April 2012


Good marketers live by their data. Why? Metrics help us set goals and track progress, and numbers confirm we did a good job. By digging into results, we can understand what worked well, what didn’t work well, and then learn from it. Here’s the most comprehensive metrics and analytics glossary I’ve seen to date, written by Rebecca Corliss of Hubspot Inbound Internet Marketing Blog


1) Blog Traffic – We all want to know how many people are visiting our blog day-to-day or month-to-month. This metric is the total number of people who are viewing your blog content. Is that number changing over time? What is the month-to-month growth rate? That’s a great measurement to gauge content success!

2) Blog Subscribers – The number of people who are subscribing to your blog (via RSS or email) is an indicator of the value of your content. If they appreciate what you’re writing, they will subscribe to get more. Watch how this number grows over time.

Blogging HubSpot Graph

3) Views per Post – How many views does a particular blog post earn? Use this metric to compare posts. Does one post type get more views than others — list posts, for example? Learn from your successes, and use this metric to create more content that your readers enjoy.

4) Post Views per Contributor – Nothing like stirring up a little competition among your employees, right? If there is a certain author who receives more views on average than other authors, dig in to learn why. Is it because he has a larger social media following to promote his blog post to? Is it because she wrote about a topic that garners more attention? Use this metric to generate some friendly rivalry that helps increase content quality.

5) Blog Post Comments – Comments are a good sign of how engaging your blog post is. You can also encourage conversation by asking an intriguing question at the end of your posts to help stir up debate.

6) Links per Post – Blogging is a critical component of any SEO strategy. Companies who blog get substantially more inbound links than those that do not. Look at which posts generate more inbound links, learn, and repeat.

Social Media

7) Followers & Reach – Some marketers think of their social database like their email database. What is the total count of individuals that your business can reach through social channels? How does that reach change over time? Hopefully that graph is up and to the right.

HubSpot Reach Graph

8) Social Clicks – Measure the number of clicks you receive for the links you’re posting in your social media updates. This is a good way to gauge how interesting your network finds your content, how well it’s positioned, and how engaged your audience is.

9) Retweets & Shares – When people really love your content, they share it with their own networks. Is your content being shared socially throughout the web? Track it through retweets and shares.

10) Like & +1 Count – Everyone likes to be liked! This metric tells you how many people like your content by clicking a “Like” button on Facebook, or “+1” button on Google+.

11) Percent Engaged – Time to get geeky. Of your entire possible network (your friends, and your friends’ friends), what percent is engaging with (meaning clicking, commenting on, or liking) your content? This is a good metric to understand whether people are paying attention to your content.

Facebook Engagement Graph


12) Keyword Rankings – These rankings tell you for which keywords you rank very well, poorly, or somewhere in between. You can also watch how your rankings change for these keywords over time to ensure you don’t slip on important keywords. But be careful not to get caught in the weeds — measure the traffic and leads generated by those ranking keywords, too!

Keyword Rankings

13) Visits per Keyword – This metrics tells you how much traffic a keyword drives to your website from organic search. This will be a symptom of how often people search for that keyword and how well you rank for the keyword.

14) Leads per Keyword – This number tells you how well the traffic you generate from a given keyword converts into leads for your business. If a specific keyword and page is driving a lot of visits but not leads, perhaps you need to optimize the CTAs on that page to increase lead conversions.

Organic Search Graph

15) Links per Page – A specific web page that has a high quantity of inbound links has a better likelihood of ranking in search. Is there a specific page or blog post that’s generated a lot of links? Perhaps you should make more content of that type!

Landing Pages and Lead Conversion

16) CTA Conversion Rate – CTA stands for call-to-action, of course. Track the percentage of people who visited a particular page who also clicked a CTA on that page. It indicates the appeal of the offer, whether the CTA is well-crafted and written, and if it has good placement on the page.

Call-to-action Metrics HubSpot

17) Offer Redemption – Offers come in the form of webinars, ebooks, buyers’ guides, and the like. When you launch a new offer, how many people download it? Or if it’s a webinar, how many people register?

18) Landing Page Conversion Rate – This metric is extremely important and determines your effectiveness at converting visitors into leads. Track the percentage of people who land on your page and then fill out the form. If it’s low, you have an opportunity to do some A/B testing to increase conversions.

Landing Page Conversion HubSpot

19) Landing Page Bounce Rate – Think of this number as the flip side to your landing page conversion rate — it describes the percentage of people that visit your landing page and then immediately leave. If your bounce rate is high, you might need to better align the offer on the page with the language on the landing page, or come up with a more enticing offer.

Email & Lead Nurturing

20) Database Size – This is the number of email addresses in your database that you can email. It is incredibly important that you work at increasing this number over time, as your email database expires at a rate of about 25% per year. So if your database size is staying flat, it’s actually shrinking. 

