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Digital Options Lead 2019 Insurance Marketing Trends

Digital marketing trends dominate professional advice for AccuList USA’s insurance marketing clients this year, from e-mail to social media to online search.

Trends Favor Personalized, Client-Focused Campaigns

Whether insurance marketing via digital or traditional channels such as direct mail, there are some general trends affecting success in 2019, per the American Agents Alliance. First comes the continued value of cultivating brand advocates with testimonials, referrals and word of mouth. Quoting Forbes magazine, “the top four most-trusted sources of advertising are people you know, branded sites, editorial sites, and reviews.” A myopic focus on impersonal advertising will miss these important lead drivers. The personal touch needs to extend into offering targeted, personalized digital and print content that is useful and engaging, as well as client interaction that is real and humanized, not generic and automated. Plus, marketers should take a longer view of prospecting and retention by continuing conversations via remarketing, the AAA advises. And finally, insurance marketers need to really listen during conversations with clients and prospects to understand pain points and how people shop online with search and voice queries in order to develop effective creative content and include key phrases for paid and organic search.

Tweak E-mail & Search to Retain Their Digital Clout

Insurance agency/broker marketing agencies like EaseCentral and OutboundEngine offer some advice on where to focus digital marketing energies more specifically in 2019. Start by revisiting e-mail strategy. With an average $32 return per $1 spent in 2018, e-mail remains an attractive direct marketing option not only because it is inexpensive, highly targeted, and an ROI leader, but because it also offers opportunities for the forwarding, social sharing, and referral business in line with the general trends noted above. However, be sure to check e-mail creative to make sure it is personalized and shares valued content, focusing less on promotion and more on audience needs. Another tried-and-true digital driver, paid and organic search engine ranking, still matters, but search strategy needs an important tweak this year to cater to the growth of voice searches. EaseCentral points out that ComScore forecasts close to 50% of all searches will be made through voice search by 2020. Plus, due to the increasing use of voice search, Google and other search engines are beginning to factor it into their algorithms. Mobile optimization will play a big role in effective leveraging of voice search since these searches occur mainly on mobile devices.

Leverage the Power of Social Media Marketing

Making the most of social media will be a challenge in 2019 as organic reach shrinks and promotional pricing rises, but social platforms offer some unique advantages for insurance marketers looking for a way to humanize and personalize services. For example, EaseCentral suggests using social media to implement a more personalized customer service, with client accessibility on Facebook and LinkedIn. OutboundEngine meanwhile urges more direct marketing via promoted posts and social ads, taking advantage of social media platforms’ increasing ability to target zip codes, professions and other demographics to hone response. In the social media sphere, blogs are the king of content creation, reminds EaseCentral, allowing an insurance marketer to prove expertise and build trust. But remember that a blog’s content-marketing success will require avoiding sales pitches in favor of engaging information of value to the audience.

Embrace Video As the New Must-Have Tool

Video is now a proven response driver in digital marketing for almost all industries, and with online video projected to account for 80% of all web traffic in 2019 per Cisco research, it is a must-have tool in insurance, too. It works for consumer and business prospecting; OutboundEngine cites a recent Forbes finding that an average of 40% of decision-makers call a vendor after watching a video. How to capitalize on the video wave? OutboundEngine suggests the following ideas for website and social media insurance-branding videos: Live stream (with permission) part of an event or fundraiser attended; record a 30-second clip once a week answering a frequently asked question; or post an Instagram story about volunteering in your local community.

2019 Marketing Creative: Simple, Bold, Interactive Design

A new year brings new marketing creative inspirations for AccuList USA’s direct marketing clients, for both digital and printed promotions. Some interesting trends are shaping up, per graphics and ad agency experts.

