Open the gate

Hub International’s Ellina Shinnick says this golden rule helps content take flight for prospective buyers.

BY Adam Wren
Senior Editor, Imagination

Ellina Shinnick used to be a believer. The CMO faithfully subscribed to the practice of gating content assets for HUB International, the world’s sixth-largest insurance brokerage.

Shinnick arrived at Chicago-based HUB just four years ago as the director of marketing. Previously a digital marketing consultant at Accenture, the Ohio State University MBA enjoyed a relatively quick climb to the top at HUB, ascending to vice president of marketing in 2017 and chief marketing officer in 2018.

During her rise through the senior ranks at HUB, Shinnick watched gating stifle the performance of her content program. “In terms of ungating assets, we found that over time, conversion on those gated assets is really low,” Shinnick says. “Why shoot yourself in the foot?

“My philosophy is that if you spend hours and capital on really good content, why not give it to someone? It only promotes your brand. If you really provide value and ungate your asset in that first interaction, odds are, when they are ready to buy, when they are ready to engage, they’ll come back to you because you didn’t make it hard for them.”

Call it the golden rule of content marketing: “Do what’s right by the customer, and treat them how you want to be treated,” Shinnick says. Many will return—willing to convert.

The more Shinnick thought about it, the more she realized how important it was to invite the customer on an unrestricted journey through HUB’s content marketing.

“Another big thing we’ve shifted to this year … is taking a customer on a journey,” Shinnick says. “We literally ask them a question when they come to our website.” Traditional digital marketing might have encouraged users to download a whitepaper, which then prompted emails geared toward that topic.

Now, forward-thinking companies like HUB are prioritizing a personalized approach.

When prospective customers visit HUB’s website, they are invited to select the type of insurance product they’re interested in. Say they choose workers’ compensation. A box appears with the question: “Which of the following topics are of most interest to you as a future HUB webinar?” Four options are then offered. Users can select the option of learning more about how opioid abuse impacts their workforce, for example. Each preference takes readers down a different content path—giving them the information they want while also arming HUB with data about that future customer.

“The truth is, you might have been interested in a topic at a moment in time, but it was to answer a bigger question. We’ve flipped that on its head and said, ‘Why are we just assuming things about our customers?’ Let’s ask them.”

“Why shoot yourself in the foot? My philosophy is that if you spend hours and capital on really good content, why not give it to someone?”

Ellina Shinnick
Chief Marketing Officer, HUB International

The wisdom of crowds

Shinnick’s favorite content experience happened almost by accident. When a webinar expert canceled last minute, Shinnick’s team turned to its audience to crowdsource the topic. The result? HUB’s best-performing webinar to date.

What: An hourlong webinar called “Employee Financial Stress: The Invisible Drain on Workplace Productivity and Your Bottom Line.”

Why: “Our webinars do really well in terms of customer engagement. It was really rewarding because we crowdsourced the topic. We thought we were going to partner with a big brand and publication to get this webinar going. That partnership fell apart, so we were really on our own to come up with that audience. Pretty proud of the work.”

Through a full suite of marketing strategies—including email communications, advertising, social media, PR, HUB’s website and word-of-mouth—HUB generated 875,000 pre-webinar impressions and over 4,000 visits to HUB’s website, resulting in more than 1,700 registered for the webinar, nearly 50% of whom attended.

published: November 04, 2019

most popular

To gate or not to gate?

That is the question. But it’s just one you should be asking about the exchange of content for user information. Here are four more to get you started.
read it

22 resources to help you nail email

Find out what to read and whom to follow to hit inbox gold.
read it

How to write for the human ear

Use these three tips to write text that rolls off the tongue for podcasts and audio.
read it