John Parker is the CMO of insurance carrier Zurich North America Commercial, which markets policies to midsize companies. Here Parker discusses how his marketing team discovered the power of delivering useful content to woo prospects and renew current customers.
CMO Close-Up: Can you describe how you try to communicate with your customers?
John Parker: At the end of the day what we want to do is be as customercentric as we can. What that means is that we are getting much closer to our customers and what our customers need. We're really selecting and segmenting our customer base by industry. Rather than simply selling one or two policies, our customers typically buy six to eight coverages, and we can offer all of those coverages to our customers. We want more and more to a) offer it and b) write it, so we can really be part of the full relationship. That means choosing which customers we want to really build relationships with. We've gotten much better at that. And also when we've got the opportunity to offer all of our products to our customers we hope that they are choosing us.
CMO Close-Up: How would you describe an ideal target customer?
Parker: We are building a lot of depth of expertise in specific industries, the industry of our customer. All of our research tells us three things. First of all, they (customers) want timely claim service. In the event of a loss, they want to get paid fairly and they want to get paid quickly. We always have delivered that. The second thing our customers want are underwriters who are experts in their industry. So we more and more organized our underwriting efforts along the industry of the customer. The third thing customers want is they want to hear from us. Customers want proactive communication from us, and we've gotten better and better at that.
CMO Close-Up: Zurich has used case studies from real customers in its brand advertising. Can you talk about that?
Parker: Absolutely. It has to with our overall branding. We brand around the notion of the “help point,” meaning we deliver when it matters. With our global brand campaign, we're using customer images—and it's actual customers—to illustrate the message we want everyone to think of when they think of Zurich. What they're doing is illustrating something that is already a fact. So we're not trying to assert that this is something that we'd like to be; rather, we want to illustrate that we already are this, and we want everyone to understand that, which is pretty important. I'm a fact-based guy, and we really want to emphasize the facts.
When you look at the actual customers in our advertisements, they're in the industries that we're really focusing on growing. So I have all the ads up on my wall, and I can see the one that's manufacturing. I can see the one that's energy. I can see the one that's technology. I can see the one that's commercial real estate. I can see the one that's construction.
CMO Close-Up: Can you talk about how you use market research to influence your approach to marketing communications?
Parker: We do regular customer satisfaction survey work. It's based on a proprietary system that one of our vendors uses. It's essentially a net promoter system. We have a regular cycle of customer satisfaction research that we do every year using the same methodology with the same metrics. And we've done it now three years in a row, which gives us some stability. It's longitudinal in terms of how we're getting better over time. We understand what affects their satisfaction, where we are good, where we are not good and where we are not good enough at things that are important to our customers. That's where we really focus our efforts.
One of the things that jumped out where we had an opportunity is our customers want to hear from us. And typically, you (the customer) pay the premium, then you don't hear anything. And when you have a claim, you hope it's handled well. For half our customers in any given year that don't have a claim, historically they've never heard anything from us.
What we've found is they really do want additional information—written management advice, just sort of reassurance that their coverage is what they need. And they want to see any emerging trends to know that they're still well covered and they don't have risk that they don't understand.
What we're doing is much more proactively reaching out to our customers and sending them information, when they subscribe to it, that we're pretty sure they find useful. We find that for those customers that we're able to contact and for those customers that are receiving our information, they renew with us at a much higher rate.
We're really able to drive growth by doing this. And for prospects, companies that are not our customers, when they sign up for a webinar or a white paper, then they're able to decide whether or not they want to receive a regular stream of management communications from us. We find that those prospects are twice as likely to buy from us after that.