21) Email Opt-Out Rate – Your email opt-out rate, also known as your email unsubscribe rate, is the rate at which people select to not receive your emails anymore by clicking the “Unsubscribe” link in your emails. If this number is relatively high, meaning over >5%, take steps to better segment your email list by things like demographic information, company size, pain points — whatever is appropriate for your business. This allows you to execute smaller, more targeted email sends that offer more value to subscribers.

22) Delivery Rate – This tells you the percentage of your database that actually received your email in their inbox. A low delivery rate could be a sign that you have a low Sender Score.

Email Deliverability

23) Email Open Rate – This metric tells you what percentage of the people who received your email opened it. If you had a strong subject line and the receiver recognizes your company (or the person who sent the email), you should see a higher open rate. Yipee!

24) Click-Through Rate – Your email CTR tracks the percentage of people who received your email, and clicked a link within that email. Use this metric to understand how valuable the offer you sent was, or how well your link was positioned.

25) Campaign Conversion Rate – This metric indicates the rate at which people who received your email converted into a lead. You can use it to gauge the success of your email campaign compared to past sends. A high campaign conversion rate is the result of a targeted send with a great offer.

Public Relations & Branding

26) Direct Traffic – Direct traffic is the amount of traffic coming to your site as a result of people typing in http://www.yourcompany.com into their browser. Measuring how much traffic comes to your site in this manner helps you gauge the effectiveness of your PR efforts.

Direct Traffic HubSpot
27) Branded Search Traffic – Very similar to direct traffic, branded search traffic is the amount of traffic that came to your site as a result of a visitor Googling your company’s name, most likely because they recently “heard” of you and wanted to learn more.

Branded Search Traffic HubSpot

28) Visits From Guest Blog Posts and Media Placements – Was a killer guest article written by your company recently placed on a business or online trade publication? How many visitors did it send to your website? Use that as your metric for success!

Overall Funnel Metrics

29) Site Visits – Measure overall visitors to your website from all channels — email marketing, social media, organic search, the works. This metric tells you how good your marketing team is at driving traffic to your website.

31) Leads Generated – Are you meeting your leads goal? Are your sales reps’ funnels nice and full? Track leads generated month-to-month, as well as number of leads generated per channel, like you see below.

Leads Sources HubSpot

32) Customers Generated – Ahh, the bottom line. If you aren’t tracking customers earned, how do you know how valuable your leads are? Use closed-loop analytics to determine which channels generate leads that turn into customers.

33) Sales Cycle Length – Do you know how long it takes for a new lead to turn into a customer? Track this and monitor how it changes over time so your sales team can prioritize their funnel, and marketing can generate more leads that convert in a shorter time span.

This mega list should be helpful when determining how all the different facets of your marketing are performing. When creating a data-driven marketing team, consider using tools to manage your reporting. Ultimately, you’ll be making smart, data-driven decisions and your marketing will be better for it.

What other helpful metrics do you look at that aren’t mentioned here?

Read more:

Hubspot’s Most Popular Posts

What Workplace Buyers Said about Their Brokers

A third Bought Simply Because It Was Offered at Work

According to a recent LIMRA study, featured by  in BenefitsPro on April 11, 2012,  more people are looking to their workplaces to get the financial products they need. According to Kim Landry, analyst at LIMRA’s Group Product Research,there are two important drivers that facilitate the purchase of life insurance at work:

  • The convenience of having the resource at their place of work
  • A feeling of security felt by working with someone their employer has (implicitly) approved.

Life triggers—such as changing marital status or having or adopting a baby—are the top reasons consumers said they shopped for life insurance at the workplace. Statistics show that the workplace is a strong channel for life insurance sales:

  • 75% of workplace shoppers bought life insurance.
  • 33% of them said they bought the product simply because it was offered to them at work.
  • 20% of all life insurance shoppers purchased the product through their place of work.

Who buys at work?

According to LIMRA’s study:

  • workplace shoppers are more likely to be male than female (55 percent vs. 45 percent).
  • More than three-quarters are married or living with a partner.
  • A majority have children under 18 in their households.
  • Workplace shoppers tend to be younger than those who shop through other channels.
  • They have higher average incomes and tend to have more investable assets.

How Was The Service Experience?

Workplace shoppers were generally satisfied with the service they received from their producer/broker.

  • 80% felt their producer provided good information about the policy, and was very knowledgeable about insurance in general.
  • Nearly 75% felt they could trust their producer.

Still there is room for improvement. The report showed that a surprising number of workplace shoppers felt that they needed more follow-up from the sales representative, a significantly higher percentage for consumers who shop through other channels.

  • Nearly 50% said their producer failed to follow up with them.
  • 40% didn’t feel that their producer considered what they could actually afford.
  • More than a 33% said they didn’t receive enough product options.
  • 33% who didn’t buy said they weren’t finished shopping.

