HOW JEFFERSON NATIONAL USES AUTOMATION TO SUPPORT DIRECT MARKETING
Objective: Gain a more comprehensive view of prospects and better manage content-marketing initiatives
Strategy: Deploy a marketing automation platform without disrupting existing systems
Results: Improved targeting and development of long-term nurturing more appropriate to the market
The essence of direct marketing at Jefferson National Life Insurance Co. is timely, personalized communications. But its reliance on email and sales force automation wasn't supporting the company's large content-marketing program.
In particular, the company was reaching out to financial advisers to educate them and their clients about its tax-deferred investment products. Jefferson National enlisted the help of marketing automation consulting company LeadMD Inc. to better manage the distribution and tracking of that content, as well as to better gauge prospect response over time.
“We felt good about our integration with [customer relationship manager] Salesforce.com and did a good job of getting it to work,” said Mark Forman, director-online marketing at Jefferson National. “But part of it is just the way we approach our industry. We've got some interesting sales and marketing methodology in this space.”
That methodology is how Jefferson National goes to market, particularly selling variable annuities. Previously, it entailed face-to-face sales, with wholesalers speaking to commission-based reps and selling through them.
However, Jefferson National has now eliminated the commissions end-users pay insurance brokers and offers its products for a flat fee. In addition, the company approaches financial advisers—viewed as unbiased because they are compensated by fees, not commissions—as its main channel to the end-user. The company's direct-marketing model is intensely educative and content-focused, Forman said.
“These financial advisers sit on the same side as the client; and when the client does well, they do well,” Forman said. “They take this very seriously and want to know they're armed with the best knowledge about what they're recommending.”
Driving those relationships is an overwhelming amount of content that needed managing.
“[Jefferson National] had a process and built a business around it,” said Justin Gray, CEO of LeadMD Inc. “The natural barrier to building a marketing automation system is getting existing processes to use the new platform without eclipsing some of the functionality elsewhere.”
Forman said working primarily through email and Salesforce.com provided snapshots of wins and losses, but not an understanding of the relationships the company wanted to forge with financial advisers.
Also, for Jefferson National, a “loss” might only mean that a particular adviser didn't have an appropriate client at that time for a particular product. Nurturing enabled the company to stay in touch and top-of-mind for future opportunities.
LeadMD helped Jefferson National deploy a marketing automation platform from Marketo Inc. that augmented and managed Jefferson National's content marketing.
Forman said Jefferson National's new processes “also allow us to trigger off prospect behavior, such as the downloading of a white paper. And when our in-house team schedules a follow-up call, they can see what downloads were made, all within the context of tax deferral.”
Forman said gaining better insight and tracking changed the company's thinking about the marketing process.
“Nurturing isn't what we thought it was,” he said. “The messaging and the way we do content-based marketing, that didn't change. What changed was pulling logic off our website.
“Advisers want our content. They want to be educated, and it works well in the nurturing process,” he said. “I don't think of it as a sales funnel anymore but more of a Venn diagram, a cycle of learning.”
Gray said direct marketing gains nuance through marketing automation.
“Today, the concept of direct marketing has become elongated,” he said. “Sales and the education cycle go beyond marketing and into awareness. The notions of direct marketing and demand generation have taken root as a longer-term process than simple offer and response.”
Without destroying its current systems, including its reliance on Salesforce, Jefferson National's marketing automation deployment is pro-viding a unified view of its partner program, lead velocity and quality reports. The company can now predict revenue based on the marketing funnel, track behavior more effectively and better nurture, qualify and report leads.