Simplified Design, Bold Colors & Retro Vibes Win in 2019

The Ballantine and Brand Shouter agencies and the Digital Agency Network suggest some key digital creative trends to embrace this year, many of which can also be applied to direct mail and print advertising. This year, expect more clean, minimalist designs and less use of borders, bars and boxes to separate elements, all say. At the same time, minimalist doesn’t mean drab; more designers are forecast to embrace bright colors and bold color transitions and gradients with black or white text. And speaking of type, Brand Shouter foresees more beautiful, complimentary, brand-consistent typography as well, especially since marketers are shifting toward more text-only designs, while DAN forecasts more use of multicolored vector fonts. Plus, thanks to print technology advances, metallics will rise in popularity to pop in simplified designs, per DAN. Meanwhile, the minimalist flat look, which works well in mobile presentations, also can be livened with the inclusion of 3D elements, as Apple is doing, notes Brand Shouter. And since everything old is new again at some point, several retro trends are forecast. DAN sees use of the bold duotone graphics of the 1970s as well as vintage fonts and motifs, while Ballantine thinks the bright colors and funky designs of the 1990s and early 2000s, which remind many of today’s designers and target buyers of childhood, will reappear to leverage nostalgia. Finally, hand-drawn illustrations will be used to create that feeling of originality and authenticity, predicts DAN.

Story-telling, Video and Mobile Will Be Ubiquitous

Ballantine underscores three ubiquitous trends for creative this year. Video will only continue its impact in marketing, especially in social media, now that 54% of Internet users watch social media videos at least monthly and 65% of ad impressions on Instagram come from video ads, making video a necessary part of most creative budgets. Story-telling over selling is another general trend, especially in social media advertising, where story ads are designed to reflect a platform’s personal user experience rather than slick promotion, mimicking a post from a friend. Finally, marketing design must cater to mobile users now that 57% of online searches originate on mobile devices, almost 50% of web page views worldwide occur on mobile devices, and 95% of Americans own a cellphone and 57% own a smartphone. Any creative that is not mobile-optimized is sacrificing a huge market.

Watch for Interactivity and Diversity to Break New Ground

A Marketing Week article goes beyond colors, fonts and platforms to highlight other underlying trends likely to impact 2019 creative. For example, the rise of voice-enabled technology creates a push for sonic branding to complement visual creative across platforms, channels and media. Look for brands to begin to weave sound into interactive video, chatbots and voice recognition software. Visa, for example, spent a year working on a signature “chime,” heard whenever customers pay through their phones, to evoke a sense of security and efficiency. Meanwhile, the growing demand for diversity within organizations and their outreach to customers will push marketing creative beyond stock photos of diverse employees or graphics of multicolored hands, suggests Marketing Week. In fact, businesses can use creative development as a non-confrontational, thought-provoking, story-led effort to honestly address concerns. For example, multinational food services and facilities management firm Sodexo launched a campaign supporting its disability inclusion commitment with new creative that presented people as tennis coaches, parents and musicians, rather than focusing on their disabilities.

Check out this useful infographic that includes many of these marketing design predictions at https://venngage.com/blog/graphic-design-trends/

 

Today’s Zoo Marketing Embraces Conservation, Digital

AccuList USA helps a number of museums and zoos with marketing to members, donors and visitors. A 2017 report on the U.S. market for museums, historical sites, zoos and parks, worth $14.5 billion annually, noted that some of the most significant changes are occurring in the zoo market. Consumers’ rising concerns about conservation and ethical treatment of animals have been a driving force. As the public loses its appetite for viewing animals in cages, zoos are initiating a new stress on realistic exhibits and conservation–and their marketing is reflecting that shift.

Zoo Marketing Wins by Stressing Conservation and Natural Habitats

A recent Platform Magazine article on the new wave in zoo marketing, noted to its PR-pro readers that the winning zoo marketing strategy seems to lie in finding the middle ground between promoting conservation and creating entertainment. Many zoos do this by creating exhibits that mimic animals’ natural habitats. For example, the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, Washington, promotes exhibits for jaguars, penguins and grizzly bears, which have won exhibit design awards. Meanwhile, the Houston Zoo not only advertises the fact that it shares part of the money from each ticket with conservation programs but plans to build a new exhibit to showcase the Texas Wetlands, which have a large variety of animal and plant life.  The Platform article also cites Zoo Atlanta’s strategy for merging consumer experiences and conservation by promoting its contributions to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan (SSP) with new animals’ births that help “maintain healthy, genetically diverse and self-sustaining animal populations within North American zoos.”

