An analog industry in a digital world
Marketing means many different things to different people.
Some immediately make the mental jump to traditional advertising and will explain it as TV, radio, and print ads, while others will conflate marketing with aggressive outbound “spam” emails or telephone solicitation. In some industries, marketing is another word for sales, while in others the marketing function resides almost entirely within the realm of what is actually public relations.
They’re all wrong – and yet, at the same time, they’re all at least partially correct. Everything I listed above is a tactic of marketing, but none of those tactics constitute marketing in its entirety.
Businesses tend to be somewhat myopic about what marketing is, and how effective it is, based on their experiences and the industry standards they live within. A handful of marketing tactics are often put into a bag of common tools and frequently leveraged until they’re understood by the marketing, sales, and executive teams… and that becomes the company or industry’s playbook.
Also, if any one of those tactics produces the lion’s share of sales or lead generation, that playbook rapidly becomes a sacred doctrine, and the myopia accelerates until woe betide the Marketing Director who asks too many questions.
Most insurance companies are all too familiar with this situation. In many of the more established insurance carrier companies, “marketing” means broker distribution – which is, more accurately, a channel sales strategy. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve seen several companies expand their marketing toolbox and leverage a broader spectrum of tactics (cue Flo and that loud Duck), but many more are locked into the worksite sales channels that have been the mainstay of the industry for decades.
Augmentation, not disintermediation
Now, we’re not in ANY way advocating for cutting brokers, agencies, and other benefits experts out of the sales process… so please lower your torches and pitchforks. We’re merely pointing out that complete reliance on the traditional worksite “enrollment day” sales model overlooks a changing population – a volatile and increasingly remote workforce – and ignores many opportunities to make enrollment more effective.
Marketing, particularly effective and appropriate digital marketing as an element of enrollment and retention, has never been more critical to the insurance and benefits industry. You’ve probably heard marketers like me say that before, but I assure you it’s more than our own self-preservation driving us back to beat that drum.
Here are four reasons why. There are more, but we’ll focus on these four points for the sake of brevity.
I’m in my early 40s, and I’m the last of your potential customers who can remember life before computers. The first computer I had daily access to appeared in second grade, making us late-70s kids the last non-digital natives. Everyone born after us had a computer around their entire life. That’s your emerging buyer and policy holder: They’ve lived their whole life with computers (and most of it with the internet), and they don’t understand why they’re still filling out pieces of paper or taking time out of their day to listen to a pitch that could be explained via video or email.
A lot of us are wondering what enrollment day 2021 is going to look like. Theories abound… but think beyond those, and beyond 2021. With such a huge percentage of the workforce doing their jobs from home, and many companies making the decision to stay remote in the future, chances are there will be way fewer group sessions and broker meetings going forward. Slick, easy enrollment and digital consumer education will take it from here.
People live their lives on their phones and via their social media accounts, yet most insurance companies and brokers rely on direct contact and physical mail to attract customers. Our Facebook feeds are showing us ads and content that fit our exact persona and immediate needs… but my insurance agent is still mailing out flyers. We can do better and drive sales, engagement, and renewals.
The Digital Sales Teammate
We all have a finite amount of time in our day. There are only so many calls we can make, meetings we can schedule, or deals we can close in nine hours. Your digital marketing machine, also known as the digital marketing mix, can extend your capabilities and augment your efficiency. Maybe it’s a great webpage, a video that answers common questions about coverage, a remarketing ad that catches the eye of someone who didn’t enroll, or an article that explains what coverage people in their situation should look at. These are all ways to engage the consumer and increase your sales and administrative efficacy; and, in many cases, they’re more affordable than you might think.
These are just some of the reasons why Genius Avenue has a marketing group that assists our partners throughout the buyer’s journey. Our S.E.A. Advantage platform can handle every transaction and our marketing group is here to add gas to the machine.
Closing the gaps
So, here’s how it works.
We recognize that every company, product, or association has unique needs, so Genius Avenue’s Partner Marketing Support adjusts to meet the needs of each partner’s specific situation. For example, a company with a captive audience, strong distribution channels, and their own marketers may not need much additional help, while a company with little or no in-house marketing may need us to drive most of their strategy. We can, and do, support both types of companies.
To pull this off, we meet with our partners several times during the onboarding process to determine the best strategy and tactics to support the product. Then, we assemble the right tactical toolkit. We approach these conversations as marketing consultants looking to provide the best results, not necessarily the easiest or most affordable.
Here are a few of the tactics, channels, and strategies we support:
Website design and optimization
Our S.E.A. Advantage platform includes the hosting of full websites, microsites, landing pages, and enrollment pages as part of the core offering. Our team of professional marketers, copywriters, and graphic designers support the build and provide as much support as needed to make the sales, enrollment, and administration site as effective and impactful as possible. Also, all of our sites are built to support mobile responsiveness, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and tracking tools.
Most enrollment projects are focused on the bottom of the funnel and finalizing the purchase – and, as such, sales support collateral is critical. These can take the form of videos, flyers, posters, handouts, pamphlets, emails, or really any piece of content that might address objections or concerns.
Partner marketing kits
Some of our partners just need enough to get started, so we create a small collection of marketing pieces for them based on their channel approach. This might include Facebook ad templates, Google image ads, a customized landing page, or search Pay-Per-Click (PPC) copy to help launch their product. We can provide more specific pieces based on how needs and campaigns develop, but sometimes just having a library of ready creative can get things moving.
Many of our partners want to run ads but don’t have the bandwidth to hire an agency or attack channels they may not be familiar with. We help our partners set up Search Engine Marketing (SEM) campaigns, social media campaigns, and email campaigns; we can even help with Radio or TV, if requested.
Enrollment and renewal optimization
This is one of the most important aspects of our approach and goes beyond just the marketing element, incorporating our whole tech, customer service, and billing teams into the process. We approach enrollment with the idea that it’s a holistic funnel, and we analyze success based on the conversion rates from phase to phase. So, if we notice that only 10% of visitors advance beyond a point in the funnel, we take that phase apart from a user experience perspective and find the leak and repair it. Sometimes, it’s as simple as rewording a call-to-action or adding a compelling explainer video. Other times, it requires a major strategic analysis of the entire approach that could change the whole product presentation.
The above services represent the bulk of the work we currently support, but it by no means represents the only projects we can or will tackle in the near future. I’m always excited to have the team working on something new and challenging.
Ah yes, the big question.
We provide our marketing support services as part of our partnership – within limits and based on opportunity. Our partners usually pay for the channel advertising costs, but the design, channel expertise, and tactical consulting are all included as part of our commitment to the long-term success of our clients.
Based on resources and projects in the pipeline, we may need to adjust deadlines, but I’m proud to say that we can usually support our partners’ timelines without issue.
Also, while we’re not a marketing agency, we take an agency approach to our marketing support. Our team is structured as an Agile marketing agency and is comprised of marketing veterans who embrace a consultative agency approach. This means more listening than talking and more doing than telling others what to do – so don’t worry that you’ll be stuck in an Intro to Marketing class or get ear fatigue from the latest buzzwords.
Thank you for sticking with us to the end. One of the things I love about Genius Avenue is the variety of companies, products, benefits, and associations we support. We love learning about our partners’ businesses and customers and helping them unlock their sales, enrollment, and administrative advantage. Please feel free to reach out to me here with any questions.
We’d love to learn about your company and your product, association, or brokerage’s unique marketing needs. Start the conversation here.