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While digital marketing offers multiple opportunities for agencies to effectively and affordably reach their best target prospects, many agents have been reluctant to take advantage of these platforms. These posts provide hands-on guidance to give you the confidence to start, or expand on, your digital marketing efforts. For an overview of all PIAK posts, visit our "Blog Post Library List" at "All Blogs"

 

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Utilizing Email for B2B Marketing

Posted By Chris Paradiso, Thursday, February 1, 2018

Long gone are the days of relying only on  cold calling to secure new business. Today’s strategy must focus on inbound marketing where prospects are drawn to you. A great tool to have in your marketing belt is email, and while many may argue email is ineffective when connecting to prospects, I disagree. There are many reasons to still utilize email, especially when connecting B2B.

Email isn’t dying.

The reason email receives a bad reputation today isn’t because social media drove it out, it’s because things like spam and unsolicited emails caused it to become a nuisance for users. People haven’t stopped using it though, marketers have just found it frustrating when their email campaigns get flagged or deleted by users altogether. 

Unlike social media, email doesn’t always have the same level of respect. You see when someone adds you to their social network there’s a digital exchange of permissions.

You’re aware of who is following or friend requesting you, and you have the control of accepting, ignoring, or blocking them. By accepting a connection online you can grant that person to view as much or as little information as you’d like.

Build trust.

So, how do you fix this? Simple – offer your audience a chance to opt-in or subscribe to your email content. Whether it be special promotions, monthly tips, or insurance agency happenings, give your audience a reason and chance to connect with you.

Just be careful not to misuse this information. If a client or prospect subscribed to a monthly e-newsletter give them what they were promised. Don’t send them emails weekly with content they didn’t want.

Your audience is there.

86% of business professionals prefer to use email when communicating for business purposes. This means that commercial prospects are there, and you’re marketing through the right network. The problem is that if you’re doing it in a manner that seems intrusive or spammy, you’re pushing away potential clients instead of inviting them to engage with you.

Be smart about your email marketing strategy, the visuals, content, subject line, and time are all factors in a successful open and response rate. Craft an engaging experience like you would on social media. Email and social media may be different, but they’re still forms of communication. In case you need a refresher on effective email marketing, here are some great ways to revamp your strategy: https://www.paradisopresents.com/email-marketing-2017/

Email isn’t dying and it isn’t going away anytime soon. It may have changed how we communicate and process information, but if email was obsolete millions of people wouldn’t be using it around the world daily. We need email to connect to our social networks, apps, and professional lives.

Email is an active platform almost all of us use and check every day. So, you don’t have to get rid of it to effectively market B2B, just tweak it to fit your audience’s needs. Happy marketing everyone!

However, email doesn’t need the same permissions to connect with other users. In fact, almost half the emails the average worker receives daily is spam.

Spam filters do a great job at cutting down the clutter in the inbox, but that doesn’t mean an email you send to a prospect will be well received, especially if they didn’t ask to be emailed.

Tags:  Agency  Agent  B2B  Email  Insurance  Marketing 

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4 Ways to Effectively Use Video in Marketing

Posted By Chris Paradiso, Thursday, January 25, 2018

If you’ve followed our recent marketing tips in the past, you know how important it is to make video part of your strategy. In fact, a study from Google found that “almost 50% of internet users look for videos related to a product or service before visiting a store.” So, not only is it good business practice to utilize video in your marketing strategy, but it can actually help guide your prospects in the right direction on their buyer’s journey.

However, just because you’re currently using video, doesn’t mean you’re using it effectively. So, here are few guidelines to follow before you publish your videos:

Shorter is Better

Videos can be great for explaining topics in detail, however, videos under 2 minutes are the most effective in terms of watch rate. In fact, most people prefer to engage with video content that’s only 30 to 90 seconds long. So, instead of explaining everything in one video, break it up into smaller segments. This will be easier for your audience to digest, and easier for you to edit and upload later on. You have to give your audience what they want. If you’re not getting a lot of traction on your 5 minute video about auto insurance, it may be time to rethink your strategy.

Be Real

Your insurance agency isn’t a late night drama series on TV, so don’t force laughter or emotion into your content, just be yourself. If prospects are watching your videos to learn more about what your insurance agency has to offer, they shouldn’t have to skip parts of your video because you spent the first 30 seconds telling jokes – get right to the point the first time.Tell your audience what they need to know, that’s why they’re watching your video to begin with.

Of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t take a light-hearted approach to it either, having fun and recording a non scripted video comes off as more personable and relatable. You’re not a robot, and neither are your clients. Just don’t try to force an image that your agency is not, but be careful not to cross too far into unprofessional territory.

Be Consistent

Remember, the biggest impact on the effectiveness of your branding efforts is your consistency.  Your insurance agency’s videos should reflect your brand and values – don’t make irrelevant content that won’t help or entertain your core audience. For example, our marketing team creates a variety of videos that showcase community events, local businesses, insurance tips, and impromptu office videos that showcase our staff.

Additionally, each video thumbnail always contains a screenshot of the content with a semi-transparent blue overlay, and our logo is always placed in the lower right hand corner. This helps our audience identify our brand right away, even before they read the title. Your videos need to have relevant content, but also relevant branding. If they do not, this can hurt your brand and confuse your audience.

Execution

Video doesn’t have to be complicated, nor do you need expensive equipment to create amazing content. In fact, our marketing team uses their iPhones and a tripod to film. To edit they do use professional software, but that doesn’t mean you have to do the same. In fact, there’s a variety of inexpensive apps for your smartphone that can help you edit video right from your phone.

Speaking of filming from your phone, make sure you’re filming horizontally and not vertically. Horizontally filmed video is more aesthetically appealing, and vertical videos often display with black or blurred bars on the side. These bars can be distracting to your audience, so just remember to turn your phone horizontally before you start filming.

Additionally, even if your own marketing team is experienced in the video field, they may not completely understand the SEO process behind uploading a video. Sure, you can upload videos to social media sites, but in places like YouTube, it may be a bit more complicated because tags, titles, and thumbnails need to be optimized so users can find your video and content.

So, how should you optimize your video content for the web? Well, first of all, the raw video file itself needs to be renamed before being uploaded. This is because YouTube uses filenames as a part of their ranking algorithm to place your video throughout the site, similar to what Google would do with your website.

Titles are also important because they help create a sense of professionalism and unity within all of our videos. For example, a title like “Flag Day Celebration 2017 | Paradiso Insurance” is effective because it summarizes what the video is about and who it is from in a few words. Good video titles always include keywords and your insurance agency’s name.

Of course, the title isn’t the only place where you need to include relevant keywords and consistency. YouTube gives creators the option to add tags to each video. Tags help users help find your video. For example, we always make sure to include tags like “paradiso insurance” and “connecticut” so this way if a user is watching a video with those tags, YouTube may suggest that they watch our videos, as well.

This means that when a user watches one of our videos they’ll see our other videos show up in their recommended video feed. This is simply because YouTube recognizes all of our videos having the tag “paradiso insurance” and finds them for the user. Of course, we use other tags to help YouTube understand the true content of our videos. For example, “flag day” is used in our Flag Day videos, while “restaurant” may be used in our Partners of Paradiso videos. Similar to tags used on social media or blogging, tags on YouTube group your video with other relevant content and help Google understand where to put your videos in the search results.

Lastly, don’t forget to fill out the description box with a small summary of the video and your insurance agency’s contact information. This way users don’t have to look for your information in case they need to contact you. This helps users who may not be familiar with our insurance agency to reach out to us, while also giving us the chance to link back to our website.

Video is a great way to market your insurance services and now that you have a clearer way to promote them online, it’s time to make your own. It’s been shown time and time again, how effective video is in terms of marketing, so don’t let your insurance agency miss opportunities that your competitors are already capitalizing on.

Tags:  insurance agency  marketing  social media  video 

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5 Social Marketing Trends for Insurance Agents in 2018

Posted By Rick Fox, Thursday, January 25, 2018


from PropertyCasualty360.com, January 17, 2018

As we begin this new year, the internet is awash with articles looking at trends in 2018.

