BY THOMAS ÖTINGER
Finding the right ways and means to adapt business and IT processes to the new market environment is required of insurance companies today more than ever before. Their change is accompanied by marketing in conjunction with modern software technologies. The Itzehoer Insurance company provides their brokers with support.
“Umparken im Kopf” [transl.: move your mind] was the motto of this year’s conference on marketing, advertising and sales promotion held by the German Insurance Academy in Berlin. In his closing remarks, the Chairman of the Munich-based Association, Dr Reiner Reitzler, pointed out that digitisation, the industry’s image, capital market environment and legal requirements could partly be designed by the industry itself. In any case, it is the industry that has to move and deal constructively with the challenges it currently faces.
To be constructive ‒ this applies to any company that intends to be ahead in customer communication. And that applies not only to national TV ads and YouTube videos but also to communication at touchpoints on site. It is here, where a brand comes to life and where trust is instilled. Financial advisors, brokers and agents are at the forefront of building customer loyalty and need support from the brands themselves to be able to do so. The implementation of marketing management systems rightly promises not only insurances but also manufacturers and other companies with a decentralised sales structure, process optimisation and time savings compared to manual handling of all marketing processes. Synergy effects achieved through centralisation save costs. Quick and easy, basically with a click of a mouse, agents can access promotional activities via an insurance’s marketing portal for example.
But local branding does not work without trust. This link in the value chain is often overlooked when designing technologies to ensure that corporate marketing is made fit for the requirements of the modern age. In a local brand management supported by a system, trust should be based on three levels: firstly, in the form of acceptance of the portal by the agent, otherwise neither tool nor new opportunities will be perceived truly. Secondly, at the level of the brand manifested as its confidence in the local positioning of agents supported by promotional efforts. Thirdly, to inspire confidence in people and the brand on the side of the consumers.
An insurance company from Northern Germany, Itzehoer, has incorporated the value of trust firmly into its corporate identity. According to studies, the company takes first place in terms of customer satisfaction among the 23 largest German insurers.
However, with increasing growth Itzehoer Insurance reached the limits of local brand management at some point. The agents needed a system-based approach in their efforts to attract new customers and to build a strong bond with them. They were supposed to strengthen brand identification while sharpening their own profile as a “local brand” at the same time. Additionally, they were asked to cover multichannel marketing while extending central campaigns: from local poster campaigns to regional online marketing and cinema spots. Faced with these challenges, Itzehoer Insurance looked into the portfolio of marcapo GmbH and quickly reached the conclusion that by using that system, two birds could be killed with one stone.
“With the ‘Local Branding Portal mein Itzehoer Marketing’ our agents have had access to a whole spectrum of marketing activities since 2011. It offers contemporary ways of advertising and integrates our partners without diluting the corporate identity of the brand,” Frank Thomsen, Director of Sales & Marketing at Itzehoer Insurance summarises the decisive advantages of the portal. Promotional activities focus on the local positioning of the insurer as a trusted expert. Central to the approach: the customised measures put the agents themselves at the forefront with their achievements, their signature, their agency (picture, address data, route map) and a portrait picture to encourage greater customer loyalty. At the kick-off events for the portal implementation, brokers were given the opportunity to take their picture at professional photo shoots. The edited portraits were then made available and incorporated in the agent’s profile section on the portal and can thus be inserted into individual flyers automatically. The message to the agent: Nothing works without you!
Local branding at its best? Not yet. Registration alone is not enough to ensure that the local branding portal is used consistently and continuously. Other important aspects are the Itzehoer insurance advisory and advertising budgets. The latter are provided as an incentive in the form of advertising allowances. This naturally allows head-office to keep the control in their hands while embarking on the course that is necessary for a region or as part of a campaign together with its sales partners. Controlling and evaluation are mastered centrally using daily reports. Furthermore, an advertising consultancy with industry experience is at the agents’ side and provides telephone support. First Level Support also serves as a feedback channel and plays an important role in the two-way communication towards users regarding marketing. Regular, i.e. seasonal promotional actions on the portal support its acceptance: only a dynamic portal is a good portal.
The brands themselves can thus focus on their core business while the local brand management that backs it up is managed by the system provider. Without energetic people in the background who put emphasis on commitment, nothing works there either. Ultimately, you want the ‘back office’ to develop new modules, qualify suppliers and process orders on time. Trainings include the sales force, which itself is essential to build trust.
In fact, Itzehoer Insurance has another trick up its sleeve to instil confidence in its brand. The group is proud of its cooperation with the internationally successful show-jumper Janne Friederike Meyer, whose testimonial for Itzehoer’s liability insurance for riders is trust building at its best. Access to the corresponding promotional material is of course granted via the Marketing Portal. Only if it is kept alive by keeping the people (consumers as well as users) in view, can an actual commitment to the brand be inspired. Integration, consultation and clear rules alone allow for a new, more intensive advertising at major touchpoints and a trusting partnership with consumers.
Furthermore, local circumstances and target group-specific sales patterns can be reacted to individually. While in many systems, the order in which the goods will be presented at online stores is inevitably linked to part numbers, data labelling or titles, OMN lets you choose a specific order for each store, regardless of the articles’ description. That way, the product presentation can be adapted to target consumers precisely.
The specialist for local branding serves over 40,000 sales partners of major brands on the basis of the marcapo local branding portal. Its customers include well-known brands such as Itzehoer Insurance, HDI, Wella or Vaillant.
This article was published in The Produktkulturmagazin issue Q2 2015. Picture credit: © istock.com/Rebecca Nelson