Building a Data-Driven Marketing Strategy

One of the highlight’s of the 2019 IMCA Annual Conference in Minneapolis was John Bell’s presentation, “Marketing in the Age of the Connected Customer.” Following the conference, John, vice president, Enterprise Digital Marketing at Travelers, has provided IMCA with these additional insights into effectively leveraging customer data. According to John, data is the key to a personalized, customer-centric marketing approach.

From a marketing perspective, what does a data-driven culture look like?

“Data-driven” means that as marketers, we look for every opportunity to inform our strategy, tactics and operations with data that reveals what is really important and effective for our customers. Our creative hunches are no longer enough, the anecdotal observation from the sales person is not enough, the formative customer research we did at the beginning is not enough. Now we can look at performance data in real time to understand what content resonates best with our audience, what offer triggers the most action, what our customers are actually saying to us via digital channels about what they want. A data-driven culture is one where you adopt a new data-rich, shared vocabulary. That means everyone knows what different data points mean and which KPIs matter. There should be habits within the group where you come together to discuss and interpret data — to really arrive at the insights. Without these habits, data may not be put to practical use or the wrong use. 

What can insurance marketers do to get better data from their business partners in IT and business intelligence?

Marketers have to be clear about what data they need to do their job. Too often, the most obvious gap is sales data. If you want to understand how marketing “sells,” you need access to contemporary sales data. To understand how marketing drives acquisition of new customers or policies per account with existing customers or even retention, we need to be able to segment that data in a number of ways. For example, to really see marketing’s impact you may choose to focus your marketing effort in a particular region or with select accounts. Getting sales data parsed that way is critical.

Beyond detailed performance data of websites and other channels like social and paid media, marketers need rich customer data to start to understand how to personalize their marketing efforts. There really is no end to this need. It requires dedicated data analysts for marketing who can consistently work to try personalized approaches to content, offers and experiences and detect their effect. More and more companies — whether carriers or brokers — understand that facility with customer data will be key to serving those customers well into the future.

How can marketers drive insight and action?

Marketers must be experts at gleaning customer insights and putting them to use. Marketing is inherently a customer-centered discipline. That is useful in an industry like insurance that  is increasingly moving towards putting the customer first. Understanding what the emotional and rational drivers are for a consumer or a business person to choose an agency or a carrier is a marketer’s job. This means using traditional research methods — qualitative and quantitative — as well as more nimble, new research methods like Internet surveys, user-testing and even test-marketing an offer via Facebook ads. Uncovering why a consumer chooses on insurance company over another can guide marketing and selling strategy, content and offers. It can all be tested to ratify the effectiveness of these insights. 

What are some of the biggest challenges that insurance companies face in terms of customer data stewardship?

Every company, whether an insurance carrier or an ecommerce operation or a consumer product goods company, starts by working to ensure the privacy and protection of its customers’ data. This is table stakes and one reason cyber insurance solutions are so popular today. Beyond protection, carriers have the same challenge as many companies — how to deliver increasing value to the customer based upon the data the customer volunteers. People need to feel the value of the exchange. Many ecommerce companies like Amazon deliver that value in the form of increased personalization and relevant offers and experience. Carriers are working on the same concept —how to deliver more personalized recommendations, services and products. The additional challenge that carriers and brokers share is the joint stewardship of the customer. How can they work together to deliver increasing value to the end customer in ways that are seamless to that customer?

John Bell is vice president, Enterprise Digital Marketing at Travelers. John’s conference presentation is available to IMCA members.