Effective communication with customers and agents is
vital and, thanks to the power of email, need not cost the earth,
as US insurers such as United Home Life have discovered.
Charles Davis spoke to
United and email campaign specialist ExactTarget to glean insight
into this cost-effective medium.
Like many smaller US life insurers,
United Home Life Insurance of Indianapolis, Indiana, battles for
the attention of independent agents critical to the company’s sales
It is a competitive scenario played out daily,
as a seemingly countless array of providers vie for a place on the
desktop of agents across the country who can choose between any
number of term and whole-life packages from insurers large and
small. United Home Life must market its products efficiently, as it
lacks the multi-million dollar budgets of many of its direct
competitors, who can spend lavishly to bombard agents with slick
United Home Life, a smaller insurer founded in
1948 and purchased by Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance in 1997, is one
of hundreds of players in the simplified market, offering term and
whole life products through a national sales force of nearly 20,000
Rather than pour its finite resources into
costly mailings, United Home Life turned to email marketing,
working with email marketer ExactTarget to build its network of
independent agents and boost policy sales.
Massive sales boost
Alyson Vaught, marketing manager for
United Home Life, explained to LII that, thanks in large part to
replacing its in-house email marketing engine with ExactTarget’s
on-demand, internet-based platform in 2006, its recruitment and
retention of agent business is at an all-time high. Vaught added
that sales are up 40 percent so far this year, led by four new term
life products marketed in large part through e-mail.
“Providing useful sales collateral and
motivating agents to sell our products, rather than our
competitors’, is critical to driving sales volume,” Vaught said.
“ExactTarget provides us the technology to build compelling email
messages and gives us the tools to ensure they are delivered to the
inboxes of our agents.”
Using ExactTarget’s Core Edition, United Home
Life powers national email campaigns to agents that showcase life
insurance products and provide sales incentives. The campaigns’
success, Vaught said, stem from ExactTarget’s sender reputation and
deliverability services. Since moving to the platform, the insurer
has boosted its email deliverability to more than 95 percent,
scoring open rates well above industry averages.
“United Home Life needed to reach the inbox
for agents using a variety of ISPs [internet service providers] and
email software,” said Chip House, ExactTarget’s vice-president of
industry and relationship marketing. “They were able to post
impressive results by pairing our technical expertise and guidance
in deliverability best practices with a permission-based email
United Home Life plans to continue evolving
its email marketing in 2010 using ExactTarget’s personalisation
feature and segmentation tools to deliver agents content specific
to the products they sell. The firm also plans to integrate its
customer relationship management to streamline list management and
what it terms ‘power drip’ campaigns to new agents – a systematic
sequence of email messages that drive attention to new
“The email channel allows us to talk
to 20,000 agents very inexpensively, and we limit the use of mail
now to agents that have sold in the past year, and email everyone
else,” Vaught said. “For us, the Exact Target gives us a
structured, efficient way to send email in an organised way. They
ensure email gets to the inbox and avoids spam filters.”
Vaught said the platform allows her to simply
drop content into pre-formed templates, and then send email to
pre-arranged segments of the agent force.
“We can organise, report and track e-mail
usage, and that way we can follow up with agents who express
interest in a certain product, agent by agent,” she said.
“When you are trying to stay in the front of
20,000 agents, that is a huge advantage.”
Another ExactTarget client, Genworth
Financial, tied email marketing to its customer relationship
management package, personalising the content to individual
subscribers to its financial e-newsletters.
The strategy has resulted in a 7 percent to 10
percent higher open conversion rate compared to non-personalised
email messages. Sales were 39 percent higher for Genworth customers
who received personalised e-newsletters, compared to those who did
According to the June 2009 Marketing Trends
Survey by research firm StrongMail Systems, 42 percent of nearly
1,000 global business leaders polled plan to increase their
marketing budgets in 2009.
Of those, 81 percent intend to increase their
email marketing spend. Spending on email marketing, which has
flowed seemingly unabated for years, shows no signs of slowing down
– even as social networks and search engines continue to dominate
the marketing headlines.
Spending on email marketing will
expand at double-digit rates for the next five years, according to
a report from private equity firm Veronis Suhler Stevenson –
expanding at 18.5 percent each year.
In fact, ExactTarget’s research found a
positive correlation among consumer usage of email, instant
messaging, social networks and text messaging, dispelling myths
that the explosion of social media and texting will overtake
traditional email usage.
“The total number of social media users is
rapidly increasing, but often these users jump in quickly, only to
curtail their use of social media over time,” said Morgan Stewart,
ExactTarget’s director of research and strategy.
“Email on the other hand, is woven into all
online interaction, making it an essential tool consumers continue
to use more and more.”
Vaught agreed, and said, for many independent
agents crushed by workloads and wired into their email through
laptops and smartphones wherever they work, email now is more
effective than any other means of communication.
“In the workplace, for many of us, email is
the medium of choice,” she said. “It is inexpensive, it is easy to
track and it is non-intrusive. Today’s busy agent may never get to
the mail pieces.”