Fazi Zand, VP Marketing & Business Development at Exigen Insurance Solutions chatted with me about his company’s role based marketing strategy. Here's a little background to the company: Exigen Insurance Solutions (EIS for short) provides core systems to insurance companies for transactions that affect P&L such as sales, billing and claims payments, as well as customer acquisition and retention.
Fazi: Given the hypercritical nature of these solutions, the decisions to create (historically to build but recently and increasingly to buy) these solutions is a complex and difficult one. The sales cycle for a Policy Administration (to manage sales, issuance, and servicing insurance products and policies), Billing, or Claims processing, is very long (min 6 months), the implementation is also is a long (min 12 months and sometimes several years before they stop one way or another) and risky endeavor (according to Gartner 3 out of 4 of these types of projects fail outright!) and have a strong impact on the overall business, often requiring very complex conversion from the old data sources, significant process transformation, and total organization change management to ensure success.
Our value proposition to the market is that we provide highly flexible and configurable, rapidly deployable solutions to our clients. Our technology and solution architecture is extremely desirable and current, designed with flexibility to use, replace or enhance components and services independent of full system changes and fully support cloud computing implementation.
Finally because of the risks involved in these implementation, we employ a unique relationship model with our customers based on financially aligned definitions of success, basically we don't make money from the sales of our technology, but from the successful implementation and usage of our solution and our remunerations are tied to the business outcomes derived by business.
John: How did you develop the role based marketing strategy?
Fazi: I should answer this question from 2 separate but related angles. One is regarding the way we market our solutions to the market, and the other is the design of our offerings at Exigen Insurance Solutions:
1. Given the complexity and seriousness of the decision to procure core insurance systems, there are many people in the company who influence the decision before those who can sign the order will decide to do so. The procurement process can be very onerous (and often is!) We need to ensure that most of the stakeholders in the affected business and technical domains are either appreciative of how good our value proposition is and endorse it, or at least accept it and will not fight it. We create solution-fit-problem matrices to address the real, imaginary and political concerns of the buyers' community.
We hope to understand their roles/influence and by predicting these patterns of interests/concerns/objections, we have crafted role-based messages for various constituencies via different media and channels. We’re prepared for different executives and business/technical roles in our audience. These messages need to be supportive and not contradictory of each other. The best policy is to create simple, honest and crisp messages and stay clear of hype and exaggerations (as much as possible!)
2. Interestingly, our clients face similar problems with their markets. Insurance companies sell a relatively complex solution to the market. Also, they are in a highly regulated financial services sector which deals with clients' private and confidential information, so they have to be mindful of "need-to-know" basis for information access and internal/external fraudulent activities.
Our solution is designed for role-based user interaction and embeds a powerful and comprehensive CRM model. Moreover we employ strong analytics and create fit-to-audience views of the information using different visualization methods from simple user interfaces for mobile apps, to beautifully presented content rich executive dashboards. Our clients can leverage the CRM and rules engines and create suitable models of interactions for their sales and service agents to interact with their customers in an informed, friendly and efficient manner to find and keep profitable customers. Availability of timely and accurate data together with the right tools and correct rules to use information effectively for desired business outcomes, is the key to being successful and we strive to enable our client to just do that.
John: What number of roles have you developed?
Fazi: We target both the business as well as the technical audience. These two don’t necessarily understand the same language. You could have an acronym laden technical fact sheet that sings like a note-sheet to a conductor and it is completely gibberish to the business person, while you could talk about business benefits that don’t seem important to one part or another of the business sides. So we have a matrix of different levels of business and technical executives and operational people who are decision makers or influencers.
We have a significant challenge with hype and noise in the market. If everyone is “new, fresh and improved” then who is better. Over time, the market becomes numb to the vocabulary and as you introduce new concepts and terms, the competition co-opts the ones that they hear repeated often in the market, thereby decreasing their effectiveness. So most effective messages have a half-life and once they reach that half-life, it’s time to reconsider. The challenge is to maintain a brand throughout this process and not lose the core value proposition just for the sake of freshness or novelty.
John: What's been the ROI for the strategy?
Fazi: We set the goals regarding leads and conversion and then try to measure against that. Since we are a B2B company, we have to have a layered role-based marketing and messaging model; otherwise we will not be heard or will be misunderstood.
John: What have been the challenges in using a role based strategy? This question is helpful to other marketers as they consider developing their own role based strategy.
Fazi: Challenges for us are ensuring consistency, precision, avoiding “me-too” and hyperbole marketing, staying on the point and matching what the audience wants/need to hear and what’s on your payload. Defining roles at the right level of granularity is also very important, you don’t want to be so targeted that it doesn’t resonate with adjacent roles but you don’t want to be so broad that it sounds like high-level BS. Your audience needs to know that you have an understanding of their interests/needs/issues/concerns and what you are proposing is interesting and appropriate. They will dismiss you outright if they sense that you are placating and don’t really understand or are not willing to confess to your lack of depth.
John: Who in the industry did you look at to help inspire you to adopt a role based strategy?
Fazi: That’s an excellent question, and frankly I am not sure who and which industry is best at this. IBM is very good at creating various persona and crafting "case study" like value propositions for the persona. You see this in all their print and video adverts. Many product and services companies out there do the same with varying degree of success targeting their message at specific executive roles. This seems to be in play right now in information analytic space.
John: Thanks Fazi!