Insurance Contest Puts a Premium on Marketing Strategy
Undergrads Come Away from State Farm Competition With Scholarships and Experience
Jul. 14, 2011
From left: Dana Townsend, Brianna Minnish, Crystal Cruz, Yessenia Rodriguez and Michelle Tamez.
Not a dress-code stickler, Ms. Haworth just wanted everyone photo-ready for the exam-day announcement of who had done the best job on her competitive final assignment, a project with $2,000 in scholarship money from State Farm Insurance awaiting the winning team.
Based on State Farm efforts to engage new clients ages 16 to 24, the project challenged students in Personal Selling and Sales Management to think of themselves as new insurance-agency owners strategizing to win business among their age-group peers.
In preparation, State Farm representatives came to class twice, to discuss their industry, the tools agents have at their disposal and their business perspectives.
By the time the Red Ladies — a five-member all-female group — emerged victorious, good feelings had morphed into mutual admiration.
“Thank you very much for helping us,” student Saad Abughazaleh said on behalf of the 62-member class. “This was a unique experience.”
Next year, “we think we’ll be doing this again,” State Farm recruiter Brad Alexander replied.
Besides scholarship money, the exercise led to a full-time State Farm job for one winning-team member and employment possibilities for other class members.
In five-to-seven-minute presentations, the students pitched abundant suggestions. Connect via technology, they said — Facebook, Skype, Twitter, You Tube, anything 4G and beyond. Entice with free food, free tickets, gift cards, giveaways and cash rewards. Put in face time on campuses, over lunch, at community events. Not-so-usual recommendations: Send handwritten letters to new customers; provide concierge-level claims service; offer customers a “rate-my-agent” online survey option.
The Red Ladies tipped the insurance-company judges in their favor by doing market research, surveying about 50 people in the target age group to learn “what are you looking for" in insurance, including “what benefits?”
Respondents said “they want reliable, trustworthy and understandable information,” Red Lady and newly hired State Farm employee Crystal Cruz reported.
The Red Ladies' proposal included a gift-boxed T-shirt for new policyholders, free food at the agency, online policy management and a points-based incentive program with discount and gift-card rewards.
Ms. Haworth devised the contest to offer “a real sales project to get [students] comfortable with sales and to get them comfortable with real companies that could be pipelines for jobs.”
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