Financial services marketers have an inherent challenge in selling their products and services because consumers often find those products difficult to understand. That certainly is the perception within the insurance industry. Plus, let’s be honest: Risk management is not always the most fun thing to think about.
Amica Mutual Insurance Co. understood these two challenges and tackled them head-on when building its content marketing strategy for its home, auto and life product lines.
At the core of the Lincoln, Rhode Island-based insurer’s content program are answers to questions current and future policyholders might have about insurance. Amica understands that connecting with consumers who are Googling insurance products could be an important first step in a long-standing relationship.
Because that’s Amica’s mission: Create peace of mind and build enduring relationships with its customers. For the last couple of years, content marketing has been at the forefront of the insurance company’s efforts. Amica launched its content hub for life insurance, Amica Life Lessons, in 2017 and followed up with two more hubs—for auto and home insurance—in 2018.
We sat down with Mike Plante, Amica marketing officer, to discuss why content marketing aligns so tightly with Amica’s brand goals—and explore the lessons he’s learned along the way.
What drove your decision a couple of years ago to consider content marketing?
At the time, most of our campaigns and communications were bottom funnel. They were very much focused on encouraging the audience to get an insurance quote. When we looked at that, and also considered that consumers had the misperception that life insurance was a challenging, complex product, we very quickly realized that there was a hole there.
We launched Amica Life Lessons to better educate consumers on life insurance, very simply. Originally, the site included a handful of articles, some guides and—on the interactive side—a needs calculator and a quoting engine. When we launched the site, though, we very quickly saw, based on observing how consumers were using it, that we really needed to introduce a much deeper level of educational content.
Once we started seeing success, we just knew that we needed to extend that same approach to other product lines—home and auto insurance.
Was it challenging to make the case to your senior leaders? What did you use for your proof points?
The concept of content marketing was supported from the get-go, and we gained support from our senior leadership team by clearly communicating our objectives. When you think about our brand and our dedication to customer service and helpfulness, the concept made sense and was bought into right away.
We really set out to demonstrate how we could use content marketing to answer simple questions consumers have about insurance—to better inform customers and prospects alike.
We did have to set new expectations on what success looks like, though. Site data was helpful in that we had started to prove out that this type of approach and this type of content, when shared with the right audience, could make an impact.
How do you track content performance?
Historically, a lot of our successful conversations were around cost per lead, quote-complete rate and conversion to issued policy. And those things are all still important, obviously. But we really had to introduce other metrics that were just as important in a content program, those more rooted in engagement. Things like time on page, bounce rate, scroll depth and click-through rate to related content.
What are the core messaging pillars of Amica’s content strategy?
At the core of the Amica brand is our desire to provide peace of mind and build lasting relationships. We really strive to provide customers with extraordinary service, helpfulness and advocacy at all stages of their relationship with us. Through content, we truly have the opportunity to create a positive brand impression from that very first touch point.
We strongly believe that content marketing complements what’s most aligned to our brand truth. We feel the content we deliver can provide consumers with greater peace of mind and greater comfort in knowing that we’re helping them to make more informed financial decisions.
And then there’s the trust factor. Before making any financial decision—especially for a financial-related product—consumers need to clearly see the value in it. But they also have to trust the brand that they’re about to do business with. And we really do believe that content marketing is a way for us to demonstrate not only the value of our brand but to help consumers realize the efforts we’re putting in to help them make more informed decisions.
Content marketing is still fairly new to Amica. What have you learned and switched up thus far?
I think where we’ve evolved is related to integrating content into other channels. As social media became an even more important channel for us, one lacking piece of our social program was content. We wanted to take it beyond just a one-way conversation and trying only to drive quotes.
We really saw the need to build engagement through our social channels. And based on the past six months to a year of really integrating our content hub content into our social strategy, our engagement on the social side is stronger than it’s ever been.
Consumer needs for information about auto, home and life insurance are by definition different, yet they’re all part of one brand experience. How does Amica manage the shifts in voice, tone and goals across three stand-alone content hub programs?
It’s definitely critical that we go to market with a consistent message across the three products, where possible. We do have the same core teams working across the three business lines. Part of that was a conscious decision to really allow that team to observe what’s working well and what’s not working so well within each product line and apply those insights and learnings to the other product lines.
That said, content marketing isn’t the only thing that the team works on. That’s a huge benefit in that we’re always trying to integrate what we’ve learned from our content marketing program into other channels wherever it makes sense.
What is something that Amica does in marketing that would surprise people?
I think people would be surprised at how small our team is running our advertising and marketing communication programs: We’re about 20 people. We, of course, work with a group of agency partners, and we couldn’t tackle what we do without them.
The other thing that comes to mind is truly how dedicated and protective we are of our brand. I think people would be very surprised what we’re willing to turn down because it doesn’t align with the brand. We’re regularly approached with opportunities from a sponsorship perspective or with programs that could have massive reach and massive exposure for us. But when evaluating the opportunity, we will turn it down if it doesn’t align with who we are.
What role does market research play in communicating with your target audience?
Before making a purchase, specifically from a financial services company, consumers need to trust them, and they need to see value in what’s being offered to them. Their behaviors related to that process change constantly, as well as their preferences and how they’d like to be communicated with by a financial services company.
It’s important for us to be able to talk to consumers in the way that they prefer, in the channels that they prefer. We need to keep a constant pulse on that.
So we have a long history of ongoing research, whether it’s through more traditional methods like focus groups and surveys or more recent approaches like machine learning and social listening. We use those multiple sources of information to allow us to continue to keep pace with the changing needs of consumers.
What’s a recent insight from your research that stands out?
One that has stood out is that it’s not just millennials who have made the shift online. Meaning, when we think about improving our online processes, it’s not just the millennial that’s looking for an easier path to purchase. It’s just as much the boomer that’s doing that. And we’ve seen that across auto, home and life. That was definitely an “aha!” moment.
I think we’ve also seen that Amazon has trained every consumer to expect a frictionless path to online purchase, and it’s not just millennials who now expect and want that.
What are Amica’s top challenges in reaching its target audiences?
Our target audiences are starting to cut the cord. And they’re changing the ways that they interact with advertising. They’re not exposed to quite the same level of advertising they used to be from a TV perspective. Also, consumers are continuing to adopt the use of ad-blocking services, and that’s another significant challenge for us.
What are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned as a marketer working in the insurance industry?
I think there was a time when we believed that the consumer would be ready to ask for an insurance quote on their first interaction with us. For the most part, we’ve learned that’s not true. As I’ve learned more about our core customer, I’ve found they are truly unlike any customer I’ve seen before, in that they want to become as informed as possible before making a financial decision. They’re conducting research on their own, they want control over it, and they just want to be informed.
And along the way, if we can demonstrate the value of the brand but also demonstrate how we can help them educate themselves to make the best decision possible, that’s a win for us. And that’s obviously a very different approach than just constantly being in front of someone asking them to get a quote.