Announcement: SOA releases April 2022 Exam PA passing candidate numbers.
Announcement: SOA congratulates the new ASAs and CERAs for June 2022.

Avoiding Common Marketing Mistakes In An Internet World

News Direct – Number 56 | June 2007

Avoiding Common Marketing Mistakes In An Internet World

By Warren Hunter

This article is based on a presentation made by Warren Hunter at the JCG Ltd. Conferences 2006 Insurance Direct Marketing Forum. Hunter is president and CEO of DMW Worldwide LLC, a full-service direct response advertising agency with offices in Wayne, Pa., and Plymouth, Mass. The ECHO Award-winning agency—which ranked 38th in the prestigious Advertising Age "Top 50 Direct Marketing Agencies" list and 6th in the Philadelphia Business Journal list of "Top 25 Advertising Agencies"—provides strategic planning, creative, database management, broadcast, media, production, fulfillment, and Internet marketing. Industries served include insurance, health care, financial services, consumer products, B2B, and non-profit. Hunter can be reached at 610.407.0407 or via e-mail at Visit DMW on the Web at

Marketing today is decidedly much harder than it used to be! Forty years ago a marketer could put together a media plan for a new product launch in a few hours. Today that's impossible. Markets are more fragmented... there are more media channels... and media habits and consumer attitudes have forever changed the way we insurance and financial services marketers do our jobs.

What's more, consumers have more control of content as they multi-task their way through media consumption. The introduction of technological advances such as TiVo, video on demand, and instant downloads are just a few examples of how consumers' expectations for relevant, real-time messaging and related products and services have changed. Consumer attitudes toward advertising have changed as well. A majority of consumers report that they feel constantly bombarded by "too much advertising," and express concern that "very little is relevant to me." As a result, many consumers simply tune out.

The 40/40/20 Rule Still Applies

What does this all mean to insurance marketers competing for a share of mind and wallet? The bottom line: direct marketing's "40/40/20 rule" continues to be relevant today–no matter the medium! The 40/40/20 rule states that the success of a direct marketing effort can be tied 40 percent to proper audience selection, 40 percent to the product or offer, and 20 percent to creative strategy and execution. This fundamental of direct marketing is a constant, even in a fast-paced, competitive multimedia environment.

Avoiding the Mistakes

There's a lot more to know about insurance direct marketing than can be written in this brief article, but what follows is what I refer to as the "seven deadly sins of direct marketing." These sins should still be avoided, most especially in today's fragmented, Internet-driven world.

Sin #1—You didn't know your audience!

In order to generate qualified leads, you need to know your audience. This means knowing the needs and wants of individual customers and prospects. When it comes to direct marketing and audience selection, it is important to know that it's quality, not just quantity, that counts.

Sin #2—You targeted the wrong prospects!

The best product and the best offer will ultimately fail when targeted toward the wrong insurance prospects. Segmentation profiles and models provide sophisticated ways to ensure the right offer gets to the right prospect. Combine that with good old-fashioned common sense when targeting offers.

Sin #3—You didn't target offers to a clean, updated list!

Often times the list that has not been cleaned and updated may be your own in-house file of existing customers. In the wake of consumer privacy concerns, having a clean list not only makes good business sense, but may also be mandated by law. Keep lists current by following the established state and national rules related to privacy, and consult with Direct Marketing Association (DMA) services to update files on a consistent basis. You'll save both time and money.

Sin #4—You didn't test your creative!

Testing is the cornerstone of direct marketing. Test your efforts in all direct marketing channels, including mail, space ads, inserts, broadcast, and Internet. To maximize return on investment, it is critical to test against established controls (or to establish a control). A control will allow you to know what works and what doesn't.

Sin #5—You didn't personalize the communication!

Personalization is important to customer communications and, done properly, can greatly improve the overall response rate. In direct mail, for instance, the key to getting a message read is to get the envelope opened. Direct marketers should live by the "four-second rule." A consumer will spend, on average, four seconds with your mailing. When it comes to e-mail, the average interactivity you'll have is three clicks of the mouse or nine seconds of time. In breaking through the clutter, first impressions really do count!

Sin #6—You didn't use the magic words!

In direct response advertising, words rule. A number of magic words can help you create effective, response-generating messaging. Try using "You," "New," "Free," "Now," "Easy," "Today," and "Guaranteed." Using these words in a deliberate, relevant way can help generate interest–and an immediate response. Also, learn and know the words that are most likely to be blocked by spam filters when doing Internet marketing (e.g., "free offer," "order now," etc.).

Sin #7—You didn't measure and track your results!

"It's not worth doing if you can't track results." That's the mantra of direct response. Direct response marketing allows you to measure response in a number of ways that make sense for your business—such as by acquisition cost per customer, by list, or by distribution channel—and then adjust your approach based on the results. Remember, in direct response, every dollar has a targeted income.

At the end of the day, the insurance direct marketers who recognize the changes in our fragmented marketplace–and who steadfastly apply the fundamentals of direct marketing–will be the ones to provide relevancy to today's new consumers. And relevancy is what consumers really want.

Warren Hunter is President and CEO of DMW Worldwide LLC. He can be contacted at 610.407.0407 or