CMO profile: How Compare Club is zooming into the service comparison market

We interview the marketing chief of the recently rebranded Compare Club to understand how this latest comparison digital marketplace is looking to differentiate

For experienced digital marketer, Rich McPharlin, his decision to take on the CMO role at comparison service, Compare Club, was motivated by his positive impressions of the company’s culture and growth potential.

But it was his recollection of his own experience with the business that led him to see the true opportunity it presented.

Compare Club began life a decade ago as two separate businesses – a lead generation company called Alternative Media and a health insurance brokerage called Choosewell. Over time, the two businesses became more intertwined and were merged in 2017.

Since then, the companies have added additional services in life insurance, electricity and gas, mortgage broking and other categories, and today field inquiries from around one million customers annually. But when McPharlin was first introduced to the business in late 2019, he realised it wasn’t his first encounter.

“What was apparent to me was that I had made a number of inquiries with the businesses over the years, and didn’t remember a single one of those interactions,” he tells CMO. “So they had phenomenal scale but were not particularly memorable.”

As CMO, it is now McPharlin’s job to change that.

Since joining in the company October 2019, he has built a new team and undertaken a rebranding exercise which saw the company relaunched as Compare Club in January this year.

Part of the challenge McPharlin faces is to create space for Compare Club in a market dominated by brands such as Compare The Market, iSelect and Finder. He believes Compare Club has a natural point of difference in that its model has strengths in advice and fulfillment.

“We’ve got 150 agents – advisors and consultants – that speak to our customers and come up with tailored plans and options for them and help them decide what’s the best product for them,” McPharlin says. “And then we take over all the paperwork for them as well.”

This has proven especially important for Compare Club’s customer base, which tends to skew towards older Australians, and for whom personal advice and assistance during the transition process is highly valued.

It was actually one of the company’s older customers who introduced an innovation that is helping Compare Club engage more closely with customers in 2021 - holding consultations via Zoom.

“These are serious, significant, financial undertakings,” McPharlin says. “That human interaction that comes over the phone or face-to-face, be it digital or in person, helps make the process a lot easier, to build trust and rapport. And that is something we have excelled in over our decade of experience.”

So when a 75-year-old customer asked if she could speak with an agent using Zoom, Compare Club was happy to oblige.

“It is definitely working its way in,” McPharlin says. “And for the right customer we think it is something that is worthwhile.”

McPharlin says this request is evidence of the changes that have taken place amongst older Australians through the pandemic, when many engaged in ecommerce and other digital activities for the first time.

“So as a consequence we are seeing those people who would have maybe preferred a telephone or a face-to-face conversation in the past definitely moving to a more digital medium,” McPharlin says.

In 2021, McPharlin will also be accelerating Compare Club’s own digital journey, helping it evolve from being a direct response and tele sales organisation by investing in customer experiences and data analytics to help it better understand customer behaviours and needs.

“As a consequence we are having to rebuild a lot of systems from the ground up, to really think about what the future is going to look like for our business and our category as a whole,” he says.

But the key goal remains to establish the Compare Club brand in people’s minds. “The bigger play is all about brand consistency and recognition and building trust with customers, which makes it much easier for us to help them select multiple products in our portfolio, rather than just a one that they may have done previously,” he says.

It’s a testimony to the way marketing career paths have changed that this role sees McPharlin involved in significant brand building for the first time. McPharlin had started his career in performance advertising in 2007 and ran a global analytics practice within Publicis before moving across to Stan as head of digital.

“For me, the brand side of things is relatively foreign,” he says. “But I see it as one of the key upsides for our business going forward – the fact that many of our customers, even when they have a fantastic experience, don’t remember us afterwards.”

With the company likely to venture into TV, radio, and outdoor in a significant way in 2021, McPharlin expects this problem won’t be one that lasts much longer.

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