Back in 1900, a pair of French brothers named Andre and Edouard had a problem. They manufactured tyres for the then new-fangled automobiles, of which only about 3000 were roaming in France.

They wanted to sell more tyres, which meant they needed to see more cars on the road doing more miles. To boost their business, they had to stoke demand for driving.

To achieve this, they took an innovative tack. They began publishing a guide for French motorists, covering the best hotels and restaurants to stop at while touring across the countryside. They gave the guide their surname, and the Michelin Guide was born.

That guide, now published in two-dozen countries, is an institution. It is also an early example of content marketing, a technique that is being increasingly used by insurance brokers to cut through and get better results than traditional marketing activities.

Value proposition

As the Michelin Guide attests, the notion of marketing your products via publishing content that your target audience wants to consume is not new. The term content marketing, however, is less than 20 years old, and has only rose to prominence in marketing circles in recent years.

Put simply, content marketing is a strategy of producing and distributing useful, valuable content to a target audience, with the intention of proving your expertise and driving business for you.

It can take many forms – a website, videos, a print magazine, newsletters and more. The common thread is that it is not an advertising spiel; instead, it offers value to its audience, be it entertaining or informing. The intention is not to directly sell your goods or services but to prove your expertise in the area and keep your brand front of mind for both existing and potential clients.

What is it?

Content marketing is strategy of producing and distributing useful, valuable content to a target audience, with the intention of proving your expertise and driving business for you.

The insurance industry is increasingly employing content marketing to stand out from the crowd. This can range from regular blogs on a company website to a full-blown multimedia content hub.

For instance, last year Aon launched its Sam Small character, a cartoon small business owner who has his own website aimed at answering common questions SME owners might have about insurance. Although Aon brokers are regularly quoted in articles covering everything from cyber risks for
real estate agents or how to reduce risks at dance concerts, the focus is on giving risk management information, not pushing Aon’s services.

Three characteristics of good content marketing

Specialist pleasure craft insurer Club Marine has spent three decades continually reinforcing its brand identity by publishing a bi-monthly glossy magazine for its clients and other interested readers. Titled Club Marine, it touches on insurance matters occasionally but the focus is overwhelmingly on marine lifestyle topics. The latest issue covers everything from profiling the world women’s wakeboarding champions, an in-depth examination of different sorts of anchors and when to use them, and reviewing various pleasure craft.

Putting it into action

Late last year, Sydney brokerage Milne Alexander launched a new website, with a new blog taking pride of place. Publishing fresh content on everything like the risks around forklifts to tips on corporate travel insurance, the content is aimed strongly at their target market.

One month in, we were invited to pitch for a business with $200 million in property.

Milne Alexander Account Director Anna Heyligers says since the site launched, traffic has doubled. “But the biggest difference before and now has been the quality of the leads,” she says. “We’re seeing much bigger businesses approach us from the website, rather than just small tyre-kickers. One month in, we were invited to pitch for a business with $200 million in property.”

To set their content strategy, Milne Alexander combined research on what commercial insurance-related terms people were regularly searching for on Google, as well as input from the staff about what were the most common questions to come up from clients.

Key steps to devising an effective content marketing strategy

“It’s very driven by what our clients are asking us about. We get asked questions all day, every day,” Heyligers says. “A client will have an issue with something and so obviously we go and find the answer and provide that to the client, but now we are also developing content around that because obviously it’s of interest.

“So far, our most-read post is about managing EPS (expanded polystyrene sandwich) panel risks, which is a bit of an out there topic, as not that many clients have EPS in their buildings. What we learnt from that is the power of niche content.”

Building a brand

The most crucial aspect of content marketing, and the key point where it differs from traditional marketing, is that it gives its audience something they actively want to consume.

Launched two years ago, LMI Group Founder Professor Allan Manning’s blog has a loyal following in the insurance industry. Most week days, he sends out a short email newsletter, either responding to a query on a technical issue or giving his own take on a current topic in the industry. Prior to launching the blog and enewsletter, Manning had been publishing white papers and information to his website regularly for years.

“I was getting so many requests for information that I thought if I started a blog, then people could read it and I wouldn’t get so many questions,” he says. “Of course, now I get questions from all over the world so I’ve made it worse.” The blog has raised Manning’s already high profile – someone now approaches him almost every time he walks into an airport, he says – but he says the goal has always been to help people get the right insurance advice.

“It can’t just be pushing your own services,” he says. “You’ve got to be giving meaningful advice.”