Marketing in Affinity: Back to Basics


By Holly Bohn Pittman, Chief Marketing Officer, Fortegra

Chat GPT, blogs, SEO, TikTok, LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, virtual events, QR codes — the number of channels, platforms, and resources available to sales and marketing professionals has become mind-numbing. Where do you even begin? These new and growing technologies are newsworthy so ignoring them isn’t an option. In fact, because of the media attention it’s not uncommon for executives with little to no understanding of these platforms, end up mandating their use. Pretty soon your small, but eager team is burned out managing content across ten different platforms. While it’s easy to wow with metrics, you “doubled” your followers on LinkedIn when you went from two to four, truly impacting sales requires strategy and focus.

In my current role as Chief Marketing Officer at Fortegra, a global specialty insurer, I plan our corporate marketing strategy, and due to our distribution model I also participate in developing strategy for some of our partners. It’s easy to get distracted by the latest and greatest new platform or tool, but over the last 25 years in business I’ve found the most success by starting with the basics. Whether you are preparing an annual marketing plan or a go-to-market plan for a specific product or service, keep these five principles in mind and you’ll end up with a functional plan that delivers profitable sales growth.

1. Understand your audience. Before you develop the messaging and decide where to tell the message, it’s critical to understand the who. What does your audience care about? Do they watch cable TV or YouTube? Are they on LinkedIn or TikTok? What stories will resonate with your audience? Are they in their 30s or 60s? What you say and where you should say it will vary greatly by audience.

2. Segment and prioritize your target audience(s). If your audience is too broad, you will need to segment into smaller groups. With unlimited resources you might be able to be everything to everyone, but I have yet to meet a sales and marketing team with unlimited resources, so segment and prioritize. Small variations in verbiage across campaigns will ensure maximum impact across different channels and audiences.

3. Play to win. I’ve seen it time and time again. Companies left behind because they failed to adopt new platforms. In 2004, when I started my first company, I remember being told that no one would buy office supplies online – you know how that turned out. I’ve also seen companies fail miserably adopting several new platforms at once. If you have reason to believe that your audience will be using a specific platform, then you should formulate a plan for that specific platform and hire expertise or an experienced agency. Develop content geared toward that platform and your audience. Recycling content can sometimes work but shouldn’t be your default. Finally, if you can’t do it well, then don’t do it at all. Just as you prioritize the audiences you will target, you should prioritize the platforms you use. If you don’t have the resources to maintain every platform, choose what you can do well and, on the others, reserve your brand, so no one else can use it. You can even set up your logo, company or product information and auto replies, but don’t worry about posting.

4. Identify and measure the right metrics. It’s easy to get busy and distracted with activities and metrics that may or may not matter. Be clear about what success looks like. A high open rate on an email newsletter might be a good start, but if it doesn’t convert to sales, you’ll need to do something different.

5. Adapt quickly. Some things take time and require momentum and multiple touchpoints, but if enough time has passed and you still aren’t hitting your metrics, shift your strategy. It might be that the messaging isn’t working, it could be the wrong platform or the wrong mix. It is important to keep trying new things. You won’t always get it right, don’t be afraid to admit failure and adapt.

Finally, keep in mind that a great sales and marketing plan should be dynamic, what worked last year may not work this year. People change, sentiments change and as you well know technology changes – but if you pay attention to the basics and then follow-through on execution, you will realize success.

Published in the Fall 2023 issue of Insights Magazine.

PIMA® (Professional Insurance Marketing Association®) is a member-driven trade association focused exclusively on the affinity market.