Nationwide has thousands of local independent agencies in the United States that make up its primary distribution channel, and they know they need to become more digital. As digital touchpoints become engrained in the customer journey, digital marketing tactics such as search and social media have a greater impact on brand awareness, online reputation and revenue.
“We’re seeing the transition of agencies who didn’t think a lot about digital targeting and digital marketing now needing to optimize their website for SEO or create a referral or word-of-mouth program on social,” says Tiffany Grinstead, vice president of personal lines marketing at Nationwide. “They’re suddenly coming to us and saying, ‘Our stream of income from my retail establishment sort of stopped, so how do I pivot?’”
Nationwide’s local partner channel program takes a multi-tiered approach with an array of sub-programs (including an online agency locator) to get independent agencies up to speed in digital marketing. At the broadest tier, there’s a thought-leadership sub-program that helps educate independent agents. White papers, blog posts and other content provide a top-level view of digital marketing and why it’s important.
“Our number one most viewed piece of content is ‘Seven Marketing Tips for the Pandemic,’ which has consistently stayed high throughout the pandemic,” Grinstead says. “Clearly, you’re seeing people trying to find that kind of information.”
For high-level agency partners, Nationwide provides marketing services and, in some cases, reimbursement for certain marketing tactics. This might be jointly running a digital advertising campaign. The very top agency partners have access to one of Nationwide’s regional marketing leaders who might co-develop a digital marketing plan.
Digital marketing maturity among agency partners runs the gamut. “We have independent agencies that are cutting-edge digital marketers, and so the pandemic didn’t change a lot for them,” Grinstead says. “We had others who found themselves in a position where they had to fundamentally overhaul their business models.”
For them, she says, digital marketing has at least one pleasant surprise: affordability. Whether it’s optimizing their website for organic or paid search for a small geographic footprint, buying Facebook ads or adding a Snapchat filter for a small geography, the cost can be far less than, say, paying for a billboard. “Digital marketing can be extremely economical but only if you know how and when to do it,” Grinstead says. “They’re affordable, highly targeted tactics.”
“We’re seeing the transition of agencies who didn’t think a lot about digital targeting and digital marketing now needing to optimize their website for SEO or create a referral or word-of-mouth program on social.”
Tiffany Grinstead, VP, Personal Lines Marketing, Nationwide
We surveyed over 140 marketing leaders and conducted in-depth interviews with executives at SHARP Home Appliances, Caterpillar, Gap, Invesco, Nationwide, BNY Mellon Wealth Management, KloudGin and MisfitsGaming to reveal best practices for your channel marketing strategy.