thought leadership

BrandMatters’ Director of Brand Strategy, Kylie McNamara reflects on the success of the Vero SME Insurance Index in driving a market-leading position for Vero Australia.

So much can change in ten years. In an industry renowned for embracing the latest big thing, the last decade has felt particularly frenetic for marketers, dominated by trends as diverse as purpose-led marketing, big data, and Snapchat / TikTok / Clubhouse / whatever else is new this week. 

In this ever-changing context, celebrating a decade of anything feels rare. So, at BrandMatters we are very excited and proud this week to mark the launch of the 10th edition of the Vero SME Insurance Index.

Vero, part of the Suncorp Group, is a leading, specialist commercial insurer available solely through insurance brokers and agents. Vero’s brand challenge ten years ago was to engage with their broking audience in a way that demonstrated their support for brokers and lifted their marketing communications above the transactional – a classic B2B marketing conundrum.

And thus, the Vero SME Insurance Index was born. The idea was to conduct a piece of research to help brokers and brokerages understand their SME target audience, and to share insights to help brokers better service this important group of clients. It was, in essence, a classic piece of content marketing before the term had become widely used.

The first Index, which launched in 2012, was based on a simple telephone survey with 600 SMEs. Since that first year, the Index has evolved to become an anticipated yearly event on the insurance broking calendar. At its core is an annual online survey of 1500 respondents, brought to life through a series of reports, webinars, and panels, and enriched through a series of filmed qualitative interviews to tell the stories of real SMEs. Most gratifyingly, the Index is a core brand asset for Vero which continues to support and enhance Vero’s brand positioning and cement its reputation as a thought leader and an expert.

BrandMatters is proud to have been deeply involved with the Vero SME Insurance Index from its inception. We joke that it is a bit like painting the Sydney Harbour Bridge – as soon as we finish one year’s Index we start working on the next!

From conducting the research, to distilling the key insights, shaping them into a digestible story, and presenting them in a range of compelling mediums, it’s a big job, but always exciting and insightful.

Upon reaching this 10-year milestone, we’d like to take this opportunity to reflect on some key things that we’ve learnt over the last decade.

THERE ARE ALWAYS NEW INSIGHTS TO UNCOVER

Over the years, we’ve feared that the findings would show nothing has changed – but that fear is unfounded. Each and every year, we learn something new.  While this fear hasn’t come to fruition, it has made us focus on asking new questions, finding new relevant topics and following broader market changes to make sure we always have a source of new insight. Each year we devote around 25% of the questionnaire to new topics, and this has enabled us to simultaneously track core trends while uncovering new findings. The feedback and questions we’ve received from the broker audience have been invaluable in helping us to understand what topics are most interesting and relevant.

STORIES CAN DEVELOP OVER YEARS OF RESEARCH

Often a new finding will raise more questions, and one of the advantages of a yearly study is that we can create new questions each year to follow up findings from the previous year. For example, one year we discovered that a large number of SMEs were using a mix of channels to buy their insurance – some policies direct and others through a broker. The next year we were then able to delve deeper by asking which policies they bought direct and why. Through this we learnt that while many would like to buy all their insurance through a broker, sometimes it was easier to buy direct, meaning that brokers have an opportunity to win a greater share of their clients’ insurance business.

QUANTITATIVE AND QUALITATIVE RESEARCH MAKE FOR A MAGICAL COMBINATION

Quantitative data is powerful because it is measurable and accountable. But as much as we love it, charts on their own can be less engaging and memorable than human stories. Each year, for that reason, we film qualitative interviews with Australian SMEs talking about some of the big topics that we’ve uncovered. These interviews are always revealing, surprising and insightful, and provide a compelling window through which to make sense of the numbers. The interplay between the two phases of research has been a rich source of understanding and helped us create insights and actions for brokers to use in their businesses.

DEEP CLIENT ENGAGEMENT ACROSS THE BUSINESS DRIVES SUCCESS

The commitment of the Vero team to make the most of the Index is a major part of its success. While the Index is predominantly a marketing tool, it has also been embraced by the entire organisation, in fact, it has become a valued resource industry-wide.

The ongoing support of all involved has ensured that the Index is not just “nice to know” but is useful, actionable and valued by the people who read it.

Furthermore, the entire team works together to continually evolve and improve the Index. Informed by an additional piece of research, an annual broker survey, Vero ensures it understands what’s working, what’s not and how the Index can better meet the brokers’ needs. We also regularly conduct workshops to come up with new, fresh ways of doing things. At BrandMatters, we value our partnership with Suncorp enormously and are grateful for the commitment the team shows every year to use and evolve the Index.

SMEs are a major engine of the Australian economy, and insurance, while often considered a grudge purchase, plays an incredibly important role in protecting these businesses and delivering peace of mind to small business owners and decision-makers.

Working alongside the team at Vero to understand and tell the story of insurance for small businesses has been an enormous privilege, and we look forward to continuing this journey.

For B2B organisations, particularly in the insurance industry, there is a constant need to find new and compelling ways to add value for their clients. A key strategic initiative that can be undertaken is to position the brand as a thought leader, having a strong voice that guides commentary, insight and future trends in an industry. To position itself as a true thought leader, a B2B organisation requires dedication, perseverance, authenticity and the intellectual smarts to generate industry insight.

