Saturday, August 30, 2008

EAP Marketing and Utilization: Channels of Communication

One of the secrets to promoting any product or service is becoming a pro at using multiple channels of communication for that product or service in delivering the marketing or promotional message to the customer. In this sense, I am speaking about potential EAP clients (employees or work units) within the organization that can take advantage of your services. Increasing your EAP utilization or marketing EAP services effectively requires analyzing and studying these channels of communication and keeping your eyes open for new ones as they pop up. You may spot one at any moment as it produces an EAP client. That’s a signal to grab it, stick it in your marketing basket, and add it to your marketing mix. A focused discussion with your staff can produce more through a brainstorming process, but arriving at the point where your antenna go up with "Marketing Channel, Alert! Alert!", is the place you need to eventually arrive.

If you worry about your EAP utilization, the answer to increasing it off the charts lies in examining, tracking, and exploiting these marketing channels. Putting pen to paper to identify them and work them strategically can boost your utilization rate, reduce behavioral risk exposure in the organization, and provide evidence to prospective EAP corporate customers that expertise in your craft is going to return big bucks to them in cost-benefit if they go with your proposal. It may also prevent your EAP from closing its doors or getting farmed out to an 800 number in a cubicle on the 24th floor of an office building on the other side of the country. Understanding marketing channels is not only an art, but an essential strategic undertaking in the survival and growth of your EAP.

You are already very familiar with one or two channels of communication that apply to your employee assistance program. One no-brainer is the EAP brochure distributed in strategic locations within the organization. Another channel is your health and productivity, or work-life newsletter given to employees at a frequency decent enough that you are actually remembered. And still another is making short presentations on mental health or work-life topics. There may be 20 to 30, and even more marketing channels that escape your awareness, yet each may potentially contribute to a higher EAP utilization. You should identify these channels of communication so you can work them to your advantage. If you do not make a focused effort on doing this, you can easily miss half of them.

Channels of communication reinforce each other and each contributes to increasing or maintaining your EAP's utilization. In the next few messages, I will begin discussing a few of these with the goal of helping you establish a 6th sense for spotting these gems and mining them for the benefit of your EAP, corporate customers, and most important troubled employees.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Mastering EAP Word of Mouth Advertising

Nothing works like word-of-mouth advertising, and the best part is that it's free. Did you know that word-of-mouth marketing is taught to employees at Disneyworld? It's is a major marketing strategy for them. And it can be the same for your EAP. What's more, you can influence word-of-mouth advertising favorably with a conscious approach to a marketing strategy that includes it. You don't have to hope that word-of-mouth advertising works. You can know it is working. Let's talk about that.

There is a single, basic secret to stimulating a high rate of word-of-mouth advertising among employees so your EAP will be well utilized.

The key is this: Purposely, consciously, find ways to do what you do so well and so uniquely that employees cannot resist telling other employees about it. When it comes to Disneyworld, their target for what they do exceptionally well that flips people out is cleanliness and authenticity. That's what sticks in people's minds who visit Disneyworld--how clean the place is, and how real everything looks in those theme parks. When people go back home after visiting, they tell coworkers. The rest is dominos.

You will stimulate referrals if you apply the same formula to your EAP.

A quick digression: Remember, as I have said on numerous occasions, you must market confidentiality in numerous ways. Any EAP client fears a lack of confidentiailty. This "concern" will breed its own counter-measures to your confidentiality message if you do not beat it back by promoting and marketing the confidential nature of your EAP frequently. Without that, not much else will aide your word-of-mouth marketing efforts.

What will give EAP clients a "wow" experience?

Here are few suggestions: Treat employees with tremendous respect--almost as though they are your first client ever, or that they are visitors to the Ritz. Tell them how you store information they provide you and explain the confidential process of how that information is retained. Give them a cup of coffee in the waiting room. Follow-up and find out how clients are doing, and use a tickler system to do so in the future, even if their personal problem is not associated with something major like abstinence from drug use. Use your professional self to communicate a feeling of enhancement--that the client is going to be a happier person as a result of coming to the EAP and something is going to be added to their life. Certainly you believe this is the case, but communicating it in so many words or with your tone and non-verbal approach to the client gets missed. Understand that everything you do relates to word-of-mouth advertising and you may discover a new attitude about service and energy in your EAP work.