3 Things Producers Can Do To Improve

LIMRA identified three things  that workplace producers can do to improve:

  • Since workplace shoppers tend to be younger and less experienced, producers should ensure they fully understand the products.
  • Provide additional information if needed during the decision-making process, such as printed reference materials or an online link.
  • Always follow-up with the workplace shopper.

Kim Landry, an analyst at LIMRA’s Group Product Research.  notes. “Our behavioral economic research indicates that consumers may need time to consider their decision and, as our study found, if we don’t follow-up with them, we may be leaving money on the table.”

Snap! Principle of Workplace Life Insurance Selling:

Workplace is an increasingly important channel for life insurance, and a strong commitment to service can significantly improve results.

Study: Many Employers Don’t Measure Wellness Results

I recently discusseded the tremendous potential of Wellness Programs to save employer costs here.  But what about measuring the ROI of a Wellness Program? A recent survey shows that many U.S. employers simply didn’t measure their wellness program’s effectiveness in 2010.

The survey, cited in a January 10, 2011 BenefitsPro article by ,  was conducted by Buck Consultants, in association with Pfizer, CIGNA, Wolf Kirsten International Health Consulting, and WorldatWork. Titled “WORKING WELL: A Global Survey of Health Promotion and Workplace Wellness Strategies,” it is a fourth annual global wellness survey of over 1,200 organizations in 47 countries representing more than 13 million employees. The report found that Wellness programs continued to gain momentum this year among U.S.-based organizations as a key strategy to reduce the cost of providing health care, improve worker productivity, and reduce absenteeism. Yet, few actually measured their programs’ effectiveness:

  • U.S. employers spent 35% more – $220 – vs. 2009 on each employee participating.
  • Yet only 37% actually measured their program’s effectiveness.
  • 40% measured how wellness programs affect the cost of health care benefits.
  • 45% of those report success in slowing health care cost increases – typical reductions of 2 to 5 percent per year

The U.S. results contrast with results in other regions on the health risks that drive wellness programs. Globally, reducing workplace stress is the top driver of wellness programs, particularly in Canada, Europe, Asia, Australia, the Middle East, and Africa. In the United States, the lack of physical activity is the top driver, and stress ranks much lower (sixth) as a health risk targeted by these programs.

Other key findings of Buck’s wellness study:

  • Globally, 66% have a formal wellness strategy, up significantly from 49% in 2007.
  • Wellness programs are most prevalent in North America – 74% offer them.
  • 11% of U.S. respondents spend more than $500 per year per employee on wellness rewards.
  • The largest wellness reward was $3,000 per employee.
  • The fastest-growing components of wellness programs are technology-driven tools.
  • In three years, employers expect a six-fold increase in their use of mobile technology – such as smartphones – to support employee wellness initiatives.

Measuring Wellness ROI

Linda K. Riddell , recently wrote an article in Employee Benefits News about how to measure the ROI of a Wellness Program. Linda is a principal at Health Economy, LLC, who works with clients on gaining practical tools to comply with and maximize the new opportunities that health care reform offers. Here is her take:

There is always much noise and excitement about starting an employee wellness program, but the room goes silent when talk turns to return on investment. Highly paid consultants cite studies about ROI. Skilled HR professionals mumble about intangibles. Yet, no one offers a clear measure by which a wellness program’s success can be gauged.

It’s well past time for this kind of vagueness to stop being tolerated. A wellness program without clear goals and methods for measurement is meaningless.  Here are real-world examples of measures for wellness programs :

  • A 10% decrease in claims for back pain.
  • A 5% decrease in unplanned absences.
  • A 7% decrease in the cost per claimant for heart disease.
  • A 15% increase in employees participating in a diabetes self-management course.
  • A 12% decrease in emergency room visits.

Wellness programs can and should be linked to concrete results like these. Employers who throw money at wellness programs and don’t demand results are wasting resources.

Wellness ROI can be measured if a program starts with clear data and analysis of a group’s own illnesses and patterns. You can set a goal to reduce back pain claims — but only if you first know that back pain is a problem among employees. With that knowledge, you then can design an intervention around back health that targets the group’s specific issues.

  • For example, I had one client that saw a lot of plan claims for back pain. The company paid employees a bonus for every quarter that posted zero workers’ compensation claims. It was a well-intentioned strategy, but claims for back problems were shifting to the health plan because employees didn’t want to ruin the quarterly bonus. Thus, the company needed to eliminate the bonus program, so that the root cause of the back problems could be uncovered and solved.
  • Another client also had high expenses for back pain, but for an entirely reason. Back pain is a common “cover” diagnosis for individuals seeking a steady source of painkillers. The client was posting an abnormally high number of prescriptions for narcotics and thus needed its pharmacy benefit manager to notify physicians about patients who had multiple prescribers, pharmacies and prescriptions for painkillers.