The problem is that many of these lists don't seem geared toward the unique position insurance agents inhabit in the marketing world. It could make an agent feel that it might be better to just ignore the trends altogether.

But social marketing isn't just a trend; it's an industry necessity, and has been accepted as one of the best practices for spreading a marketing message and establishing a brand. Communicating your unique value proposition over social is one of the primary ways you give prospects and current clients the chance to experience your brand.

After reading dozens of lists and consulting with our social marketing experts, I have identified five trends that are essential for agents to focus on in 2018:

 No. 5: Leverage 'influencer marketing'

In the world of marketing, there are always one or two phrases that are the buzzwords of the moment. Right now, as the calendar has just turned from 2017 to 2018, the idea that's on everybody's lips is "influencer marketing." That may be because statistics say that companies make $6.50 for every dollar spent on influencer marketing.

The concept of tapping users with large followings on social platforms makes a lot of sense. Instead of traditional advertising, influencer marketing allows you to not only access larger audiences but also leverage their willingness to act on the recommendation of their influencer. The result is an exponentially powerful marketing platform that can help your message cut through the noise to deliver a powerful signal.

Insurance agents may not be looking for the average YouTube influencer, but connecting with influential thought leaders in different verticals can be a great way to drive traffic to blog posts, announce promotions and be introduced to new audiences that might not have ever found your message otherwise.

No. 4: Attract Generation Z

That means that this new group of consumers, Generation Z, needs to be marketed to, but hardly anyone knows exactly what to say to them.

There are significant differences between a member of Generation Z and a millennial, though precisely what constitutes those differences is still becoming clear. One thing that's for sure is that reaching this new generation takes much more effort than launching a single Facebook ad now and then or hoping that one of your tweets goes viral.

Gen Z looks for immediate engagement in the form of ephemeral content, chat applications and artificial intelligence-augmented experiences. The opportunity to establish your brand with a younger generation that is still developing their purchasing habits and social engagement patterns is the opportunity to be on the cutting edge of a whole new customer segmentation.

No. 3: Use more video

For many insurance agents, using more video will translate into using any video. But the indicators are clear though: Studies show that 43% of people prefer video marketing to any other kind. When it comes to marketers naming what type of content has the best ROI, 51.9% name video as No. 1.

Video is also becoming one of the primary advertising avenues for social. Facebook's video ads offer advanced targeting capabilities that not only allow an agent to address clients and prospects directly but also to use their demographics and psychographics to create lookalike audiences that are tailored to fit their unique value propositions. LinkedIn recently announced that it will be releasing similar video advertising capabilities on its platform. Using video ads in tandem with these targeting capabilities is a highly efficient way to increase reach and engagement across social channels.

No. 2: Encourage employee advocacy

Business-to-consumer (B2C) brands have already discovered that posts about their products coming from employees are re-shared 24 times more frequently than messages from the brand itself. Consumers are more trusting of employees who take the initiative to post on behalf of their company than a corporate account that's dedicated to marketing messages.

LinkedIn — arguably the most employment-centric platform — recently launched a new feature that allows bosses to monitor the posts of their employees to see what kind of content is being associated with members of their company. This fail-safe makes employee advocacy not only effective but manageable as well.

No. 1: Use ephemeral content

Daily stories were all the rage this year and will continue to grow in popularity through 2018. Ephemeral content is posted by a user, exists for 24 hours, and is then erased. The temporary nature of the content makes it more valuable and experiential for users and thus more powerful when delivering a marketing message.

With all of the opportunities and changes happening in the social sphere, these new trends can seem overwhelming. But agents can get help managing their online presence from marketing companies like mine that provide a full suite of tools as well as client communication platforms. Let's make the rest of 2018 your best year ever!

Tags:  2018  insurance agent  social media  trends 

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Social Media Checkup

Posted By Chris Paradiso, Thursday, January 18, 2018

Whether you’re a seasoned social media warrior, or just getting started with social media in your insurance agency, we want to make sure that your social media channels are running smoothly. For that reason, we think it’s important to have a yearly checkup on all of your social media networks to ensure nothing is going wrong.

If your agency hasn’t already gotten started with social media, we would encourage you to check out our past posts, Mastering the World of Social Media, The Power of Response in the Social World, and 4 Tips to Ramp up your Social Media. These articles should help with providing a solid foundation for your social media channels to start up on, as well as giving you some tips to keep things consistent along the way.

With that out of the way, let’s get started on 8 steps you can take to ensure that your social media channels are running smoothly with a regular checkup. We’d like to thank State Auto for putting together this Social Media Audit Sheet for you to print out and fill out as you follow along as well. Let’s get started.

  • Set a Goal for Your Social Media Marketing

Sometimes we get so caught up with a task that we forget why we originally started. With social media, we should always be focused on setting goals and crushing them. There needs to be a purpose as to why we are continuing to make use of social media marketing. Remember, social media is just one more additional channel to communicate with your customers on, and the more connections you establish online, the more customers you have that are experiencing a positive customer experience to set up long-term, loyal relationships with your agency.

  • Review Your Social Media Channels

Figure out which social media channels are your best, worst, or potentially abandoned. You may be active on Facebook every day, but do you own a Twitter profile that hasn’t seen activity in the last two years? If this is the potential case for any of your social media channels, be sure to do some updating. If you have a social media channel that hasn’t seen any posts in a long time, it looks like a business that is closed down online. Be sure to clean everything up so you make a strong impression on all of your visitors.

  • Select Your Appointed Admins

How many people in your office have control over your social media profiles? This should be limited to the right appointed staff, so you may want to clean up who has access to your accounts and update your passwords. This is especially relevant if you’ve let go of any staff members recently.

  • Review All of Your Profiles to Ensure They Are Complete

An incomplete profile could also be a poor potential first impression on your visitors. Be sure that you’ve filled out all of the optional information you can provide for your audience on all of your networks in case they are looking for more information on your agency. This is absolutely critical for contact and address information as well in case a potential lead finds you on social media and wants to connect with your agency. Additionally, this can affect how you are perceived on certain networks like LinkedIn, which is why we put together our article on How to Become a LinkedIn All-star.

  • Is Your Audience Still Growing?

Are you tracking your metrics and statistics on social media? We use the marketing powerhouse Hubspot to track all of our social media platforms on one dashboard, but each individual does supply their users with trackable information and metrics to focus on continued growth. Most social media networks even allow you to track performance on individual posts as well. Be sure to see what’s going right, what’s going wrong, and adjust accordingly.

  • Consistency is Key

Consistency is key to the success of all things marketing, whether it’s with your agency’s brand, your blog, or within your social media. If you post to Facebook every day then suddenly disappear from Facebook for two days in a row, your audience will notice. Be sure to keep your posts consistent, and always try to post at the most optimal times possible. We’ve prepared this social media “cheat sheet” to help with the best posting times for each network:

 

  • Are You Linking to Your Social Media Channels on Your Website? And Vice Versa?

Yes, this tip is key for your insurance agency’s SEO. If someone first arrives at your website, it should be easy for them to find all of your social media channels online. Additionally, if they find you on social media first, it should be very easy for them to navigate to your website. Plus, if you take the time to apply this fix, Google will notice that you have credible back-links, which should help your SEO strength so you can rank higher in Google search results.

  • Keep an Eye on Your Competitors

Last, but not least, always keep an eye on your competitors online. It’s not all about how well or poorly your competitors are performing online, because there’s no way for you to immediately clarify whether or not they invested money in boosting their posts to reach a wider audience. Instead, check what channels they are active on, where their voice is, and any details on their strategy that your agency may not be capitalizing on already. You may have some takeaways on some new ideas for your agency to implement.

After going through this checklist, your social media channels should be pretty healthy. We’d suggest doing a “social media checkup” at least once a year to be safe. 

