Marketing Nation 2018 – Cigna New Zealand’s winning formula for selling life insurance

Selling life insurance to New Zealanders is hard work. After all, they live in one of the most benign nations in the world. In last year’s Global Peace Index, compiled by the Institute for Economics and Peace, New Zealand came second after Iceland. There’s little sense of urgency when it comes to thinking about death, and as a result, New Zealand has the third lowest penetration of life insurance among developed nations, according to the OECD.

It’s even harder work when you’re selling directly to consumers, rather than through the more usual channel of brokers and financial advisors, says Vince Warnock, digital marketing manager at insurance company Cigna New Zealand. The company sells its life insurance products through telemarketing teams, partner brands and online.

When Warnock joined the company two years ago, the online channel was tiny, accounting just a few percentage points of annual sales. But since then, things have changed dramatically, he told attendees at this week’s Marketo Marketing Nation event in San Francisco:

Online is now our biggest, and most profitable, and most efficient channel by far.

That’s the result of a new experimental methodology that Warnock has introduced at Cigna. It’s based on a ‘test and learn’ approach, he explains, that comprises five stages: identifying a digital marketing challenge; working up a hypothesis; writing an agenda (a plan of attack); making a start; and evaluating the results. The sum of those stages is a handy acronym – CHASE [challenge, hypothesis, agenda; start, evaluate].

How a team handles that final, ‘evaluate’ stage is critical, said Warnock. It’s not necessarily about the big headline results that the digital marketing team can take to senior executives to prove the value of their work, but more about learning from the insights gained from an experiment, and then improving a campaign next time around on the basis of those lessons:

Data can show you pretty much anything. What we’re looking for, instead of the wins, are the insights. We’re chasing the insights, the nuggets we can use to create an even bigger, better campaign.

In order to show attendees how that is working at Cigna New Zealand, Warnock presented the results of a recent digital marketing campaign. The challenge was that the company wanted to diversify its digital channels – a case of not putting all of its eggs into one basket. But with so many social platforms to choose between, that can be tricky.

The hypothesis here was that, rather than online advertising, a way to generate quality leads might be through social engagement campaigns, running competitions on Facebook, for example, that people can enter with a ‘soft opt-in’ at the end of their competition entry, giving them the opportunity to talk to a Cigna NZ advisor about life insurance. That wouldn’t just generate leads, it was hypothesized, but also lead to meaningful one-to-one relationships between the company and potential buyers.

The agenda settled on was a competition around a high-profile rugby tournament, where the prize was a NZ$1,000 pack of rugby gear for fans. The wider business was brought in to come up with the idea that would inspire and motivate Facebook users. The technology used was Facebook contest app, Shortstack, to create a landing page and form, and email marketing app MailChimp to follow up with entrants. Plus, he adds, there was a whole stack of spreadsheets and manual processes. This, Warnock explained, was in Cigna NZ’s pre-Marketo days:

But guess what? It worked! Despite all the manual effort required and the horrible processes, we actually proved a return on investment. We went from 2,000 Facebook followers to around 6,000, just from one campaign. We had a huge response and, more importantly, this resulted in good conversations between our advisors and competition entrants who had opted in, which went on to result in sales.

With evaluation out of the way, it was time to scale. And off the back of the proven ROI, Warnock was able to grow his team and some time later, he got the go-ahead to implement Marketo:

Automation is the key to scaling this sort of thing, as are the tools. We realized we couldn’t do anything at scale with Shortstack and Mailchimp and, after a lengthy RFP [request for proposal], we chose Marketo. We needed to be able to manage emails in one system, to create forms, custom journeys, dynamic content in one system, to have a single customer view and be able to perform A/B testing. We can now go into the Marketo system today, clone a campaign [create a new campaign from an older one] and know exactly what we’re doing is really, really useful.

This implementation, in other words, has made a big difference. New campaigns on a larger scale have followed, around local running events and Mother’s Day, for example. And the ‘test and learn’ effort has been huge, says Warnock, with his team testing different kinds of creative content, different types of incentive, different forms, different ways to ask questions within a form, different email templates, different calls to action and subject lines within emails. The results speak for themselves, he says:

In the two and a half years I’ve been at Cigna, we’ve taken our online sales conversion funnel from 2% to 6%. And with these social engagement campaigns that we do, when we first started, we saw a very small but positive return on investment. Now, we get a 500% return on investment, which is phenomenal. And we also have a very, very happy sales team.

Image credit – Marketo


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