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In this episode of The Marketing Rapport, host Tim Finnigan engages with Ethan Jones, a seasoned expert in insurance marketing. They delve into the evolution of the analytical mindset in marketing, emphasizing the importance of adaptability and technology. The conversation highlights the significant role of data-driven strategies in the insurance industry, particularly in navigating market challenges and customer acquisition.
Ethan shares insights on the current state of the insurance market, focusing on the necessity for efficiency and targeted marketing approaches during tough economic times. The discussion also touches on the impact of AI and data utilization in shaping future marketing trends, reinforcing the need for quality data and insightful strategies.
The episode concludes with a look ahead, as Ethan forecasts a stronger, more data-centric insurance industry, underscoring the ongoing need for innovation and adaptability in marketing practices.
Diversity of Customer Engagement Channels
Ethan Jones talks about the proliferation of mediums for customer engagement compared to 20-30 years ago, including social media, streaming, and digital platforms. This diversity has made the task of identifying the optimal point for marketing interventions more complex. The challenge now lies not just in reaching customers, but also in making these interactions measurable. Ethan notes that despite these complexities, advancements in technology aid marketers in navigating this multifaceted landscape.
“There’s just quite a few more mediums of where customers are nowadays […] Now people are consuming their content in so many different mediums that you have to figure out when is the right point to inject your marketing tactics and then making sure that it’s measurable downstream as well.”
Data Utilization and Evolution
The conversation shifts to the theme of data utilization in the context of marketing predictions for 2024. Jones reflects on the evolution of big data from the early 2000s, noting its transition from mere collection to strategic implementation through models like telematics. This progression signifies a deeper, more nuanced understanding of data’s role in marketing, underscoring its critical importance in shaping future strategies.
“I think the big theme of 2024 is there’s going to be a lot more utilization of data, and there’s going to be a lot more cross organizational data that needs to come together to kind of rebuild, you know, how marketers look at consumers, how carriers, as a whole, figure out where the new normal is in terms of customers in the market.”
Complexity and Evolution of Insurance Marketing
Jones discusses the unique challenges and evolutions within insurance marketing. He emphasizes its complexity, differing significantly from more straightforward, widget-based marketing models. Jones expresses enthusiasm for the insurance industry, highlighting its continuous evolution and the necessity of finding the right consumer at the right moment and price, considering the potential lifetime value.
“[…] insurance is a very complex model that everyone is always evolving. It’s much different than other marketing that’s far more widget-based, and insurance is a very complex problem that needs to be solved and is always evolving.”
Data-Driven Compliance and Customer Journeys
The role of big data in compliance and customer journey enhancement is discussed by Jones. He describes the journey of their partnership, beginning with a focus on compliance, crucial in the insurance industry. This partnership has evolved to leverage big data more effectively, ensuring not just regulatory adherence but also enhancing customer experiences, both for their company and their partners.
“Big data is only as good as how you actually leverage it […] I think as a whole, it’s been a very fun journey since we’ve kind of gone down this bigger data path together. And the story is still, you know, constantly being adapted around that. But we’re starting to say, okay, we know about what this customer looks like, who our partners are, and how can we augment that data to make it more of an enriched customer experience?”
[00:21:00] Ethan Jones: “There’s just quite a few more mediums of where customers are nowadays than there was 20, 30, 40 years ago […] Now people are consuming their content in so many different mediums that you have to figure out when is the right point to inject your marketing tactics and then making sure that it’s measurable downstream as well.”
[00:12:00] Ethan Jones: “The big theme is around data utilization […] if you recall back to the 2000s, big data was the big theme of things. And then it kind of went into how we evolve the big data and implement the big data whether it be through telematics, modeling, things like that.”
[00:15:00] Ethan Jones: “AI is the buzzword of 2023 into 2024 […] Artificial intelligence shouldn’t be the final decision maker. It should help the people like you and me and the marketers […] mine data faster, find insights and help make recommendations. But ultimately, the humans should make the final decisions. It should be an additional tool to help us move faster.”