Tags:  agency  business  insurance  marketing  social media 

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How to Leverage Online Client Reviews: Inforgraphic

Posted By Administration, Friday, December 1, 2017

It used to be, when consumers became frustrated with a business or service, their limited options included complaining to management or contacting the local Better Business Bureau.

Today's business professionals may have good reason to wax nostalgic for those low-tech solutions to customer complaints as the digital age has provided each of us with the power to fire off a potentially business-killing social media comment or online review just as fast as we can tap or type.

In the same vein, once businesspeople (including agents and advisors) make peace with the power of online reviews, they can turn them into a powerful tool or lead generation and growth.

The infographic below from WebsiteBuilder.org that illustrates the far-reaching impact of online customer reviews along with who reads them and where people look for reliable opinions from fellow consumers. First, let's review some key findings, relevant to insurance agencies.

68% of millennials trust online reviews, as opposed to the 34% who trust television     advertising.

Reviews produce an average 18% uplift in sales.

Customers who review user-generated content show a 133% higher conversion rate.

For every star a business gets, there will be an approximately 5-9% increase in business revenue.

Consumers are likely to spend 31% more on a business with an excellent review.

 

 

Tags:  client  digital  infographic  insurance  marketing  online  reviews  Social media 

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Social Media Guide for Insurance

Posted By Administration, Friday, December 1, 2017

 

 Quick Links

Why Blog?
Why Facebook?
Why LinkedIn?
Why Youtube?
Why Twitter?
Why Instagram?
Why Pinterest?
Why Snapchat?
There's More!

 

Why blog?

Wait, didn’t we talk about blogging in this issue’s article “Web Design Best Practices”? Yes, but that doesn’t disqualify your blog as a form of social media. Your blog can serve as the heart and soul of your social media campaign with the correct strategy. But to cover the basics, let’s discuss the reasons your agency should absolutely be blogging.

Agencies establish and build relationships on trust. Clients feel the need to trust that their agency is doing all they can, to protect them or their business. Blogging is a great solution for this. It helps build faith in the brand and image of the agency or brokerage. And more importantly, blogging accomplishes the following:

  • Brings the website to life – Most websites are like digital brochures. A blog brings life to the agency website with a dynamic appearance. Moreover, regular blog posts give customers and readers a reason to visit the site again. Agencies and wholesale brokers should also share blog content on social media sites and drive the traffic to the website.
  • More and more pages to grab attention – Each and every blog is another chance to grab the attention of a reader. Optimizing for search engines increases the likelihood your posts will appear in search results and drive new traffic to the website. Using targeted keywords and phrases improves search rankings.
  • Leader in the industry – By blogging, agencies can position themselves as a leader in the industry. A blog puts proficiency and expertise on display. Prospects and clients will instantly start building trust when they see value.

And if those aren’t reasons enough consider these facts according to Hubspot:

  • Businesses that blog receive 55% more traffic.
  • Businesses that blog receive 70% more leads.
  • More than 30% of insurance agencies who practice blogging have acquired customers through their blogs.

And, as mentioned above, a robust blog strategy can become the cornerstone of your entire social media marketing strategy. Think about it: 

  1. Your blog lives on your website.
  2. You create unique content on your blog.
  3. You use that content on your other social media platforms.
  4. Which links back to your website.
  5. Which in turn, improves your web traffic and positive interaction with your best prospects.

Important Note: Do NOT copy and paste! Search engine analytics discount non-original content. Take the time to rewrite your relevant blog content, editing it to appeal to the user-base of the specific social media platform followers that you’re hoping to attract. You can add a link to the original post, but make it original content for each social media platform that you use. Some of your blogs may not be appropriate for all of your social media outlets, and some social media outlets will be more effective if you create special content based on that site’s best practices. But the blog is a very important and effective first step to your content creation planning.

How-To

“What on earth would I write about”? You’re thinking, “Insurance is pretty darn boring if you’re not in the industry. What on earth would make what I write interesting to anyone but me!?”

Industry Expert Use your blog to show people that you're keeping up with the industry, that you're the expert when it comes to insurance matters, and that they can count on you to be a source of important insurance-related news. But it’s important to follow one simple rule: write about them.

For example:

New State Bill Might Give You Cash Back this April

Do You Employ Fewer than 50 People? Then This Reporting Requirement Will Impact You.

Changes at (your community’s school district) Means That 450 Children Will Lose Vision Coverage.

Answer Common Insurance Questions Think about the question that people seem to ask over and over lately. Is it ACA? Personal injury liability? Flood Insurance? Whatever comes up most with your particular agency is a ready-made blog post idea.

For example:

          Five Ways to Reduce Your Homeowner’s Insurance Premium

          Do Teen Boys Really Pay More for Auto Insurance?

          What You Need To Know About Supplemental Medical Insurance.

Congratulations You need client permission of course, but most people, especially business clients, are fine with praise.

          Local Company Pay4Checks Wins National Award

          Bill Bloomsdale Recognized as Volunteer of the Year

          Fifth National Trust Bank Offers Free Seminar on Understanding Your Credit Score

Five Idea Starters Here’s five more to help ignite the blogger in you:

  1. Why I love being an insurance agent – Write a blog about why you decided to become an agent and what are the best parts about what you do.
  2. My agency’s values – Your clients want to know about your agency’s values and see that you stand by them. If you don’t have a values statement, this is your opportunity to create one.
  3. What I am doing to make a difference in my community? – Create a blog about the steps you are taking to get involved in local charities or organizations to make a difference in your community.
  4. I am motivated by… – Write a blog that describes how you motivate yourself to create new business and keep your existing clients happy.
  5. The importance of self-storage renter’s insurance – Some of your clients may rent storage units that you don’t know about. This is a great opportunity to let them know the importance of purchasing coverage to insure their stored items.

Still stumped? Here’s a couple of links to great independent insurance agency specific articles on ideas for blog content:

Our Favorite Insurance Agent Marketing and Sales Blogs

50 Insurance Agency Blog Ideas

Embrace Third-Party Content Don’t be afraid to look to outside sources for help. Consider sharing relevant news articles and graphics from national publications and local outlets. But be sure to do it properly so that you minimize risk of any legal liability, improve your own content and promote the content of others. This post from BlueZenith offers several helpful tips.

Steps for Blogging Success

Your blog is your first step to creating your social media marketing campaign. Here’s a breakdown of the steps required to create your successful campaign:

  • design blog
  • do keyword research
  • create content consistently
  • create calls-to-actions
  • create top of the funnel offers
  • set up a system to deliver offers and get them delivered
  • optimize for social media
  • measure traffic
  • measure conversions

You can certainly consider hiring an expert to work with you on your blog, and entire social media strategy, but your direct input will be required. An outsider simply doesn’t and can’t know enough about your unique business to create content that accurately reflects your personality and values.

You need to have a content calendar in place, with specific times set aside to devote to this important aspect or your business. If you get inspired and want to write several posts all at a sitting, that’s great. Content can be generated as far ahead of time as you’d like, and then scheduled to post according to your calendar. 

 

Why Facebook?

Facebook is where people are. There are more people there than any other social network, and they’re active there. Facebook is pretty much a “can’t not use” for any industry. Don’t believe the articles where they report that this generation or that is cycling out. Everybody is there. Everybody is using it in different ways.

A lot of work has gone into their business pages and presence, largely viewing Google as competition. People can now better search for, like, follow, and / or favorite your business, leave reviews, ask questions, interact, and have conversations with you in public or private messages, and recommend your business to friends. Facebook also provides some impressive—albeit somewhat advanced—analytics that give you a lot of insight into your targeted customers.

How-To

Present Yourself

You need to have a structured image, meaning you create the same image on Facebook that you want to convey in person. Meaning you need to have a Facebook page and not a classic user profile, so you can create the aesthetic and the name to capture the internal organic traffic. Here’s an example: “David Red – insurance agent Dallas – specializes in home insurance”.

