Q: A national postal strike has been called. How exactly does a delay in postal delivery affect your direct marketing activity?
A: For an insurance company, direct mail functions as a trigger to contact a call centre or go online. The issue with call centres is that they have to be manned at the right time, ie the time that the prompt communication is expected to drop. The worry I've got is we have a regular programme of direct marketing to drive response to our call centres. A postal strike disrupts our call pattern. It hits your call centres with higher calls at the wrong time. Insurance in particular is date-driven using renewal data [and a postal strike means] the window of opportunity starts to drop."
Q: About you...winning the Marketing Society's marketer of the year award in May - how did that come about?
A: I was up against 14 other people - nominated by the Marketing Society and voted on by Marketing magazine readers. Now I'm doing road shows for the Marketing Society, sharing what we're doing at More Than.
Q: And what are you doing at More Than?
We've managed to move on in a challenging year. We've really invested in direct marketing and digital to take the brand forward. We see the lines blurring between the disciplines - it's not like 10 years ago when things were siloed.
Q: You're known for appreciating the analytical side of marketing
Behind all our activity we have a very strong analysis programme, so every bit of activity we do is tracked and measured. That's done in-house and that's really helped us to understand the real wins - by customer types and by knowing the people that respond. We try and optimize our approach to different customer types - if someone doesn't respond to direct mail, will they respond to mail and a call, or mail and an email.
We track on our sales data - I get a daily report on the calls we've received and the sales we've achieved and that's by media as well. It's establishing a retail culture in More Than. Daily data allows you to see what's happening.
Q: What's the best combination?
It varies by different customers group - we see the strength of outbound telemarketing on the back of mail or an email. Telemarketing has been a very important channel for our success. When we ring up people want to talk to us about insurance - it's data driven so we're ringing up at renewal time.
When we ring people at their renewal date, the brand is very visible. It's not just TV - we do a mix of brand and direct response ads. Radio is a key channel - we know through econometrics and back analysis that radio is very important for driving response. Our media agency Marcom Medivest do this for us.
Q: Marketers are split on how useful econometrics is as a tool
Econometrics is a useful tool and it gives you direction, but you need to understand the wider picture around it. It's not an end in itself.
Q: Would you ever pull the plug on a channel?
You'd need a solid swell of data to make a decision to divert from a particular channel.
Don't write off direct mail - you need to understand the role all the channels play in the mix, how they work on their own and know that direct mail does drive online sales - both in terms of retention and acquisition. You need to understand those interdependencies.
Q: More Than's best single channel for acquisition?
It's hard to pick one. We have specifically ramped up investment in direct mail - we see it work! And we measure it so tightly - so that we're putting our money in the right investment area.
The notion that direct mail is dying [as a channel] is not something we subscribe to here. It's about not being lazy in use of data and creative. More Than's pet birthday mailing is a good example of trying to do something clever with a clever creative and it's worked well. There is a way to stimulate response in direct mail: the right offer at the right time with cracking creative will get a response.
Q: But you are lucky in that you have data from insurance quotes
It's understanding the value of the data you've got - some brands might have trigger data and don't realize it. For us it's a pet's birthday or the date someone applied for a car loan or moved into a house that could be an insurance trigger point.
Q: Why are so into outbound telemarketing - that's been drinking in the last chance saloon for years now
My background was in telecoms - the Onetel part of Centrica that got bought by Carphone Warehouse. Outbound was very important at Onetel and to be honest, I've taken that learning from telecoms to insurance. It's about calling people at the right time with a strong brand.
If we get a negative response we make sure we change the channel mix for that customer - we have tight controls around outbound calling. We use call centres in India for inbound, and a UK-based one, LBM, for outbound. I'd used them in Onetel and took them with me. The partnership with LBM is a good one.
Q: What's your policy towards aggregators?
If I'm honest it's not pretending that aggregators aren't a big part of the process now - myself and the team work with them as an important part of the sales mix.
It's about making it work for customers, for us and the aggregators. Some insurance companies ignore them - Aviva and Direct line - but our view is that you can't ignore the fact that aggregators are a sales channel.
Our strategy is to work closely with them, particularly on motor insurance, less so on home insurance - regular, ongoing meetings and working with the biggest ones: confuse.com, compartethemarket, moneysupermarket and gocompare. We've also got a great relationship with Tesco Gocompare.
Q: Highlights of the past 12 months, aside from winning Marketer of the Year?
We have a promise or motto that ‘We Do More' and we so launched Personal Claims Handler - it provides a personal named claims manager and I'm proud of that. You can use it offline and online. it shows commitment to customers by offering people personal service in an industry not known for person service.