If these clients had taken the conventional “get-more-people-to-do-sit-ups” approach, neither would have seen any turnaround in health costs related to back problems. Any wellness approach that is not clearly and directly related to the problem will fail to deliver results. Wellness should be much more than coaxing employees to “be healthier” for intangible results.  It can be straightforward tactics that help to improve employee health and reduce costs.

Linda K. Riddell  can be contacted at LRiddell@HealthEconomy.net.

Snap! principle of measuring ROI:

“Inspect what you expect.”

Thought Leader

Victor Gaxiola Social Media Marketing Manager for the Gaxiola Financial Group  Owner/Social Media Marketing Manager and Content Marketing Curator of Red 7 Marketing, Advisory Board Member of linkedFA, a Social network for Financial & Insurance Professionals, who formerly worked as Chief Content Officer and Social Community Director at Wired Advisor, has compiled a list on his December 21st post of thought leaders he has came to know through social networks such as TwitterLinkedFAWiredAdvisor, or LinkedIn.

Although Social Media is in its infancy in the financial services industry and despite many restrictions that prevent individuals and broker/dealers from allowing employees to use the tools to engage their clients, prospects and partners, he believes it presents an amazing opportunity for them to build their business and client relationships.

Victor writes:

“The fact that I have found a community of like minded  individuals that share a passion for social media in Financial Services illustrates the power of social  networking.  The list includes writers, advisors, founders, social media strategists, entrepreneurs, and marketing specialists.   In their own way each has enriched my understanding of social media in Financial Services, and has helped make me a better consultant and curator of information.   Thank you all!”

Here are the 30 thought leaders you should be following in Financial Social Media:

  1. Pat Allen (@rocktheboatmktg)- Principal,  Rock The Boat Marketing
  2. Samantha Allen (@investius)- Managing Director, Investius
  3. David Armstrong (@davidbarmstrong) CFA, Managing Director,  Monument Wealth Management
  4. John Bishara (@linkedfa)- CMO, LinkedFA
  5. Jason Bishara (@jbishara)- CEO, LinkedFA
  6. Chad Bockius (@bockius)- CEO, Socialware
  7. Debra Borchardt (@wallandbroad)-  Markets Analyst, The Street.com
  8. Diana Britton (@diana_britton)- Staff Writer, Registered Rep Magazine
  9. Mike Byrnes (@byrnesconsultin)- Founder & President, Byrnes Consulting
  10. Brent Carnduff (@echelonseo)- President, Echelon Business Solutions
  11. Sarah Carter (@sarahactiance)- VP Marketing, Actiance
  12. Brittney Castro (@brittneycastro)- CFP®, Financially Wise Women
  13. Mark Cohen (@markhcohen)- AVP-Digital, Cambridge Investment Research
  14. Cathy Curtis (@curtisfinancial)- CFP®, Curtis Financial Planning
  15. Vince Esposito (@vince3sposito)- Independent Financial Professional, Esposito Financial
  16. Glen Gilmore (@glengilmore)- Principal, Social Media Law Today
  17. D. Bruce Johnston (@dbjassociates)- President & CEO,  DBJ Associates
  18. Mike Langford (@mikelangford)- Sr. Social Business Strategist, Socialware
  19. Rich LoPresti (@richlopresti)- Founder, RecommendedAdvisor.com
  20. Amy McIlwain (@insurancemktg)- President, Financial Social Media
  21. Jay Palter (@jaypalter)- Principal, Palter Social Media
  22. Scott Peterson (@sthepeterson)- Co-Founder, Relay Station Social Media
  23. Jaime Punishill (@jpunishill)- Global Head Wealth OnlineThomson Reuters
  24. April Rudin (@therudingroup), Founder & CEO, The Rudin Group
  25. Stephanie Sammons (@stephsammons)- Founder & CEO, Wired Advisor
  26. Joyce Sullivan (@joycemsullivan)- Founder & CEO, SocMediaFin
  27. Marie Swift (@marieswift)- President & CEO, Impact Communications
  28. Susan Weiner (@susanweiner)- Author, Investment Writing
  29. Bart Wisniowski (@bartwisniowski)- CEO, Advisor Websites
  30. Stacy Yamaoka (@stacyyamaoka)- Implementation Manager, Socialware

Victor has created a special Thought Leaders 2012 list on Twitter for all the individuals listed above, and invites you to follow#socialFA for posts related to Social Media in Financial Services curated by him.

Thank you, Victor!

Snap! principle of Social Media thought leadership

There has never been more opportunity to interact with thought leaders.

