by Courtney Eckerle
With a successful online loyalty program for existing customers already under its belt, Capital Insurance Group set out to make its email program the premiere means of communication.
"The genesis of it is, how do we get people to really understand the value of insurance?" said Sandie Borthwick, Corporate Marketing Manager, Capital Insurance Group.
To do this, CIG had to identify and act on the opportunities within its email program to generate revenue, and move away from distributing purely informative content in favor of a personalized, highly targeted message that would speak to its subscribers' individual policy needs.
"We focused on specific needs of our client and specific coverage, and started a very slow trickle of email out talking about our coverage benefits," Borthwick said.
Along that vein, CIG wanted to support local insurance advisors by having content specifically related to policy renewal, and use that compelling content as a way to increase sales and show CIG's brand value at a critical point in a policyholder's lifecycle.
Focusing on policy growth, as well as brand awareness, involved not only understanding client and insurance advisor needs, but developing internally to conquer inbox placement issues, a focus that eventually improved its inbox placement rate by 25%.
"We wanted to start this conversation with them electronically through … talking about the value of specific new policy coverage," she said.
In this campaign, CIG used email content to deliver information on home electronic breakdown coverage to its commercial segment, which includes policy holders who own commercial property or apartments.
This information would be specifically relevant to them, and encourage expanding coverage.
Borthwick and her team went through and built email sends, as well as traditional billing inserts and postcard mailings, that would go out to people 75 days before their insurance expired. This targeted email was created for the commercial segment alongside its standard "eZine" email campaign.
Not only was CIG able to talk about its coverage, but, "more importantly, we talked about the reason why coverage was needed," Borthwick said, adding it also took a thought leadership approach, and slowly added that into its email process.
Step #1. Set up a process for compelling content
"It is an add-on process," Borthwick said. "We talked about the value of it — what it brought to the client. We started out by addressing what the problem was, whether it was … your dishwasher breaking down and flooding your living room, your lint vent in your dryer clogging out and causing fire, or so on."
What CIG wanted to do, she explained, was to talk about "specific things that happen to people on an everyday basis … and we wanted to educate people about their ability to be able to take some of that risk away by following some specific steps."
By identifying its subscribers by their personal insurance needs, CIG was able to provide them information to make better decisions when it came to their policies, specifically when it came to renewing or increasing their policy.
Borthwick described the team's approach to content as wanting to clearly lay out for policy holders, "here is the type of coverage you should be looking at to make sure that you are covered appropriately."
Step #2. Integrate consistently across all sends, including traditional
After starting that conversation via email with subscribers, Borthwick said CIG "backed it up with direct mail and other forms of direct response media."
Borthwick said CIG focused on the "marrying of email and the traditional marketing messages" for this campaign. Working those two strategies together, CIG was sure to reach to policy holders at a critical point.
In direct response marketing, CIG backed up what it was sending via email with billing inserts and postcard mailings to policy clients who were 75 days out from renewing their policies.
In including their traditional tactics with email, Borthwick said she and her team "took the old approach — if it ain't broke, don't fix it, and if it is working, repeat it."
CIG sells through independent insurance agents, so all of its communications are co-branded.
Everything a policy client receives from CIG is both from the agent and the company.
"We take second billing on everything, because the important thing is to keep our independent agents in the front of mind," Borthwick said.
The co-brand includes the agencies' names, their contact information — primarily their phone number, and agen's license numbers, as required by the state's Department of Insurance.
CIG implemented two email formats to go out, one for new clients, who receive communications that speak to "the salient points of your coverage … we talk about the things that are included in your policy and the relationship with your independent insurance advisor," Borthwick said.
Customers, who have renewed their policy, will receive a thank you email from CIG, according to Borthwick. It includes information that may be useful in their future relationship with CIG.
"The same type of tenor, letting them know if they haven't taken advantage of some of the additional things, like excess liability or sports equipment coverage," she said.
Using email content to bring light to these policy possibilities acts as a "conversation starter" between CIG and their policyholders, according to Borthwick.
No matter the communication, Borthwick said CIG always likes the client to know, "we are all there to benefit the policy client."
Step #3. Use content to focus on a unique service offered to policy-holders
When CIG became the first company in the United States to offer a smoke-free credit to commercial line apartment owners, Borthwick said it became important to capitalize on it in the content of its emails.
If the client's apartment buildings become smoke-free, CIG would offer the policyholder a discount on their commercial liability insurance.
Email was used as a place to showcase this development to policyholders it would affect.
Borthwick explained since the largest cause of insurance claims in apartment buildings are due to unattended stove-tops or cigarette burns, "or other smoking paraphernalia that causes rehab problems with burning of carpets, counter-tops, paint distortion, aging of curtains … the biggest thing our apartment owners have to deal with is refurbishing an apartment after a smoker."
Again, Borthwick said CIG used the same process, focusing on the issue in the dedicated send
, and she estimated at the time, it came back with the highest open rate for any they had sent out at the time.
"We had a huge spike in policy conversions," she said, adding CIG "had a huge spike in people contacting us to find out about how to go smoke-free and our retention rates stayed consistent."
As a regional insurance company, Borthwick said the ability to send this pertinent information directly to the people whom it would affect and influence the most is vital to its business.
"The most important thing that we have going for us … other than giving great customer service and our coverage, is our retention factor," she said.
"Anytime we can stave off the hands of the nationals from coming in and chewing away at our market base, the better off we are. So, it achieved all the goals that we had set for the campaign actually," she concluded.
According to Borthwick, the program is "still going strong" with the strategy of sending its email communications and then "backing it up with billing inserts … with postcards," and she added CIG has expanded it to its auto insurance as well.
"The marrying of the email and the traditional marketing methods has really been a boon to us and has kept our agents in front of their policy clients. It has kept us in front of both our agency base and our policy base on what I would consider a very, very tiny budget," she said.
CIG's inbox placement rate increased by 25% overall, and the send that went to Commercial Lines/Apartment Owners achieved:
- A 33% open rate, an increase of 50%
- A 74% click-to-open rate, an increase of 300%
- On average, policy renewal/upsell emails achieved a 7% conversion rate
Borthwick said what she took from the campaign was "how smart people are becoming, and maybe a little cautious."
CIG's solution with this campaign was to "give people a choice, and you give them the ability to decide on what they want to consume."
- Smoke-free send
SourcesCapital Insurance GroupReturn Path
Related ResourcesEmail Marketing: 142% higher open rate, 15% bigger list from retailer's strategy Email Marketing How-to: 5 steps to improve your email newsletterEmail Testing: How the Obama campaign generated approximately $500 million in donations from email marketingMarketingSherpa Email Summit 2013 Wrap-up: Top 5 takeaways for email marketersEmail Marketing: Expedia Cruise Ship Centers uses data-triggered human interaction to increase bookings 81%