In one fell swoop, the folks at insurer Standard Life were handed one million new customers. Not the kind of problem most businesses would complain about, except that Standard Life wasn't used to actually selling insurance.

"Standard Life was traditionally a manufacturer, not a seller of insurance," says Graham Wilson, database and statistics manager for the Scottish insurer. "Suddenly, we were handed almost one million customers."

Until recently, the Edinburgh-based company had had a comfortable relationship providing life insurance through Halifax Building Society. But when Halifax divested itself of those accounts, Standard Life suddenly became not just a manufacturer of insurance, as had been its forte, but a seller.

Swamped with prospects, the company had to find a way to better qualify targets for salesmen in the field. Using the Vantage system from Denver- based Prime Response, Standard Life tied together its call center with its legacy system to create a more effective way to manage marketing campaigns.

Quality prospects

With an original goal of using the system to deliver 2,000 calls a week for its field agents, Wilson says the focus has shifted to a quality 1,000 prospects. "We've gotten more sophisticated, and we no longer operate on volume," he says.

That objective is critical given the substantial upfront costs involved in preparing a salesman for the field. Regulations require training that takes six to nine months-an investment which demands a disciplined use of salespeople's time. In the United States, the situation is similar because many agents are paid substantial first-year commissions for landing new business.

Wilson is using the Vantage system to support all sales channels. Standard Life sends a newsletter, for example, to more than one million U.K. households to broaden awareness of its products and services. It plans to expand that to up to three times a year.

The system also allows the insurer to identify opportunities such as upcoming policy expirations and the need for additional policies. The company is moving from purely prospecting to segmenting customers based on sales opportunities. "Before that newsletter, Standard Life mailed one thing a year to customers and that was the statement, which is, as you can imagine, the most unfriendly thing," he says.

While declining to discuss the costs of the new system, Wilson says the insurance company is pleased with its return on investment. Indeed, experts say that campaign management is a software market expected to explode beyond an estimated $1 billion in technology spending. While the software is only one small part of the marketing process, many financial services companies see campaign management as a first step toward better results. "It is easier to justify the cost in a specific operation," says Scott Nelson, vice president of strategic marketing services at Prime Response. "As a company improves one particular channel, they eventually will need a solution on an enterprisewide basis."

Wilson expects to expand the use of the Vantage system at Standard Life. The insurer also offers mortgage products, mutual funds, pensions and basic savings products through its own bank.

supporting agents

Early next year, the company plans to use the system to provide marketing support for independent agents who offer customers products from a wide range of companies. Wilson says that many of the agents are one- to two-person firms with limited resources to land new customers.

Not a problem: By using the company's data mining skills, Standard Life officials are confident that they can win more business.

-J. Racine

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