What life insurers need to know about digital marketing

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For the better part of the last decade most consumer-facing industries have faced new challenges. Traditional marketing practices have been challenged by a fresh approach to corporate communication. Insurance has been no different.

Static websites in the early days of the internet posed relatively little threat to the old approach. Consumers were unlikely to head to insurers’ websites unless they were already in the market for insurance and looking for further product information. This dynamic is changing now, as internet content becomes more and more interactive. Content shared by an insurer on social media may be seen by people who are not actively looking for information about insurance products, and buying decisions may be made based on brand relationship alone.

Sharing content through networks of people means that consumers who have not engaged with an insurance brand could still interact with that brand’s posts. But social media consumers face a wall of content. Attempts at marketing online have to interest and engage consumers; a product pitch is simply not enough. Communicating with this expanded and less engaged audience requires an innovative approach, particularly in a traditionally conservative industry like insurance.          

The traditional marketing model for life insurance companies, and for the financial services industry as a whole, has been centered around lead generation. The focus has been on telling potential consumers that the insurer sells a product, that the product is worth buying and that the consumer should buy it from that insurer. This is an intuitive strategy, but not one which meets the expectations of today’s consumers.

Potential buyers prefer content-rich marketing to dry product information. This preference, and the sheer abundance of content on social networks, makes quality content non-negotiable. Even insurers who develop innovative products in response to consumer needs must also respond to consumer preferences in marketing those products. Innovative product offerings are not enough to outweigh a poor customer experience.

So, what does a strategy that focusses on creating a content-rich customer experience look like?

Informative, engaging content

Consumer-centric marketing involves sharing information that consumers think is actually useful. For New York Life, the United States’ largest mutual life insurer, this means sharing interesting content from around the web in addition to in-house information. One day the company shares an in-house piece on retirement planning; the next, it will link to a post on a food blog about budget friendly lunch ideas. These posts are on-brand, and keep to a personal finance theme - but they also provide information that consumers may find useful and engaging.

Creating a discussion

It may seem hard for an industry like life insurance to compete on social media with entertainment content and marketing material from arguably more exciting brands,but some insurers are pushing back against this premise. MetLife, for example, has started engaging conversations with campaigns such as the Who I Live For campaign. MetLife asked customers who  they lived for, eliciting emotional responses as people talked about their children, grandchildren and other halves. The insurer asked viewers to share their stories with the hashtag #WhoILiveFor, seamlessly extending from a piece of content into a discussion.

Sponsoring content

Corporate sponsorship isn’t a new idea for the insurance industry, who have used it in the past as a vehicle for brand awareness. A better approach to corporate sponsorship in the age of social media is to sponsor the creation of engaging, on-brand content. State Farm, a major American insurer with a focus on auto insurance, partnered with Buzzfeed to publish articles such as The Definitive Guide To Planning Your First Fall Road Trip as part of Celebrate My Drive, a social campaign aimed at teen drivers. By sponsoring articles on a platform like Buzzfeed, State Farm is able to reach out to young drivers, a demographic who typically fall outside State Farm’s marketing reach.

Insurers need to create innovative products and processes. Content-rich marketing is not an alternative to this innovation. Delivering engaging, consumer-centric content is not enough to salvage a product that hasn’t evolved to meet consumers’ needs. However, an innovative insurance product is also not enough. Creating an engaging, customer needs focussed marketing experience is crucial if new product offerings are to make an impact.