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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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Chris Paradiso Shares Resources

Posted By Administration, Monday, April 2, 2018

Chris Paradiso, our featured speaker at our 2018 Annual Meeting, graciously agreed to share links to marketing resources that he has either developed, or uses within his own agency.

Tags:  agency  agent  Chris Paradiso  insurance  links  resources  social media 

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Insurance Agents and Online Reputation Management

Posted By Rick Fox, Monday, April 2, 2018

from PropertyCasualty360.com, March 26, 2018

As insurance agents venture into the realm of marketing themselves online, there is often a question of what image they should portray. Some are tempted to present what they feel is the best persona they can create without regard to the reality of their situation.

Authenticity is one of those concepts that are easy to talk about but incredibly difficult to achieve in practice. Finding authenticity in your marketing is a prolonged and concerted effort to first say who you intend to be as a company and then to follow through on that plan. Provided you’re an expert in your field and an honest operator, there is no reason your marketing should not come across as authentic.

Announce the values you espouse

It’s crucial for you to understand which values are most important to your brand. One way to establish your values is to identify experiences where you felt your company really succeeded. What were the values that made that success possible?

The inverse can also work. What were some times you feel your company did not live up to its own expectations? What were the values that were violated in that case?

Finally, what are the values you rely on day to day to make sure that things run smoothly in your business and your life? Identifying these values can take time and is an ever-evolving process. It is, however, the first and most significant step in achieving authenticity.

Demonstrate your expertise

One of the most important side effects of authentic marketing is the establishment of a relationship of trust. When you use your online engagement to demonstrate your knowledge and expertise, your audience will come to see you as a thought leader in your field and you’ll become an influencer to those most interested in what you have to offer.

The secret to becoming an authentic thought leader in your marketing is consistently delivering valuable insights. Giving away valuable advice can sometimes be a difficult exercise for an agent. It feels a little bit like giving away the milk for free. In deciding what level of insight to use in your marketing, it can be tempting to hold back the good stuff. This is generally a mistake. There will always be proprietary information you only share with clients but as a rule, it’s good to provide more valuable insight than you might feel comfortable with.

On top of the reputation-enhancing benefits of such content, valuable insights in your marketing material can also have an incredible effect on your SEO. Google has worked hard over the last decade to hone their algorithms to reward not just keyword-rich copy, but copy that authentically provides a strong user experience.

Use authentic language

Insurance agents are just like any other business when it comes to defining a brand. They need to express it well to communicate the right message to prospects and clients. It’s one of the most crucial things agents can do to grow their business. The way that your brand is expressed through your marketing and advertising is your “brand voice.”

A big part of brand voice is the language that it uses to express itself. It defines your purpose, illustrates your character and makes up your tone. There are a lot of questions to answer when considering the language to use in your marketing. How these questions are answered is the process in which the rest of the brand voice elements are defined.

By establishing the type of language the brand will and won’t be associated with, an agency can put finite edges on its brand voice, often an elusive concept. A cohesive voice will not only attract an agent’s ideal clients but will also be a catalyst for continued engagement with existing clients.

The danger of inauthenticity

Once you’ve established yourself as an expert who shares important values with your audience, you must then live up to those standards. If the behavior of your agency is inconsistent with your marketing, you’ll feel a backlash.

Ironically enough, marketing as a concept has an image problem. What should be an honest effort to convey a brand’s benefits and values too often comes off as a snow job, some attempt to misrepresent the reality of a company. Modern consumers are incredibly savvy and have become adept at identifying incongruous marketing messages.

If there’s even a suspicion of dishonesty in your marketing message, the result will be a complete loss of trust and most likely a cessation of any engagement with your brand. In extreme cases, dishonesty will be rewarded with negative online reviews that can haunt your agency for years to come.

Authenticity is not a static concept. It can take years to establish and can be destroyed with a single action. By focusing on your brand values and demonstrating your expertise you can continue to establish your authenticity for as long as it remains congruent with your actions.

Tags:  insurance agent  management  online  reputation  social media 

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The Rise of Chatbots

Posted By Chris Paradiso, Monday, April 2, 2018

from ParadisoPresents.com, October 26, 2017

Chatbots have been around for a while now, whether you’ve heard of them or not. What are chatbots exactly though? If we look at Google’s exact definition, it states that chatbots are “A computer or program designed to simulate conversation with human users, especially over the Internet.” Yes, chatbots are in place to serve one purpose, and that is to emulate a conversation with users who visit you online, such as on social media or on your website. Bots can be implemented into any business, but we recently have seen an uptick in interest within the insurance space.

