Reaching insurance decision-makers

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As senior partner, global client service director at ad agency Ogilvy & Mather, New York—whose client roster includes insurance industry giant Marsh Inc.—Seth Farbman has learned what works and what doesn't in reaching C-level executives and risk managers who make decisions about their company's insurance programs. Farbman recently shared some of his thoughts on the topic with BtoB.

BtoB: What are some of the best ways to reach C-suite executives who manage insurance programs?

Farbman: That's traditionally one of the most difficult segments to market to because obviously they're very busy and somewhat protected from marketing, especially at work, [because] they often don't handle their own calendars and e-mail, etc. But there have been two approaches that work well for all b-to-b and certainly for insurance. One is to make sure, of course, that the brand name is top-of-mind in the C-suite. More traditional media has been successful [at that]—Sunday morning television programs, golf events and related things, where you treat them somewhat like a consumer. But really what has changed quite a bit over time is now targeting them much more directly, especially through the Internet. [Their media habits have changed] from consuming almost primarily traditional print to getting much of their news online as travel becomes a bigger part of the job. So using interactive advertising, as well as some direct programs, to [address] the C-suite has grown and seems to be quite effective at getting your message through.

BtoB: What specialized media outlets are effective?

Farbman: The trades are always a good, core part of any plan to reach this target. By definition you have the right audience at least at some levels. ... One of the areas of growth and also potential improvement is taking many of the trade magazines' content and moving it online. There's still work to be done there. The portals and Web sites that are associated with many of the publications are still in their first or second stages [of development]. Making that transition from traditional offline to online within trade publications will help tremendously to reach that audience.

BtoB: In terms of messaging, what's effective in reaching this audience?

Farbman: It's attitudinal as much as anything. These are very, very busy people. And to expect them to digest details of who your company is, what your offering is, how you're different from your competitors is a lot to ask. So the messaging has to be bold, and it has to really focus on how the company can help with the growth strategy. CEOs are focused on growth, and any message that taps into that need and that insight will be more easily and well received.

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