[00:22:00] Ethan Jones: “The analytical prowess is becoming much more in demand in the marketing piece. […] you know, building a brand is incredibly important, but then executing on that is also extremely critical as well. And the analytical mindset has evolved greatly in terms of not only skill set, but adaptability and technology and being a technologist as well. Like, it’s very important to, not just place ads, understand where the ads are.”
[00:08:00] Ethan Jones: “This is involving human lives and how they rebuild […] people have insurance for a reason, to plan for the worst and then hope it never happens. So, it’s about finding the right consumer in the right moment at the right price with the right potential lifetime value.”
Ethan Jones: [00:00:00] the analytical mindset has evolved greatly in terms of not only skill set, but adaptability and technology and being a technologist as well. Like, it’s very important to, not just place ads, understand where the ads are.
Where they’re going and how they’re performing in a full circle. the analytical and data science side is very key nowadays
Tim Finnigan: Hello, welcome to the marketing report podcast. My name’s Tim Finnegan. I’m the host of this great podcast where we have industry experts come on. We talk not only about marketing, but we talk about leadership, industry trends, and hopefully in some takeaways about how to be. Better data driven marketers.
I’m the host Tim Finnegan, and I’m director of product marketing at various marketing solutions, as well as I’m adjunct instructor teaching marketing strategy. this is a great episode because we’ve got the best person I know. That can talk about insurance industry trends is Ethan Jones, and he is SVP of insurance at Kissterra.
And Ethan, I’m going to have you talk a little bit about your background, but you’ve also been SVP at Quinn street. You’ve been on the brand side with insurance. [00:02:00] Welcome to the podcast, Ethan.
Ethan Jones: Thank you, Tim, for that amazing introduction. I’m humbled by that. So I really appreciate you guys taking the time to pull me into this. I was humbled when you guys asked, and I’m very excited to kind of talk about not only data and insurance, but some industry trends we’re seeing and how some of the technology and use cases that are out there are going to help it.
You know, evolve us through this tough market into a stronger soft market and in the next few years. So I’m very excited to be here and can’t thank you enough for making the time.
Tim Finnigan: No problem. so Ethan, so just to give people sort of a background on you sort of, we don’t need to go in the way back machine, but sort of
Ethan Jones: Well, Yeah. the gray hair gives it away
Tim Finnigan: Yeah. and well, what people don’t know when they watch this video or they listen to it, they have no idea you’re about seven feet four. I think that’s maybe that’s a little, maybe
Ethan Jones: overshot, but yes,
Tim Finnigan: So tell us what [00:03:00] you, tell us what you do at Kissterra, what you’re most responsible for.
Ethan Jones: Yeah, no problem, Tim. So, I’ve joined Kissterra about a year and a half ago. and like you said, I’ve been in the industry for coming up almost on 20 years in the insurance and marketing industry and technology side, and I said, you know, we kind of went on a mission here to. Understand, you know, marketing as a whole is a very powerful, you know, vertical and use case within the insurance market.
As we know, a lot of companies spend, you know, billions of dollars to acquire customers. And oftentimes there’s a lot of different strategies how to approach that, but we at Kissterra feel that performance is paramount. And, you know, it’s, it’s one thing to spend dollars. it’s another thing to make sure that they actually back into an LTV to CAC that is always moving and always adapting based on market conditions.
And as we know, the past, you know, a couple of years have been a pretty tough market in the insurance, especially the personal lines, areas. So [00:04:00] we’ve been on this mission as a whole to help not only carriers figure out how. To buy acquire customers, but how to right price the customers, down to a very granular level.
And that’s why we came out with our market orchestration platform beacon and, you know, as a whole, we’ve been working very closely with several partners to kind of entrench that gain learnings and felt expand on that because,
know. As an insurance marketing leader, they’re often, you know, passed with driving business profitability by growing the company, driving ROI and making real time decisions across multiple different channels of media.