Actually, let’s take a step back –  Did you know that back in 2004, there was a spike of interest with chatbots across the web, because this concept was relatively new during that time period. I’m sure that’s an eye-opener for some of us, especially if we are just hearing about bots for the first time. That being said, back in the early 2000s, chat bots were still in a beta phase, and much testing needed to be done in order for bots being developed to have a larger “IQ” so to speak, or overall range of functionality and understanding conversational flows. One of the bots that was more popular that was open to the public for chatting during this time period was Clever Bot, which is still available online. If you’d like to get your first hands-on experience with a chatbot that has had roughly ten years to develop, I would check out cleverbot.com for a quick moment.

Now, here’s the thing; some bots are set up to learn, such as Clever Bot, but most bots are manually programmed by a developer through their back end. This means that to program your bot to understand more, you’d have to log into the bot’s hosting service, and actually add to its intelligence, one command at a time. For instance, if your insurance agency decided that you wanted to implement a bot on your website, or even on social media such as through Facebook messenger, the bot would be limited on its functionality based on how you set it up. You could push the limits of its functionality any time through the bot’s back end by programming it to understand more, but this could take a careful eye and ongoing maintenance. Allow me to explain further.

Let’s say you wanted to program a chatbot for your website that could receive quote requests from your customers, get in touch with your agency, and get help with claims. First, you’d implement your bot, using a service such as Pronavigator, a company that specializes in building bots for insurance agencies that you can find online at https://pronavigator.io. After that, you’d work with a team of chat bot professionals to help program your insurance agency’s chatbot to service your customers in the ways that you listed above. At this point, your bot would have keywords or phrases that trigger specific conversations. For example, if someone opened up your bot after this programming, the conversation would look something like this:

Bot: “Hi, welcome to our insurance agency. How can we help you today?”

User: “I need an auto insurance quote”

Bot: “I see you’re looking for assistance with a quote for an auto insurance policy. I’ll just need some information from you first. Can we start with your first and last name please?”

And so on. This bot recognized the phrase “auto insurance quote,” and immediately started initiating a conversation that specifically entailed to the users request. Pretty intuitive right? While this makes for a great emulated conversation, the important thing to remember here is that this is in fact an emulated conversation, meaning that the bot is only as smart as you programmed it to be. It’s following the patterns of an actual conversation, but it can only process specific keywords or phrases and trigger responses accordingly.

This means that if a user types in something that is outside of what you’ve programmed the bot to understand, then they will not be able to be serviced by your bot. For instance, we mentioned that the bot in our example has been programmed to help with quotes, claims, and getting in touch with your agency. Now, what if a customer wanted to come to your website to leave a review for your agency? Here’s what the conversation would look like:

Bot: “Hi, welcome to our insurance agency. How can we help you today?”

User: “Leave a review”

Bot:I’m sorry, I can’t seem to figure out what you’re asking. Do you need help with anything else?”
User: “I’d like to leave a review.”

Bot: “I’m sorry, but I’m still having trouble figuring out your request. Would you like to have one of our professional agents give you a call?”

In these instances where the user requests something that is outside of the chat bot’s functionality or programming, the responses can be a bit clunky or unexpected. The user is just trying to search for help leaving a review, but the bot can’t deliver because it doesn’t recognize any of its programmed key words or phrases, and therefore, it cannot take action.

This sort of behavior from bots, which causes the original “problem” of the user to remain unresolved, has caused bots to have an alarming bounce rate. In fact, there’s one other type of “clunky” conversation that exists far too often with bots, which lies in a problem of interpretation of the user’s text. Sometimes, users may have typos, or even send one single statement through multiple messages that should have all been on one. Let’s take a look at an example, first with a set of split up messages:

Bot: “Hi, welcome to our insurance agency. How can we help you today?”

User: “Hi I need a quote”

User: “for my renter’s insurance”

Bot: “I’m sorry, I can’t seem to figure out what you’re asking. Do you need help with anything else?”