A dollar invested in Wellness Programs can yield savings up to $5.93

Wellness Programs Generate Incredible Savings

Employees’ lifestyles have been found to make a huge impact on an employer’s financial situation because many of the diseases suffered by the population such as diabetes are directly related to poor health decisions. These health issues spill over directly into the workplace, as an unhealthy workforce hits employers squarely in the pocketbook. For instance:

  • Obese employees with 3 or more chronic health conditions miss an average of 3.5 days of work per month, 42 days per year.
  • Obese Americans spend approximately 36% more on health care costs and 77% more on medications.
(Sources: Gallup, “Unhealthy U.S. Workers’ Absenteeism Costs $153 Billion,” and the Office of the Surgeon General, “The Surgeon General’s Vision for a Healthy and Fit Nation Fact Sheet.”)

There is strong evidence that Wellness Programs are generating dramatic savings. The chart above shows savings generated from wellness programs based on a meta-analysis of multiple workplace wellness programs by the American Institute for Preventive Medicine accessed on October 14, 2008 as reported in their white paper: The Health & Economic Implications of Worksite Wellness Programs: An American Institute for Preventive Medicine Wellness White Paper.  The return on investment for employers that offer wellness programs looks compelling. For every dollar invested in wellness programs, companies can save up to $6 on health insurance costs, according to the University of Michigan’s Health Management Resource Center’s 2010 Cost-Benefit Analysis and Report.)

Wellness Programs Now a Core Cost Control Strategy

Supply management approach: Employers have been employing numerous tactics that employ a supply management approach to deal with increased health care costs. These include a variety of adjustments including increased copays, higher deductibles, and switching providers. Although they have had initially encouraging effects, during the last few years, they have been more limited in reducing the health care costs.

How Companies Respond to Healthcare Costs 2006

Demand management approach: An alternative approach that is growing in popularity is one that focuses on supporting the employee in living a healthier lifestyle and becoming wiser health care consumers. Wellness programs are the key component of this strategy.

Wellness initiatives are among the top cost-control strategies implemented by employers today with more and more employers turning to this strategy, as shown on this 2006 chart by the Society for Human Resources Management. . The Society for Human Resource Management’s (SHRM) June 2011 Employee Benefits report shows that 75 percent of employers now supply their workforce with wellness resources and information.

Many employers that aren’t on the wellness bandwagon plan to soon. A September 2011 survey of government employers by the International Public Management Association for Human Resources showed that 51 percent planned to implement wellness programs or promote healthy behaviors in the next 12 months.

7 Steps To Implement a Successful Wellness Strategy

Change Agent Workgroup (CAWG) has published a helpful guide for employers that can help them introduce cost-effective employee health programs, available as a PDF file here.  As featured by Amanda McGrory of Benefits Pro, the guide, titled “Employer Health Asset Management: A Roadmap for Improving the Health of Your Employees and Your Organization,” outlines seven strategic elements that should be implemented in order to implement a successful wellness program. Each of the seven steps requires involvement and accountability from employers and employees.

Step 1: Develop and embrace an organizational vision of health

While employers may tend to focus on reducing short-term medical costs, research shows that a short-term focus on medical costs provides limited results. The more effective approach is a strategic vision of employee health focusing on making employee health a central part of the organizational vision. This means establishing a vision of a healthy and productive work force, and supporting programs that improve employee health through workplace policies that complement healthy values.

Step 2: Senior management commitment and participation

In implementation, senior leadership needs to lead the way for establishing the programs and policies designed to encourage healthier lifestyles  by ensuring that all managers recognize their own responsibilities in the culture of health. Evidence and research of the financial correlation between productivity and healthy employees is key.

Step 3: Address workplace policies and the work environment

Smoke-free workplace policies are an example of workplace policies that create a wellness-promoting environment.

“When a substantial portion of the employer’s health care costs result from unhealthy lifestyle choices made by employees, health policies are as important as safety policies,” Employer Health Asset Management states. “Written policies do a good job defining and communicating expectations.”

Step 4: Identify diagnostics, informatics and metrics

Metrics and measurements are invaluable in analyzing what contributes to the total cost of poor health and the true impact of health initiatives. For employers who do not have integrated data warehouse capabilities, insurers and vendors in the health benefits and analytics marketplace do. Some provide a comprehensive analysis for a more complete picture.

“Once the employee population is stratified, management can select specific prevention and intervention strategies that will have the greatest impact on health status, healthcare costs and health-related productivity,” Employer Health Asset Management states. “Programs should also address employee relations and morale and job satisfaction, as well as discrete improvements in measurable biometrics such as blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar and stress levels.”

Step 5: Set health goals and program elements

Goals should be tied to improvements rather than fixed endpoints.  Implement programs that push trends in the right direction and accelerate the pace of improvement, focusing on 1) helping put high-risk employees on the road to better health; and 2) helping healthy employees maintain good habits. Incentives to promote healthy employee behavioral changes are particularly effective – they drive participation, which drives health improvement, driving cost and productivity improvement. Incentives range from cash cards and reward points for catalog shopping to a reduction in co-pays or premium contributions.