And oftentimes the agility and flexibility can be a challenge. And that’s where we, you know, our mission is to help them be smarter, faster, better at a very tough job. And, you know, be partners within the organization to say. Marketing is kind of the tip of the spear, oftentimes to say, this is what our customer profiles look like, and do they [00:05:00] align from a product market fit from our actuarial and product teams to make sure that there’s a holistic flywheel to generate the right customer in the right moment at the right time for the right price.
Tim Finnigan: So Ethan, I, I assume that you get a lot of feedback from the carriers that you work with, what, what are some of the things, maybe harder questions there or top of mind, you know, I know that, you know, there’s with the industry. Or, you know, with the markets being down a lot, but what are they asking you for?
Like what are some, top of mind things that they’re wanting to know?
Ethan Jones: I think it varies by, you know, each partner in each company, but as a whole, Initially, the reaction was to pull back responsibly and figure out how I can be responsible of pulling back with limited marketing dollars and high customer demand to say, where is the right customer for my current situation?
And that [00:06:00] is how we’ve kind of helped them kind of target the right customer. At a very micro level, because, you know, when the market’s tailwinds are strong, there’s a stronger appetite to grow and when the market’s tough as it is now, it’s how to be more mindful about growth, and they’re asking a lot of questions about how I can find this particular cohort of customer at this allowable, and we’ve seen, you know, the acquisition allowables have gone down significantly during these harder times.
So people have had to do a lot more. With less and that also includes not only marketing dollars, but operations as well. They’re doing a lot more with less, you know, people driving the marketing decisions, which is tough. It’s a very tough situation. So, as a whole, it’s how they can be better and more efficient in the current state.
And that’s what we’re often getting asked about is just kind of those questions of we know it’s tough. How can we be better and how can we be more efficient and right and right [00:07:00] priced and target focused.
Tim Finnigan: So either, when you talk about target focused and back to what you said a little while ago about, the right customer, and that screams. Personalization and, you know, sort of, let’s focus on quality and not quantity is, is that, how are the carriers responding to that?
Ethan Jones: no, I think that’s a very strong message right now, because not only, you know, insurance is not just about marketing and about product and things. This is involving human lives and how they rebuild the, you know, each person’s life in a moment of, you know, extreme, Thanks, because, you know, people have insurance for a reason to plan for the worst and then hope it never happened.
So it’s about finding the right consumer in the right moment at the right price with the right, you know, potential lifetime value and that varies. Greatly across insurance. That’s why I love insurance. It’s not in marketing and insurance is a very [00:08:00] complex model that everyone is always evolving. It’s much different than other marketing that’s far more widget based and insurance is a very complex problem that needs to be solved and is always evolving.
So that’s why I love it. It’s it’s a very challenging market, but as a whole, it’s an incredibly, Great community of people as a whole. And it’s just a fun place to operate in. That’s why I haven’t left insurance in 20 years because the people are great and the problems are always evolving to solve.
Tim Finnigan: I’ve never heard the word fun and an insurance in the same sentence, but I
Ethan Jones: If you’d asked 22 year old Ethan, would he have considered insurance? No, I, what happens is, is no one comes out and he goes, I really want to get into insurance. It becomes a labor of love And a great community of people to operate within.
Tim Finnigan: And sometimes, when you talk about marketing and insurance, sometimes it’s [00:09:00] easier because you’re looking at real numbers and not just, you know, you talked about a widget or, you know, more on the retail side where it’s just, you know, we just need to get numbers. It’s so I could see how you could fall in line and say, okay, especially if you’re data driven, numbers driven.
So and, and my next question doesn’t really have to be for the insurance, but. You know, maybe if you go back to January 23 and you say, okay, what are, what are the important trends that are going to happen? did they come true? Did, did things get derailed? Like what, what, what sort of happened from January to now?
Ethan Jones: That is an extremely loaded question, Tim, a way, especially in these market conditions. So I think as a whole, you know, coming out of COVID, it was kind of every few months, there was a new instance of pressure within the market. You know, there’s a lot of inflationary pressures, a lot of labor pressures, a lot of return to work pressures and people returning to [00:10:00] driving pressures that, you know, We’re very tough to forecast.