Zoos Use Digital Marketing to Stretch Budgets

However, one marketing challenge for nonprofit zoos like Zoo Atlanta is stretching “our limited advertising budget,” Vice President of Marketing and Membership Tracy Lott acknowledges. And digital media investments are one way her zoo stretches those marketing resources. For zoos following Zoo Atlanta’s lead by starting or expanding a digital marketing strategy, Search Influence, a digital marketing agency, suggests five key steps to success.  Efforts need to begin with planning, with an emphasis on defining member/donor/visitor profiles for targeting. Then local prospects, loyal members and tourists can be sent the different messaging that will resonate and drive response. Next comes a polished website to showcase attention-getting content and provide a platform for sales and donations, supported by a traffic-building investment in search optimization and paid search. Third, zoos need a curated content-marketing strategy for website, social media and paid digital advertising to promote unique draws, from exhibits and events to conservation and education. Leveraging that great content then requires a targeted digital advertising strategy. Since 90% of time online is spent outside of search, mainly on Facebook, Instagram and other social platforms, one focus should be social media ads with enticing video, graphics and messaging. These ads can be targeted by interests, location, family status, buying behavior and more to boost response. These also can be tied into a multi-channel strategy that includes direct mail; for example, our Digital2Direct program serves Facebook ads to selected “matched” postal records.  Finally, to maximize ROI, marketers need analytics with defined KPIs per platform, including use of Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager to track multiple e-commerce platforms and websites.

 

 

‘Doggie Daycare’ Market Fetches Millennial Demand

Millennials are driving growth for AccuList USA’s clients in pet owner marketing, especially sales in the pet boarding and grooming arena, where spending hit an annual $6.16 billion in 2017 per the American Pet Products Association. For example, this summer the New York Post reported that growing demand from pet owners inspired the American Kennel Club to jump into the high-priced Manhattan real estate market: Its AKC Canine Retreat venture purchased five locations from Spot Canine Club as well as the Running Paws dog-jogging (not walking) service to re-brand under the AKC umbrella. Similarly, “doggie daycare” service Camp Bow Wow, founded in 2000, is busy adding franchises to its existing 144.

A New Generation of ‘Pet Parents’

The Millennial generation’s disposable income coupled with pet-centric attitudes are behind the trend, Camp Bow Wow’s Chief Barketer (also VP of marketing) Julie Turner recently explained to Direct Marketing News. As the Millennial age cohort marries and has children later in life than their parents, “they’re filling the gap with a dog,” she said, treating their dogs as “really a part of the family.” Millennials are not only frequent travelers who need pet boarding, they are working “pet parents” who choose daycare services so their canine companions can go to camp rather than stay home alone. They like to collect a “happy and tired dog” at the end of the day, she noted.

Mobile Marketing & Digital Strategies

Millennials are definitely mobile device addicts, so Camp Bow Wow upped its mobile strategy in 2014 when Turner came aboard, starting with a more mobile-responsive website “in line with other brands millennials support.” Camp Bow Wow introduced a mobile app that allows owners to find locations and make reservations, but its top use is watching live feeds of pets at play. “Pet parents want to talk about [the service] and show pictures of their dog at camp,” Turner explained, something Camp Bow Wow enables by texting photos of dogs having fun to their owners. The digital engagement and sense of community are not only key to retaining customers, digital strategies dominate acquisition via local search engine optimization, e-mail and texting programs, and social media advertising.  Camp Bow Wow actively works with social influencers to drive referrals, for example: “We have a very high net promoter score,” claimed Turner.

Event Promotions & Shelter Partnering

Camp Bow Wow reps also attend community events to promote the brand and acquire new customers. At events, the #GiveAFetch is a popular draw, dispensing tennis balls to happy pups from a what looks like a giant bubblegum machine. Plus, Camp Bow Wow ups its brand reputation by partnering with shelters and providing a temporary “foster home” environment for abandoned dogs to help with socialization.

Read the complete article on Camp Bow Wow’s marketing.

