Insurance marketing tips as the pandemic continues

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It began with an email from a white-water rafting company I visited with my family last summer: “We are monitoring the COVID-19 situation and will inform you of any changes to our company policy.” As the crisis developed and time passed, pandemic updates and branded “stay-at-home” content became table stakes. The companies we hear from today are making concerted efforts to share messages of support; however, navigating this sensitive discussion with consumers can be challenging. Everyone is in uncharted waters.

The pandemic has forced people out of their offices and stadiums, changing lives across the globe. The way companies interact with customers is also evolving. A Bynder study of 301 marketing professionals reported that COVID-19 has had a “strong impact” on 31% of marketers’ brand and content strategies, while 45% reported “moderate impact.” 18% experienced “extreme impact” on their brand. In addition to revamping messaging and strategies, marketing departments are contending with significantly more engaged and potentially unforgiving consumers. The public is watching and will draw a line in the sand between a reassuring message and a heavy-handed sell.

The insurance industry needs to choose its words carefully. The importance of a well-thought-out message and delivery strategy is critical. When building a successful digital marketing strategy, several guidelines should be kept in mind. Novarica has identified the following three steps:

Solidify your brand’s voice
Insurers will benefit from having a firm understanding of the tone and messaging they want to convey to policyholders. To do so, insurers should determine how best to serve them. For example, State Farm announced that it will be returning up to $2B in auto insurance premiums to customers; a relief program that was marketed through a shot-at-home commercial. With many Americans at home and not driving, other carriers such as Allstate, Liberty Mutual, and Geico are also announcing refund programs. Refunds may not be plausible for life insurers. However, silence is a response, and messages of solidarity may pay loyalty dividends in the future.

It is now normal for children to be seen on a conference call, and brands are also adopting more informal messaging to connect with their audiences. CEOs are filming commercials on their iPhones, Progressive ran a commercial that was boxed in by the now all too familiar video conferencing grid, and insurers are focusing advertisements on their own associates working at home. Carriers are divided by what they can do. Whether that is helping in the form of refunds and donations or sending messages of solidarity and support, COVID-19 has taken center stage in every strategy.

Support your digital strategy with technology
Now may not be the time to rely only on AI-generated emails and content. However, technology can be used to support digital marketing strategies and provide fresh, relevant content about products and services. Here are some steps an insurance CMO, CDO, or a marketing-savvy CIO can consider.

Brand Messaging

  • Freeze pre-COVID brand creative and messaging as well as any in-flight campaigns.
  • Send direct emails to policyholders with a concise COVID-19 message.
  • Consolidate message maps and assets for new positioning in a DAM (digital asset management tool).
  • Analytics
  • Evaluate web analytics, pre-COVID-19 content, and marketing automation rules (e.g., reduce/eliminate any cross-sell, upsell, or demand gen advertising).
  • Audit predictive models and segmentation to make sure underlying assumptions are still valid.
  • Monitor social media for COVID-19 keywords related to your brand; invest in tracking tools.

Engagement

  • Assess any programmatic or SEM bid points. With increased ad space, prices may drop.
  • Realign media mix away from radio and “out of home” (e.g., billboards).
  • Send communications to distributors with copies of new assets or links to them.

By following these guidelines, insurers can begin to prepare for what is to come. Insurers should consider using this time as an opportunity to connect analytics, data, and DMP tools to prepare for when demand-generation marketing starts up again. Filling technology gaps, auditing current processes, and setting up organizational infrastructures (i.e., data governance) are proactive steps insurers can take.

Get ready to evolve with the crisis
At the outset of the crisis, companies communicated to consumers that they were monitoring the situation. Now consumers are hearing, “We are in this with you.” What is the next evolution? COVID-19 ad fatigue may be setting in, and messages of hope and togetherness will not be enough forever. People will want to know what the next few steps look like. Insurers should consider thinking about what their following message will be and begin vocalizing their plans for the future. Providing a full and honest picture of current events is also critical to establishing trust and loyalty.

Insurers that evolve and focus on building a brand that survives socially and drives customer loyalty into the new normal are likely to benefit from their efforts. Companies not prioritizing the well-being of their customers in business strategies may be left behind. Consumers will eventually look to purchase policies again. However, insurers pushing product before that point may suffer long term.

COVID-19 has slowed many things down. People are not rushing to work or soccer practice. Nights are spent at home watching a movie or catching up with friends and family. At the same time, the pandemic has sped up evolutions believed to be a decade or more away. Interactions are becoming increasingly digitized, customer demand for virtual services is increasing, and selling an insurance product can no longer happen at a kitchen table.

Insurance products are promises, and promises kept are remembered. Insurers that do not shy away from the role they play in the community will be rewarded in the years to come. Consumers will gravitate toward words they can trust and the insurers that speak them.

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Digital marketing Analytics Customer data Customer experience Novarica DigIn 2020
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