LIMRA Series: Customer Segmentation – Going Beyond Audience Development

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In today’s landscape, brands and marketers need to develop a far more nuanced understanding of customers – in terms of their cross channel behaviors, what motivates them and when and where they are making purchase decisions. Traditionally, life insurance marketers have understood their customers to fall into categories like:

• The agent experience-driven customer

• The traditional direct mail-driven customer

• The website-driven customer

Some of these personas remain relevant for organizations, allowing them to reasonably tailor their approach based upon these categories. But today’s digital consumer travels a far different path to purchase, and expects brand interactions across a more complex variety of channels and devices. They not only want to be met in their channel of preference, but they also want deeper, more personalized communications. While it’s still valuable to recognize these traditional customer profiles, it is critical to develop a much more thorough understanding of your audience across the digital touch points– including paid, social, email and website, for example. With the addition of multiple channels, and in turn, a much more sophisticated consumer, treading the present digital marketing waters is certainly more challenging for life insurance marketers. However, with careful customer analysis and more pointed strategies, greater access to these new touch points can offer a much larger potential return.

Persona Development: Who is my customer? An understanding of the customer is the first step in determining the most effective ways to reach him/her. To do this, marketers would traditionally ask questions like: what demographic does he/she fall into? What kind of lifestyle does he/she have? What are his/her most important values? These questions are used to determine the type of messaging that attracts different customers, and historically, life insurance marketers have been pretty successful in doing do. But as mentioned in the introduction, the customer profiles of today are highly sophisticated and multi-faceted. Marketers must now ask questions about who their customer is online. What device is he/she using to interact with my brand? Through what channel(s) is he/she most often seeking information? What kind of social media activity does he/she display? With the onset of the digital age, customers recognize that access to information is virtually unlimited, and so they no longer solely rely on an experience with an agent, or a visit to your website. That’s why it’s important for life insurance marketers to transform audience development strategies to encompass all the digital channels. Investing time and dollars in data solutions is a way to cultivate a closer view of the customer, and will also help to determine how to reach them, and with what message.

Quick Tip: There is a human behind every persona, and people don’t often display static, unchanged behavior. Ensure that your customer profiles are consistently updated and refined to match the changes in purchase behaviors and channel preferences.

Map it Out: What is my customer’s journey? With more sophisticated methods of audience development comes the ability to better understand what channels your customers are interacting through. But first, it’s important for marketers to have a firm understanding of what the customer journey is. We would describe it as the holistic, ‘lifecycle’ view of a customer’s interactions with the brand – more specifically, the channel and message preferences, the level of action at different channel touch points and the exact points where conversion occurs. It involves looking through the eyes of the consumer. With this definition in mind, we work to understand where our customer does his/her research about a product or service, in conjunction with where a purchase is actually made. Customer A may use a brand’s website on his desktop as the primary source of information, while Customer B may request insights about a product from others via social media, like on Facebook or Twitter. Customer C may search for ‘life insurance’ via her mobile, do some further investigation on a website, and may consult a blog for guidance from peers. Customer D may respond best to direct mail marketing and an in-person with an agent. Closely identifying the different points where customer actions occur help marketers to pinpoint where they can then inset the most value. If you are able to anticipate the journey that your customer takes, you are able to provide messages via the correct venue – that means spending dollars where it matters most.

Quick Tip: The customer journey doesn’t end after purchase. In order to maintain loyalty to your brand over others, it’s critical to have an understanding of the post-purchase lifecycle. This means continuing interaction with that customer in his/her preferred channels.

The Right Channels + the Right Messaging: What motivates my customer to respond? With an understanding of who the customer is, and the details of his/her online activity, you’re in a much better position to interact where and when it matters most. But an additional step is required in order to best set the stage for conversion – what are the messages that encourage a response? A deeper dive into this information has the potential to reveal when your customers are showing the most interest, and conversely, when you might be losing them. Continuing to use messages that don’t generate engagement is the most detrimental strategy a brand can use – but knowing when you need an adjustment to messaging can prevent your brand from turning a customer off, or losing them completely. Testing different content/message strategies is the key to knowing what your audience is responding to. Using customer segmentation, in addition to the mapping out the customer journey, you can begin to target the right audience with personalized, relevant content.

Quick Tip: Potential customers can tell when they’re being sold to. Instead of self-serving content, consider a messaging strategy that relates directly to the customer’s life – after all, life insurance is a very personal subject. People respond in a much more positive way to genuine, meaningful content – content that educates, shares stories and attempts to form a real, human relationship.

Stay tuned for our next blog in the LIMRA Series: ‘Distribution of Product: True Omnichannel Selling’.

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