|Lollapalooza - Effective Open Enrollment Communication

Open Enrollment Communication: What Lollapalooza Can Teach Us About Doing It Well

Bob Armour Benefits Communication, Open Enrollment Communication Tips

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Yes I confess, I’m a marketer. Don’t hold it against me. This isn’t a ‘because I’m a hammer everything looks like a nail’ blog post. It’s not. I pinky swear promise.


Open Enrollment = Event Marketing

To me, open enrollment is like one big undertaking to market a high profile event. It’s the benefit communications equivalent of marketing Lollapalooza. (And if you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know how much we like music analogies).

Here’s what I mean:

If you’re in charge of marketing Lollapalooza (aka running open enrollment), you’re trying to convince your prospective customers (aka your employees) to spend some valuable currency (aka time and brain power) to attend Lollapalooza (aka participate in open enrollment to select their benefits) and forgo other concerts, music festivals and fun gatherings happening at the same time (aka doing their day-to-day jobs, figuring out what they’re doing for vacation or getting their kids ready for school the next day).

To further the Lollapalooza analogy (after all, you can’t get enough ‘Lolla’ – at least that’s what my teenagers tell me), Lollapalooza is an event with dozens of acts, and different acts appeal to different audiences. Everybody goes to Lollapalooza, but individuals go to see different acts spread across three days on five stages. For example, people who want to check out Black Tiger Sex Machine may not be that interested in Paul McCartney, and vice versa. But the marketers of Lolla want both audiences to attend.

Benefits enrollment is similar. Most everybody at your company will participate in open enrollment, but their reasons and motivations are different. And some are harder to convince than others. For example, someone who just had a first child is likely in a totally different place than someone who is 5 – 10 years from retirement or someone who has just joined the workforce. The trick is to appeal to the specific motivations for a unique audience so that they have compelling reasons to participate.

So there you have it. Benefits communication (especially during open enrollment) is, at its core, a marketing challenge.

Now, you might be saying, ‘OK, that’s great Bob. But how does that help me? I’m not a marketer.’ Well, don’t fret. Over the next week on this blog, we’re going to give you a crash course on how to be a marketer (of benefits), and we’ll cover the 5 marketing steps you should take to make your ‘Benefitspalooza’ a true rocker. Here’s what we’ll be covering:

  1. Begin with the end in mind. Set your goals – but not too many of them – and share them with your team and your boss.
  2. Don’t be boring! How to create messaging that sticks.
  3. See the world through your employees’ eyes – and then message to them in language that they’ll be motivated by. Segment your audience – and customize your message to appeal to specific, audience-based motivations.
  4. Know what you’re doing and when – way before you start. Schedule your communication plan, hit your audiences from multiple directions – and don’t be afraid to sprinkle in some out-of-the-box communication tactics.
  5. Track everything. Execute, measure and collect feedback. Course correct if you’re program isn’t going as expected, and collect information that you can use next year.

For more in-depth ideas on these 5 steps, check out our series “The Open Enrollment Marketing Crash Course.”