Page, not Profile

Many people use the personal profile and not a business page just because it’s easier. However there are two key features that a personal profile doesn’t allow: social advertising (more below) and insights to your followers and the people that interact with your posts, letting you better know your audience. As an insurance agency, it might be sufficient to create a page for your agency – without the need to create a single page for each individual agent. This way you can also share the page administration among all the agents in order to allow everyone to post something and to have advanced statistics about who begins to follow the page and to interact with the posts.

Picture and/or Video Posts

As we’ve shared, visual content greatly enhances your social media presence. Post a visual at least once a week. Selfies are OK.

Think of Yourself

Yes, your agency needs to have a page, not a profile, but don’t forget your personal profile. This gives you access to important information and events, so you can remember customer’s birthdays and special events. It’s also an additional avenue to start a conversation with a client or prospect.

Pay for It

If you’re going to use Facebook and be successful there and reach a broader audience and, more importantly, reach the right audience with the right message, using Facebook advertising is an absolute must. You can really dial in with your amount of spend and your messaging and your imagery and whether you link out whether you’re just building brand value or whether you’re looking for engagement.

There are all kinds of things you can do with Facebook advertising and spend peanuts – $5, $10, $50 – and really find out what message resonates and what doesn’t with your content and target very specific people on a local level by job title, by income, by purchase history, by purchase intent.

Facebook is unique in that it does not target users based on relevant website content or keywords, but on user-generated profile information and “likes.” Facebook knows a user's location, marital status, education, birth date and demographic details. You can use all this information to target your message (ads) to a specific target audience, particularly for personal lines and small commercial marketing. Chances are you know the profile of your best customer.

The PropertyCasualty360.com article, “How to Create a Killer Facebook Ad Campaign For Your Insurance Agency”, by Jeremiah Desmarais can help you take the right steps.

 

Why LinkedIn?

LinkedIn is another almost must-use for independent insurance agencies, especially if you’re B2B. But it also has great value for B2C because again everyone has a job, everyone is using it for different reasons.

With LinkedIn you can connect and network with business professionals, whether as B2B or B2C prospects as your target markets. For business prospecting you can better determine the decision makers for these companies. LinkedIn differs from Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, because it’s a business centric social media platform requiring a different approach to be successful.

LinkedIn is where many people go. LinkedIn seems to really have looked at what Google+ was doing from a newsfeed standpoint and taken a page out of their book. A lot of the features that made Google+ so much fun and such a great place to connect, even though it was only for a short period of time, LinkedIn has started to implement that in their own platform.

How-To

Professional Image

On LinkedIn you need a professional picture for your profile. Smile and be friendly, but don’t use a selfie, low resolution or overly casual photo. Take the time to completely fill out the “Summary” and “Experience” sections to show what you can do for your customers and prospects, don’t just copy and paste your resume. Make sure you’re easy to communicate with, and include your complete contact information in your profile as well.

Include all relevant skills in your profile, and ask current customers to endorse you (or better yet, actually take the time to write a recommendation) so connections will see that you’re a trusted expert. Be sure to return the favor, and endorse (or recommend) connections who you can personally vouch for.

Join

Groups are great. You want to network with other agents, brokers and wholesalers, but it’s a great way to communicate with prospects. Find groups which are applicable to your target markets, and participate.

Don’t post sales messages. Many groups forbid it, and group members will ignore you if they believe you’re only there to get them as a customer. Post helpful content, provide free white papers and links to articles that you think will interest the members.

Post

Posting articles, which is called long form publishing, is a great way to share your knowledge and reach out to potential prospects. Remember, you can easily repurpose your blog posts, and include a link to the original post on your website. Post other people’s articles (with permission) to your blog site as well, and share the link via LinkedIn. Yet another way to build traffic and relationships.

Consider an Investment

On LinkedIn, hungry producers might consider opting for the premium features, that allow you to gain introductions to new people and get in contact with companies that you might not already have a connection to.

LinkedIn also offers paid advertising. It’s more expensive than Facebook, but when looking at the price of online ads (or any advertising for that matter) the overall return on investment is more important than the cost of the ad. If you can gain a new commercial account that generates $5,000 in commission, are you willing to spend $100 on an ad campaign?

 

Why Youtube?

Video gets you seen. It’s a social network and a great place to share video. The videos are searchable, and can be found on both Youtube and Google searches. It’s by far the most used video platform, so the only one an insurance agent really need to consider.

We’ve already admitted that people aren’t always interested in learning about insurance, so Youtube offers a fun way to educate them. Video creates a stronger bond than words alone, so it’s worth putting some thought into how you might incorporate Youtube into your social media marketing. 

How-To

Watch and Learn

Creating a Youtube channel is easy. Figuring out what to post is hard. The best way to become an expert is to watch a lot of videos on Youtube, and get a sense of what’s successful and what’s not.

Action

Appearing natural and unscripted takes practice. Before you post anything you may want to do several trial runs, until you feel like you’ve mastered the material. Pretend someone just asked you a question and you’re responding rather than trying to memorize a script. Better yet HAVE someone ask you the question and then record your answer. Keep videos short and simple; under 5 minutes is best. If you’re using a smart phone make sure it’s being held horizontally for the best picture. Dress the part, smile and have fun.

OPV (Other People’s Videos)

Again, think about your carriers, and their potential video libraries. Also there are existing Youtube channels that agents can curate from, listed here in InvestmentPal’s post “Insurance Youtube video marketing – 15 channels to curate from”.

Share It

Share your video everywhere. Your website, your other social networks, your employees’ social networks and anywhere else you can think of. Write a brief blog post and embed the video into your post and share with clients and prospects.

Advertise It

Consider purchasing ads on Youtube. It tends to be less expensive than Facebook or LinkedIn and could potentially boost the views considerably.

 

Why Twitter?

If you have the time and energy to extend your reach to other social media sites, then what about Twitter? Twitter is a succinct text-based medium. One advantage of Twitter over Facebook is the fact that Twitter is a constant stream of information that's relatively unedited. While Facebook prioritizes what users see, Twitter does not. This allows newer and smaller businesses to pop up in a user's feed just as easily as large, established businesses. If you love to share content and interact with others and you have a niche that people will seek out, Twitter is an excellent way for your agency to establish itself. For instance, if you'd like to spend a day promoting a series of information pieces focused on getting your home ready for the winter storm season, this could be overwhelming on Facebook but will fit right in on Twitter.

Twitter can also help drive attendees to webinars, improve website traffic, and extend branding for B2B oriented agencies.

How-To

Be Advanced

Begin with the "advanced search" function, which allows agents to enter detailed information to help refine a search of recent tweets. Agents can enter specific keyword information, such as words, people, places or dates.

For example, your search might select tweets using the word insurance from users who live in Texas, who used the word “moved”, in the last 30 days. Once you have this list you can use it in many different ways to generate insurance leads. Once you have created an advanced search on Twitter, you can save the URL and return to it to view new tweets.

Connect

Social validation is an essential aspect of gaining new prospects. People want to know that other people have worked with your agency and you were able to help them. Local influencers with active twitter accounts can help you with social validation and extend your reach in the community.

Quick Question

The posts (or "tweets") are limited to 140 characters, but that can be used to your advantage: share a quick tip that might raise a question in peoples' minds—"Is your home ready for winter? Check out our blog post to find out"—so that they are aware of your business and your expertise, in case they do need to adjust their current insurance or address their lack of it. A lot of companies also use Twitter for quick, simple customer support.

 

Why Instagram?

Instagram can provide a visual home for savvy business people. If you think your target prospects might enjoy participating in creating and sharing videos, then it may be a good choice, and is probably the best picture-sharing site.

How-To

Show and Share

You’ll need to think in a visual medium to promote your agency here, and pictures of insurance certificates won’t cut it. Use Instagram to show employees getting awards, or to educate your customers and build a safer, healthier community. For example you might develop a “500 ways to bike to work safely” campaign and challenge your audience to add pictures of themselves on their bikes.

 

Why Pinterest?

