CRM Kick-Starts Successful Direct Marketing Campaigns at St. Bernards

November 15, 2022

// By Jane Weber Brubaker //


St. Bernards’ marketing team tried to run direct mail campaigns on their own, but they weren’t working. Today, it’s a different story.

Without the right tools, it’s hard to meet your strategic goals. With the right tools and partners, it’s as different as night and day.

At St. Bernards Healthcare in northeast Arkansas, trying to prospect for new patients among new movers wasn’t working. That changed when the health system adopted a CRM platform, Virgin Pulse, in 2017. “Before we had this system in place, we tried to reach new neighbors in all kinds of ways,” says Laura Pickens, vice president of marketing and public relations at St. Bernards. “We weren’t good at it. We would pay for lists and try to do our own mailings, and that was costly. We couldn’t show a return like we can with this platform.”


Laura Pickens, vice president of marketing and public relations at St. Bernards Healthcare

Today, St. Bernards’ “New Movers” direct mail campaign, targeted to anyone with a new address in the system’s primary or secondary service area, is working like gangbusters. “We had a 69.7 percent response rate, which is incredible,” says Lydia Parkey, executive director of St. Bernards Medical Group. These results are for the life of the campaign, beginning in 2017, with an eight-month pause in 2020 due to COVID.

The response rate reflects actual patient visits — not just appointments — for services at St. Bernards. “This is anybody that took any action within our system — appointment with a provider, visited an urgent care, imaging, surgical procedure — anything,” Parkey says. “I think that’s one of the things we love about the CRM system…we can actually see that you came in as a patient.”

Based on this success, St. Bernards deploys a full menu of campaigns, reaching out to patients and prospects at key times.

Welcoming New Patients

The new movers direct mail campaign runs for 90 days, with three drops. “The main goal is for people to have positive brand engagement at a minimum and convert to patients at a maximum,” Parkey says. Everyone selected for the campaign will get all three drops “whether they take action or not,” she adds. “We don’t have varying paths.”

The messaging in the first drop is generic, with “Welcome to the Neighborhood” on the front, and messaging inside that covers “new residents and those who grew up here.” The imagery in the second drop is geared toward women, typically the family decision-makers regarding healthcare. The call to action is to call the Healthline — the name for St. Bernards’ call center — or visit the website to find a family doctor. The last drop focuses on specialty care and innovation, with the tagline on the cover: “Unparalleled progress meets unstoppable care.”

View campaign assets here:

New Movers – Drop 1

New Movers – Drop 2

New Movers – Drop 3

The CRM platform enables detailed analysis. “We can drill down further into the campaign and see what [patients] did. Was this a physical preventative visit? Was this a routine office visit? Did they have imaging? Were they brand-new patients?” explains Parkey. The reporting showed that 8,895 people were new patients.

Marketing Services with Capacity: Mammograms


Lydia Parkey, executive director, St. Bernards Medical Group

Parkey describes St. Bernards’ imaging center as “a well-oiled machine” with lots of capacity. “They offer imaging services until 7 p.m. at night and they have weekend imaging,” she says.

It made sense to target women for mammograms, to schedule their initial mammogram at age 40, or if they hadn’t had a mammogram in the past year.

For those turning 40, Parkey says, “We know that we always have an opportunity to market mammograms, and one of the best things we could do is wish a woman happy birthday when she’s turning 40.”

The direct mail piece contains information about early detection, with a link to more information online, including a questionnaire and form to request an appointment. “It’s not true self-scheduling, but we’ve tried to make it as easy as possible,” Parkey says. Women can also call the St. Bernards Healthline.

This mailing is sent to patients as well as prospects. “We have a 9.29 percent response rate on that, and that’s pretty consistent,” says Parkey. The response rate for existing patients is higher — 15 percent.

Women over 40 who put off getting their annual mammogram receive a mailing urging them to “stay on top of your breast health.” It shows images of a pea, a grain of rice, a dime, and a quarter, indicating the advantages of catching a lump as early as possible.

This campaign is sent to existing patients only, and the response rate is 11.98 percent. “It is people actually getting their mammogram — it’s not just the appointment. We can see the procedure code that they got their mammogram after we sent that to them,” says Parkey.

The CRM runs this campaign automatically based on a look-back of patient records, based on time since their last mammogram of greater than one year.

Going forward, the marketing team plans to follow up with an email to those who haven’t responded within 30 days, urging them to get their mammograms.

View campaign assets here:

Mammo Campaign – Women Turning 40

Mammo Campaign – Women Over 40, overdue for annual screening

Other Triggered Campaigns

There are many other opportunities to reach out to patients and prospects at key times, based on their age:

  • Colonoscopy screening at age 50
  • Welcome to Medicare at age 65
  • When young people turn 26 and are no longer on their parents’ health insurance

“We have a lapsed patient [campaign] for all for our primary care clinics as well,” says Parkey. “It works like the mammography. Every month we look 360 days back and see who hasn’t been and then we send that to them.”

Clean Data and Targeting Are Key

Successful direct mail marketing relies on three variables: list, offer, and creative. Of the three, list is the most critical. You can have a great offer and beautiful design, but if you send it to the wrong people, they won’t respond. “One of the reasons we really like Virgin Pulse is their data is as accurate and clean as possible,” Parkey says.

She adds, “One of the best decisions we ever made was partnering with a CRM company to do targeted marketing like this. I mean, honestly, before we partnered with them, we did direct mail very sparsely because it just was not a good investment financially. But this absolutely has been a good investment financially.”

Jane Weber Brubaker is executive editor of Plain-English Health Care, a division of Plain-English Media. She directs editorial content for eHealthcare Strategy & Trends and Strategic Health Care Marketing and is past chair of the eHealthcare Leadership Awards. Email her at