Marsh uses direct to insure vertical research gets into the right hands

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Marsh Inc., the insurance division of Marsh & McLennan Cos., is the world's largest insurance broker and risk adviser. The company markets extensively to its audience of risk managers and C-level executives using traditional offline channels such as print advertising and events, as well as online tactics including Webinars and e-mail marketing.

Positioning itself as a thought leader is a key part of Marsh's marketing strategy. Though the company has for years created reports benchmarking business insurance costs, earlier this year it began creating and distributing reports that detailed that information by industry.

"As we talked to clients about what they would value, benchmarking came out at or near the top of the list every time," said Mark Bates, head of marketing strategy for Marsh in the U.S. "People want to understand whether they're making the right decision or not, and a benchmark provides a very good way of doing that."

The company created reports in eight industries: automobile; chemicals; communications, media and technology; construction; financial institutions; power and utilities; real estate; and retail. The reports run from 40 to 80 pages each and present an industry assessment and detailed data about deductibles and limits.

To promote the reports, Marsh launched a direct mail campaign targeting customers and prospects in each of the eight industry categories, averaging about 2,000 to 4,000 recipients per category. The mailing consisted of a small booklet that explained what the reports offer and presented a call to action. Earlier mailings offered recipients an e-mail address to contact; more recent versions of the mailers encourage recipients to register for the full report at a microsite.

The goal, Bates said, is for a Marsh representative to discuss the benchmark data with a client or prospect. "There's a lot of interpretation that needs to be done on top of just looking at the raw numbers, and that's really the start of the conversation," he said. "With an existing client, [that discussion might be] about coverage they should buy, or if it's a prospect, it showcases the knowledge we have and hopefully puts them on the path to becoming a client of ours."

The mailings have had a very high response rate in terms of generating face-to-face conversations with customers and prospects, Bates said. "In some cases, we've been seeing north of a 30% response rate to those mailings because they're very targeted in terms of whom they go to, and the mailing contains information that's extremely relevant to the people to whom it's going," he said.

Bates said Marsh will continue to invest in its benchmarking capabilities (including its custom benchmark portal) and plans to broaden the scope of its reports to include other industries.

"It demonstrates our thought leadership, it reinforces our brand position and it puts our people directly face to face with our clients and prospects," he said. "We are a face-to-face industry, very much relationship-based. We don't sell our services over the Web; we sell them by developing relationships with clients over a very long period. ... This is a very good way for us to demonstrate our thought leadership and to engage those people in a conversation about their risk situation."

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