Blog post

Claims in a post-pandemic world – far from recovery?

Posted by Andy Cullwick, Head of Marketing at Legal futures First4Lawyers Partner

Cullwick: Don’t throw it all on SEO

The end of the Covid rules was a clear message from the government that it is back to business as usual.

But while social distancing and self-isolation may be a thing of the past, for those working in the claims industry, it’s not quite the time to celebrate just yet.

The claims market has stabilized and at this time it is unclear how long it will take to recover.

Declining numbers

Data from the Compensation Recovery Unit shows a significant year-over-year decline, with total medical negligence and personal injury claims falling 27% in 2020 and a further 16% in 2021.

Personal injury was the hardest hit and employer liability claims in particular also fell by almost half, down 49% from 2019. Employer and civil liability claims fell by 32% and road accidents 22%.

Overall, the personal injury market was 39% smaller in 2021, compared to 2019.

There are various theories as to why all this – fewer people commuting to work, fewer vehicles on the roads, the impact of the Third Party Liability Act reforms.

However, an in-depth analysis of the data reveals that the downward trend started long before Covid. Has the pandemic only exacerbated and accelerated the curve?

Medical negligence is the only area to have rebounded to near pre-pandemic levels, perhaps surprisingly given the huge public support our NHS staff have rightfully received.

I suspect this is an area where we will also see growth over the next 12 months as cases emerge involving Covid-related diagnostic and treatment delays.

Pandemic panic

The pandemic caused some panic among some in the claims industry, especially at the start.

At a time when TV viewership was growing, we saw competitors pulling their ads and pouring the money into paid search, despite fewer searches.

We know from our own marketing activity that screen advertising still works, but it must be maintained and requires significant investment that is often beyond the remit of small businesses. Few currently have the budget for traditional television advertising, which may well contribute to lower claims – fewer personal injury victims are aware of their recourse options.

Paid search is no longer the silver bullet it once was. An increasingly saturated domain, it is no longer as profitable with an average cost per click which has increased by around 20%. Alternative platforms such as Facebook may be cheaper, but the quality is generally not as good.

Unfortunately, in many cases, the pandemic panic has resulted in reductions in marketing spend, which is often seen as an easy saving, but is actually a false economy if you then have to rebuild your brand.

Where do we go from here?

One of the things we’ve seen over the past 12 months is that to be successful, you have to have a strong brand.

First4Lawyers has been independently recognized as one of the top three consumer legal brands, which has helped us grow our market share.

At the same time, we are constantly reviewing and refining our marketing strategies and, with fewer leads offered, doubling down on areas that offer the highest quality and best mix of claims for our panel companies. It’s about delivering the right messages to the right people at the right time.

Review your SEO, but don’t throw it all away – it’s hard to get a good strong organic presence and may require a significant investment to develop a site that performs well enough to push you in the search results wherever you want to be.

If your tactics aren’t working, change them but try them fairly – two or three months rather than weeks – and use that time to analyze and understand back-end data.

For many in our industry, there may well be a lot of guesswork over the next 12 months as they watch and wait to see which way the market moves, but the kinds of insights we use will be invaluable.

Andy Cullwick will speak on current marketing trends at PI Futures on May 25 in Manchester. Tickets are now on sale. A version of this article first appeared in Insurance Claims.