5 Local Marketing Lessons I Learned From The Insurance Industry

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Every purchase is a unique journey. A consumer starts with a need, desire, impulse or inspiration; he or she takes actions that lead toward the satisfaction of that feeling; and finally, he or she moves forward with a purchase.

While this path always has a beginning and an end, it is rarely linear. Instead, consumers navigate various forms of media both online and offline that all circle around and lead to the purchase.

A major factor in determining a consumer’s path to purchase is the type of product or service being bought. Each type of purchase comes with its own set of considerations, priorities, standards and products under consideration. We recently set out to understand the marketing challenges for one specific sector: insurance companies.

Our resulting white paper, Navigating the Last Mile: Insurance,” released by the Local Search Association (LSA), explores how consumers consider, seek and discover insurance providers in the last mile of advertising, as we have defined the term.  Yet for all the differences, there’s much for any business to learn from what we found.

Here are five takeaways that all local businesses can apply.

1. Understand What’s Going On In The Lives Of Your Consumers

A key part of the insurance business is understanding life events that consumers experience, such as getting married, having kids or buying a home.

According to a 2013 Scarborough survey, consumers going through life changes are more likely to be receptive to insurance offers. For example, engaged couples are four times more likely than the average American to plan on buying a home in the next 12 months, and expecting parents are 79% more likely to buy a vehicle in the next year. Both purchases come along with a need for insurance.

In a study by financial services and insurance trade group LIMRA (PDF), 41% of life insurance shoppers looked for that insurance after a significant life event, such as getting married, having a child or buying a house. All businesses can benefit from understanding what major life changes a consumer might be going through and which ones create demand for their product or service.

A local restaurant, for example, could send a warm welcome to a new homeowner in the neighborhood. A florist would benefit from knowing the date of a local couple’s anniversary.

Thanks to improvements in analytics tools and access to Big Data, all companies have a greater capacity to develop a more complete picture of their target consumer. Once your company has more data on a particular customer, you can tailor marketing and advertising to that specific individual’s needs and generate promising leads for new customers.

Life Events Impact Insurance Decisions

Life Events Impact Insurance Decisions

2. Develop A Multichannel Customer Engagement Strategy, Mixing Online & Offline Tools Based On Consumer Preferences

A May 2013 survey by CEB TowerGroup Insurance (PDF) found that a plurality (38%) of consumers prefer to shop for insurance on the web, but only 24% preferred to purchase insurance online.

Most consumers prefer to finish the purchase and receive customer support through phone calls or in-person meetings.

Insurance Research and Purchasing Decisions

Knowing which marketing channels your consumers prefer is a must. It’s also important to keep in mind that customers might prefer different channels for different purposes.

For example, since consumers prefer to shop for insurance online, it is important to engage in online marketing and maintain updated websites; but including click-to-call and online appointment functions would best cater to buyers’ preferred method of purchase.

Understanding different customer profiles is important to knowing which channels your consumers prefer.

For example, older consumers are the highest users of print directories for finding insurance products, and they also spend the most.

According to LSA’s Local Media Tracking Study conducted by Burke and as reported in our insurance white paper, boomer adults, on average, spend about age $1,281 per year, on insurance products, almost double what young adults aged 18-34 spend.

So, multichannel marketing strategies help reach a broader audience or alternatively, may help target a more desirable audience if marketing choices must be limited due to things such as budget constraints.

3.  Create A Thoughtful, Engaging Website To Drive New Business & Entice Customers

Business websites are a crucial part of any company’s digital presence. According to a 2013 Accenture survey (PDF), 7 out of 10 internet users reported that they preferred to use the websites of insurance providers – more than any other source – to review product offerings and prices.

This illustrates the importance of a company website in engaging consumers, yet many small businesses today still don’t have one. A study by Google and Ipsos MediaCT in October 2013 reported that 55% of small businesses have no website.

However, having a website is only the start. A website also needs to be effective, and too often users report poor experiences online. As noted in our white paper, only 9% of digital buyers reported excellent website experiences in the insurance industry – significantly below that of other industries like banking.

Websites should provide clear, easily accessible information about your business, your products and services, and your contact information. Failing to do so can have a significant impact on business as 68% of customers with positive online experiences said they would “definitely return” to the website compared with 21% of those who had a negative experience, according to JD Powers & Associates in a study on insurance providers.

4.  Mobile Programs Are An Increasingly Important Part Of The Marketing Mix

There are now countless ways for a business to create a mobile presence including creating videos, distributing app content and using mobile ads. According to 2014 industry data from the LSA Metrics that Matter Database, mobile advertising has a history of success for insurance companies.

On average, each mobile campaign run by an insurance provider generated a 10:1 return on investment. Such data reinforces the importance of mobile marketing to today’s consumer.

A business website should be streamlined and designed for mobile to allow for seamless integration between the two platforms. Mobile-optimized sites were the most important factor in creating a positive online customer experience (30%), according to xAd’s “2013 Mobile Path to Purchase Study.”

Such a positive experience can drive new business and attract new customers; LSA tracked mobile campaign performance for 1,500 insurance agents in 2014 and found that click-through rates via mobile were 60% higher than combined industry averages.

Finally, be strategic about your mobile advertising. Consider purchasing mobile ads on the mobile websites of related businesses. For example, a moving company could purchase ads on the mobile site of an apartment search company.

Combining strategic mobile advertising with mobile optimized websites has the potential to give small businesses a significant competitive advantage that boosts sales and creates positive experiences for customers.

5. Social Media Is A Key Factor In Word-Of-Mouth Recommendations

Social media is where consumers go to praise, ask questions about or criticize a product or service. Research from the CEB TowerGroup showed that 27% of insurance customers surveyed had used social media to learn more about a product or service, and 16% used social media to better understand a recent purchase.

Businesses should be part of any conversation about their firm so they can thank satisfied customers for their praise, address the concerns of unsatisfied customers and answer any question about the business that a consumer may have.

Social media also provides an excellent opportunity to learn about customer life events, allowing business owners to better attract and serve them as described in the first point above, completing the cycle to a strong and effective marketing strategy.

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