Want to build engagement? Think like a marketer. (Part 3: The “Offer”)

In Part 1 of this series, I equated an “Offer” in direct marketing terms to an “incentive” in a wellness program context. I also suggested in Part 2 that there is an inverse relationship between the level of relevancy to the audience and the amount of incentive needed to get them engaged. The less relevant the topic or challenge is to the person, the bigger the incentive you need to overcome the inertia of non-involvement. In the United States, it’s common to see some sort of insurance premium reduction tied to participation in a program. It’s common because it works, but it’s also expensive to implement and therefore not sustainable in the long run. So what I want to discuss in this part of the series are some observations on best practices for the use of incentives.

  1. Not all incentives are created equal. But unless the incentive is cash, you can’t predict the perceived value the incentive will have to your employees. In our programs, we use Watch and Wins tied to incentives to persuade proactive use of our platform. In the past we gave away MP3 players and activity trackers, but have moved to pre-paid cash cards to optimize the value for everyone.
  2. Sweepstakes are cost-effective. Try spreading out incentive impact by giving a bigger “prize” not to each individual, but as part of a larger sweepstakes with entries coming from the desired behavior. A larger percentage of your audience will participate, but your cost per person goes down considerably.
  3. Incentives definitely help, but they don’t build long term engagement. For that, you still need to be relevant to the employee. Save incentives for company-critical activities that you believe will have less relevance to many people, i.e. get the most “bang” for your incentive buck.

At this point in the series we have come to understand that incentives that are relevant and cost-effective are a powerful way of guiding and reinforcing positive behavior in the workplace. In Part 4, I’ll explain how to tie all this in to your whole portfolio of program elements.

More articles in this series

Written by: Doug Berkowitz, SVP of Operations at LifeSpeak

Also published on Medium.