Multiple levels of hierarchy and complex sales cycles make marketing to sales channels a complex proposition. It’s no wonder then that many companies need some assistance to do it right.
Consumer marketing may have the glitz and glamour but channel marketing has a complexity and richness that many marketers find fascinating, or perplexing, depending on who you talk to!
This is all too true in the insurance landscape. You have to market to your sales channel, who in turn markets to agencies and the agents and CSR’s within in, who then market to your customers. And then there is your whole support staff; CSR’s that answer customer’s calls, and claims that handle the single most important insurance experience a customer can have- what happens in a loss. Layers upon layers, but a big portion of your marketing is internal marketing- business people talking to business people. Convincing them why you, why your company and products are the ones to choose.
The process involves multiple parties, including influencers and gatekeepers. These parties have their own interests and needs for information about the product, its features and its benefits. Sales is often incentivized by internal motivations to push certain products. Agents can be completely biased to one particular provider, based on so many different factors- their relationship with their sales contact at your company, how easy it is to quote and bind with you, an incentive program you are running, and of course commissions.
What does this all mean? Your messages need to be highly strategic and well thought through. Customized, personalized and targeted to the nth degree; a level unheard of in the consumer world.
To motivate these parties you need to consider each of their own objectives. Sales wants to increase their market share or grow their territory. Agents want to make money and keep clients. And customers? Well, there are a ton of factors there—they may be value-motivated, price-motivated, safety-motivated, brand-motivated, or influenced by peers or their own personal experiences. Phew! It’s a lot to think about.
So where to start? We have written in the past about the need for marketers to define their brand value, brand message and provide proof points. If you can clearly articulate this messaging hierarchy for all of your audiences- sales, agents, customers- you are far ahead of most companies. Speaking to what motivates each party, addressing their pain points and proving why your company and its products and services are best is the best approach to ensure you are proving your value. Following this exercise, all messaging you create should be measured against this communications strategy, unique to each party, to be sure they are on-point. Insurance companies would be best served to share this communications hierarchy with everyone involved in their marketing communications- product folks, marketing, salespeople, and all should tack this information up as a reference point.
Then there is the data. Marketers will invest heavily in data analytics to ensure the people you are reaching are actually paying attention to, and understanding, your messaging. But channel marketing can be difficult to measure. There are the complexities of marketing attribution – when the customer journey involves multiple touchpoints as part of a larger process. This may include advertising from corporate, activities from inside sales, field sales and distribution channel partners (agencies, etc). With so many touches in play it is hard to actually attribute where the sale initiated and where it closed.
Attribution aside, there is no denying the need for a dedicated marketing team to manage channel marketing or at least a marketing agency who specializes in it. The best internal teams are made up of both marketing and sales professionals. The strategies that result from sales and marketing working together to help customers move along the process, are becomes beneficial for all in understanding the customer’s buying process, and the parties in the channel.