Reports of the death of direct mail – with apologies to Mark Twain and his famous quote – remain greatly exaggerated. Direct mail, indeed, is still ticking but as a marketing strategy should no longer be considered in isolation. Direct mail programs can be spruced up strategically by layering in targeted digital communications through email and display advertising. This is true regardless of whether your focus is on customer-facing portfolio management or, often the case within the insurance industry, driving significant numbers of leads to call centers or brand.com sites with aggressive, targeted marketing tactics that transcend online/offline distinctions.
Our “Change Agent” column is almost exclusively devoted to thoughts on the future state of marketing, starting with the integration of online and offline data into connected CRM platforms. We’ve discussed how synthesizing data across channels enables real-time targeted marketing efforts across healthcare, life, and auto insurance industries. The importance of this integration should not be underestimated: for the first time, marketers can apply age-old (and effective) direct mail targeting approaches to the digital arena.
We at Merkle have developed a customer-facing solution called the Digital Data Integration Engine (DDIE) to address the digitization of media and channel interactions. Organizing data digitally allows direct marketers to extend and connect classic CRM data with online engagement. This synthesis of online and offline data can also be applied to prospecting efforts, and with increasing precision. For example, opportunity now exists to layer significant targeting intelligence into the digital media buy process. Not only is more information known about who we are serving display advertising to, we can also predict who among digital prospects is more likely to quote and complete an application. Utilizing segmentation and model scores to inform targeting strategy has thus escaped the confines of traditional offline marketing and can now be leveraged digitally. Truly connected CRM data – customer or prospect – supports both finer targeting and measurement. Through integrated data, testing and executing targeted display may be most accountable digital strategy currently available.
Without delving into many of the specifics and nuance an omnichannel marketing strategy might take, one easy-to-implement, cost effective strategy to augment and enhance direct mail results is by deploying targeted display advertising. Deploying targeted, brand-consistent display ads into the homes (or a testable portion of those homes) that also receive direct mail pieces is a strategy to keep brand awareness high and drive more effective acquisition (i.e., quotes and policies).
Acquisition within the auto insurance industry is basically a “zero sum” proposition. In other words, many of the policies sold will be at the expense of the competition. According to JD Power, auto insurance shopping behavior among prospects is at the lowest level in six years. However, when prospects do shop for auto insurance, they are increasingly more likely to switch carriers compared to prior years. It is thus crucial to synthesize relevant acquisition marketing messages across channels to successfully harvest the attention of households considering a switch in auto insurance. Price remains a primary driver of switching decisions but, importantly, channel also increasingly plays a role. Recent research indicates that digital and social channels influence ~40% of consumer decisions across the auto insurance consideration phase.
To sum, prospective buyers are shopping less than ever for auto insurance, but are more likely to switch when they do and, increasingly, are influenced by their online experience. Advances in the technology underlying “digital CRM” and display advertising mean that marketers can now combine traditional targeted approaches (e.g., direct mail) with digital targeting, achieving a consistency in messaging previously unavailable. Augmenting direct mail with precision, targeted online display is a nimble tactic that helps marketers stay one step ahead of the transient and fickle “shoppers market” across the auto insurance industry.
Guest contributor Dean Westervelt is Sr. Director, Analytic Solutions. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.