Step 6: Create a value-based plan design

Employers should adopt a model based on the value of particular benefits to individual patients.  One of the downsides of cost sharing is that it can create financial barriers to critical medical services and medicines that support wellness, resulting in higher long term costs.

Employer Health Asset Management states that benefit designs traditionally had little understanding of healthcare cost drivers and followed the lead of competitors without adequate consideration of how to fit the specific employee needs of the organization.  A one-size-fits-all cost-sharing model can be adopted to a value-based plan design by tailoring co-payments to the evidence-based value of specific services for targeted groups of patients.

Step 7: Integrate patient-centered medical home (PCMH) and chronic care management 

To attain better health outcomes, comprehensive primary care is key. A patient-centered medical home model (PCMH) provides each patient with a continuing relationship with a personal physician trained to provide ongoing, comprehensive care.  This is also effective in chronic care management to reduce the costs related to uncontrolled health conditions.

“Many employers and fund trustees understand the value of prevention and are receptive to the PCMH concept,” according to Employer Health Asset Management. “For those patients whose diseases need to be closely managed to prevent their health from deteriorating, the PCMH provides an integrated approach to care.”

2 Tactics to Support your Strategy:

Communication Boosts Participation

According to a report by consultancy Towers Watson, 58 percent of employers said low engagement was the greatest obstacle to their wellness initiatives. Reasons for poor participation included:

  • Employees’ misunderstanding that wellness programs are only for individuals with existing health conditions.
  • Inadequate education about the resources available to them.
  • Lack of clear communication to employees when the wellness program is introduced and implemented.

A Personal Approach Works Best

Some employers adopt wellness champions or ambassadors who help spread enthusiasm about the program throughout the organization. Employers can also publich regular articles in the company newsletters or distribute personal benefits statements that highlight their total compensation package. Outside resources, including top benefits providers can also provide communications support. Some benefits carriers offer one-to-one benefits counseling services as part of their enrollment package. Individual, personalized communication can provide consistent messages that help employees understand the wellness services available and the benefits of participation.

Colonial Life survey of employees who meet individually with benefits counselors during enrollment indicated the effectiveness of the one-to-one method. 96 percent of employees surveyed said personal benefits counseling improved their understanding of their benefits and that this type of communication was important (98 percent).

Related Articles:

More articles on setting up a wellness program:

Social media needs a place in wellness programsBenefitsPro

5 ways to improve your wellness programBenefitsPro

Say this, not thatBenefitsPro

10 key characteristics of wellness programs, BenefitsPro

Wellness Initiatives Can Ease the Pain of Rising Benefits Costs SHRM Online April 2012

What Level of Impact Fits Your Wellness Plan?SHRM Online Benefits Discipline, April 2012

Measuring the Success of Wellness Programs Still a ChallengeSHRM OnlineBenefits Discipline, April 2012

Designing and Managing Wellness Programs, SHRM Toolkits, December 2011

Employees Want Personalized Plans that Support Health Improvement,SHRM Online Benefits Discipline, November 2011

Declining Health of U.S. Workers Is Driving Up Employer CostsSHRM OnlineBenefits Discipline, April 2011

Finding Wellness’s Return on InvestmentHR Magazine, June 2008

The ROI of Wellness Programs: From Perk to Priority InvestmentSHRM Online Benefits Discipline, January 2007

How can wellness programs benefit employers, and what are the general steps for implementing a wellness program?, SHRM HR Q&As, January 2012


Snap! principle of Wellness Programs:

Adding wellness initiatives can help dramatically lower benefits costs, and improve employee morale can improve as workers begin to feel better about themselves and their employers.

In previous posts, I have shown that, while insurers have taken the brunt of public blame for rising U.S. health care costs, they are not in fact the source of the problem and have done much to help bring costs under control.  The above chart illustrates that insurance company profits account for only 3 cents per health care dollar, and 14 cents can be attributed to insurance services, vs. 86 cents to providers.  Consistent with my analysis that it is the upstream providers who are responsible for rising costs, an April 23, 2012 AP article by Lindsey Tanner featured in Bangor Daily News provides an example of some of the problems.

Appendix Treatments Vary by Tens of Thousands of Dollars

What do hospitals charge to remove an appendix? The startling answer is that it could be the same as the price of a refrigerator — or a house.

It’s a common, straightforward operation, so you might expect charges to be similar no matter where the surgery takes place. Yet a California study published in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine found huge disparities in patients’ bills — $1,500 to $180,000, with an average of $33,000.

Inexplicable Cost Differences

The researchers and other experts say the results aren’t unique to California and illustrate a broken system.

“There’s no method to the madness,” said lead author Dr. Renee Hsia, an emergency room physician and researcher at the University of California, San Francisco. “There’s no system at all to determine what is a rational price for this condition or this procedure.”

