ICTA Nomination: Erie Mutual Improves Marketing With Analytics

2015 ICTA Nomination.   Technology by Environics Analytics.

For most companies, the keys to success require meeting the needs of current customers, attracting new prospects and increasing brand awareness. But when a company knows little about its current customers, has relied for years on word-of-mouth marketing and faces increasing competition from online and brick and mortar rivals, the prospects for success can be challenging.

That was the situation confronting Erie Mutual Insurance Company several years ago when it embarked on a “re-engineering” campaign to improve its sales and marketing efforts. After nearly a century-and-a-half in business, Erie Mutual found itself treading water in a forgotten consumer cove. Recent surveys showed that although claims and policyholder experience was high – validated by high retention rates – brand awareness was low. The industry was changing, with increased regulatory pressures and low pricing competition from big direct writers – not to mention the game-changing presence of the Internet. After years of relying on word-of-mouth referrals, Erie’s sales agents were struggling to develop new business.

“We didn’t have a good grasp of our customers and prospects,” says John Dunton, the president and CEO of Erie Mutual, from his office in Dunnville, Ont. “But we were launching a growth strategy which was high-touch and relationship-driven. We knew we were facing a big challenge.”

To meet that challenge of becoming more customer-centric despite a lack of customer information, Erie Mutual turned to an innovative solution: data analytics. Increasingly, businesses and not-for-profits are leveraging data – from internal and external research sources – to guide a variety of operations: customer acquisition, product development, merchandising, media planning, cross-selling and site location analysis. While many mutual insurance companies are awash in data about policyholder accounts – the square footage of homes, number of cars, size of premiums – their information base focuses on underwriting and typically lacks critical demographic and lifestyle data to execute a more informed and targeted marketing strategy.

“Insurance is a highly statistical-driven business,” explains Dunton. “We have all this quantitative data on the value of a property and how much our policyholders spend on a policy. But we don’t know the qualitative characteristics about how they spend their time and money outside of insurance.”

The effort to gain that customer intelligence began in December 2012 when Erie Mutual engaged Environics Analytics (EA), a Toronto-based company that specializes in data-based marketing and analytics. EA researchers first analyzed Erie Mutual’s active customers with PRIZMC2, a segmentation system that classifies Canadians into 66 lifestyle types – with names like Back Country Folks, Rods & Wheels and Fast-Track Families – based on their predominant demographics, behaviour and attitudes. By knowing where Erie’s current policyholders lived, the PRIZMC2 data allowed marketers to learn how they lived. And because PRIZMC2 is linked to a variety of marketing databases, they were able to develop a 360-degree perspective of each customized consumer segment based on Erie Mutual’s current customers.

Armed with the data and analytics from Environics Analytics, Erie Mutual’s marketing team communicated their enhanced understanding of their customers across the company – to sales agents, claims people, even board members. The PRIZM-based data helped Erie Mutual develop a 2014 sales and marketing plan to identify new prospects, target its messages and increase its brand awareness. The company posted billboards in strategic locations in the Niagara region, displayed digital out-of-home screens in a popular regional mall and dispatched mail solicitations to postal codes with high concentrations of prospects – making sure to follow up those cards with personal contacts. And in a burst of outside-the-box thinking, marketers wrapped their fleet of loss-prevention vehicles with brand advertising to capture the attention of customers-on-the-go.

The new campaign paid off. Revenue from new business climbed 40 percent – nearly twice last year’s growth rate – with an uptick in the number of new policyholders. “We’re benefitting from sending out a targeted message rather than a shotgun message,” says Dunton. And he’s enthusiastic about other initiatives coming in the near future: the launch of a loyalty program, several customer appreciation events and a social media campaign. For a company once considered “so last century,” Erie Mutual is now dedicated to forward-thinking, data-driven analytics to grow its customer-centric business in a rapidly changing industry. “We’re doing what we need Erie to do,” says Dunton. “But we also think this data-driven approach would be good for a lot of other insurers – and their customers.”

Benefits

In 2014, revenue from new business has climbed 40 percent – nearly twice last year’s growth rate – with an uptick in both the number of new policyholders and sales from current customers. The data-based analysis also led Erie Mutual to launch a successful new line of business specifically for bed-and-breakfasts. In addition, the company rolled out a successful digital presence, with its website attracting new, younger visitors beyond its traditional target audience. Erie now has 800 “likes” on Facebook and is trending in the right direction.

About Erie Mutual

Founded in 1871, Erie Mutual Insurance Company currently serves more than 3,300 policyholders in the Haldimand-Niagara Region of Ontario. Erie Mutual underwrites and distributes a full line of property and casualty insurance products, including farm, home, auto and personal liability insurance. In addition, it offers commercial insurance to small and medium-sized agriculture-related businesses in Haldimand County and the Niagara Region. Erie Mutual distributes its insurance products through a team of dedicated, professional insurance agents. Each agent is committed to providing their clients with the most appropriate and affordable coverage that best meets their ever-changing insurance needs. For more information, please visit www.eriemutual.com.

SOURCE: Erie Mutual