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12:53 PM
Rod Brooks, PEMCO
Rod Brooks, PEMCO

Fighting Tips for 'Challenger' Insurers

The Davids that strive to win daily battles with the well-heeled Goliaths must differentiate digitally.

Challenger brands – the Davids that strive to win their daily battles with the well-heeled Goliaths of our industry – are well aware of the need to differentiate. We also must be nimble, intuitive, willing to avoid the latest trends, and yes ... we sweat the small stuff.

There's no doubt about it – when confronting Goliath with rocks and a slingshot, we must aim with precision.

Digital touchpoints are fast becoming the new normal for consumers, and they're an important new target for challenger brands to address. Bolstered by mobile access, digital experiences are increasingly pervasive, redefining and enabling our future by raising consumer expectations. The Davids of our industry must move quickly, aim carefully, and take our best shots in the digital world. Where our ammunition hits will make all the difference.

Rod Brooks, PEMCO
Rod Brooks, PEMCO

To succeed, the shots we take now require deliberate collaboration and interdependence between marketing and technology professionals. Only by collaborating can we break away from established norms in ways that surprise and delight our customers. The digital experience must convert routine interactions into remarkable engagement, turning time-worn touchpoints into real-time talking points.

Of course, none of this happens overnight. Business transactions will continue face-to-face, on the phone, and in writing – three forms of communication that have established the core of business relationships for decades. We must flawlessly meet customers' needs with core functionality, security, and the practical delivery of information and services. We're clearly in a transition era. To navigate change, challenger brands must willingly open the new door to digital engagement. The digital team must have an important seat at the table. In fact, the table soon will be redefined by digital experiences, with the more-traditional departments pulling their chairs alongside.

[Previously from Brooks: Gaining brand affinity with paperless]

In May 2012, Forrester Research described three roles for application development and delivery (AD&D) professionals in the transition to digital experience. One of the I.T. roles is to partner with marketing on strategic leadership toward digital customer experiences. Forrester called for AD&D professionals to bring the technical expertise that helps marketing leaders drive their digital goals and programs. Expertise, said Forrester, must span web content management, mobile development, e-commerce, search, personalization, marketing automation, analytics, testing, optimization, and customer service interaction management. Wow! It's an understatement to say, that expertise seems overwhelming to many marketing professionals.

challenger brand

Eighteen months later, in November 2014, in a study of 260 enterprise I.T. and marketing decision-makers, Forrester explored the quality of the "marriage" between the two departments. The conclusion? "Unfortunately, for many companies, I.T. and marketing are in need of couple's therapy." Forrester found a mixed environment where roughly half of the companies interviewed faced challenges in expectation-setting and alignment between I.T. and marketing.

Forrester's two high-level findings:

• The post-digital world mandates that I.T. and marketing reach a new understanding. Digital investments serve as the foundation for strategic marketing initiatives that drive business growth. When combined with customer insights derived from all customer touchpoints, digital investments deliver the rich customer engagements demanded by today's empowered customers.

• Marketing and I.T. suffer from a problem of differing perspectives. Each department has different priorities. This can lead to siloed technology deployments and wasted spending that contribute to an inconsistent, suboptimal customer experience.

Our company is currently focused on developing and deploying digital consumer experiences. We've drawn a roadmap and prioritized delivery based on collaborative input from all departments and, most importantly, from the customer's perspective. To better ensure effective collaboration and delivery, we established the CIO and CMO as joint sponsors of the work that involves both teams. Similarly, when the work applies to customer service, the CIO and COO co-sponsor those initiatives. We've found that when the CIO partners with another executive, we're much more likely to align priorities and deliverables within our teams.

Consumers learn the benefits of digital interactions from online retailers and service providers each day. Whether they seek efficiency, selection, convenience, or better prices, the outlook for our industry and its challenger brands remains the same. The importance of world class digital experiences is real. Delivering on that expectation relies on technology and marketing being joined at the hip. To deliver relevant digital touchpoints that are truly remarkable, the partnership that enables world class digital experiences must start from the top. Even when it requires a little therapy.

About the author: Rod Brooks is VP and CMO of PEMCO, a regional P&C insurer in the Pacific Northwest.

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