On Tuesday, February 3rd, Women’s World Banking hosted a webinar on best practices in marketing microinsurance products. It was a great opportunity for practitioners in microfinance and other financial industry players to hear from experts on the importance of market research and how it informs product innovation and marketing based on Women’s World Banking’s experiences in five countries. The panel was composed of Fadi Al-Tawabini, Marketing and Business Development Manager from Microfund for Women in Jordan and Cathleen Tobin, Director of Product Development at Women’s World Banking. Karen Miller, Chief Knowledge and Communications Officer at Women’s World Banking moderated the discussion.
According to Ms. Miller, underlying Women’s World Banking’s work around the world is a deep understanding of what their clients need. This focus on research has allowed the organization and its global network of 38 institutions in 28 countries to build the right type of financial products along with the marketing and financial education strategies to support the expansion of these products.
Women’s World Banking kicked of its microinsurance program in 2010 when it partnered with Microfund for Women to develop a microinsurance product called Caregiver. Caregiver is a hospital cash-type policy where clients receive compensation in case of overnight hospitalization. A significant difference between Caregiver and other traditional hospital cash insurance, Mr. Al-Tawabini highlighted, is that there are no exclusions, no pre-medical exams, and all hospitals are included under the policy.
Recognizing that consumers’ awareness of products’ features and benefits is critical, and considering that insurance products in and of themselves are difficult to understand, Women’s World Banking collaborated with Microfund for Women to develop a communications campaign that combined educational information with the standard promotional elements of marketing materials. Given the high literacy rate in Jordan and the higher level of awareness of the concept of insurance, the team designed a one-page marketing brochure that doubled as the client’s policy document. Apart from listing the policy benefits in clear and simple language, the brochure included a cartoon of two women chatting and sharing ideas about the features and benefits of the product.
Because awareness and perception of insurance varies greatly from market to market, Ms. Tobin underscored the need to adapt one’s marketing approach to address these differences. For instance in Uganda, there is a low understanding of how insurance works, no awareness of health insurance products, and a negative perception about insurance as a whole. As such, it was important for the marketing campaign to educate clients how insurance works. For Al Amana in Morocco on the other hand, where perception of insurance is positive and understanding of insurance is high but awareness of their product, Tayssir, was low, the marketing focus was on the specific benefits of the product and to remind clients to avail of these benefits.
Beyond informing clients of insurance, calling clients to action and helping them understand how to access these benefits is another key pillar on the marketing process. In the case of Morocco, Women’s World Banking and Al Amana used symbols based on the Caregiver brochure to illustrate Tayssir’s benefits and created different promotional materials such as stickers with the insurance contact, loan cards and key chains to reinforce the messages at several touch points to call clients into action.
These experiences offer fascinating insights into the powerful use of promotional materials to educate clients on a complex product such as insurance in diverse markets. Building on these experiences, Women’s World Banking is currently working with four institutions to pilot or launch their insurance products: individual and family coverage with Al Amana in Morocco; a hospital cash product in five branches of Finance Trust Bank in Uganda; a one-of-its-kind composite credit life and cash microinsurance product with Lead Foundation in Egypt; and in Peru, supporting the development of a health and life insurance program with Caja Arequipa. Women’s World Banking is also working with Microfund for Women to develop a savings-linked insurance product, which is currently in its research phase.
As Ms. Miller from Women’s World Banking highlighted, it takes only one major illness for a woman to decapitalize her business, use up her savings or stop paying her children’s school fees. From Women’s World Banking’s perspective, there is great potential in offering Caregiver, and products like it, to women, as it provides a critical safety net for emergencies and reduces unexpected financial shocks on a woman’s life.