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Personalization Is Now Key to Insurance Marketing ROI

Personalization has become a mantra for all direct marketers, but it is especially relevant to AccuList’s insurance marketing clients. According to an Accenture 2018 study, 80% of insurance consumers are willing to share data to get more personalized offers, messages, pricing and recommendations from auto, home and life insurance providers. Although over 70% of insurance marketing campaigns claim to use some personalization, surveys show marketers are not doing enough to satisfy that customer demand. As a result, marketers can miss out on personalization’s proven power to improve response and ROI, lower acquisition costs, and enhance cross-selling.

Personalization Revs Mail’s Acquisition Power

While digital data often leads conversations, the importance of personalization in traditional direct mail, still an insurance workhorse, should not be ignored. After all, direct mail is considered more personal than digital by 69% of recipients, giving personalized content extra power. Direct mail also gets an average 9% response rate for house lists and 5% for prospects, per 2018 DMA/ANA data, compared with 1% or lower for other channels. Plus, for the digitally addicted, adding direct mail to digital bumps up conversion by 28%. A recent article on insurance marketing from agency Ballantine advised on top ways to maximize mail ROI, and, no surprise, personalization dominated—assuming clean, up-to-date mailing lists with important targeting parameters. First, marketers can use variable data printing and database parameters to personalize content and images to match the consumer’s life stage, so, for example, auto policy creative targeting a young single first-time car buyer differs in messaging and images from the creative for an older couple with a minivan. Next, marketers can personalize rates by taking into account factors such as the age and gender of the targeted recipient. And they can tap personal interests by leveraging affinity relationships, such as a specific sports team or association affiliation, via targeted discounts. Personalization shouldn’t stop with the mailing package but should then continue through the customer journey. Marketers can study the sales funnel to find when leads are most likely to drop out so that processes can be simplified, streamlined and further personalized to boost conversion. Simple examples include pre-filled forms and postage-paid return envelopes.

It’s All About Prospect and Policyholder Data

Meanwhile, One Inc., an insurance software company, offers a helpful roadmap to digital personalization. As with direct mail, marketing begins with quality consumer data and analysis, taking a step beyond age, gender and location to parameters that identify unmet needs and customer value for targeting and prioritization—such as a recent move, a new home, a new baby or an upcoming policy expiration date. Next, marketers need to track lead and policyholder actions to decide on the specific digital behaviors that will trigger a personalized response, say following up an online request for information with a series of lead-nurture e-mails. Then, marketers can design and test small campaigns of personalized content and process before expanding to more channels and audiences. Once strategies and processes have been developed and tested, an investment in marketing automation technology can follow, including AI algorithms using real-time data and behavior to tailor offers, customer service, cross-selling, lead scoring and more. Indeed, the advent of AI in the digital world is accelerating consumers’ personalization expectations, and the impact on the insurance industry is expected to keep rising in 2019, per articles.

Retention Relies on Smart Personalization, Too

Meanwhile, studies show personalization is also essential to cost-effective policyholder retention. One Inc. provides this example: An auto policyholder has a documented poor experience when filing a claim, putting the client in a “high risk” category for churn. Based on industry data that policyholders typically shop roughly two months (60 days) prior to policy expiration and that roughly one-third of shoppers switch carriers, marketers use the policy expiration date and contact information to send a letter 60 days before the policy is set to expire, personalized by the policyholder’s name, of course. The letter includes a personal note that acknowledges the poor experience and pledges to do better, an offer of a discount for renewing early, and rep contact information for quick response to questions or concerns.


Use Key Direct Marketing KPIs to Gird 2018 Plans

The busy year-end holiday season, especially for fundraisers and retailers, should not distract direct marketers from the working on the analytics they need to finalize next year’s marketing plans and ROI. A recent post by the Digital Dog Direct agency helpfully offers a checklist of basic marketing Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).

Spending and Lead Generation

Marketing ROI is about effective spending and requires tracking results by channel and campaign. KPIs use actual annual outlay for direct mail marketing (lists, print, lettershop, creative, postage), digital marketing (e-mail, SEO/SEM, landing pages, social media and creative), as well as spending on PR/events/brand/content marketing.  Marketers must keep a tally of the number of outbound leads attributed to direct mail or e-mail campaigns, as well as the inbound leads generated by efforts such as SEO, blog content or PR. Then a cost per lead acquired can be calculated by dividing annual expenditure by the number of leads generated. Since the ultimate goal is sales not merely leads, the percentage of leads that become paying customers and the dollar sales per lead are key measures.

Multi-channel Performance Rates

Beyond evaluating general performance, marketing planners should use measurement to fine-tune future marketing plans and budgets. This means identifying the response rates and conversion rates for each channel, for each direct mail and digital campaign, and for tests of creative, timing, frequency, lists and segments. Performance rates should be measured not only for campaigns to acquire new leads/customers but also targeting of existing customers and reactivation of dormant customers. Website traffic reports from Google Analytics can not only show online ad and SEM effectiveness but also track spikes around direct mail or e-mail promotions to give a fuller picture of response. A simple ratio of the annual return on marketing investment, or ROI by channel and campaign, can be calculated by adding up incremental sales from marketing and subtracting marketing amount spent, and then dividing the result by amount spent on marketing.

