Insurers such as Seattle-based Safeco Corp. and The Hartford Financial Services Group, Hartford, Conn., are providing Web-based tools for agents to target key prospects (see pg. 28). Many insurers are also using the Internet for target marketing by building portals for specific affinity groups.For example, The Prudential Company of America launched for the affluent community; Farmers Insurance Group launched; and Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. has a Web site for parents of children with special needs.

Farmers launched the teachers site in August after determining through internal and outside research that teachers make better customers-in terms of loss ratio, retention and product density.

The Web site-which features lesson plans, continuing education information, calculator and product descriptions-is one of several initiatives the carrier is taking to build rapport with the educational community, says Mike Hixon, customer advocacy research analyst for the Los-Angeles-based carrier.

Farmers also distributes videos and workbooks to agents, on topics such as teen driving safety, which agents can use to hold seminars on school campuses. Farmers is also considering special endorsements for teachers, which would allow them to add professional liability coverage to their auto or homeowners' policy.

MetLife's community site for parents of children with special needs was launched in 1998, along with MetDESK, MetLife's Division of Estate Planning for Special Kids. At, parents find resources to help them navigate the complex legal, regulatory and financial maze they face. "Terms to know," for instance, defines guardian ad litem, healthcare proxy and representative payee. "Related links" include more than a dozen organizations, such as the Autism Society of America, Exceptional Parent magazine and Special Needs Advocates for Parents.

The site also provides a description of survivorship whole life insurance-a product that fulfills an estate planning need for many parents of children with special needs-and a link that enables them to request a meeting with a MetDESK specialist who is extensively trained to advise people in this market.

Approximately 60% to 70% of the people who contact MetDESK do so through the Web site, says Nadine Vogel, vice president of marketing for New York-based MetLife Financial Services. Parents of children with special needs require an enormous amount of information, she says. "And almost every parent of a special needs child goes to the Internet to find their information."

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