The disparities are partly explained by differences among patients and where they were treated. For example, some had more costly procedures, including multiple imaging scans, or longer hospital stays. A very small number were treated without surgery, though most had appendectomies. Some were sicker and needed more intensive care.

But the researchers could find no explanation for about one-third of the cost differences.

The researchers examined 2009 data that hospitals were required to submit to the state on 19,368 patients with appendicitis. To get the fairest comparisons, the researchers included only uncomplicated cases with hospital stays of less than four days. Patients were 18 to 59 years old.

The study looked at what patients were billed, before contributions from their health insurance — if they had any. The figures don’t reflect what hospitals were actually paid. Insurance companies often negotiate to pay less than what they are billed, and what patients pay depends on their health plans. Those least able to pay — the uninsured — could be socked with the full bill. Still, even those with good health insurance may end up paying a portion of the cost, so price matters, Hsia said.

Uninsured and Medicaid patients had slightly higher bills than those with private insurance. Charges were highest at for-profit hospitals, followed by nonprofits. County hospitals, typically safety-net hospitals, had the lowest charges.

The costliest bill, totaling $182,955, involved a woman who also had cancer. She was treated at a hospital in California’s Silicon Valley. Her bill didn’t show any cancer-related treatment. The smallest bill, $1,529, involved a patient who had her appendix removed in rural Northern California. Otherwise, the cases were similar: Both patients were hospitalized for one day, had minimally invasive surgery, and had similar numbers of procedures and tests on their bills.  Data from the federal Agency of Healthcare Research and Quality and the International Federation of Health Plans suggest the nationwide average price for an appendectomy is almost $28,000. Many cases involved charges well over $100,000 and under $2,000, Hsia said. Also, within geographic regions, the lowest and highest charges differed by tens of thousands of dollars.

Itemized bills for appendix removal can include fees for staying overnight in the hospital, the surgery and surgical supplies, operating room expenses, anesthesia, imaging tests, medicine and lab tests.

The analysis echoes other reports, including a study of 66 hospitals in the U.S. and Canada that found charges for the same services varied widely in both countries. Other studies have found big geographic disparities in health care costs.

Dr. David Goodman, director of Dartmouth College’s Center for Health Policy Research, said the differences found in the study are credible and “very concerning.”

Caroline Steinberg, a vice president at the American Hospital Association, said hospitals partly set charges based on their costs of providing services, which vary by community. Steinberg said if two patients with the exact same condition received exactly the same services in the same hospital, the charges would be similar.  But Hsia said the problem is that most hospitals don’t advertise charges, and sick patients generally don’t get to choose the exact drugs or surgical techniques that are used on them. The study was paid for by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which funds health research and programs.

Can Government Do Anything?

Other developed countries have more government regulation that prevents these wild disparities. U.S. critics of that kind of system favor more market competition, yet the study illustrates that “the laws of supply and demand simply do not work well in health care,” said Dr. Howard Brody, director of the Institute for the Medical Humanities at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston and a frequent critic of skyrocketing medical costs.

President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul, now in the hands of the U.S. Supreme Court, would have little effect on the kinds of disparities seen in the study, policy experts say. One section of the law bars tax-exempt hospitals from charging uninsured people more than the rates insured patients end up paying because of discounts negotiated by insurance companies. The government has not said how the reductions for uninsured people would be calculated, said health care consultant Keith Hearle.

As noted above, for-profit hospitals have the highest charges.  With consolidations occurring, with huge growth in for-profit hospitals’ share of the market,  there has still been little political will to tackle the problem of the growing clout of large hospital groups.

Snap! principle of rising health care costs:

The upstream providers need increased scrutiny and responsibility.

North Korean military officer with diagram of the demilitarized zone in Panmunjom, North Korea

According to the New York Times on  April 23, 2012, “North Korea on Monday accused South Korea’s government and news media of slandering its leadership and threatened “special actions” by the military, a sharp escalation of the bellicose statements that have accompanied the rise of Kim Jong-un, the North’s new and still unproven leader.”

The AP report by Vincent Yu clarifies that North Korea has regularly threatened to attack the government of President Lee Myung-bak in South Korea, but threats have become harsher and more specific, causing some fear that a military provocation may occur as part of the effort to establish Mr. Kim’s authority at home and boost his potential negotiating leverage with the United States.

On Monday, the North Korean military said it would act “soon” and named its targets, including the government of President Lee, several South Korean newspapers and television stations and “rat-like” elements that it said were “destroying fair-minded public opinion.”

Time to Panic? Dispelling some Myths

No. My years of experience in South Korea have exposed me to in depth analyses of similar provocative statements and events over the course of the years.  Let me dispel some of the myths around North and South Korea

Myth 1: China would like nothing more than to see South Korea come under their sphere of influence.