Pinterest is also image-based, but it sets a different tone. Pinterest is focused on curated image boards that focus on a specific theme. Its audience is a little older and skews more female than Instagram, which is most popular with men and women in their late teens to early thirties. 

How-To

There to Stay

If you have an infographic of someone biking safely that you'd like to link to blog content, Pinterest is a great venue for this information. While Instagram is more focused on ephemeral images, you can place visual content on Pinterest and people will refer back to it again and again.

 

Why Snapchat?

Snapchat is yet another image-based platform, but again with differences. You’ve got to see through your customer’s eyes. If you’re looking through the eyes of a Millennial you’re probably looking into the eyes of a mobile device staring at Snapchat. 

How-To

Snapchat uses things called Geo filters that can be used at weddings and parties and special events to group, to signify, and to unify the pictures into a collective album. It’s somewhat similar to how hashtags work. If you’re a business, you can take advantage of filter feature. Let’s say you’re at a special event, or someone comes into your office, you can take a picture and use a customized filter that you’ve created that’s branded for your agency. This could be used in many ways to help advertise and create a cool branding image to use through snapchat for your agency.

Wait, There’s More!

Of course there’s more. We’ve all heard of many social platforms that we haven’t mentioned here. And there is no doubt, sooner rather than later, there will be new ones that are worth a look. But until you are doing a great job with one to four of the ones we’ve listed above there is probably no need to look further.

If you offer very specialized, niche lines then it’s possible that there are very segmented social media sites that would work to target your best prospects, and if that’s the case, I encourage you to seek them out. However, for the majority of agencies, the sites we’ve discussed allow for enough targeting for you to single out and communicate with the groups you have identified as your best “tribes” of prospects.

Take Measurements

One of the many valuable aspects of social media marketing is that it’s measurable IF you take the time to do so. If you don’t incorporate a plan for measuring your success, then it’s probably a waste of your time to even embark on a social campaign. How would you ever know if your energies are being spent in the right place? Or your money in the case of paid advertising?

Determine your specific goals upfront, and have a consistent means of monitoring and adjusting. If for instance your goal is to write an additional 25% in commercial restaurant coverage, determine the average value of a commercial restaurant account, and calculate what that looks like in numbers of new clients. Then develop a strategy, and preferably, a budget for your campaign, based on how many “actions”, equaling posts, ads, etc. that you believe it should realistically take to reach the needed number of prospects, based on your average closing ratio.

Measure, adjust, repeat, succeed. 

 

 

Tags:  agency  digital  insurance  marketing  social media 

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Social Rules

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Once upon a time you’d go to your local coffee shop and look around to see the majority of people reading newspapers or magazines. Today, when you go to that very same coffee shop and look around you’ve probably noticed that very few people are holding a newspaper or a magazine. Instead they are looking at a screen.

So, what happened? Did the coffee shop attract new younger customers? No, they didn’t      replace their old customers with new younger customers — their customers adapted to technology.

Technology doesn’t care about age or gender or how things have been done in the insurance industry for the past 100 years. As an insurance agent, this shift in consumer behavior is hugely important for you to understand in terms of how your clients and your future clients are using platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter today to consume information.

If you are not actively participating on these sites, you are missing out on an opportunity to provide value to your clients and your future clients.

Most of us hate to admit it, but insurance is quickly becoming a commodity. Contrary to popular belief this does not have to be a bad thing if agents are willing to combat this by adopting new and emerging technology.

Old School Prospecting

Let’s say you are a commercial insurance agent and you are trying to write any type of business you can get your hands on.  Understanding that everything has an opportunity cost and time is the most valuable asset we own, let’s say your time is worth $25 an hour ($50,000 a year) to make it easy. Then let’s say you do your prospecting based on the traditional sales model and you do 100 prospecting phone calls.

Of those calls let’s say we set 10 appointments, and of those appointments we get 3 that allow us to do quotes for them. Of those 3 we get 1 as a customer (even though this is just an example I feel these numbers are generous given the cold calling game today).

Now let’s say it took you 60 hours to do that (make calls, drive, have appointments, work up quote, present, etc.), so 60 hours times $25 an hour our total cost is $1,500 to acquire one customer that generates $2,000 a year in revenue for us ($10,000 – $15,000 premium account).  That doesn’t seem too bad right?

New School Prospecting

That is until you look at the new school model. In this model let’s say instead of just going after everybody and anybody, you decide you are only going to write construction contractors. So you spend your time up front building your marketing and sales process so that only your best prospects are funneled down to you.  You still have to spend time checking the system, making a few updates and changes, and you still have to take some calls and appointments to further qualify your prospects.

Even so, this process only takes us about 15 hours (compared to 60) and we verified that only 5 (compared to 10) were worth talking to, and 2 were worth quoting (compared to 3) and one became our customer.  If we calculate the final numbers on this, we find that it only cost us $375 (15 hours x $25 an hour) in time to get this customer.

Let’s say we also spent $500 on marketing, so  our total cost, including the $375 in labor, was only $875 to acquire a single $2,000 customer. In total we spent 75% less time and almost half the money for the same result.

The Snowball Effect

Now let’s go one step further. Considering that we have built a marketing system that continually finds our ideal prospects and qualifies them for us, and that it works on autopilot “24/7 – 365,” we now have much more time than we did before. We can accomplish in 15 hours what takes most other agents 60 hours.

So we can get four times the customers that the traditional model does, and accumulate 4 new customers, which results in $8,000 in new revenue, and it still only costs us $1,500 ($375 x 4) in expenses to acquire them.  It’s important to note that over time your marketing costs will go down because once you build the snowball and let it roll downhill it will get larger over time, thus resulting in a lower cost-per-customer acquisition cost.

This system allows for organic growth on the back end in referrals and higher retention, which every agent really wants, and it gets rid of cold calling, which every agent really does hate.

The Numbers Add Up

With this understanding, your marketing costs will reduce because you will get higher ROI for every dollar spent. Investing some time on the front end in building the system will allow for huge returns and less time invested on the back end.  So in total we made $6,500 ($8,000 – $1,500) in new revenue in the same amount of time it took the agent in the traditional model to acquire $500 ($2,000 – $1,500). 

 It is important to find your most profitable customer and tailor your marketing plans to them. By doing so you will be able to generate more value for your customers, more profitability for yourself, and battle the notion that insurance is a commodity.


Great, you’re sold on the value of social media to market your agency! But there's Facebook, there's Twitter, there's Instagram and Pinterest. In fact, there are so many different ways to place your insurance agency on social media that you're starting to get a little overwhelmed. Take a deep breath. You don't need to be on every social media venue imaginable, but you do need to use the ones you choose more effectively.

Quality over Quantity

Think of choosing your social media platforms in the same way you might choose which of a large number of live networking opportunities you’re faced with. Even if you could possibly belong to every Chamber of Commerce, referral network and assorted business organizations available in your business area, you couldn’t possible have the time to attend each and every event. So how do you choose? As a savvy professional, you accept the opportunities that are most likely to put you face-to-face with your best potential clients. And those decisions are heavily impacted by knowing which events your best current clients are likely to attend. Your logic is sound: if your great client would likely be at the event, more people who are similar to that client are likely to be there as well.

Social media selection works on the exact same principals. Yes, there’s a huge variety to choose from, but you want to be in front of the people who have the greatest similarity to the type of client you’d hope to attract. With gigantic platforms, like Facebook, it’s probable that every business you can think of has potential customers as part of their base. But you still need to make your selection based on who you most specifically want to target, and the likelihood of being able to engage with them on a specific site. And similar to your choices of local organizations to join, a commitment to being actively engaged is needed; otherwise you’re wasting your time and theirs.

The quality of your participation in social media is more important than the quantity, especially initially. Yes, the more platforms, the more prospects, but the best results accrue when you master the ones you currently use before expanding to new ones.

Of course we all think of Facebook when social media is mentioned, but social media has proliferated and evolved into many new shapes and forms. Some may be worthwhile your time to explore for marketing your agency. Read on for specific recommendations on the social media platforms for independent insurance agencies, as well as tips on how to effectively market your agency using each.