So coming into 2023, a lot of the industry thought, okay, we feel like we might be in a better place might be in a very key word there, but the story isn’t written yet. And there’s going to be new challenges that are uncovered as the year comes. So I think there was optimism to start the year, I think, as the year progressed.
Um, a lot of this information is public. It became a tougher year in terms of losses, claims frequency and severity. And, you know, there was even some regulatory pressures around a lot of that as well, but as it has evolved, I think people have within the industry have learned to be more agile, be more efficient and do a lot more with limited resources and even starting to look to adopt additional technology data so they can be smarter as a whole.
And I think coming out of this, The whole industry will be stronger. It’s going to look and feel slightly different in some areas. But as a whole, you know, [00:11:00] insurance isn’t going anywhere. It’s just always evolving and adapting. And I think 2023 was the best laid plans adapted as we went month to month.
And it’s, it’s looked a lot different throughout the year than anyone expected, which is okay. And I think, you know, people are feeling a little more optimistic about a measured. You know, come back to the market in 2024, but it’s going to be a measured come back and, you know, I think that’s okay because, there’s been, it’s been a challenging few years as a whole, and, the industry is going to come out stronger because of it.
Tim Finnigan: So with that same theme, so now we’re coming up to 2024, I’m sure you’ve had to do your 2024 plans. And so what are you keeping your eye on?
Ethan Jones: Yeah,
Tim Finnigan: You know, I’m sure it’s some, some type of AI and. The market, but what, what are some may and maybe connect that to some marketing functions or data-driven functions.
Like what are, what are you, what are you thinking about for [00:12:00] 2024?
Ethan Jones: I think as a whole. you know, we’re very optimistic. The big theme is around data utilization. So, you know, we’ve both worked, you know, with with a lot of data at different companies, Tim, and I think there’s a lot of different iterations of, if you recall back to the 2000s, big data was the big theme of things.
And then, you know, it kind of went into how we evolve the big data and implement the big data, whether it be through telematics, modeling, things like that. And now we’re kind of evolving into the. You know, a new buzzword of artificial intelligence or AI and how that can be, you know, implemented within the data structure.
But I think the big theme of 2024 is. There’s going to be a lot more utilization of data, and there’s going to be a lot more cross organizational data that needs to come together to kind of rebuild, you know, how marketers look at consumers, how carriers as a whole, figure out where the new normal is in terms of customers [00:13:00] in the market.
And there’s been a lot of, you know. Increase in rating across the whole country where the consumers are continuing to shop. And unfortunately, there’s not a lot of good news out there. The past 12 to 18 months, because the rate. Base has gone up significantly, so I think data utilization with all of those micro and macro moving factors is going to be very key to understand if I’m growing.
Is it a good thing? First of all. And if I’m growing at an acceptable rate, can I continue to grow at that acceptable rate across industry? Because, the last few years have really challenged the normal of big data in terms of historically insurance companies as a whole have more data than almost any industry and know more about their consumers than most industries out there, just because they get to know their consumer.
They’re mindful of the consumer. But a lot of that data, Tim, [00:14:00] in some instances has not necessarily been thrown out the window, but had to be rebuilt to say, is this who my good customers are? Is this who my consumers I’m concerned about are and how do I harness more of the good consumers? Because it’s been very disruptive across the entire industry for all of the factors we just talked about.
So I think utilization and mindfulness of how you use data will be key. Now where AI is the buzzword of 2023 into 2024 is, I think there are a lot of good use cases for AI. I think a lot of them are still scary. Some of them are exciting. But as a whole, we look at it as Artificial intelligence shouldn’t be the final decision maker.
It should help the people like you and me and the marketers and the, you know, the companies out there mine data faster, find insights and help make [00:15:00] recommendations. But ultimately we, we feel strongly that the humans should make the final decisions. They’ll just have, you know, It should be an additional tool to help us move faster.
