Roundtable: Talking marketing tactics


  • Enhanced data can produce better segmentation, more tailored products, cross-selling opportunities and increased retention
  • New companies, unhampered by legacy systems, are using data more effectively
  • Having the right data management tools and CRM systems is crucial

With the industry seeking to find out just how a single view of the customer can be achieved, Post, in association with Visionware, brought together specialists in a roundtable to discuss how digital is driving business

 golda-aheto-cudjoe Golda Aheto-Cudjoe, head of marketing, Abbey Legal Protection
 hana-graham Hana Graham, head of marketing, Pen Underwriting
 charlotte-halkett Charlotte Halkett, marketing actuary, Insure the Box
 yasmeen-jaleel Yasmeen Jaleel, marketing business partner, Marsh
 greg-johnson Greg Johnson, marketing manager, Brightside Insurance
 sarah-king Sarah King, group marketing manager, Kelliher Insurance
 ross-mcintosh Ross McIntosh, chief operating officer, Visionware
 ellie-mickleburgh Ellie Mickleburgh, director of marketing and design, JLT
 charles-offord Charles Offord, director of distribution and marketing, Co-operative Insurance
 abbie-roberts Abbie Roberts, national marketing manager, Aon
 chris-ward Chris Ward, senior marketing manager, QBE
 owen-woods Owen Woods, marketing manager, Hamilton Fraser


The role of an insurance marketing professional in 2017 is not an easy one. Whether targeting consumers or business to business, the pressures to win and retain clients are increasingly challenging. Many personal and business customers see little differentiation between insurers or their products, and buy solely on price, so the pressure is on the marketeers to convince them otherwise.

But powerful marketing – and the technology to support this – often requires investment. At the same time, in this era of the post-Brexit vote uncertainty, continued low investment returns and increasing regulatory expenses, budgets are facing a squeeze.

Meanwhile, big insurers may have the budgets, yet new arrivals are making waves, not only because they are bringing a fresh and more creative approach to marketing, but also are unhampered by legacy systems and are using data more effectively.

Interesting times
These are interesting times and, to kick off, attendees were asked how insurance marketing has changed over the past few years.

Chris Ward, senior marketing manager at QBE, opened by saying: "The obvious response is digital. It is highly measurable and this is why it is gaining in popularity over other methods that are harder to track."

post-roundtable-08Ellie Mickleburgh, director of marketing and design at JLT, agreed, commenting: “We can demonstrate the value of digital marketing. This means there is more pressure on other channels, they are more challenged, although we are looking for ways to prove these in the way we can prove digital.” She explained these other channels under pressure included brand marketing, sponsorship and press relations.

And Owen Woods, marketing manager at Hamilton Fraser, said: “Digital goes deeper than just being easier to measure. It gives us better engagement opportunities and prospects. We can show it is not just about the price.”

Abbie Roberts, national marketing manager at Aon, added that digital provided far greater certainty for marketeers. “With an email campaign you can see who has opened it, what they have clicked on and as a result, plan the customer journey far more effectively.”

A key theme of the discussion was the need to develop more understanding of customers. Through enhanced data, there can be better segmentation, more tailored products and cross-selling opportunities as well as increased retention.

Rather than operate in silos, the aim is to have a single customer view. This is much talked about, but many insurance providers have been through multiple acquisitions and takeovers and so can have disparate customer data and often too little communication between departments.

For many, it would seem the single customer view remains a future goal rather than a current reality. As Hana Graham, head of marketing at Pen Underwriting, said: “Data centralisation is inevitably a challenge when you bring together 12 businesses as we have at Pen, which is why we’ve made a massive investment in Salesforce and our own bespoke systems.”

Work on enriching data or buying it in remains a focus. There is ongoing momentum in rethinking the way customer information is stored, collected and analysed.

It is often a major investment in time and money, and Yasmeen Jaleel, marketing business partner at Marsh, said her team had spent around five years enriching four databases in conjunction with agencies to be as integrated as possible across the business.

Indeed, Ross McIntosh, chief operating officer at Visionware, said the ability to aggregate data from multiple sources would prove a considerable step forward, allowing a far more complete picture of customers.

However, Mickleburgh added: “It certainly helps if your data is in one place, but it is not essential and you can bring data together at the point you are using it.

She continued: “Our philosophy is that one size does not fit all and we want to be able to treat our customers individually. So that means tailoring the journey, even in a B2B relationship.” She added that having the facility to do this through responding to relevant triggers would be a trend going forward.

Exposing weaknesses
As a relatively young insurtech business, Insure the Box has an advantage in that its data is held centrally.

post-roundtable-08Charlotte Halkett, marketing actuary at Insure the Box, explained the firm’s philosophy was “to use our data in every part of the business when we started up and that would break down silos across the company”.

But, while Insure the Box values its telematics data in particular, other insurers are more likely to be reliant on data obtained from more standard sources and it is here that weaknesses are often exposed.

Many were prepared to admit there were shortcomings in their own data. And although there can be high costs, buying in data from outside sources such as Experian was viewed as accepted practice.

Attendees also concurred that certainly as far as B2B is concerned, they were largely reliant on data provided by field-based business development staff.

As Jaleel commented: “In B2B this can be very helpful, but there may need to be some quite draconian practices about the need to collect the right data and making this a regular part of sales activity. If not the digital marketing work can end up null and void.”

She added it was somewhat easier to work with B2B data, compared to consumer. This is because relationship managers talk directly to customers and so can help ensure marketing departments are kept up to date with information.

