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What is Digital Marketing? Exactly What YOU Make It To Be

A wise marketer once told me, “As brevity is the soul of wit, in our world, simplicity is the heart of marketing.”  I sense that we may be introducing unnecessary complexity, and creating barriers to entry, as we move from physical to digital channels.  I’d appreciate your thoughts here.

First, What is ‘Digital Marketing’?

A great quantity of digital ink is being devoted to defining ‘digital marketing.’

There are thousands of definitions and descriptions, but the one I like the best is the simplest. Late last year,  The TopRank Online Marketing blog, asked 9 marketers to define ‘Digital Marketing’. Tami Cannizzaro, Vice President of Marketing at IBM, said, “Digital marketing is marketing in 2014 and we are all digital marketers. Every tactic in marketing today has an element of digital, of instrumentation.” (Instrumentation means that you use devices to measure what you’re doing.)

In other words, you are probably doing digital marketing already.  If you are extracting client and policy data from your legacy system to feed an email campaign, you can legitimately say you are engaging in digital marketing.  Whether it is effective or not is a different story.

Everyone is doing digital right (except me)

You don’t have to do it all to do something well. As strange as it sounds, digital is a continuum, not a yes/no proposition.

Digital marketing is changing as rapidly as the technology and customers are changing, which is really fast.  Some organizations are transforming themselves to a ‘digital first’ strategy.  This represents a major shift in business focus.

As Accenture’s Mike Sutcliffe noted in an article in the European Business Review, “A truly digital enterprise does more than respond to consumers in new digital ways. It creates new operating models and business processes to replace those that were designed for a non-digital world.”

A few insurers have introduced in-house R&D units to act as innovation hubs.  For example, Intact recently opened Intact Lab, which, according to its release,  “will focus on developing world-class digital solutions to provide Intact customers with an unrivaled service experience, and brokers with industry-leading business solutions.”

This level of commitment is not for everyone.  However, there are a number of organizations which are putting stakes in the ground, sometimes with partners, to take measured risks, be prepared to fail fast and scale appropriately.

They measure success (correctly, I believe) by progress, not perfection.

Brokers have templates (that some companies might well use)

Several industry groups are working to find digital paths forward that brokers can explore.   ACT, the technology arm of the Independent Agents & Brokers of America, Inc. (IIABA), is one example.  A committee was set up in 2014 to collect information, brainstorm, and test initiatives that its members are taking.

The result, available in the public domain,  is a a set of pragmatic recommendations for agents/brokers to consider.  Many of these leverage existing products and processes that have been developed with the cooperation of insurance carriers.

Closer to home Canada’s ORBiT has set up a digital working group to produce recommendations for its members.  An overview will be provided at its 2015 Real Time Day on May 26th, 2015 in Mississauga.

Brokers should examine these.  And, in absence of other options, these tools could be useful for smaller insurers, making the necessary changes.

This isn’t to dismiss more rigorous marketing tools …

Marketing is not a static science.  There are always new tools and techniques that add value.  Digital is rapidly becoming a distribution as well as a marketing tool, and there many new skills we have to master to meet and exceed consumer expectations.  I am confident that we will learn as we go.

My point here is that marketing is a journey, not a destination.  And we really don’t have a detailed map for the digital portion.

What do you think?

Are you just experienced with the digital marketing journey?  How did you start?  Are you waiting for the right time to start?  What time is that?


One Comment

Dario Battista

As a brokerage that transformed itself from a very traditional model, we see digital as a means and not the end. Our move from a traditional model was based on a business strategy to build sustainable organic growth. Today we have grown the business by over 300%, with over 90% coming from isure. Our market has expanded to include every part of Ontario, and we have done this without insurer money or broker acquisition. In my view, for any “digital” marketing strategy to be successful it needs to be built on a solid foundation of business vision and strategy, otherwise it is nothing more than buying random ads and yellow page spots.

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