Katie Jameson explains how marketing automation is revolutionising the insurance industry.
When it comes to handling and interpreting data, the insurance sector has often been at the forefront. It was one of the first industries to start hiring staff specifically to manage databases - something that is now a familiar practice - and has a model almost exclusively assembled around statistics and understanding its customers.
Insurers haven't been as quick to adopt marketing automation, though. For many, the idea of adapting and personalising communications across an expansive target audience spanning a number of different generations, niches and products still seems an enormous test. Because of the huge number of variables, from renewal dates to individual customer knowledge, switching over from manual processes can sometimes appear to be an almost futile job.
However, the insurance sector could profit from marketing automation which can help providers improve lead generation and adjust the journey to the respective needs of each customer.
To cut through the noise and successfully market to prospects, insurers and sales teams, communications need to be bespoke for each recipient. The term 'marketing automation' often makes people think of mass emails, but it is much more than that. Marketing automation shines the brightest when it comes to personalisation, and both artificial and predictive intelligence will play a bigger part in this space during the coming years.
Marketing automation platforms can help process databases and produce significant insights - such as when customers are online and what their favourite channels are - for the many segments that insurance companies target. A good platform must then be capable of turning this insight and segmentation into action by using the customer data to accommodate communications in the best way.
Doing this creates higher sales effectiveness, more inbound and outbound leads, and increased customer loyalty, all while reducing the work involved and the demand for expensive reporting.
Marketing automation can be combined with many other aspects of marketing, too. A properly adaptive journey incorporates not only email, but also SMS, banner and social media ads - wherever it will work best for the customer. A good multi-channel marketing strategy in itself can be a way for insurance companies to diversify themselves, making their messages seem timelier and more appropriate than those of their competitors and supporting the brand direction.
Physicians Insurance, a provider of liability insurance for clinics, physicians and hospitals in the US, has been marketing to new buyers to counter the recent the decline of physicians leaving independent practices to work for large clients and hospitals with their own self-insurance programmes. It found its previous software couldn't keep up with demand and failed to deliver targeted content that addressed the specific needs of each buyer.
With a large chunk of its revenue coming from maintaining its core book of business, the company decided that retaining customers, and using a more relational approach, should be a critical component of its strategy.
To do this, the insurer distributed three monthly newsletters. The first supplied resources to help companies curtail the risk of medical errors, the second delivered thought-leadership pieces and the third was shared with brokers to educate them and aid in servicing clients. Through marketing automation, the company was able to segment the audience by job title, speciality, geographic region and even clinic size, and the lists were synced automatically to ensure the company's huge database was always up to date.
Physicians Insurance then tailored the content in the newsletters to each group, making it easier to alert administrators to potential cyber threats and even offer obstetricians online courses about new developments in managing post-partum haemorrhages. Overall, marketing automation cut down Physicians Insurance's time-consuming operations and tackled the manual management and segmentation of its lists. It also had a major impact on the results, helping the company achieve a 95% customer retention rate - considerably higher than the industry median of 84% - and driving open rates as high as 31% for existing clients.
Furthermore, marketing automation gave insights that helped Physicians Insurance to build on its marketing strategy. Act-On tracked and assessed how and when buyers interacted with messages, so Physicians Insurance was able to build and adapt strategies depending on its audience segments, providing more detailed insights.
In the UK, RSA Insurance - one of the world's longest standing insurers - used Act-On and marketing automation to break through the noise of its brokers and risk managers' inboxes, as it found its previous system sent emails straight into 'junk mail' folders. Like Physicians Insurance, RSA Insurance's previous marketing method was time consuming, difficult and lacked a strategic plan based on analytics.
RSA Insurance used marketing automation to create and deliver professional emails and landing pages simply and clearly. Its ability to A/B test and report on email performance enabled the company to further refine its emails and messaging, which resulted in an increase in open and click-through rates across its various email campaigns.
The results show why automation is set to become an essential strategy for insurers to approach the right clients and nurture the right prospects, all while manoeuvring through a highly competitive insurance market. The future across all sectors looks certain to be more adaptive and personalised, and the insurance industry won't be an exception.
Katie Jameson is the head of EMEA marketing at Act-On Software, a leading provider of marketing automation and one of the fastest growing tech companies in North America