Tim Finnigan: Yeah, even I go back to your point about big data, it was the buzz was, all right, we need to just get as much data as we can and as much data as we can. And now it’s like, Hey, we need to get quality data. We need to get sure, make sure we’re getting insights from that. So if you could just like. I would love for you just to, to touch on, um, our partnership and, and how you utilize some of our data.
Ethan Jones: Yeah, absolutely. It’s a, it’s a very valid point because, big data.
is only as good as how you actually leverage it. And,our partnership’s been long standing. It kind of started out as a. Strong compliance partnership, which is very key in the industry. We’re in to make sure 1 that we have all the compliance tools in place.
And you guys have been an excellent partner in helping us navigate to those compliance [00:16:00] situations and make sure that we have comfort with that in our customer journeys. Not only for us, but our end, you know, partners as well. And then we’ve started to go on a lot more journeys and around. Augmenting data sets with our partnership and it’s, you know, to your point, we’re adding more big data to the platform as a whole, and part of that is. What learnings are we getting together about how this data is impactful? And I think as a whole, it’s been a very fun journey since we’ve kind of gone down this bigger data path together. And the story is still, you know, constantly being adapted around that. But we’re starting to say, okay, we know about what this customer looks like, who our partners are, and how can we augment that data to make it more of an enriched customer experience?
It can help with better precision around targeting, which is very key and [00:17:00] ultimately help create a better customer journey and help our end partners that on the insurance side, be more targeted to say, not only do I know. What Tim Finnegan looks like, where Tim Finnegan came from, but I now know a lot more about Tim Finnegan in terms of a lot of customer attributes that our partnership is helping augment, which is key because it’s enriching the data, which is helping with targeting and, you know, that’s our core focus at Kistera is not only to capture more data, but help to improve.
Harness it, leverage it, and put it in market.
Tim Finnigan: So, Ethan, when you talk to carriers or any, I, this could be anybody because I, because when I, think of when, when you talk about data insights and augmenting data, what would you be like your top three things? If you’re talking to a marketer that they need to start thinking about in data insights.[00:18:00]
Ethan Jones: it’s kind of a, it goes back to how you simplify a complex problem. And a couple of ways. One, having AI mine the data and find insights. to say. This looks good. This looks bad. With the bad, what is the decision and the recommendation you make in terms of what, how you minimize the bad opportunities and then how you reinvest that into good opportunities.
And, you know, there’s millions and millions of permutations of data within the industry. And also in market in the moment when the consumers in their journey, there’s, you know, a lot of data that can be harnessed there and it’s also helping it’s a should be a tool that is the way we see it as a tool that’s leveraged to help make the end decision, but give you a lot of the cheat sheet of what decision to make without [00:19:00] having to solve the whole problem yourself.
And I think as a whole, it’s still early in the AI aspects. There’s a lot of use cases for it, but I think there’s some, you know, strengths and weaknesses of how we, how it gets leveraged. But as a simple problem, you have a lot of data, how to harness the data and how to mine the data and then effectively make change of that.
Cause there are a lot of times there’s big data analysis by paralysis is the word we like to use. It helps remove some of the paralysis.
Tim Finnigan: Yeah, Ethan, when you were saying that, maybe think back like it’s still marketing foundation. These marketing principles is like, you know, get the data, find the insights from the data, and then decision upon them. Now there’s just a bunch of technology that helps you do that and there’s companies like you that could, that are really good at helping you decision on those.
Um, data questions and those lead questions.
Ethan Jones: Oh, [00:20:00] yes. And you know, if you think back 20, 30, 40 years ago, marketing has evolved. It’s still finding the consumer in the right moment at the right time in their decision process. That hasn’t changed. There’s just quite a few more mediums of where customers are nowadays than there was 20, 30, 40 years ago between, you know, social media, streaming, digital, offline, linear, everything.