China has never shown any interest in South Korea. They have always supported a divided Korea as a buffer between Japan/the West, and this caused them to send human waves of Chinese foot soldiers into North Korea to reestablish and make permanent the division at the 38th parallel during the war. Satisfied at having pushed MacArthur’s troops back to the 38th parallel, they negotiated a treaty with the West.

Myth 2: By allowing an attack, China could intervene, forging a peace deal  making them a world power equal to what the US was in the 1950s and 1960s. 

There is no strategic reason to do so. They already dominate the region and are South Korea’s major trading partner and economic ally. China is facing many daunting economic and social challenges of it’s own and has no interest in upsetting the status quo. A thriving North Korean regime and cooperative South Korea serves as an ideal buffer against the West and a war in Korea would be an unnecessary burden and distraction.  Since China wants to avoid waves of immigration from North Korea, they continue to help the North Koreans as their major provider of food and energy.

Myth 3: The nature of the North Korean threats is different and more serious this time around.

Good policy takes both the war threat and the typical baseless North Korean brinkmanship tactics scenarios seriously. But there is nothing extraordinary in this rhetoric, and it was anticipated in the wake of the recent failed launch.

Myth 4:  The US needs to take a harder line in view of North Korea’s nuclear threat and belligerent rhetoric, which President Obama may not be able to pull off. 

No administration mishandled the North Korean dialogue more than Bush, who provoked them with his “axis of evil” rhetoric and empty sabre rattling, which only served to undermine the U.S.’s influence in the region and highlight the U.S.’s lack of options. Nothing was accomplished, the 6 way talks were suspended, and tension on the peninsula was heightened, straining relations with allies throughout the region. Even this blatant exceptionalism did not destabilize the region to the point of provoking a war, demonstrating the relative stability of the situation in North Korea and in the Korean peninsula. no matter which political party controls the White House.

Myth 5: North Korea, because of its difficult economic situation, has nothing to lose by launching a war now.

The realpolitics of the region greatly favor the status quo. It’s a rare event that vested interests gamble it all away on desperate acts of war. In fact, when war does break out, as in the two World Wars, it is the result of stumbling into in an environment of smouldering conditions until a tipping point is reached.  North Korea is in a continued position to receive aid from China, the US and South Korea (as under the more liberal former administrations of Kim Dae Joon and No Mu Hyeon. Even if the current Lee administration takes a harder line, the voting demographics point to a return to more liberal policies in the future.)

Final Analysis:

The Korean War (or the 6-25 War, as the South Koreans refer to it) occurred at the tail end of a full-out war as the result of a rushed power grab by the regional powers – Russia, China, US as they moved in to free Korea of their 35 year-long imperial Japanese occupation.  The arrangement that best suited all controlling interests was to divide the peninsula into two nations at the 38th parallel, and that was supposed to be the end of it.  For some inexplicable reason, the arrangement did not quite suit the Koreans, who wondered why they, instead of Japan were to be punished. Neither North nor South Korea would sign the armistice agreement, and finally it was the North that broke it, instigating the war, plowing through the peninsula all the way to the Southeastern corner.

MacArthur’s surprise landing at Incheon, under the auspices of the UN drove the line of scrimmage back to the 38th parallel.  However, MacArthur also failed to follow the script, pushing all the way up to the Chinese border. The Chinese pushed the West right back to the 38th parallel, where  hostilities ceased, and MacArthur was recalled by Truman.

In retrospect, it isn’t so surprising that North and South Korea would reject the gentleman’s agreement to divide their nation, and commence hostilities at the time.

Since then, a lot has changed, and it’s fair to say that the threat of war and unification are over.  South Korea has a thriving economy, and three North Korean administrations have entrenched themselves in a cozy vested power structure, enjoying the fruits of a corrupt and comfortable niche.

That is, barring the possibility that a sabre rattling accident gets out of hand. However, there have been numerous tests of this – sinkings of South Korean ships by the North, kidnappings, the botched assassination of President Park Cheong Hee that took his wife’s life, the Pueblo incident, and numerous other provocations.  Yet none of these has escalated into a full scale war. And a great many of these occurred at a time when NK had the clear military superiority, which they no longer have.

While the threat of a war is remote, the primary concern is NK’s arms dealing, counterfeiting, drug trading and the development of nuclear arms for trade and the potential to disrupt the status quo abroad.

Right now, the North been playing a cat and mouse game – in effect bribery – to hedge their bets with China, as their main supplier of food and energy. They want to diversify their supply by tapping into the West, and are using this nuclear card as their ace.

For more information on doing business in Korea, visit Soft Landing Consulting http://www.softlandingkorea.com

Snap! principle of  political alarmism:

Rogue nations develop nuclear weapons as a bargaining chip. Expecting them to give up their ace is unrealistic. What they really want is to extort their way into the economic order. Slow and steady wins the race.

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