 

Shoppers Demand Seamless Omnichannel Retail Strategies

Omnichannel marketing is the rule for today’s retailing. While print catalogs continue as a vital merchant tool, with 42% of households reading catalogs per the U.S. Postal Service, integration of multiple channels–including online, mobile and social with direct mail–is now essential to our catalog and e-commerce clients’ success. Unfortunately, while the majority of consumers expect to shop seamlessly across all those channels, only 7% of retailers provide the unified “start the sale anywhere, finish the sale anywhere” experience that customers want, per the recent “2018 Customer Experience/Unified Commerce Survey” by BRP Consulting, a retail management consulting firm.

Omnichannel, Cross-Device Shopping Is Now the Norm

Marketers just can’t afford to ignore that the majority of shoppers now interact with promotions, educational content and purchase services via multiple channels and devices. According to the same BRP study, three in five (62%) consumers surveyed said they check online reviews/ratings before visiting a store, yet just 61% of retailers offer consumer product reviews for research! Shoppers now rely on mobile to continue the digitally supported buying process in-store, with nearly 60% of shoppers looking up product information and prices while using their mobile phones in stores, per Retail Dive’s 2017 Consumer Survey. Also per BRP, nearly three out of four (73%) of consumers want the ability to track orders across all points of interaction, going beyond an estimated delivery date to include when the order is being prepared, date shipped from the warehouse, etc. Plus customers expect an automated return process, with 68% of consumers surveyed telling BRP they are more likely to choose a retailer offering an automated returns process.

Analytics Need Complex Channel/Device Attribution

Merchants can leverage customers’ cross-device penchant to optimize acquisition and conversion, argues a Direct Marketing News article by Pierre DeBois. But they must keep in mind that, while the opportunity to boost ad frequency and content persuasion across channels is huge, smart management is required to avoid turning targeted promotion into a bludgeon. As Bill Kee, Google’s group product manager for attribution, highlighted at the 2017 Google Marketing Next conference, “If I am on three devices, and if I see your ad five times, it means you’ve reached me 15 times…believe me I get it.” The first place to start is good omnichannel analytics to understand the contribution of each channel to ROI and its place in the customer journey. Only then can merchants cost-effectively tailor targeting and investment to maximize sales. One useful analytics tool is Google’s Unique Reach report, which displays digital ad frequency metrics across devices, campaigns, and formats to measure how many times a person views a given ad, and combines attribution influences from AdWords, DoubleClick, and Google Analytics, suggests DeBois.

Using Images and Chat to Direct the Customer Journey

Good omnichannel analytics also can improve use of image and video content to maximize the proven effectiveness of image/video in digital engagement, to answer the customer demand for education, and to direct prospects through the sales funnel. However, quantities of images bombarding customers across multiple channels can overwhelm and confuse, so both media curation and a content mapping strategy aligned to the customer journey are needed. One example of a targeted image strategy is use of an “image story” feature on a social media platform to orchestrate images and/or a short video, notes DeBois. Pinterest Lens, Instagram Stories, and Twitter Moments are all image story features. Because the majority of consumers research products and services online now, marketers also can gain an edge over competitors by offering customer-facing elements such as chatbots. In contrast to apps, which may be used only for a few discrete tasks and then ignored, a chatbot’s programmable assistance can provide both engagement and continuing response performance improvement.

For more, see the Direct Marketing News article.

These Digital Tactics Can Power Insurance Marketing Lead Gen

Sometimes insurance marketers, used to face-to-face sales and targeted direct mail, struggle to adapt to the highly competitive and noisy digital marketplace for lead generation. Some helpful tips from the Blue Corona web marketing agency should be of interest to AccuList USA’s insurance marketing clients looking to improve their digital lead results.

Fast, Mobile-Friendly Pages Capture More Leads

The natural place to start is the insurance marketer’s website, where the majority of potential policyholders will first interact with the marketing message. Basically, the website must grab attention almost immediately. If consumers don’t connect with what they see within 10 seconds of landing on a web page, they’ll move on, per studies. That means up-front contact information, compelling call-to-action, plugins that localize content, etc. But it also means speedy page loading. Studies show that a website needs to load in under 3 seconds (in fact, 47% of people expect a web page to load in two seconds or less, points out Blue Corona). And that speed needs to happen on a mobile device. Over half of all digital searches for insurance information occur from mobile devices; more specifically, 58.6% of average monthly auto insurance searches and 55.4% of life insurance searches are via mobile, reports Blue Corona. If digital pages and ads aren’t mobile-optimized, they aren’t going to optimize leads.

