Harvey e-sures quality

March 27, 2000


This is one of an ongoing series on interactive marketing leaders who are doing things other marketers can learn from. They are not yet household names, but the executives we profile are laboring in the trenches today and will be in the headlines tomorrow. They're the emerging leaders of an emerging marketing discipline.

Name, rank and serial number: Bennet Harvey, 39, vice president of product management, Esurance.com, San Francisco. B.A. in English Literature, UC Berkeley, 1984; MBA, University of Chicago, 1990. Worked in newspaper publishing, then drove the online classifieds business at America Online Inc. (1996). Moved to Cendentmortgage.com (1997), helping one of the nation’s largest retail mortgage lenders fill the same role in the market space. Helped build Move.com real estate portal, and joined Esurance.com in 1999.

Mantra: "Build product offers on the customer’s terms."

How he got interested in Esurance.com: "The opportunity to deliver a truly customized insurance offer to consumers," plus the quality of the financial support. (The company is backed by Trinity Ventures, Red Point, 21st Century, Internet Ventures and Global Retail Partners.)

How Esurance.com works: "We’ll allow the customer to use online planning tools to evaluate their own needs and choose personal coverage and deductibles; the Web allows a ‘do-it-yourself experience’ that many customers seek."

His biggest challenges: "The regulatory environment—it’s regulated state-by-state—and privacy; customers have to trust they can provide their sensitive information at your site."

On branding online: "The brand is really indistinguishable from the user experience in the online world. Your user experience is your brand. We’re a heavily direct marketing-based company. Unlike other dot.coms that focus on brand advertising, we are targeting (customers). We’re not about incurring big losses."

How Esurance’s targeting works: "Life events play a big role in the insurance process—customers have kids, (the) kids turn driving age, leave home, (customers) sell their home, downsize and become empty nesters. These events…feed the sales process. We’ll develop lifelong relationships with our customers and push content to them that’s pertinent to their needs."

On collaborative filtering: "Collaborative filtering assumes prior clients have been buying the right products for themselves, (but) brokers and intermediaries may have influenced past purchase decisions. The community’s past purchase behavior may not be the best proxy for a new customer’s needs."

Collaborative filtering is a useful but superficial means of providing offers to customers. It’s fine for low-risk retail items, (but it’s) not as valuable in financial services." Esurance will make customized offers, but "they’ll be based on an analysis of each customer’s personal financial requirements and needs rather than on what a batch of ‘similar’ customers bought in the past."

Proudest Internet ‘first’: Charter subscriber to Red Herring in December 1993.

Michael Krauss is a partner with Diamond Technology Partners in Chicago.
He can be reached at news@ama.org.





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