In the post, “Social Media Guide” we’ll cover specific social media platforms with recommendations and tips on how to succeed with each. But many of the principals apply regardless of the particular media.

Start Small

When it comes to implementing social media, or any marketing channel for that matter, you have to set reasonable expectations. If you only see 50 customers in your office in a given week, it’s unreasonable to expect 500 new Twitter followers or Facebook fans in that same time. If you’re new to social media, it’s important to understand your place in the social landscape and determine which channels are right for your firm. What platforms are your customers and potential customers already using and which of those provide the best channel to deliver your message? Newer platforms like Vine, Instagram and Snapchat likely won’t be a fit for your audience, so focus on more traditional platforms like Facebook and Twitter to engage your users.

 13 Types of Social Media Platforms...and Counting

Social media is defined as “forms of electronic communication through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages, and other content”.

Social Media Platforms

1. Blogs/Publishing tools– Wordpress, Blogger, Squarespace
2. Micro-Blogging sites –Twitter, Tumblr, Posterous
3. Social networking sites– Facebook, Google Plus, CafeMom, Gather, Fitsugar
4. Collaboration tools– Wikipedia, WikiTravel, WikiBooks
5. Rating/Review sites– Amazon ratings, Angie’s List
6. Photo sharing sites– Flikr, Instagram, Pinterest
7. Video sharing sites– YouTube, Vimeo, Viddler
8. Personal broadcasting tools– Blog Talk radio, Ustream, Livestream
9. Virtual worlds– Second Life, World of Warcraft, Farmville
10. Location based services– Check-ins, Facebook Places, Foursquare, Yelp
11. Widgets– Profile badges, Like buttons
12. Social bookmarking and news aggregation– Digg, Delicious
13. Group buying– Groupon, Living Social, Crowdsavings

Use the Tools

Look for tools that can make managing your social media presence easy and effective. Basic tools should include the ability to schedule content in advance and post across to several platforms from one place. Examples include Hootsuite, Sprout and Buffer.

To select the best tools, identify your biggest pain points and look for solutions tailored to your needs. For those struggling with content development, look for a platform that utilizes RSS feeds to create a library of relevant content. Or if your insurance brand provides branded materials or social content, consider looking for a platform that allows for easy content syndication. Some content syndication platforms will even alert agents by email when a new piece of content is available, letting them approve or deny the content right from their inbox.

Be Yourself

Social media aside for a moment; why should customers do business with an independent agent like you? Understand that as an insurance agency, it’s unlikely that your content is going to go viral – but that’s okay.

New York Life has one of the largest Twitter and Facebook followings in the insurance industry. Why? Because instead of trying to develop content that would go viral, they focus on providing value to their followers and fans. When looking for social content, New York Life’s social media team shares everything from articles on how to save your pocket change to guidelines for selecting the best life insurance plan. Their dedication to providing useful information established the company as a go-to source for customers experiencing important life events such as having children or caring for aging parents.

Visualize It

Social media — even those historically text-based such as Twitter — have never been more visual. The creation of a social media presence that is visually strong can be very intimidating for companies new to the medium. Luckily, it’s never been easier to create visually compelling content for distribution on social media. Sites such as Canva exist purely for this reason — to help social media marketers who don’t have a design background create great-looking visuals for social media.

And video content is extremely helpful in driving traffic and search engine rankings. Today most of us have an excellent videocam built into our phone. Videos don’t have to be Hollywood productions. Think about recording short videos of yourself explaining a new product or introducing a new team member.

Work with your carriers. Many of them have resource libraries including images and video that they’re eager to have you share with your clients.

Can I Have a Witness?

Per our post, “How to Leverage Online Client Reviews”, testimonials are powerful. There is no better way to elevate your brand on social media than to capture testimonials from those customers and distribute via social media.

Tags:  agency  insurance  marketing  Social media  technology  tips  trends 

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Inforgraphic: Top Ten Digital Branding & Marketing Trends for 2017

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Data should be at the heart of your online strategy!

There's one thing insurance executives can bank on when it comes to their online image: It requires thoughtful strategy.

Say goodbye to the era when digital business marketing simply involved building and maintaining a website, and throwing out a few social media posts.

Today, any business large or small without a multifaceted digital and social media strategy is sunk; a flailing digital strategy is tantamount to having none at all.

Sure, agents and advisors can hire someone else to manage their online image. But an outsider can rarely achieve the same level of familiarity with your prospects, clients and overall customer base. So the success of any online consultant may only be as measurable as your own willingness to collaborate and participate in their strategy.

The good news is that each year brings a new batch of data-based tools that can help you better connect with prospects and clients. The infographic below is a breakdown of some of the 2017 digital marketing trends, compiled and illustrated by the Borenstein Group, a business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-government (B2G) digital marketing agency based in Washington, D.C. Consider these trends as your business sets out to further its online image.


 

Tags:  Digital  Marketing  social media  Trends 

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5 Web Design Best Practices for Insurance Agencies

Posted By by Kathleen Booth, Tuesday, November 28, 2017

by Kathleen Booth, from Impact blog post, January 26th, 2015 

Insurance is something everyone needs. Unfortunately, marketers in this field face two big problems: The product isn’t sexy, and the market couldn’t be more crowded.

So, what’s your differentiator? Let me guess. Is it your knowledge and unbeatable customer service? Sigh. The insurance industry is incredibly competitive and with everyone selling the same shtick, making the very best first impression is critical. No, I'm not talking about the first impression you make when a potential client walks through the door.

More important than that is the impression that potential customers see when they first visit your website, especially in comparison to your direct competitors. When you visit your competitors' sites and then return to your own, do you cringe? Maybe you already know your site isn’t up to par, but just don’t know how to fix it. Or, maybe that statement just got you thinking about your website.

Either way, why is it so important to have a great website in the insurance industry? Because, no matter the product (insurance, TVs, cars, sneakers, or clothing), the Internet has changed how we decide what to purchase. According to Shopper Sciences, 88 percent of consumers research before they buy, consulting an average of 10.4 sources before making their purchasing decision.

That is weighty. Think about it... any prospective client that hasn’t found you via a referral, the yellow pages or your last radio ad has come across your company via the internet. And that potential customer has viewed your website as well as the sites of at least ten of your competitors.

Yikes!

This is especially significant in the insurance industry, where competition is fierce. Differentiating yourself on the web is a great way to gain your prospective customer's attention and get them to engage with you.

Here is the good news. It isn’t difficult to wow your potential clients if your website is updated regularly and following best practices. These five web design best practices are absolutely crucial and non-negotiable for any insurance agency that wants to stay competitive in today's digital world. If you aren’t currently employing these practices, then it might be time to strongly consider a website redesign.

1. Responsive Design

Today's consumers use their smartphones for everything. According to Smart Insights, mobile digital media time in the United States is now significantly higher, at 51 percent compared to desktop (42 percent). What does this mean? Over half of your potential clients are using their smartphone to research your services. Are you providing them with the best experience possible from a mobile device? Are your competitors?
 
A responsive website provides viewers with an optimal viewing and interaction experience - including reading and navigation - across a wide range of devices such as desktop computers, mobile phones and tablets. Responsive websites provide a seamless experience without pinching, zooming or horizontal scrolling.
 
More importantly, Google prefers responsive sites. As of April 21, 2015 Google released an algorithm update that gives mobile-friendly sites a boost in search results, while penalizing those that are not viewable on mobile devices. If you are unsure if your site is considered “mobile-friendly” by Google, you can test it.

 

2. Support the Buyer's Journey

Let’s face it, insurance is boring. Come on, you know it is!

BUT you also know that those things insurance protects -- which is the reason we all need it -- are not boring at all. These things are everything to us, from the people we love, to our homes, our weekend toys and even our pets. Focus on the things your potential clients love most and create content that resonates with them emotionally. At the end of the day, potential clients aren’t going to care about the policy details; they are going to appreciate being protected.

