Canadian Underwriter

E-marketing: Key to Your (E)Brand

August 4, 2010  

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“Initially brokers [contacted us because they] just felt they had to have a presence,” says Matthew Myers, COO and executive vice president of A.K.A. New Media, a Toronto-based media company with over a decade in the marketing business. “Brokers were too busy doing what they do well–servicing their clients–and they didn’t have the internal capabilities to know how and what to do with online marketing.”

Myers explains that the initial drive for many brokers was to establish an online presence, “so they can be there when the consumer does a search.” It was the online equivalent of a brochure, says Myers.

That initial impetus has evolved. “In the last number of years, younger brokers have come into the market [and these brokers] have a deeper understanding of technology,” says Myers. “They assume [technology] will be a part of what they do.”

Now, a well-thought-out online presence is an integral part of a broker(age)’s brand.

Retain the Client
Myers agrees that more brokers and brokerages are embracing online tools for branding and customer service. For example, a few brokers have started blogs and a few brokerages have started e-newsletters. While new eyes–and new customers–are often the aim of these initiatives, Myers suggests that online marketing is also important for current customer relationships.

“A lot of brokerages have long-term relationships with their clients, but these clients may only know their broker for one particular area of business, such as auto insurance,” says Myers. “With a website you can promote other products and areas of business. This can help to sell more services to your existing clients and can be as simple as a few simple prompts or reminders of different coverage areas.” For example, a broker that deals with auto or home insurance can remind clients of cottage coverage with an e-blast. This type of marketing satisfies touch points–which many clients ask for–and helps brokers round the account.

According to Myers, e-marketing is particularly important for smaller brokers/brokerages as the low capital expense it requires to get or develop web presence can help the firm showcase their breadth of service and products and compete with larger firms.

Meet Client Expectations
“Consumers expect more,” explains Erin McKeever, account manager with AKA New Media. That means, “Consumers expect more from their brokers, including differing levels of convenience.”

For example, many brokerages now offer online document depositories, where clients can upload documents, view their policies, or access specialized tips via a secure portal.

One key difference between web development now and 10 years ago is that brokers now realize that clients want them to be insurance experts, says Myers. That has led to developing and packaging solutions based on demographics and lifestyles. For example, says Myers, some brokerages/carriers are grouping products around young families or seniors.

Customer Segmentation
One key attribute of e-marketing is the ability to provide a great deal of information while developing customer segments. One example, says McKeever, are brokers who service the snowmobiling community; a few of these brokers have developed webpages or used social networking tools, such as Facebook, to develop a web presence for this niche community, explains McKeever.

Make the Sale; Focus on the Customer
That said, McKeever and Myers are the first to admit that brokers–and the insurance industry in general–are not trailblazers when it comes to technology. Still, over the past 10 years the industry–and, in fact, North American culture–has become far more comfortable with starting and finishing insurance transactions online. Yet, this transition to the use of technology enables brokers to manage the relationship with the consumers, rather than managing the transaction. The goal is not to replace the broker, says Myers, but to enable the broker to systematize the transactional sales and focus their customer service on more in-depth insurance requests. For example, products that are standard (and transactional based), such as pet insurance or auto insurance, can now be completed using online forms, while real-time rate requests have become the standard.

Myers and McKeever have noticed an acceleration in the number of brokers getting online, and the number requesting online expertise. “In the beginning we felt we were pulling the brokers uphill,” says Myers. “Now we feel they are much more forward-thinking and understand that [technology] is crucial to their success.”

© Copyright 2010 Rogers Publishing Ltd. This article first appeared in the May 2010 edition of Canadian Insurance Top Broker magazine.

This story was originally published by Canadian Insurance Top Broker.