How Marketers Can Drive Customer Acquisition Despite Budget Cuts, Profitability Focus

Economic strains present challenges to industries across retail, travel, real estate and other areas, putting marketing teams in an interesting position. Many now face reduced budgets or additional mandates to ensure a return on investment (ROI) for every media dollar spent.

Steve Yi, co-founder and CEO, MediaAlpha, says leading insurance brands have sought to cut expenses by reducing marketing spend, but he believes this is the right time to improve customer acquisition strategies. Here are his ideas.

MediaAlpha, which uses technology and data science to help businesses optimize their customer acquisition processes, touts itself as the insurance industry’s largest customer-acquisition marketplace.

Yi has worked in internet advertising for nearly 20 years. He served in various business development and leadership roles for, an online travel comparison company, and Idealab, before co-founding MediaAlpha.



He started his career at Goldman Sachs and Oliver Wyman, and has a J.D. from Harvard Law School and an A.B. from Harvard College.

Yi and his team completed an initial public offering for MediaAlpha in October 2020. The company trades on the New York Stock Exchange under ticker symbol MAX.

One interesting strategy that Yi explained is when brands serve alternative insurance-provider ads to non-converting website visitors because they might be a better fit. One company that does this, he says, is The General. The two companies have been working together since 2013.

Here are some of his ideas to help brands make it through a rocky economic period.

S&PMD:  What is the best way to upgrade a user experience?

Yi:   Anything you can do to make the shopping experience easier for the consumer.

For example, many consumers start their shopping journey on Google and then land on an insurance information website. That website will typically prompt the consumer to fill out a form to get a quote or quotes. However, in order to complete the quote-process, the consumer must go to the carrier’s website and complete their specific form.

We use something called "data-passing integration" to help a carrier make that process easier for the consumer by enabling the data, which the consumer entered into site's form, to pass through their systems and pre-populated into the carrier form. This way the consumer doesn't enter the same information twice and is less likely to abandon the form.  

S&PMD:  What have insurance marketers done to change marketing strategies during this time?

Yi:  Many may look to limit spending, but a focus on profitability doesn’t mean turning away from customer-acquisition performance.

A number of leading companies have found that a difficult market is actually the perfect time to invest in upgrades that will make their media buying more efficient in the long run.

This is the time to tackle crucial in-house projects that enable them to optimize profitability in the short term and maximize growth once the market corrects further down the road.

S&PMD: What’s one-way marketers can manage costs?

Yi:  The best tool that insurance marketers can use is to offset acquisition costs by monetizing non-converting website visitors. This means showing non-converting website visitors alternative insurance providers that might be a better fit.

When a shopper clicks one of these links, the insurance company that referred that shopper gets paid a referral fee — sometimes $100 or more due to the high intent of the consumers who visit a carrier’s website.

S&PMD:  Should marketers think about reaching a wider audience during this time?

Yi:   Actually, no -- the opposite is true. Be selective.

Insurance companies have recently stopped pursuing consumer segments that they believe will be unprofitable — making it more likely that a consumer who arrives at an insurance carrier’s website will be someone they can’t, or don’t want to, bind or complete the policy sign up.

Insurance companies have complete control of which consumers see these alternative listings — and how prominently they appear.

S&PMD:    How does data collection impact marketing efforts?

Yi:    During this challenging time, a growing trend is how insurance marketers upgrade the user experience by implementing data passing and pre-filled forms.

When you’re spending less time and money on purchasing media and optimizing bids, it’s important to make sure that the shoppers who still come to your website are as likely to purchase a policy. And that means upgrading the user experience to make it faster and easier for consumers to bind with you.

Companies can implement data passing integrate to provide consumers with pre-filled forms during the quoting process. Since the average consumer requests around three quotes before purchasing a policy, it’s possible a shopper will have already completed several lengthy quote forms on carrier and comparison shopping websites prior to arriving on an insurance brand’s site.

When a carrier implements data passing, they receive the information the consumer submitted on the referring website.

S&PMD:   Where do you want to be when the market improves?

Yi:  By focusing on efficiency in customer acquisition during the hard market, property and casualty insurance companies can squeeze every last dollar out of their marketing spend and buoy their profitability during stormy weather.

Laying the groundwork is just as important to maximize performance when the market turns around.

By using this difficult time as an opportunity to make smart changes, savvy insurance companies will be well-positioned to leapfrog their competitors once the industry transitions back to growth.


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