It’s very easy to fall into the “it’s all about me” trap on a company website. Unconsciously, you want to talk about what you do, how you can help and why you're qualified. Your website isn’t an online brochure. It is an interactive knowledge center for your clients. Treat users like you would treat clients coming in through your doors.

Or, better yet, imagine yourself at a networking event. You meet someone over a cocktail and strike up a conversation. Think about it - you aren’t going to start the conversation talking about yourself. Instead, you're are going to make small talk, build a relationship, and then assess the potential client’s needs and determine the best possible solution together. 

Your website should do the exact same thing.

So, how do you assess a potential client’s needs before you get to talk to them? By understanding where they are on their buyer’s journey. Every website user isn’t going to purchase after the first visit. They are going to research and compare products and services. The best thing you can do is make it easy for them.

Call-to-Action Placement

A call-to-action is a combination of specific copy and graphics used to entice and persuade readers to take action. These are most commonly used to “gate” content like downloadable tip-sheets, eBooks, whitepapers and webinar recordings. They require the user to input a specific set of information (name, email, phone number, etc.) before receiving the download.
Get to know your potential client by strategically placing these call-to-action buttons on your services pages. By placing a relevant call-to-action on a services page, you can determine what service a potential client is interested in and how interested they are.
Depending on your specific content offers, and the type of information you require your website visitors to provide, you can determine if a potential customer is casually researching a solution, or if they have already decided upon a solution and are ready to purchase.

Knowledge Center Resources

Your website shouldn’t be a sales pitch. People don’t like to be pitched to, and as clever as you think you may be, potential clients still know when you are “selling” to them. It often comes across as misleading, opportunistic and altogether unhelpful. So, be helpful! 
Your website can be a highly effective tool for educating potential clients. A Knowledge Center should be prominently placed on your website to allow users to access your most valuable content, like case studies, eBooks, whitepapers and webinar recordings all in one place.
 
Knowledge Centers are most effective when they are easily browsable, allowing the user to filter by content type or topic. Don’t forget to gate your content by requiring users to fill out a conversion form before receiving it. After all, you want this content to be a source of inbound lead generation.
 
3. Simple Navigation

 

A few years ago, I had a client tell me that if it took them more than three clicks to locate what they were looking for on a site, they would abandon the effort and move on to a different site. It stuck with me and I have been using it as a navigational rule of thumb ever since.

Think about it, three clicks is a perfectly reasonable time frame to get the viewer to move through your site and get them to where they need to go. Any more than that and it becomes cumbersome and unintuitive. An unintuitive website is digital suicide. Don’t force potential clients to work to find what they need.

Before a potential client even visits your site, you should have an excellent understanding of who they are, what they need, and what their pain points are. Every interaction they have with your website should be mindful of these traits. We call these audience personas.

Easy Access to Client Documents
 
Your website isn’t just a tool for gaining new business. It also acts as a tool for retaining customers and eventually turning them into brand advocates. Returning users can greatly benefit from resources like online document access and private client portals.
 
Easy access (think header buttons) to user/client portals like MyWave and CSR24 can save both you and your client valuable time. In addition, the ease of use could make you a very likely candidate for referrals from these users.

Easy Access to Contact Information
 
Insurance is something you have, you pay for, and continue to have until you need it. In most cases, it’s a very “set it and forget it” product. But, when the need does arise, it is usually due to a critical issue in your client’s life. When the worst happens, make sure your contact information is easily accessible and placed consistently throughout your website.
 
Every website I have ever designed has contact information in the bottom right hand corner, on every single page. This, in addition to a clearly defined Contact page in the main navigation, ensures your site visitors can quickly and easily figure out how to get in touch when they need you the most.
 
In addition to ensuring your contact information is clearly visible on your site, make sure you check in regularly to confirm the information you've posted is accurate and up to date.
Lastly, don’t forget your mobile users. Best practice number one (see above) is to have a responsive website, because - let’s not forget - over half of internet users access the web via their smartphone. Make sure that your contact information is clickable on mobile. With a touch of a finger, users should be able to auto-pull your email address and auto-dial your phone number.

Easy Access to Employee Information

Your company website should include a “Meet the Team” or an “About Us” page to key staff members. Typically, anyone is who regularly client-facing should have a professional headshot, biography highlighting key professional accomplishments and designations, and their direct contact information and links to professional social networks like LinkedIn. This is absolutely essential to humanizing your brand.
 
If a client does contact you to make a claim due to a car accident, a disaster like a fire or a death in the family, they want to know that someone is going to be empathetic on the other end. They don’t want to talk to someone halfway around the world. Instead, they want someone who knows and understands their needs - someone they have seen before.
 
Make this connection easy. Simply adding staff photos (real photos of your real staff) to your website will instantly make potential and current customers that much more justified in their decision to work with your agency. And, it will put you in stark contrast to the many insurance agencies that use the same old tired stock photography on their sites (you know what I'm talking about, right?!).

 

4. Be on Trend

Trend has become such a dirty word. In fact I was asked not to use it in this article because our clients don't generally value being on trend for its own sake. But it’s a concept that important to understand - particularly in the insurance industry.

In terms of web design, a trend is a general direction in which something is developing or changing. Trends aren’t radical, they are gradual. When compounded over time, they shape our reality and influence our opinions about what websites are supposed to look like. Think about it. Big 80s hair looks crazy now, but it wasn’t a radical change when it became popular in the 80s.

Unfortunately, many insurance agency websites are the internet equivalent of big 80s hair. Your potential clients are savvy internet users and browsing site after site isn’t anything new to them. After using so many different sites and subconsciously accepting the way a website “should” look, your site shouldn’t be a radical change.

Your site should be adhering to the most up-to-date web trends and providing your potential customers an experience consistent with their expectations.

So how do you do that?

White Space

The concept of above the fold is dead, so don’t design a site that has every element condensed into a small, compact space. Let your users scroll and let your page elements breathe. Whitespace is helpful in five ways:

o Whitespace Makes Design Usable. Purposefully placed whitespace can help guide visitors through your site, help them find what they are looking for and make specific interactions stand out.
o Whitespace Makes Content Readable. It’s rare that a potential client is going to come to your website and read every last sentence of copy. Utilizing whitespace properly will help a user skim your content and make large bodies of text appear more approachable.
o Whitespace Gives Users a Break. Keep your design simple, remove the clutter and help your user focus on what is most important. Have the user make as few decisions as possible. Whitespace can even direct them to a specific goal of your choosing.
o Whitespace Looks and Feels Modern. Not only is an increased use of whitespace functional for your users, but it looks great. Taking a minimalist design approach looks professional and can aid in highlighting a single product.
o Whitespace Make a Design Emotional. Just because it’s called whitespace doesn’t mean the space has to be white. Adding color, shape or pattern to space that content hasn’t occupied can set the tone for your user, affecting how they receive the content.

Flat Design

Flat design is a web-trend that is a case-in-point for understanding and maintaining an on-trend website. Over the past couple of years, designers have been gravitating towards this minimalistic approach that places an emphasis on user experience. In doing so, flat design strips away all the distractions that come with typical web design bells and whistles and - when done right - focuses the user on the content and the actions you want them to take.

Large Images

Be aesthetic. Like we have said before, insurance isn’t sexy, but the things it protects can be. Using large, beautiful, authentic images can strike an emotional chord with potential clients. Combine large images with an effective tagline and call-to-action button to make prominent content stand out and drive conversions.

The right image can be powerful, professional and elegant.

 

5. Blog

If you don’t already have a company blog, you are running out of excuses. Blogs are amazing tools for increasing site traffic, generating lead conversions, establishing industry thought leadership and promoting brand awareness. Yes, all of that from one website feature.

Pretty amazing right?

Client Education
 
Your website shouldn't be an online brochure. The end goal should always be to help your potential clients find a solution to a problem. Above all, a blog’s primary job is to educate and answer questions.
 
