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New Research shows Marketing, IT’s Importance when Competing with Giants

Insurance companies who must fight for market share with giants got some good news from a study published this spring. The report, from business researcher Global Reviews, highlights the critical roles IT and marketing professionals play in winning sales when prospects are searching online.

Marketing’s crucial role in creating demand

Marketing's role is especially important with the growing cadre of new customers who search the web. Internet marketing expert Dave Chaffey reports that research conducted on 10,000 households found that for some products, like airline tickets, the average prospect visited no more than two websites before making a purchase. This may be due, in part, to their preference for well-known brands. Global Reviews’ study on insurance buyers found that 36% already had a company in mind when they began their search.

This seems to give an advantage to well-known companies like Allstate, Aflac, State Farm, Prudential, Aetna, GEICO and Progressive. Worthy but less advertised carriers could win a place on insureds’ short lists by stepping up their integrated marketing communications programs. Studies have shown that pleasant familiarity alone can make a person or organization more attractive to consumers. Without the skilled efforts of insurance marketers using an array of media including broadcast, direct mail and the Internet, high quality companies or their agents may never get a chance to make their case. Effective Internet advertising can be crucial in attracting the 64% of insurance buyers in the study who began their web search without a particular company in mind.

IT’s work stimulates conversion

Global Review’s research showed the important part IT plays in actually converting the leads that good marketing drives to the company website. Their investigation revealed that even when prospects already had a company in mind, only 65% bought insurance from a firm on their short list. That means a full 35% got their coverage from a company from whom they hadn't planned to buy when they started. Some websites apparently did a poor job in conversion. According to CEO Greg Muller, their investigation showed that once prospects arrive at your site, “a better customer experience from a lesser known brand can often win out.” Well-designed sites can create that experience if they:

• provide easy access to information that insurance buyers want (in logical sequence)
• feature engaging graphics
• include high quality content
• encourage interaction
• entice visitors into making commitments, large or small

The first four points may seem obvious. The last is taken from years of research in social psychology. A multitude of studies reveals the power of the “foot-in-the-door technique,” under the right conditions, to turn small commitments into substantial agreements. The Allied Group, a marketing communications company that offers marketing, marketing support and full-service fulfillment programs to the insurance industry (and others) has achieved excellent conversion rates using this technique. How? Look for more in my next post.

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