Canadian Underwriter

Attention Please

October 3, 2011   by Greg Purdy

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Brokers today face an onslaught of competition from all fronts. There are some very dangerous trends occurring such as increasing levels of brokerage ownership, direct writers that are becoming more aggressive, and consolidation, which is forcing brokers to find ways to grow to retain company contracts. The very survival of the traditional broker will depend on how they respond to these pressures.

Marketing will prove to be a significant differentiator in the battle for the customer.  The world of traditional marketing is being turned upside down by social media marketing and brokers must have a comprehensive strategy to respond. A Google search for the term “social media marketing” produces more than 73 million responses, thus there are clearly many ideas on what and how to implement a social media plan.

Traditional Marketing

Even though traditional marketing is generally familiar to brokers, many have chosen to engage in little more than placing an advertisement in the local newspaper or Yellow Pages. There is and always has been a role for traditional marketing, and it should be part of your ongoing growth strategy. Traditional marketing is generally comprised of advertising, out-bound phone calls, direct mail, blast faxes and email, public relations, sponsorships and tradeshows. The question in today’s environment is, ”Should I engage in traditional marketing?” The response is “absolutely,” and here are some ideas to take advantage of this plan.

Grab People’s Attention. If you are using print media or emails, you must have information or a graphic that captures the eye of the consumer. For example, in Ontario less than 10% of auto policyholders have purchased optional Accident Benefits coverage. To generate consumer awareness we created emails highlighting the expenses associated with recovery. All brokers should be focusing their communication on the serious impact on the loss of coverage and use this opportunity to prove they offer advice in addition to price.

Be Different. Think about ways to stand out. If you review broker websites in Canada, you will find the majority of them tell a story about how the brokerage was started three generations ago, has been passed down through the family, and remains in good standing in their community. This will not get you noticed. Take a look at popular sites in any industry, such as Walmart, Ebay and Progressive Insurance, and see how they engage the consumer and make it easy to navigate. Also, brokers should consider having more than one website to highlight unique selling features in relation to specific products or niche markets, such as a separate site for vintage cars. Have a link between your websites as this can improve your Google search results.

Be Consumer Friendly. It is essential that you deliver on the promise made in the marketing, and do it in a way that encourages the customer to follow through. For example, last year I received a direct mail piece regarding auto insurance. There wasn’t anything different about the piece but it did have a web address that I could go to for additional information. This was not particularly user friendly. If this had been done in an email campaign I would  have clicked on the address to find the additional information, but there is little chance that I, like most people, will go to a computer and type in a web address.

Numbers. To be successful in whatever approach you use (e.g. direct mail, advertising, public relations) it has to reach large numbers. However, to be competitive brokers will need to move beyond numbers and extend their relationship through engagements, which form the foundation of social media.

Social Media Marketing

Marketing with social media has a very different premise than traditional marketing. With social media you are targeting groups that have been established based on their needs and interests, and are more inclined to be interested in what you have to offer. In Everything I Learned about Marketing, I learned from Google, Aaron Goldman states, “It’s not about letting the crowd do the work for you. It’s about finding the wise within it and giving them the tools to enhance your brand.” This has very different implications on how brokers should be using social media to enhance their marketing.

Wikipedia provides us with the following definition for social media. “Social media marketing programs usually centre on efforts to create content that attracts attention and encourages readers to share it with their social networks. A corporate message spreads from user to user and presumably resonates because it is coming from a trusted, third-party source.” How can you incorporate this into your marketing?

You must become part of the communities that exist in the world of social media. Brokers have been a trusted advisor since the inception of insurance. By becoming familiar with LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and other types of social media, brokers can extend their platform and provide advice in ways that were impossible just a few years ago. By engaging in the discussion found on these sites and in these groups, brokers can provide context and content on the role of insurance, which re-enforces their value proposition.

For example, Linkedin has a group for oil and gas professionals with over 42,000 members and daily discussions on what is currently happening in the industry. Brokers that provide insurance to that sector should be a member and an active participant in this group. Imagine the value of reaching 42,000 people and demonstrating your value and expertise on a regular basis. This can be done without spending thousands of dollars on printing and distribution, and instead it just takes time and planning. There are groups for every conceivable product or service, and by joining the community you can become a trusted third party that they will look to for information regarding insurance.

However, it is challenging to track the direct return on investment (ROI) on time spent participating in discussions, blogs, and developing content that is not directly aimed at making a sale. This point was reiterated when RSA president and CEO Rowan Saunders was discussing RSA’s corporate strategy on social marketing at a Toronto Insurance Women’s Association (TIWA) dinner in April. I asked how they quantified their ROI. His response was that it is very difficult to do so.

Segmentation and Metrics

To understand your growth opportunities you must have comprehensive knowledge of your customers and prospects. Begin by entering as much data as you can into your broker management system (BMS) for customers, prospects and policy details. Many commercial brokers only keep documents and spreadsheets attached to customer files with basic information. By doing this, brokers miss the opportunity to track details that allow them to differentiate their service by knowing important dates, interests and relationships for the insured and potential prospects associated with them.

Once you have completed comprehensive customer and policy profiles you can now segment your database by a variety of specific variables. Typically this will include identifying the industry, coverages, limits, age, and the number of policies per client, renewal dates and comparisons to industry benchmarks. With this breakdown it is much easier to create very specific and successful communications for your target audience.

Use either a traditional or social media marketing approach to drive the best results. The number of policies written against the amount of money spent to implement the campaign will generally measure the success of traditional marketing. For social media, the costs can be significantly lower and you will be measuring the time invested by you or your staff to participate in the social media communities you wish to participate in. Remember with metrics, fewer is better, they must be aligned with your business plan, and you need to monitor them on a regular basis.


Greg Purdy is managing partner at Pathway Partners Ltd.


Copyright 2011 Rogers Publishing Ltd. This article first appeared in the June 2011 edition of Canadian Insurance Top Broker magazine.

This story was originally published by Canadian Insurance Top Broker.