A strong marketing strategy can help businesses, both new and established, to differentiate themselves from the competition.
Bermuda's newest entrants into the reinsurance industry arrived quickly in response to the marketplace demand for capacity, handpicking senior management with proven abilities and underwriting teams capable of meeting the significant pressures of tight renewal deadlines. Now that these companies have reacted to the immediate challenge of meeting clients' most urgent demands, many are beginning to think strategically about building their businesses over the longer term.
Global industry realities and a fresh sense of competitive dynamics have placed the role of marketing at the forefront of executive planning. More than ever, marketing is taking on new life in the financial services industry in general, and the re/insurance industry in particular. Many companies recognise the need to establish and communicate the corporate brand and, in doing so, have either created a dedicated marketing department or outsourced the function to a team of seasoned professionals. Notably, what once was considered a fragmented, often unproven discipline within the sector has now emerged as an essential driver in establishing the core attributes and values of the company.
Bermuda's well-established companies which have successfully built their brands over the years are facing a new level of competition from traditional and non-traditional newcomers with diverse product offerings and innovative ownership/investment structures. These reinsurance entities face the dilemma of finding effective, alternative ways of delivering their messages to designated decision-making audiences. They recognise that they need to rethink - or perhaps even address for the first time - the most fundamental communication strategies and activities.
Today, companies are discovering that a well-crafted, sustainable communications strategy, fully embraced by management at the outset, can be a determining factor in meeting business goals and objectives. The key, however, is to create a strategy that is rooted in sound corporate messages that will enable the company to rise above the competitive `noise' both on island and globally in this robust, competitive marketplace.
Change triggers opportunity, and today's industry entities have a timely window of opportunity in which to define and establish an integrated marketing communications effort. The underlying intent of designing such a program is to achieve market differentiation against both new and established organisations.
The principles of a thoughtful approach to marketing communications are not sector specific. These principles enable corporate entities of all kinds conducting business in Bermuda to stake a claim in their respective industries, whether financial services, legal, telecommunications, consulting or accounting. Ultimately, the collective advantage is a reinforcement of Bermuda's position as a business-friendly, international financial centre that is home to an abundance of intellectual capital, a sophisticated infrastructure and an enviable, culturally rich business environment.
Positioning with insight
Too often, companies and organisations develop and launch communications programs without first examining in depth the total communications environment - including key audience beliefs and perceptions, both external and internal, competitive programs, and emerging marketplace trends - that will ultimately shape audience acceptance and action over the long-term. For re/insurers specifically, these audiences are typically clients and potential clients, brokers, the media, other industry partners, and in some cases, investors and/or shareholders.
A needs assessment, providing an analysis of the `gap' between company perceptions and market realities, can be a valuable exercise during the initial development of a marketing platform to accurately diagnose a company's communication situation.
Typically, this type of audit can uncover:
For new and established reinsurance entities in Bermuda, effective market positioning will undoubtedly involve developing and embracing themes that are credible and sustainable throughout the intended lifecycle of the program. The insight gained during the initial assessment phase can be invaluable for crafting corporate themes that are relevant and meaningful to the marketplace and prospective customers.
Communications program themes are most persuasive when they speak to the characteristics and attributes of the company. For new entrants, executives must first define the company's business proposition as it relates to and/or competes against the competitive landscape. The themes are not based solely on lines of business and/or product/service offerings but rather address how the company can be positioned as a respected, responsive player in delivering upon its business promise. For existing companies, theme development becomes an exercise in revisiting and re-evaluating the communications platform to determine and assess the credibility and believability of the corporate themes in a changed competitive market environment. Corporate differentiation, driven by communications themes, will depend primarily on the company's ability to establish and implement a fully integrated program that articulates the messages persuasively and effectively to the target audiences.
Developing core messages
Each reinsurance company in Bermuda has unique attributes which can be articulated into messages that differentiate the entity from its competitors. It is not necessarily how the attributes are communicated to prospective clients, but whether those attributes communicated speak to the essence of the business proposition. For existing reinsurance companies in Bermuda, the opportunity exists to revisit their key messages and determine whether they continue to be timely, competitive and provable.
The most recently formed reinsurance companies have a greater challenge as these `new Bermudians' have been grouped together in an undifferentiated way. Those able to break away from the pack, thereby establishing an identity that resonates with their key audiences, will reap considerable advantage for long-term business gain.
A comprehensive message platform can incorporate the following elements:
Implementing integrated ideas
Marketing initiatives can be as elaborate, as creative or as basic in design as deemed appropriate for the company within its desired marketplace. Regardless of the scope or intent, effective marketing activities are carefully orchestrated to influence the designated business audience, whether customer, prospect, partner or shareholder.
Typically, a corporate identity/letterhead system, a website presence and an emphasis on trade advertising are the marketing initiatives that tend to top the list of priorities for any new entity. Not surprisingly, there is an endless range of marketing tools, techniques and devices that can be entertained, the extent of which is limited or determined solely by the business goals, market commitment and resources of the corporate entity.
Yet certain initiatives that are increasingly becoming central components of an integrated marketing program hold particular relevance for financial services and re/insurance companies facing an unprecedented cadre of new and existing competitive players. Media relations, financial communications and industry communications are complementary, marketing-driven activities that can and do impact corporate audiences.
Media relations is an integral component of a comprehensive marketing strategy. It offers the most cost-effective, direct opportunity to communicate a company's expertise to a specific audience. A media strategy can provide a company with editorial coverage of its people, products, services and expertise in a range of outlets. Every media interview or article can be an opportunity to broaden market awareness of a company's expertise, while reinforcing corporate messages.
Business-to-business, in-market communications can be developed to generate new business opportunities and reinforce customer loyalty. Forward-thinking companies are focusing on industry communication that goes beyond sales-directed efforts and, instead, serves as a vehicle for building and maintaining key industry relationships. Increasingly, reinsurance entities are bolstering their marketing programs by reaching out to clients and brokers with innovative business tools for online submissions, tracking and reporting, as well as offering proprietary market data and trend analysis that helps enhance their respective marketing needs. Such information can come in the form of web-based reports and white papers, digitised presentations, research data and marketing collateral.
Financial and/or investor relations are typically considered a function of importance primarily to publicly-traded companies. Financial communications is, however, becoming a priority amongst executives faced with the need to disseminate timely and accurate financial news and information to institutional investors/partners and shareholders with a private equity stake in the company. Implementation of a financial communications program will depend entirely on a company's specific financial/investment structure, and the requirements for reporting on a monthly, quarterly and/or annual basis. The message inherent in a sound financial communications effort is one that reinforces the financial strength and wherewithal of the entity itself, or in connection with the credibility and rankings of its parent company or lead investors.
It goes without saying that the marketing challenges for a start-up differ from those of an established entity. Yet no company can ever rest on its laurels and, to remain competitive, must constantly strive to anticipate trends in an ever-changing marketplace. Addressing such changes and blending an effective, highly targeted program within the umbrella themes, whether for a new reinsurer or a well-established global brand, are critical to building corporate distinction within the industry.
For today's reinsurance marketplace, the new companies that strive to be recognised and heard amid the industry's competitive background will be that much closer to developing and creating a trusted and valued global brand that, in itself, will ultimately drive business objectives.
By Deborah Middleton andL Gaye Torrance
Deborah Middleton and L Gaye Torrance are co-founders of Middleton Torrance Marketing Ltd. MTM is a Bermuda-based consultancy, providing corporate, financial and marketing communications services to Bermuda-based businesses, organisations and associations. For additional information about MTM, visit www.mtmbda.com