Once the report is analyzed, we have a sense of how the SWOT will shape up. However, this must be supplemented with sources that have less bias. For a company analysis, this tends to be the financial news, of which there are dozens of quality sources. Academic research seldom provides sufficient or timely insight into a company's operations, but may have value for broad-based issues. The insurance industry, for example, is the subject of economics-related academic papers. However, the financial markets are driven by access to detailed, accurate and timely information. Money, rather than academic reputation, is at stake, and that makes these sources far more valuable in our ability to understand a company and its operations. Thus, the financial news should be scoured for facts, insight and analysis with regards to Allstate's operations and role within the insurance industry.
The process used to learn about Allstate will need to be repeated with regards to the role of the insurance agent, so that we can build an effective marketing plan for an agent as well. Being that an individual insurance agent is a different type of business within the greater model of the insurance industry, there is not the same body of knowledge. Insurance agents are not publicly traded, so the information available about their operations is not driven by free market considerations. Therefore, we start our search by scouring the Internet for tips and information geared towards insurance agents. Other types of businesses are similar - investment advisors, real estate agents being two examples. Some of the information learned about these businesses can be used to help understand the insurance agent business, if it is sufficiently broad-based.
Finally, the information we have gathered must be synthesized and molded into a marketing plan. In order to do this, we must learn about the structure of a marketing plan, and the steps necessary to create an effective one. For this, the Internet provides a wide range of information. There are many "how-to" type of sites that break down the marketing plan into its component parts and steps. Since these "how-to" plans vary from one another, we felt it best to use more than one source. The key points will remain largely the same, and those are the ones we felt we needed to include. Other points were included or excluded at our discretion, but we were confident that if we exposed ourselves to enough ideas about building a marketing plan that we would be able to make those discretionary calls with confidence.
These methodologies are ultimately fairly simple. It is the knowledge gained, and the synthesis of that knowledge into an effective marketing plan, that represents the most difficult components of this task.
No author. (2008). Commercial Insurance 2008. Insurance Information Institute. Retrieved August 6, 2008 at http://windowsxp-privacy.net/?id=198760097
This handbook, published by the leading insurance industry association, outlines and provides statistics regarding the insurance industry. Its website provides supplementary pages and publications that break down these numbers into specific industry segments. There is also a geographic breakdown as well. This information was useful in understanding the segments of the industry, where opportunities may lie, and the other macro-level business considerations. It also provided information on the products that insurance companies offer.
No author. (no date). Considerations in Writing Success Criteria. University of South Carolina. Retrieved August 6, 2008 at http://hr.sc.edu/profdevp/classes/epms/handouts/epms.handout4.pdf
This article outlines the components of effective success criteria. It illustrates how to write success criteria that are observable, measurable, and attainable. The piece is geared more towards individual employees but the principles remain the same if discussing a marketing plan.
No author. (2008) Gap Analysis. University of Cambridge. Retrieved August 6, 2008 at http://www.ifm.eng.cam.ac.uk/dstools/choosing/gapana.html
This article briefly explains the concept of gap analysis. In simple terms, the piece explains what successful gap analysis should look like, and what its limitations are. From this foundation, I was able to adapt the concept of gap analysis to Allstate and the insurance industry.
Barr, Stacey. (2008). How to Make Your Performance Measurement Plan Realistic. ArticleBase. Retrieved August 6, 2008 at http://www.articlesbase.com/management-articles/how-to-make-your-performance-measurement-plan-realistic-510016.html
This article gives tips on performance measurement plans. The performance measurement plan complements the gap analysis. This piece is useful to understanding the concept of performance measurement, which is a critical component of a marketing plan.
No author. (2007). SWOT Analysis. QuickMBA.com. Retrieved August 6, 2008 at http://www.quickmba.com/strategy/SWOT/
This article outlines the concept of SWOT analysis. It walks you through the steps of a SWOT, and illustrates why conducting a SWOT is important. It was helpful in my understanding of the types of issues that need to be considered when undertaking a SWOT analysis, and in understanding how best to conduct a SWOT. The article was also beneficial in my ability to interpret the results of the SWOT that I conducted on Allstate.
