Against the backdrop of rising rates, a recession and uncertainty about major insurance companies, buyers are likely to be cost-conscious and in need of reassurance. “Everybody is looking at their budget, and that includes the buyers of insurance,” Hartwig said. “Buyers of insurance over the last four years are accustomed to seeing year-over-year decreases, sometimes large decreases. And that era of being able to get the same coverage for less—or even more coverage for less—is just about over with.”
As a result, marketers may have to change buyers' expectations, he said.
At the same time, buyers will be looking for assurance that insurers are reliable and can pay any claims that arise, whether that's in the next year or several years down the road, Hartwig said.
Messaging about trust is now at the forefront of marketing for WNC First Insurance Services, which sells insurance programs to financial institutions, said Ferdinand Cinco, VP-marketing. “Now when we market WNC, we have to harp on our experience, reliability, track record, expertise and our knowledge of what lenders need,” he said. “[We address] how we've seen it all and we've been through a lot, so this [difficult economic environment] is just another challenge.”
Relationships with the C-Suite is critical in reaching WNC First's target, Cinco said. “You can't stop in the middle-management level because that's not where the decisions are made,” he said.
WNC First relies heavily on events to build those relationships, Cinco said. “Direct mail and e-mail marketing can produce results—we've won accounts that way—but to me it's still a question of relationships that you establish and the contacts you make out in the field,” he said.
To that end, WNC First's marketing provides heavy support to the company's sales representatives, he said. “We respond to RFPs. We prepare custom proposals, create online presentations or webinars—anything they need to create that value, to separate WNC from other bidders,” he said.
In addition to its direct and event marketing, the company places ads in trade publications and uses webinars, which allows it to position itself as an expert and adviser for its audience, he said.
The opportunity to sell expertise to a large audience makes webinars popular among insurance marketers, Ross said. “Everyone wants to be a thought leader; that's the buzz word of the year,” he said. “Everyone wants to know "How do we separate ourselves from the competition?' ”
WNC First won't drastically change its marketing strategy because of the economic climate, Cinco said. The company may be more selective with its print advertising, he noted, and may send fewer people to industry events. Direct marketing—specifically direct mail and e-mail marketing—will always be part of the company's marketing plan because it's a way to deliver a more targeted message, Cinco said.
Given the economic backdrop, it's more important than ever for companies to look at marketing as an investment, not an expense, Ross said. “It's an investment in the future,” he said.