A well-written blog not only informs potential clients about your products and services, but it also allows users to get to know your company. For those potential client researchers who will skip the initial phone call to your agency, this is a great way to demonstrate some personality and establish the kind of personal connection that resonates with leads to long-standing client relationships.

SEO 
 
Blogs work wonders for SEO (search engine optimization). Why? With each new blog post published, you are adding a page to your website. For small businesses, this brings a great advantage. In the eyes of Google, your site is performing just as good as, if not better than, a larger competitor. Revenue aside, blogs are a great way to level the SEO playing field.
 
The additional pages created when you publish a blog are a great start, but they cannot be counted on as an entire SEO strategy. Creating relevant blog content focusing on targeted keywords will bring an added advantage. Instead of cramming all of these keywords into a single services page, you have the ability to exclusively speak on a specific topic with each and every blog post.

 

Caution: The $500 Website

If it sounds too good to be true, it’s usually because it is.

Be very wary of simple website builders and offers to build an insurance-specific website with only a few hundred, or even thousand, dollars. Agencies that are purely focused on insurance websites tend to build the same site over and over with premade templates, setting you at a level playing field with your competitors and not truly taking into account what sets your agency apart.

Great web design focuses on equal parts strategy and execution. After all, you can have the most beautiful site in the world, but if it isn’t converting visitors into leads, what’s the point? Strategy is 50 percent of the puzzle. If you don’t have a well-defined strategy going into a redesign, you could be missing the mark completely. Plus, it is also important to understand how your website will fit into an overall marketing strategy once the site has been launched.

The last thing you want to do is launch a redesigned site that is never updated until the next redesign. A great website is a living, breathing, ever-changing digital device. Make sure you're prepared to keep up with it.

Is Your Website Following Best Practices?

Some of the tips we have discussed today are very obvious. Your site is either responsive, or it isn’t; you either have a blog, or you don’t. But, others may take some deeper digging to truly evaluate.

Understand your buyers and the journey they will take through your website before they make a purchasing decision. If you haven’t already, consider taking a stab at our audience persona worksheet. This will help you get to know potential clients better, and how to market to them. If you are looking for a more immediate response, next time you are on a client call, consider polling your potential customers.

Ask how they found you online and inquire about your website navigation - could they find what they were looking for in just a few clicks? Ask your staff, is our navigation intuitive? Any and all feedback is a great point of reference to make improvements to your existing website or begin a website redesign.

Remember that potential clients will do a lot of research prior to contacting you. Make sure you are catering to their needs. Add a blog to your website and a knowledge center. This not only helps to aid their journey, but it also helps you to understand a potential client’s needs by the type of content they access and download. This really gives your sales team the advantage they need to moving in on a hot lead and providing a solution.

Your website is your very best salesperson, so make sure it’s working hard for you.

Tags:  agencies  design  insurance  marketing  social media  technology  Web 

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To Text or Not to Text (Answer: Text)

Posted By by Alexi Papandon, Tuesday, November 28, 2017

from 2017 PIA Agency Marketing Guide

PETER BENCHLEY’S NOVEL Jaws brought us the popular quote, “Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water...” When preparing marketing plans, many insurance agents ask a question along these lines: “Is it safe to begin text marketing?” 

Whereas beachgoers on Amity Island were worried about being eaten alive by a 25 foot great white shark, agency owners are worried about the perception their audience will have. Will they feel that I am invading their privacy? Do they consider their cell phones to be off limits to marketing? Will it backfire and create a negative impression of my business—exactly the opposite of what I am hoping to achieve?

Oh, and how do I do it? If the experiences of David Gorman Sr. and David Gorman Jr. of Red Gorman Insurance in Dallas, Texas, are any indication, get those swim trunks on and jump in because the water is fine. 

A TEXT REVOLUTION

The Gorman’s agency was founded in 2003. For many years they engaged in somewhat typical marketing activities and experienced typical results. That all changed when Gorman Jr. joined the agency. As a millennial, he knew what anyone with a teenage child knows, millennials would prefer to text on their smart phones rather than talk. The strange thing is, when handled professionally, it is not just millennials who like to conduct business via text.

A couple years ago the Gorman’s decided to embrace text as a way to communicate with current customers and their best prospects. They had already decided to focus on these groups versus unknown prospects because they felt the return on their investment in marketing would be more productive with those people who already knew them. Looking back they know this was a great decision. 

They went about researching companies that would enable them to generate texts right from a desktop computer. The first service they initiated allows them to communicate via text to current policyholders for customer service issues. These texts come from the same 10-digit phone number all the time, which is portable to other services should the agency prefer to work with another vendor in the future. 

This customer service oriented text service also allows clients to contact the agency via text. These texts are visible to everyone in the agency, who can respond right from their computer. If you think that agency staff love to respond to these texts more than phone calls, you’d be right, especially the younger staff that many agencies want to hire and retain. Customers regularly text to ask questions and send photos of damaged vehicles, drivers licenses, etc. This service has been well received by the agency’s customers, especially those on the younger side. 

TEXT MARKETING MACHINE

The Gormans also enabled a text service to communicate on a more “mass marketing” type basis, but always with a personal appeal and value to the recipient. Through this service they can send up to 1,000 texts at one time, again, right from a computer. They recently texted a pizza giveaway to prospects the agency had quoted, but not sold. As part of the raffle entry, prospects had the opportunity to request a quote from a variety of lines of insurance, some of which they may not have realized the agency offered. The campaign netted 70 entries, five homeowners insurance quotes and one commercial lines quote. 

Of importance, the campaign didn’t result in any negative feedback. No one felt that a 25 foot shark had just invaded their phone. And if they did, then they would simply unsubscribe just as one might unsubscribe from an email marketing campaign. The Gormans make sure to include unsubscribe instructions on the first text sent to each recipient. On average, they say, about 3-5% of their text recipients unsubscribe over the long haul (not per campaign). 
 
Part of text marketing is, of course, acquiring cell phone numbers. At a recent Cinco de Mayo parade in which their agency participated, the Gormans had banners urging the audience to text Red Gorman Insurance in order to enter a raffle for a flat screen television. When texting the agency, people were automatically sent a reply text with a link to a website landing page with details about the raffle. When entering the raffle, in addition to providing their cell number and email address, prospects agreed to receive future marketing campaigns from the agency (an option which could be deselected for those who did not want to receive texts or emails from the agency). These prospects were then entered into drip text and email marketing campaigns. For those who wanted to increase the odds of winning the television, the agency provided five additional raffle entries if they could provide an insurance quote. 
Video Rock Stars in the Making 
Because video worked so well for Red Gorman Insurance, they are planning to shoot a series of short videos in which they interview other local business owners about their businesses. These videos will be featured in the agency’s social media channels, exposing the agency’s followers to these local businesses. When local business owners heard about this opportunity a number of them signed up right away. While the investment is such a video program is small, the good will that is gained and cross-pollination of social media followers can be immense.
 
The Gormans recently used a paid Facebook ad as the basis for a raffle of Texas Rangers tickets. Again, the goal was to obtain cell phone numbers so that they could begin a text relationship with new prospects. At a cost of $30 for the Facebook ad plus the cost of the tickets, this was an affordable way to run a highly targeted advertising campaign that increased the agency’s reach while building its database for future marketing campaigns. 
 
The agency recently sent a text promoting a Facebook Live video giveaway they were doing. Recipients of the text were given instructions and tuned into the agency’s Facebook page at a set day and time to view the live giveaway. A recording of the video was captured for use afterward on their website, social media properties and, of course, via text. The Gormans have found that video is much more compelling to their audience than photos. As an added benefit, in order to view the Facebook Live session, users had to “Like” the agency’s Facebook page. 
 
So, will your agency jump into the texting waters or will you sit in the sand while others make loyal customers of those insurance buyers who prefer to text? Please jump in; the water is fine and there are no sharks to be seen.
 
Alexi Papandon is senior vice president of products and services for PIA National. Email Alexi at alexipa@pianet.org.
 

 
 

Tags:  agency  digital  insurance  marketing  social media  texting 

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