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Direct Response Marketing

A 'Safe' Boom

1 Aug, 2013 By: Thomas Haire Response

Bill Broich, along with co-founder David Townsend and managing director Kevin Dufficy, hail DRTV as a big boost to Annuity.com’s lead-generation efforts.


“Direct response lets us level the playing field against the big guys,” says Bill Broich, co-founder (with Dave Townsend) of Annuity.com, the Tacoma, Wash.-based provider of education, quotes, agent leads and solutions to consumers seeking to utilize annuities as a tax-deferred retirement option. “They can throw buckets of money at the issue, but in the end, we still own the brand that defines the industry. We are a small company with a monster brand.”

Broich and Townsend have both spent a quarter-century in the insurance business, but teamed up 15 years ago to offer annuities. Townsend handles the business side — contracts, legal issues, etc. — while Broich is in charge of marketing and lead generation.

The third key player on the Annuity.com team, Kevin Dufficy, managing director, joined the company more recently, but his expertise in building and managing start-ups has come in handy — especially with the launch of a short-form DRTV campaign in January.

“DR allows us to message our specific target market — the boomer generation — who have retired, or are about to, and control 67 percent of the country’s wealth, according to the U.S. Census,” Broich says. “People don’t always think that DR and branding go together — but we know it does, having built a brand on the single unifying message that annuities are safe.”

Unsurprisingly, “safe” is the key message behind Annuity.com’s amusing short-form campaign titled “Safe Man,” which follows a man holding a safe representing the fixed some of money paid to a consumer each year, typically for the rest of his or her life, when he or she purchases an annuity.

“The important thing with marketing is coming up with a compelling message that resonates with your target,” Broich contends. “We have built a brand on the notion that our product is ‘safe’ and our DRTV showcases it.”

Getting Their Fix

Broich and Townsend have both been in the insurance business since the late 1980s, but they teamed in 1998 when they saw an opportunity to create something new and different.

“We’ve been partners since 1998, when we bought a website and began marketing fixed annuities within a network of individual agents nationally,” Broich says. “About 10 years ago, we acquired the Annuity.com domain name, which had been used solely as a rate resource site. We realized it could be more valuable if we made it an information-based website with a focus on our financial category for annuities.”

According to Broich, annuities fall into two categories — “variable, sold as a security by stockbrokers, and fixed, sold as an insurance product.” Annuity.com is strictly a fixed annuity business.

The evolution of the site has turned it into a leading online destination for annuities and other financial products. It combines a focus on educating investors through objective, relevant content with the goal of helping them determine how annuities can fit into their investment or retirement portfolios.

Dufficy works closely with Broich on the company’s marketing efforts, while Townsend runs the business operations side. During the past 20 years, Dufficy built a pair of businesses in the manufacturing and technology spaces that eventually were acquired by larger organizations.

The three executives make a diverse team, with an array of specialties. Most importantly, though, they understand the key to Annuity.com’s success.

Broich says, “Our business interests over the years have been in radio, seminars and other lead-generation systems. The most important thing we’ve learned is that lead generation is the key to growing our business.”

Such a focus made Annuity.com the perfect candidate to test the waters of direct response television.

Safety in Leads

“Agents need leads, and we have always focused 100 percent of our efforts on developing new and better lead systems,” Broich says. “The power brand of Annuity.com allowed us to expand our business and provide a strong platform for leads and agent recruitment. But we knew we needed another source of leads, and DR seemed a natural step.”

As Annuity.com developed its proprietary marketing and lead platform for insurance agents and financial advisors — using digital marketing, contextual advertising, search engine marketing, E-mail marketing and radio — it became clear that DRTV was another possible option to add to its arsenal.

While variable annuities make up about 80 percent of the annuity market, the Annuity.com team has remained focused on its core competency — the safe and secure market seeking fixed annuities. “With 10,000 baby boomers starting on Social Security every day now, searches for the term ‘annuity’ total more than 1 million per month on Google alone,” Broich says. “Direct response is invaluable to us in determining our specific target in our slice of the annuity business, mostly baby boomers and soon-to-be-retired men and women.”

He says that space is looking for the “safety and security” that fixed annuities provide based on “income that cannot be outlived.” Broich adds, “Obviously, the ‘Safe Man’ campaign that we launched on TV this year clearly demonstrates the safety of an annuity.”

Who’s the Man?

The “Safe Man” 60-second TV spot launched on Jan. 7, targeting boomers across various cable networks and syndicated TV. The spot has a good sense of humor while still getting the point across: the “Safe Man” is everywhere baby boomers are — from golf course to hotel to grocery store to a play date with their grandkids — and always demonstrating to them that their money is safe and protected with a fixed annuity.

“In essence, our DRTV campaign has been an extension of our Google AdWords campaigns. We liked DRTV because it is a strong call-to-action,” Broich says. “With the powerful competition we face daily from variable annuity providers, stockbrokers and securities sellers who bully the AdWords market, we felt another source like TV would provide a more level playing field.”

Aside from spotlighting the safety of an annuity, the spot prompts consumers to call or visit Annuity.com, where they will get a free annuity quote, as well as a copy of the company’s booklet entitled “The Safe Money Guide.”

The ability to tweak a DRTV campaign also appealed to Broich and his team. “We are constant tinkerers,” he says. “We try lots of different things to attract those who an annuity may benefit. We’re also growing our radio operation at the same time.”

As the campaign has evolved, so has the Annuity.com’s outlook on it. “We have combined our digital marketing with both national and regional DRTV,” Broich says. “Our primary focus now is on regional TV, but as we evolve, we see a move to a constant and steady national TV presence. If we sold all types of annuities, we would be on TV throughout the year with consistent continuity and with our Internet presence as a supporting tactic.”

The campaign has produced double-digit percentage gains for Annuity.com in both call volume and leads. Broich is quick to credit Annuity.com’s agency partner on the DRTV campaign, New York-based Karlin+Pimsler.

“Their ability to communicate the message in an easy-to-understand story is the key to our marketing strategy,” Broich says. “Their visual representation of the safety of annuities is unforgettable and right on target for our brand.” ■


About the Author: Thomas Haire

Thomas Haire

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