Mickleburgh agreed, but cautioned: “Our people may talk to customers regularly, but we’ve found while they will have the right phone numbers, this may not be the case with email addresses.”

Overall, data is viewed as marketing lifeblood and as Woods said: “Poor data will stop you from finding the sweet segments that are most profitable.”

Personalised experience
Attendees also felt that digital marketing allows a far more personalised experience.

In terms of having a more individualised approach, Halkett explained that seasonal clock changes could cause a significant increase in risk for their customers.

post-roundtable-08“They were 30% more likely to have an accident in the 5pm to 8pm time period. We sent out personalised emails and this meant looking at not only who engaged us, but also finding out how this follows through to the loss ratio – namely those who read it and had less accidents.”

She continued: “Our aim is to provide each customer with individual prices and we can talk to different sectors of our customers according to their characteristics.

“Traditionally, young drivers are seen as very similar, but this is not the case, even when looking at a group of 17-year-olds with no no claims discount, for example. There is massive variation in their driving styles and we segment them out into different groups for communication.”

She said the highest risk category, those who speed regularly, are sent a monthly message according to how they have driven, based on telematics data, saying what their risks are and what rewards they could benefit from if they slowed down. "We look at what they do the next month and using that information we have seen a 15% reduction in risk."

While personalising is clearly of growing importance, accurate data is, of course, a pre-requisite.

Mickleburgh added it was impossible trying to personalise if an email address was not to an individual, but to an ‘[email protected]’ address. “We need the right information and it can be a challenge – it is one we are trying to rectify with cleaning and checking.”

Quality data also brings benefits to departments other than marketing, such as underwriting, pricing and counter-fraud.

Halkett added that data was used to tackle fraud at Insure the Box. “We have our own home-grown systems, joined up with our telematics. We take this area very seriously as fraud is so pervasive.”

And digital communication can also allow a more human face for the insurance industry. Graham said her company’s executive chairman was now blogging, helping create a more individual identity.

Marketing cannot work in isolation and the days of merely having a media planning budget largely for print are long gone. The right data management tools and customer relationship management systems are viewed as crucial and most spoke of either having recently upgraded or as having firm plans to do so.

post-roundtable-08The marketeers were emphatic about the need to invest where necessary and in lobbying for this with senior management.

Co-operative Insurance is rolling out a new platform, QBE has modernised and Sarah King, group marketing manager at Kelliher Insurance, explained that starting from a clean sheet was something under serious consideration: “There is a desire to do something within our business in 2017, as we are operating off a TAM system (a cloud-based broker management system) that is not CRM in any way, shape or form.

“We want to understand our customers and prospects better and map our journeys with them more effectively and be able to build triggers so we can keep in touch with them at points in the journey where it is relevant.”

Single customer view
Marketing professionals may need to be strong advocates for promoting the need for a single customer view or at least a more joined-up approach.

As Charles Offord, director of distribution and marketing at Co-operative Insurance, observed: “Other people in the business need to understand the value of what you are doing – and the power of data. Marketing budgets risk being cut and it needs to be made clear what results could follow investment.”

He added that existing systems need to be up to the job. “Legacy systems may not have the ability to take new data on board so it can be effectively mined for marketing purposes.

“Insurers need to gather new data and ensure that people have the right training so they are able to do something with it. Insurance is still largely playing catch-up compared to fintech and retailers. We can extract more value from the data we collect.”

Greg Johnson, marketing manager at Brightside Insurance, stressed digital was an important part of the marketing mix but should not be seen as the sole medium.

“We are still testing and learning and while digital is very important and can result in quick wins, there are other channels that we should continue to analyse and use.”

And Golda Aheto-Cudjoe, head of marketing at Abbey Legal Protection, said: “If you have more than one approach, you spread the risk.”

Graham added that quick wins were also often not enough. “It can be cheap to push out a digital campaign initially, but what matters is the ongoing engagement with customers and this is where time and effort is often needed.”

Attendees also raised the topic of ensuring that customers opted in and were not bombarded with emails – while knowing the open rate is also vital.

Roberts said it is necessary to strike a balance between regular communication and ensuring it is both valued and requested by recipients.

Aheto-Cudjoe agreed that long established businesses could benefit from looking anew at what their customers wanted in terms of communication. “We have done this recently, namely with our brokers. It was about asking them simply what they want and how they want it delivered. If you can understand their needs, you can bring them the right solutions.”

But while emails are a cost-effective means of communication, it was pointed out that some still want traditional methods. King said some customers “still want face-to-face and documents sent in the post and we have to respect that along with the push towards digital”.

There is no doubt that those attending had a far broader outlook than would have been the case, say, 10 years ago.

This is essential, as in many cases insurance is viewed as a commodity with insurers being judged against a range of sellers.

As Halkett said: “Customers are not comparing us to other insurers, instead it is to retailers like Amazon or Asos and their mobile phone provider.”

Rewarding customers
Ward said he felt marketing would reach out more to customers and there would be increasing emphasis on improving data and working on retention. “Marketing needs to do more to reward customers – building loyalty is something that will be addressed more.”

Mickleburgh added: “Marketing will become related to customers’ behaviour, based on what they do, rather than what they are telling us.”

From seeing customers as merely anonymous ‘risks’ judged on factors such as claims history and postcodes, more sophisticated data and strategies should provide marketeers with a far wider remit in terms of both communicating and prospecting.

It may be a leap into the unknown for some, but the mood at this roundtable suggested it is a step that is well worth taking for insurers.

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