Case Study No. 116: Cigna Dental


Conversion Rates Soar With Direct Mail Campaign To recruit business-savvy dental practices for its new PPO (preferred provider organizations) plan, Cigna Dental (Plantation, Fla.) hit an investment nerve through a shrewd direct mail campaign that had dentists doing the math on how they could increase their incomes by 24%. The campaign, launched last fall, used a calculator and compelling investment lingo to get dentists to diversify their practices with Cigna's managed care plan. The investment proposal-like marketing strategy worked as over 20,000 dentists to date have been recruited since the campaign started. Still in full swing, the campaign has kept Cigna busy crunching its own numbers: conversion rates shot up 300 % from 3.5% last year to 13.6% this year, acquisition costs were reduced by 7% and the new direct mail materials cost 34% less to produce than its effort last year. For The Creative Department (TCD), Cigna's advertising agency based in Hollywood, Fla., the campaign's greatest obstacle was overcoming a strong "anti-network" sentiment dentists had about managed care plans-both EPOs (Exclusive Provider Organizations) and PPOs. (In fact, the American Dental Association committed $1 million on anti-managed care efforts.) But TCD's well-researched marketing strategy (which generated $40,000 in creative fees) coupled with Cigna's database expertise with lead generation, allowed the direct mail-focused campaign to achieve its primary objective of showing dentists that Cigna Dental Health can be a profitable practice component. Branding Session Dictates Campaign Tone To learn more about Cigna's corporate personality and its hard-to-impress target of dentists, Cigna invested $25,000 for a branding session that included nine members of its top management. Headed up by Jann Sabin, TCD's creative director, the "inside-out" session generated useful feedback from a dental director, a provider relations representative, a marketing director and various sales people, revealing that Cigna should be a "hands-off marketer that empowers its dentists to make smart business choices about their practices." Prior focus groups also determined that financial ad concepts would be more appealing to this target who tend to view their practices as investments, often reading investment publications and attending investment seminars. Standing Out To capture dentists' attention, TCD had to develop a singular offer that would not only stand out among the almost 20 pounds of mail a month dental practices receive but also appeal to dentists in Cigna's three regions: Midwest, West, and East coasts. Using a marketing mix of direct mail, trade magazine advertising and trade show materials, the campaign exceeded its recruitment goal of 35,000 dentists by July 1, successfully signing up more than 37,000 dentists to date. Campaign Highlights Cigna's campaign worked because it contained three key elements of a successful direct mail effort, according to Sabin: Clean and targeted list. Cigna used AMI for dentists' names then tweaked it to isolate only qualified, credentialed dentists. They also used WinSales, a Windows based software application that centralized leads from its direct mail, advertising, phone calls, referrals and trade shows for field reps.Powerful offer. The financial investment marketing strategy coupled with the impressive claim of increasing incomes by 24 percent, compelled dentists to act immediately on the offer.Right time of year. The fall launch was a pivotal time to sign dentists up before the Cigna's physician directories were distributed. By far, the most impactful and pricey component of the campaign were the direct mail offers at $3.29/piece. Using its new corporate "Wall Street" marketing tone, thousands of dentists were encouraged to look at Cigna's PPO and EPO plans as smart investment opportunities that would expand their fee-for-service client base with managed care patient referrals. To sell its most challenging product, the EPO plan, Cigna's provider relations representatives sent "calculator" mailers to their strongest prospects. This target received a box that on the outside read "Diversify Your Assets." and on the inside included a calculator accompanied by copy that stated, "In today's market, to increase your income you must be calculating." Such bold claims armed field reps with dynamic opportunities to explain Cigna's unique fee structures, according to Janet Carabelli, Cigna Dental's provider marketing manager. Compelling 'Act Now' Offer Timing was also key. Cigna's network physician directories (available April and October), which are distributed to employers for employee use, are hot marketing tools for dentists who want to be included in the listings to generate new clients. Using these directories as incentives, special postcard mailers went out around September that reminded dentists who didn't respond to Cigna's original PPO offer, "You've seen the mailer. Don't miss the book." The mailer showed the cover of the directory and allowed one last opportunity for dentists to sign up for inclusion. This particular component of the campaign generated 18,000 contracts alone. The Wall Street marketing approach is also being used for Cigna's trade print plan (Dental Economics and Dental Practice & Finance) and its trade show collateral. The campaign drove so much traffic that Cigna expanded to telemarketing this past February to promote the PPO plan. Telemarketers from two firms generate leads by quoting fee structures, answering general questions about the plan, and sending out applications. Although the numbers are impressive, earning Sabin the 1997 AMA Marketer of the Year Award for South Florida, she attributes the success of the campaign to Cigna's powerful offer. "For any direct mail effort to work, the offer has to be compelling and timely. Dentists were given tremendous incentive to 'act now' on the offer, that's what made all the elements of the campaign really work." (Cigna Dental, 954/423-5857; TCD, 305/665-6783)

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