American National Insurance Company (Galveston, Texas; $23.3 billion in 2013 total assets) is not a small insurer, but neither is it in a position to compete on advertising expenditures with some of the largest national carriers, which typically spend hundreds of millions of dollas. In addition to reaching customers through analytics-driven marketing outreach, American National focuses on support of its distribution force of over 1,300 agents. An important piece of that is social media according to Scott Campbell, senior vice president and chief marketing officer of American National’s Multiple Line Division. The carrier is currently driving a social business program powered by Hearsay Social.
“We’re building an overall online agent marketing program, and social is a part of that,” Campbell comments. “We enable agents to do traditional marketing and order branded materials, and social is a natural plug-in to provide that end-to-end support.”
The importance of social media is about reaching customers through their chosen communication channels, Campbell opines. “The conversations happen where the consumers are, and to be part of those conversations, you have to be there,” he says.
“The goal isn’t to help agents drive up their number of Facebook followers,” Campbell clarifies. “It is to get consumers moved into our own properties and talking to an agent about how we can help them. You have to be out there to get that journey started.”
American National began investigating social networking platforms as part of a recent push to build up its marketing division, according to Campbell. It was clear that social media should be part of that push, but the company lacked internal expertise, he relates. After making the commitment to investigate offerings, Campbell put Hearsay on the list owing to experience of the vendor while in a prior role at another carrier. “We started talking to them, and it made sense,” he says. “We see it as the cornerstone to enable the social piece for our agents.
Balancing Usability and Compliance
The insurer chose Hearsay because of the way it balanced usability and compliance, Campbell reports. American National’s Multiple Line Division distributes life, personal and commercial lines and agricultural insurance products through about 1,300 exclusive agents. A minority of these will not elect to use social media, but American National took the position that it should social media as easy as possible for those who already wanted to use it or might be persuaded to, Campbell says. He notes a tendency for carriers to lean towards feature-rich offerings for agents, but favored Hearsay’s focus on a simpler user experience. “A platform can be as feature-rich as you like, but if it’s not intuitive and easy to use, agents won’t use it,” Campbell cautions. “We want to simplify things for our agents because there’s already enough complexity in their lives.”
“Hearsay also does a nice job of blending the compliance and marketing functionality, whereas some of the other tools were better at one thing or the other,” Campbell adds. “Something can be as locked-down and compliant as you could hope for, but it’s not intuitive and doesn’t give us the ability to get our content out to the agents, it won’t do us any good.”
Brett A. Calder, a Multiple Lines general agent for American National sees the carrier’s new social media capabilities as a very valuable tool for his business. “I am quite impressed with Hearsay Social,” Calder comments. “In no time at all, my team is able to schedule content campaigns in advance, making our social media presence relevant and current.”
From American National’s perspective, Hearsay will enable the carrier to compete for business against large national operations that the insurer can’t compete head-to-head against through national advertising campaigns, Campbell affirms. “A tool such as Hearsay lets us engage and activate our agents to meet consumers where they are and raise brand awareness at a local, grassroots level,” he says. “If done right, I think social can be a kind of equalizer.”
(Related: American National Chooses Wolters Kluwer ARC Logics for GRC.)
I’m happy to see Social looked at in this potentially very productive way, and I congratulate American National. “A tool such as Hearsay lets us engage and activate our agents to meet consumers where they are and raise brand awareness at a local, grassroots level”… “If done right, I think social can be a kind of equalizer.”
IMNSHO, Social Media is in essence a Force Multiplier, not at all a profit center, and in fact is bound to be doomed when looked at from the latter (ROI) perspective.