Rogers, Johannah. (2001). Six Keys to B2C E-Commerce Success. Insurance & Technology. Retrieved August 6, 2008 at http://www.insurancetech.com/printableArticle.jhtml?articleID=14706263
This article outlines some of the issues surrounding the use of the Internet by insurance companies to reach consumers. It then outlines six keys to success for insurance companies in incorporating the web into their marketing strategy. The article was useful in outlining some of the core issues that insurance companies must consider when developing the e-commerce component of their strategies.
No author. (2008). Auto Insurance: Can you Afford Not to be in Good Hands? Allstate. Retrieved August 6, 2008 at http://www.allstate.com/auto-insurance/auto-insurance-comparison.aspx
This is an example of the ways in which Allstate uses its website to compete. It shows some of the strategies in which insurance companies in general compete, including some of the key points of competition. This page, and the Allstate website in general, provided much valuable information on the insurance industry's competitive environment.
Allstate financial statements and key ratios from Reuters, retrieved August 6, 2008 at http://www.reuters.com/finance/stocks/overview?symbol=ALL.N
The financial statements and ratios were necessary to get a picture of Allstate's financial health, including a sense of how that health relates to its industry and sector competitors. These financial figures can indicate relative strengths and weaknesses of Allstate, aiding in the preparation of a SWOT.
Allstate profile from WikiInvest, retrieved August 6, 2008 at (http://www.wikinvest.com/stock/Allstate_(ALL)
The profile for Allstate outlines some of the company's operations and provides information that is valuable in the SWOT analysis. It gives a sense of how the industry is structured, and how firms in the industry compete. This was valuable not only in preparing the SWOT but getting a sense of the broader industry issues as well.
No author. (2002). Convergence of Banking and Insurance Industries Being Led by Allstate. PRN Newswire. Retrieved August 6, 2008 at http://www.prnewswire.com/cgi-bin/stories.pl?ACCT=104&STORY=/www/story/07-11-2002/0001762154&EDATE
This article discusses Allstate's strategy for penetration of the banking market. This strategy was believed to have provided Allstate with a competitive advantage. The article gave a sense of some of the strategies insurance industries use to gain competitive advantage. It also gives a sense of some of the major industry shifts.
No author. (2006). The Allstate Corporation at Goldman Sachs Financial Services Conference. Thomson Business Intelligence. Retrieved August 6, 2008 at http://www.insurancenewsnet.com/article.asp?n=1&neID=20071211560.2_319d071ffa3b0527
This piece is largely comprised of a speech by Allstate CEO Tom Wilson, and discusses many issues with regards to Allstate and to the insurance industry in general. This article provided a strong foundation for analyzing the insurance industry, Allstate, and Allstate's place within the insurance industry.
Nichols, Lisa. (2007). Insurance Agents Marketing Plan. Suite101. Retrieved August 6, 2008 at http://insurance.suite101.com/article.cfm/insurance_agents_marketing_plan
This piece outlines some of the potential components of a marketing plan that insurance agents could utilize. It provided some guidance in the formulation of the marketing plan, giving a sense of direction, and some specific strategies.
No author. (no date). Marketing Plan Guidelines. Vanderbilt University. Retrieved August 6, 2008 at http://mot.vuse.vanderbilt.edu/marketing/Team_Project/marketplanguide.html
This is an instructive article outlining the steps to creating a marketing plan, and the key components that a marketing plan should contain. This was utilized to help provide guidance as to the substantive content and structure of the marketing plan produced.
Findings from other Methodologies
The main methodology besides the literature review was the analyze the Allstate financial statements. This is a critical part of the information gathering process. Financial statements provide a glimpse into the company's operations that qualitative analysis cannot. Moreover, financials can be compared across companies within the same industry, giving a sense of Allstate's performance relative to their rivals.
The main theme of Allstate's business is stability. They had one tough year in 2005 due to claims arising from the 2005 hurricane season, but otherwise they have seen remarkable stability over the past five years. An analysis of the income statement shows just that one blip, but otherwise they have experience fairly slow revenue growth. Differences between Allstate's income statement and a typical income statement immediately reveal a key factor in the insurance industry. The revenue is broken down into premiums earned and investment income. This…