For over 8 years, Vero Australia has done just this. Their annual Vero SME Insurance Index has built their reputation as a thought leader amongst their key target market – insurance brokers. The Index provides brokers with valuable information about the SME market, and the positive and pain points as perceived by SMEs in procuring their business insurance. Reporting annually, the Index helps brokers understand their own clients’ needs and gives them valuable insight into the trends of broker usage over time.

Amidst the high-profile stories of digital disruption, the impact on the insurance broking industry is less well-documented but no less significant. Insurance companies need to ask themselves how they can support brokers to ensure their ongoing relevance and success. How can insurance companies add value in different ways to ensure brokers feel supported, valued and remain relevant?

Adding value through ongoing research

Vero Australia, part of the Suncorp Group, one of Australia’s largest insurers, provides business insurance products that aim to help business owners cover the risks of conducting business. Vero Australia products are offered exclusively through brokers.

Vero Australia has been a pioneer in using research to provide value to brokers, launching the annual Vero SME Insurance Index back in 2012.
 
BrandMatters was engaged to conduct in-depth market research delving into the SME market to provide insurance brokers with valuable insights into the purchasing behaviour of SMEs and their attitudes towards it. The report is based on an annual online quantitative survey of 1,500 business owners and insurance decision-makers around Australia. Since its inception, over 10,000 SMEs have been surveyed to date.

In delivering the SME Index to brokers, Vero was also able to provide some advice to brokers on how they can demonstrate value to their core audience (SMEs), this advice is relevant for all service-based B2B organisations:

1. Check-in regularly with your clients - the best way to build and maintain a strong relationship

2. Share your thinking - demonstrating your rationale behind recommendations

3. Share useful information - keeping customers up to date with trends and changes

4. Help them manage risk - use your expertise to do more than just sell insurance

5. Let them know you can help - showcase your services and expertise

6. Develop your brand - clearly define your brand and stand out from your competitors.

 

Vero Australia has continued to provide these research insights on a yearly basis. By tracking insurance buying behaviour over time, and then generating market insight that can help guide brokers, Vero is positioning itself firmly as a thought leader firmly at the centre of its industry. Brokers are benefiting from receiving deep knowledge of their own customers, getting a first-hand understanding of the pain points faced by SMEs, their biggest challenges and their expectations for the future.

For more information, read our case study on the work undertaken by BrandMatters for Vero Australia. By committing to ongoing research, they have secured a firm thought leadership positioning in the market as the leader in SME insurance and their Index has become the ‘go-to’ resource for brokers seeking to learn more about their core customers.
 
And it’s not just Vero Australia. For the past three years, BrandMatters has also undertaken research in New Zealand on behalf of Vero New Zealand (see our Vero New Zealand Case Study) to understand SME attitudes and business sentiments. This research comprised of both quantitative and qualitative methods covering over 900 SME businesses and over 300 brokers, and like the Australian Index, the resultant insights have been utilised to track attitudes and buying behaviour over time.

The key objective for both Vero AU and Vero NZ in instigating this research project was to provide valuable insight for brokers to help them improve their business.

Australian brokers reaction to the index has been resoundingly positive: 

  • 61% state the index has positively impacted their business.
  • 97% found the insights useful.

Furthermore, this research has provided brokers with a range of benefits:

Providing access to information not readily available 
Prior to this initiative, there was limited information available to help brokers understand their SME audience.

Research longevity
The longevity of the research has allowed for benchmarking, tracking of changes in sentiment and market shifts. It is unusual for a research study of this size and scale to play such a critical role over so many years.

Action-oriented insights and easily digestible
Not only are the research findings insightful, but the recommendations were meaningful, realistic and actionable. A range of communication tools to cater to all preferences.

Free access to the full report and associated tools for the entire insurance community
Vero has made a considerable investment to ensure the research study is robust, representative, and conducted by an independent research agency (BrandMatters), and not influenced by Vero or any other insurance brand. The full report and all the associated tools are easily accessible and free to the insurance industry, media, and anyone else interested in the study and its findings.

The study is continually referred to by Vero’s major competitors
The Vero SME Insurance Index has been referenced as a source by leaders in the insurance industry, many of whom are Vero’s competitors. This is further evidence that confirms Vero’s thought leadership and positions this research study as a trusted source of information in the insurance industry.

 

Establishing a thought leadership position for your brand

At BrandMatters, we believe brand research is about building a deep understanding of your customers, uncovering the insights that will lay the foundations of your brand strategy. Positioning your brand as a thought leader with deep expertise in the market will instil confidence and build brand loyalty.

For many organisations, offering value through providing insights, data and thought leadership can create a win-win situation for the organisation and their clients. It can also help create a closer relationship with your clients, it can also help you evolve and remain contemporary, gain external validation and enhance your overall brand reputation in the market. 

For B2B organisations, who often have a more complex buying cycle and need to consider the needs of their immediate target as well as the end consumer it is important that the research explores all viewpoints.

BrandMatters specialises in B2B brand research and brand strategy. Contact us to discuss your unique situation.