Long-term Growth of High-Value Customers

But remember that a focus on annual or campaign results can be myopic since these do not necessarily deliver long-term growth–for example if attrition is high so more customers are lost than added. Marketers need to look at customer and prospect databases to make sure they are growing year-over-year. Because acquiring a single sale per lead also is less profitable long-term than acquiring a repeat customer, measuring average customer lifetime value is a vital KPI and is calculated by multiplying average dollar sale per customer by the average number of purchases per year and the average retention time in years.

See the full article for the KPI checklist.

 

Seeking E-mail Response, Marketers Face Text vs. HTML Choice

There’s an ongoing debate in e-mail marketing over which format option will optimize results: simple text-based e-mails or fancier html versions. For our e-mail list and marketing clients, AccuList USA offers some surprise findings on that point: Marketo reports that a recent analysis of e-mail effectiveness shows text-based e-mails perform significantly better than their more creative HTML counterparts. Although both formats have the same open rate, text-based e-mails have 21% higher unique click-to-open rates on the offer link and 17% higher unique click-through rates on the offer link, according to the Marketo study.

So should marketers dump their rich html creatives? Not so fast.

Text E-mail Is Personal & CTA-Focused, But…

Why did the text-based versions win more response? The Marketo study found that text-based e-mails’ fewer visual distractions focus response on the call-to-action link. In HTML versions, nearly 16% of clicks went to other links (such as logos) instead of the main call-to-action link, per Marketo. Other research shows that text e-mails are also viewed as more personal by recipients, who see the visually rich html e-mails as clearly commercial. Finally, text-based versions have a better chance of delivery since the messages are less likely to be caught in spam filters or to have mobile viewing issues. But there are clear disadvantages, too. The key drawback of plain text formats, with no html, is that there is no tracking of open rates or clicks. Plus, URLs included in the message must be fully typed out, which can create visual clutter. Text-based e-mails without any html design elements will lack engaging visual impact for branding or product promotion, will have less ability to break information into easy-to-read/scan sections or columns, and will have few tools, such as buttons and color, for directing CTA attention.

Marketers Still Like HTML Tracking & Branding

Despite general response findings, html e-mails continue to be used because of advantages that make them the right choice for campaigns relying on branding, richer messaging and detailed metrics. For example, html allows incorporation of branded images and logos that may yield higher conversion rates for some verticals. An html e-mail also can package more information in digestible, easy-to-read bites. It can direct action via color, clickable text and buttons. Most important, html offers tracking of opens and clicks for marketing metrics.

For a more extensive discussion of the marketing merits of text versus html e-mail formats, check out this helpful digitaldoughnut article: https://www.digitaldoughnut.com/articles/2016/december/choosing-between-plain-text-html-email

 

 

E-mail Earns Top Digital ROI Via Personalization, Mobile Strategies

To support our e-mail list brokerage clients, AccuList USA keeps up with e-mail strategy benchmarks, such as those cited in the “2017 Email Marketing Industry Census” from Adestra, in association with Econsultancy.

E-mail Tops Digital ROI Rankings

E-mail marketers will be happy to know that, per the census, e-mail outpaces other digital channels in terms of reported return on investment, ahead of SEO, content marketing, paid search, and social media.  E-mail ROI was rated as good to excellent by 73% of marketers surveyed, just edging out SEO, with 72% giving SEO a good to excellent ROI rating. Content marketing slipped to third place, with 63% calling its ROI good to excellent. Paid search followed with 60% ranking its ROI as good to excellent, and social media trailed (44%). But the report also raised questions about how accurately marketers assess e-mail impact. The majority of marketers are using click-through rate (91%), open rate (80%) and conversion rate (62%) to track e-mail performance, while other important metrics, such as bounce rate, delivery rate and list growth rate, are used by a minority. List segmentation is another challenge that may be impeding even higher ROI, falling midway in the ranking of best practices even though those who carry out advanced segmentation are more than twice as likely to report “excellent” ROI from e-mail marketing as those who don’t segment.

Personalization Leads Marketers’ Best Practices

What practices do marketers use to push e-mail opens and clicks? The census found that sending personalized and relevant messaging led the list of e-mail best practices reported; 80% of marketers are already doing this and 14% are planning for it. Personalization was followed by mobile-optimizing of e-mail (73% doing and 19% planning to start), regular list cleaning (57% doing and 24% planning), and promoting social content sharing (49% doing and 22% planning on it). Looking ahead, personalization also is the area of e-mail marketing where most respondents (30%) say they need to focus in 2017, even ahead of automated campaigns (cited by 28%).

Mobile Optimizing Faces Cross-Device Challenges

With data from other studies showing that 56% of e-mail users prefer opening e-mails on mobile devices (and that 42% delete an email if it doesn’t display correctly), e-mail marketers have embraced the mobile-first imperative, and mobile optimization won second place in the ranking of best practices. But challenges remain for optimizing across devices. Although 90% of respondents report some strategy for optimizing e-mail for different devices, just 22% of marketers describe their approach as “quite” or “very” advanced.

To download the full report, see http://www.adestra.com/resources/downloadable-reports/2017-email-marketing-industry-census/