DR Gives AccuQuote Life1 Feb, 2009 By: Thomas Haire Response
Sean Cheyney says direct response across all media has grown the company into one of life insurance's leading brands.
"Direct response fuels us," says Sean Cheyney, vice president of marketing and business development for Wheeling, Ill.-based AccuQuote, a leader in the term life insurance business. "Our CEO, Byron Udell, has been a student of DR since he was young. I have as well — it's ingrained in my marketing DNA."
The privately held company, which also has an office in Golden, Colo., has grown from its humble beginnings in 1986 with that DR marketing mindset. "Our growth is built directly from our sales, and we grow organically rather than from outside funding," Cheyney says. "Therefore, when I spend a dollar, I have to get a return. Six years ago, the term 'branding' was blasphemous here. But as we've watched DR marketing work to not only improve sales but also create and expand our brand, Byron now understands the value of our brand. Still, everything we do is measured and trackable and must drive ROI."
Cheyney, who joined the AccuQuote team six years ago, is responsible for spearheading the overall growth and direction of the company's marketing initiatives, channel development, strategic partnerships, emerging media platforms, brand image and customer acquisition through both online and offline advertising. His primary responsibilities include executing AccuQuote's marketing strategy to the external public, recruitment advertising, overseeing Web site design and content development, and evaluating and optimizing all aspects of customer interaction.
AccuQuote's marketing team is, from left to right, in the back row: Jonathan Zajicek, Gabriel Lerma, Sean Cheyney, Jen Gentallan, Tom Dietrich; seated on floor: Erin Miller, Denise Mancini-Blonda; not pictured: Jamie Leano.
Cheyney contends, "When I started, I was the marketing team" Now, his group of eight in the company's marketing department has become, basically, a full-service in-house agency.
"It's been really cool to build the team from scratch, and watch them grow both professionally and personally," he adds. "We hire for that intangible drive and desire to learn. We want teachable and coachable people. It's great to have those real technical skills, but the mindset is key."
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Cheyney's background speaks to those intangibles and that mindset he talks about. All one has to do is look at his college degree — a bachelor's in criminology, law and society from the University of California, Irvine — to know that this isn't your traditionally trained marketer.
AccuQuote's Web site and other DR channels are aimed at making the process of buying life insurance easy.
However, he made his first mark in the DR world as director of online marketing for BambooBiz Inc. There, he was responsible for helping to build and expand lead generation efforts for existing clients. He also created and managed all co-registration campaigns designed to monetize existing Web site traffic. During his tenure there, Cheyney was responsible for successfully increasing sales in the company's list division by more than 20 percent.
Perhaps, though, the best example of Cheyney's creativity and marketing skills has nothing to do with his professional career. About a year before joining AccuQuote in November 2002, he was faced with a major personal dilemma.