Beyond aggregators and online communities, insurance carriers can seek out another kind of partner-a product component partner, says Judith Johnson, vice president, insurance information strategies for Meta Group, a Stamford, Conn.-based research and consulting firm.These partnerships involve selling one another's products under a private label or co-branded relationship, pooling intellectual capital or resources to bring new products and services to market, and forming alliances centered on an event-such as buying a car. "The purpose of these 'product component partnerships' is to change customer buying patterns," Johnson says.

Wausau Insurance Co., which sells business owners insurance, is attempting to attract customers by providing value-added services through its Internet partnerships. One example: It has linked workers' compensation with the payroll processing capabilities of Powerpay.com, a business unit of Ceridien Employment Services, Minneapolis. Powerpay.com provides payroll and tax filing services to companies with up to 200 employees.

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