Texas Summit.