Quotesmith Targets Office Web Users With Radio Test

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Quotesmith, a Web site that offers rate quotes and applications for life, auto and health insurance and annuities, is tapping into the audience of employees who surf the Web at work for personal reasons by testing direct response radio advertisements in three metropolitan areas this month.

The 60-second radio ads are being broadcast on stations during morning drive-time to get commuters to think about insurance and then visit the Quotesmith site (www.quotesmith.com) when they get to work. The radio spots, along with a push to form partnerships with health and financial Web sites, are Quotesmith's first efforts to augment its direct response print advertising.

Quotesmith, Darien, IL, which has been selling insurance online since May 1996, sells an average of 1,500 policies per month, according to president Robert Bland. The site now provides instant quotes from 375 insurance companies.

Until this year, it had relied solely on hard-to-miss bright yellow ads with a $500 payout offer that appeared in financial publications to drive business. The ads, which include a URL and toll-free phone number, now run in 25 publications per month and promise the payout if Quotesmith term life rates are not the lowest in the United States.

Quotesmith formed a partnership with Intuit, Mountain View, CA, in January to provide quotes at Quicken.com and just inked a deal to be the primary insurance provider at the health site drkoop.com. Bland, operating with a limited marketing budget, said partnerships make more sense than "money losing'' banner advertising.

One of the site's biggest selling points is the lack of third-party interference.

"We've attempted to bring to market an agentless way to buy insurance,'' Bland said. "The more we tell people no salesman will call the more insurance we sell.''

Quotes can be obtained by clicking through a short list of questions -- age, sex, tobacco use, state of residence, amount and length of coverage desired in the case of term life insurance -- and then selecting from a menu of policies. While the site is designed for the self-directed buyer, customers can call a toll-free number for assistance. Quotesmith handles the processing of applications and receives a commission for each sale. The company does not release any consumer information for marketing purposes.

Bruce Moon, product manager for Golden Rule Insurance, Lawrenceville, IL, said listing rates at Quotesmith delivers high quality leads and broadens its market of potential customers.

"We have a large broker network but not everyone likes to buy through a broker,'' Moon said. "[Quotesmith] increases our exposure to those who go direct through the Internet. The readers [who answer print ads] are serious about their financial needs. They're customers we want.''

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