Invest in SEO, Pay-per-Click Ads to Drive Traffic

How do you get prospects to those fast-loading, compelling, mobile-friendly pages? Search engine optimization is a basic requirement today for driving traffic. Out of the over 200 ranking factors, Blue Corona lists a few top tactics for getting to that coveted first page of a Google search: optimized title tags and meta descriptions on pages; site security (https vs http); mobile-friendly pages; schema markup; quality content; fast page downloading; social media signals; quality backlinks; and optimized images. But all searches are not created equal. Marketers want high-converting leads not shoppers. So Blue Corona suggests buying pay-per-click ads targeting search phrases that indicate high-commercial intent, such as “buy auto insurance” rather than “do I need auto insurance?” The ad content can then target a top consumer trigger. In most cases, that means competitive rates; for example, 70% of consumers say they look for the best deal when renewing an auto policy.

Engage via Blogging, Focused Content

A blog is another way to not only build traffic but also establish authority on insurance topics, build trust and go from policy hawker to insurance resource in the eyes of potential policyholders. If the average person consumes 11.4 pieces of content before making a purchasing decision, per Forrester, then insurance marketing wants to be at the top of that content list in terms of impact and quality. Blue Corona suggests blog topics such as “Factors You Didn’t Know Affect Your [Life/Auto/Liability/Etc.] Insurance Coverage,”  “How Much [Health/Auto/Liability/Etc.] Insurance Do You Need?” and “10 Tips for Keeping Insurance Rates Low.” Whether a blog post or a website page, the goal is to help insurance shoppers deal with an often confusing topic. TransUnion’s 2017 Healthcare Millennial Report found that 57% of millennial consumers identified as having “no understanding” or a “limited understanding” of their insurance benefits, while 50% of Generation X and 42% of Baby Boomers said the same. So don’t give prospects too many choices on website main pages, which can overwhelm and drive them away, and focus instead on the key solutions people need from insurance, advises Blue Corona.

For even more digital marketing suggestions to help retain policyholders and hone competitive edge, see https://www.bluecorona.com/blog/insurance-marketing-ideas-strategies

Museum Mates Social, Video and Events in New Campaign

AccuList USA’s museum marketing clients are always looking for innovative ways to reach the target audience. A recent article in the Chicago Business Journal spotlights how the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) Chicago dove into innovative multi-channel marketing after 20 years without an advertising campaign.

Videos Pack Punch in 6-Second Bouts

Lauren Smallwood, MCA’s director of communications, had a story to tell about exciting changes at the museum: a new restaurant, a new artist’s exhibition, a new “social engagement space,” and a program offering event rental space. The question was how to best leverage that story to entice audience. The museum and its agency decided to harness the proven marketing power of video. They developed a series of visually-arresting 6-second videos that both grab attention and prompt curiosity about, and exploration of, the changes at MCA Chicago.

Social Media Leads Multi-Channel Outreach

The videos are to being disseminated primarily through social media channels, with no plans for more expensive TV airing. However, the social media campaign also is reinforced by digital, print and out-of-home advertising that plays on the look and feel of the high-energy video campaign, titled “Made You Look.” The museum also added two large signs to its facade, with soft yellow lights intended to serve as welcoming beacons for visitors.

Pop-up Events Seek to Entice Interest

Another first for MCA is the use of pop-up events. For example, an April weekend event in storefront space sought to engage visitors in the music, art and pop culture of 1979, a pivotal year in the career of artist Howardena Pindell, whose exhibition at MCA was being simultaneously promoted in the video-led campaign.

To read more and see the videos, go to https://www.bizjournals.com/chicago/news/2018/04/04/museum-of-contemporary-art-short-marketing-message.html

Arts Marketers Need Digital CTAs That Drive Subscriptions

While direct mail continues to be a sturdy workhorse for AccuList USA’s performing arts marketing clients, digital campaigns–via online display ads, e-mail and social media–are required in a multi-channel world. Digital subscription drives offer cost-effectiveness, off-season branding, audience segment targeting, and synergy with direct mail. (Check out our Digital2Direct program to see we help mate mail with e-mail and social media ads.)  But with more competition for attention in the crowded digital space and with less room for persuasion than “snail mail,” digital promotion success is especially dependent on a well-designed and targeted call-to-action, as pointed out in a recent blog post by strategists at MogoARTS, a digital marketing agency for arts and cultural organizations.