It’s, a lot. And as that has happened, you know, Not everyone’s watching CBS News at the same time. At 6 p. m. As they were 34 years ago. Now people are consuming their content in so many different mediums that you have to figure out when is the right point to inject your marketing tactics and then making sure that it’s measurable downstream as well.
So it’s. It’s a much more complex problem, but at the same time, there’s more complexities. There’s better technology on the flip side to also help you mine through all of that noise.
Tim Finnigan: So Ethan, when you talk about [00:21:00] 30, 40 years ago, is the skill set of a marketer different than now? Or, or, or what would you look for skill set of someone new coming into say Kistera and say, no, this is, this is the type of. You know, skill set we need.
Ethan Jones: I think it varies greatly in terms of what your marketing mission is, you know, in terms of between branding and performance and digital, you know, all of those. opportunities still, have very focused, skill sets, but as a whole, the analytical prowess is becoming much more in demand in the marketing piece.
It’s not more, you know, building a brand is incredibly important, but then executing on that is also. Extremely critical as well, and the analytical mindset has evolved greatly in terms of not only skill set, but adaptability and technology and being a technologist as well. Like, it’s very important to, not just place ads, [00:22:00] understand where the ads are.
Where they’re going and how they’re performing in a full circle. It’s, it’s, it’s a lot. And, the analytical and data science side is very key nowadays. And, you know, 2023, 2024 marketing skill sets.
Tim Finnigan: I agree. I agree with you because I remember going through undergrad and analytics was not really talked about. It was business stats, but not the same. And I think as marketing, it was more, like retail marketing and big brand marketing. And I think B2B marketing was sort of this, I was. Like a stepchild, I’m not saying stepchildren are bad, but it seems like an outlier of, of marketing.
So I agree with you.
Ethan Jones: Oh yeah. Impression share was all like, regardless, like it was all about how you find the eyeballs and how you get in front of the eyeballs and then figure it out from there. Now [00:23:00] it’s like how you. Get in front of the right customer in the moment and does the math back out. Long term as well. It’s evolved a lot.
Tim Finnigan: yeah, is I remember when I got out of sales. And went into marketing, I was tired of having a number on my head, of, you know, sales objective. But what I realized is everybody has a number on their head. It’s just easier to quantify if you’re in sales because marketing still needs to prove, you know, ROI on their technology and their campaigns and things like that.
So Ethan, my last question, if I, I’m going to bring you back on the podcast next year. End of the year, crystal ball. What, what, what are you going to be saying differently than you are right now? Or as I look back, you’re like, Oh, Hey, we made some good decisions and this is what happened.
Ethan Jones: Well, first and foremost, as Welcome back.
Thank you. as a whole, I just, you know, I’m very optimistic that the insurance industry as [00:24:00] a whole will be in a much stronger, standing and not just, you know, repeating the old, but also how we’ve evolved as an industry to say, are we better? Are we more predictable as a whole?
And, you know, I just want. The whole industry to be stronger, because I think it’s a very important industry to me personally, in terms of that on a personal and professional level. But I just, you know, I’m very hopeful that a lot of the challenges that have been endured the last few years have made us all better and stronger as a whole.
And not only are we reverting back to the mean in terms of how we used to do things, but we’re doing things that are much more innovative and much more data centric and far more predictable, just because they’re hopefully there are ways we can avoid the past few years in terms of getting out in front of it earlier.
It’s it was a very unprecedented [00:25:00] cobit. So, my hope is we’re bigger, stronger as a, as a whole. industry at the end of 2024 and where we’re feeling very bullish about the future,
Tim Finnigan: Great. And I don’t think anybody can be bigger than you because your six foot eight frame is towering over everybody. And I hope the insurance industry is towering again. So Ethan, I can’t wait to have you back. You were great. thanks for being on the podcast.
Ethan Jones: Tim, it was a pleasure. I really appreciate the opportunity and it’s always fun to catch up with you, um, on the personal and professional level. So thank you very much for the time. Really
Tim Finnigan: No
Ethan Jones: it.
Tim Finnigan: Talk to you soon.
Ethan Jones: Take care.