Customizing CTA by Audience

An effective call-to-action will differ by targeting, the post points out. With renewals, the targets are lists of current season subscribers, so the CTA messaging can be direct and should highlight an incentive like a discount or savings for renewing early or by a deadline. For acquiring new members or reactivating lapsed subscribers, targeting includes lists of previous season ticket buyers and e-mail opt-in prospects, who need to be shown the benefits of subscription (or reminded). The CTA messaging for lapsed subscribers and multi-ticket buyers should give a reason to come back or upgrade to a subscription by promoting package savings or special benefits, such as free parking or early access to add-ons. CTAs to entice new members will need to spell out subscriber benefits, either across ad units or on a landing page, and showcase varied package options.

Tips on CTA Creative

The blog post also lists some CTA creative suggestions for arts marketers, whether the decision is to leverage programning/events or benefits to drive action. In pushing benefits in digital ads, listing one benefit per banner maximizes message impact and avoids overcrowding with too much text; patrons will see multiple banners over the life of the campaign after all. If the decision is to push programming, then other formats such as video or Facebook/Instagram News Feed Carousel ads may spark greater engagement than a static ad.

General CTA Best Practices

MogoARTS cites three best practices for any CTA: 1) customization for the different audience types, meaning renewing, lapsed or new members; 2) emphasis on the benefits of a subscription package over a single ticket purchase; and 3) highlighting of the savings/special rewards available for subscribing now. For CTA examples, see https://www.mogoartsmarketing.com/blog/subscription-campaign-best-practices-2018

Demographic Trends Drive Growth in Pet-Owner Spending

Direct mail and e-mail lists and data services targeting pet owners are one of AccuList USA’s high-demand markets, and we expect trends in pet ownership to grow that marketing interest–and the competition that makes quality data and targeting even more essential.

Demographics Fuel Pet-Owner Spending

A recent post for The Marketing Insider highlights the demographic trends that are making pet owners such attractive targets: “Americans now own 305 million cats and dogs, an increase of 85 million over the past 10 years. The  50+ demographic is responsible for 60% of that growth. With 50+ population expected to grow twice as rapidly as the 18-49 segment over the next 10 years, brands that include 50+ pet owners in their marketing strategies will improve their odds of maximizing revenue growth,” asserts columnist Mark Bradbury.

Older Pet Owners Offer Big Opportunities

Bradbury makes the point that marketers hoping to cash in on the older pet-owning market will need to adjust their buyer profiles given that 50+ pet owners are mainly empty-nesters (80%), retired (one-in-three), and three times more likely than younger pet owners to be divorced, widowed or separated–leaving more time and disposable income to devote to pet members of the family. Bradbury points to statistical proof that older owners are on a pet-spending splurge: People 50+ spent over $15.6 billion on their pets in the last year, more than all of the other generations combined, according to PetBusinessProfessor.com.

Growing Market Also Draws Big Competition

The opportunity to market pet-pampering products is expanding, but so is the competition for slices of the pet-owner pie. Using marketing tactics of the past may either miss the mark with the older generation of pet owners, or get lost in the crowd vying for their attention. Bradbury suggests several tactics that put the focus squarely on the growing Baby Boomer pet market, including messaging that celebrates a pet-centric Boomer life stage. Multi-channel campaigning is a must for this market as well. In addition to digital marketing via online, social and e-mail, Boomers are also still heavy users, and responders, of direct mail, magazines and television, Bradbury points out. “Synergistic cross-media marketing plans” are required to maximize reach at every stage in the purchase funnel, he advises. Plus, though Boomers like to spend to dote on their pets, they also want to spend wisely and are attracted to savings opportunities. Direct marketers will want to include discounts or loyalty reward programs to win brand fans.

For more of Bradbury’s pet marketing suggestions, see https://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/314521/the-inside-track-on-the-booming-pet-market.html