The bot can’t immediately recognize messages that are split up in all scenarios, and in fact, most of the time it will play out like the example above when a message gets split into multiple parts unintentionally by the user. While bots are being developed to be “smarter” and figure out situations like this one, they aren’t 100% ready yet. Let’s take a look at another example with a simple typo instead:

Bot: “Hi, welcome to our insurance agency. How can we help you today?”

User: “Hi I need a quote for my retners insuarnce”

Bot: “I’m sorry, I can’t seem to figure out what you’re asking. Do you need help with anything else?”

Did you notice that renter’s insurance was misspelled? The bot certainly did. In fact, if there’s a typo on a certain word or phrase that normally triggers conversation from the chatbot, it won’t know what to do at all in most cases. These sort of “clunky” conversations that we keep mentioning have caused users to bounce away from bots, because they didn’t get the service they needed. In fact, one of our friends from Forrester has told us that when bots don’t provide the experience the user is looking for, the user is apt to bounce away from the bot more than 60% of the time. That’s a surprising amount, which means that overall, bots aren’t quite ready yet to handle providing an outstanding customer experience, which is something our agency focuses on.

So, what does all this mean for you and your insurance agency? Well, for Paradiso Insurance, it means that we have an exciting future ahead of us with communicating with our customers, but we are going to be patient and wait for the right time to implement a chatbot into our website. The chatbot, conceptually, is a great thing to have, and can be a valuable asset for insurance agencies everywhere. We believe that chatbots need more time and development to be smarter and answer more questions and recognize more problems with communications with our users. We just believe that they aren’t quite ready yet. In the meantime, let’s watch the behavior of these chatbots, especially within our industry, to see how they end up changing the customer experience moving forward.

Tags:  chatbot  chatbots  insur  insurance  Social media 

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5 Easy-to-Implement Social Media Strategies for Busy Insurance Agents

Posted By Amy Evans, Monday, April 2, 2018

Social media marketing doesn’t have to be overwhelming.

from PropertyCasualty360.com, March 14,2018

Social media has become an essential marketing tool for businesses of all sizes.

Buffer, a social media management platform, recently released its State of Social 2018 report, which surveyed over 1,700 companies, half of which employ fewer than 10 people. Survey results showed that a whopping 96% of businesses are using social media marketing.

We’ve reached the point where businesses of all sizes know they should be incorporating social media into their overall marketing strategies, but the social media landscape can be overwhelming, especially for busy insurance agents and brokers who want to focus on revenue generation and agency management.

It can be difficult to know which platforms to use, what to post, how often to post, and how to measure success. But social media marketing doesn’t have to be overwhelming.

Here are five easy-to-implement social media strategies that can jumpstart your social media marketing efforts:

1. Update your LinkedIn profile
LinkedIn is the most popular business-oriented social networking platform, with more than 500 million users. While you may think of LinkedIn as nothing more than an online resume, it is an essential social media marketing tool.

Your LinkedIn profile is an online professional statement about you — who you are, what you do, why you’re qualified, how to contact you, when to hire you and how connected and relevant you are. It’s often the first place someone will look for information about you when they are considering doing business with you.

At a minimum, make sure your profile is updated with your current title and a description of what you do. Upload a current photo of yourself, and make sure your contact information is accurate.

2. Look for content in everyday activities
“Content” can be a scary word for people who are just getting into social media marketing. I talk to a lot of brokers who have the impression that they need to invest time creating long, insightful and witty articles if they want to participate on social media. They don’t always recognize the value of their expertise and don’t realize that they are constantly creating content in the course of a normal day.

Content can exist in an email that you send to a client responding to a technical question about an insurance policy. It can be an answer to a question that an employee asks you at an open enrollment meeting, or it can be in a conversation you have with a referral source about a prospective client’s needs. It only takes a few minutes to repurpose those responses into informative content that you can share on social media.

3. Identify FAQs & SAQs
Here’s my favorite exercise for creating content: Spend a few minutes writing down five frequently asked questions (FAQs) that you often hear in different professional situations. For example, what do people ask you about flood insurance? What do customers most often ask when considering deductible amounts? What are the common questions clients ask about new car insurance?

In addition, consider the should-ask questions (SAQs) that you wish people asked you more often. For example, what should homeowners consider when doing a home remodel? What should individuals know about cyber coverage? What should renters think about when moving into a new rental? Each of these can generate short Q&A posts or become the foundation for a longer article.

4. Be positive, timely & authentic
Your social media presence is often the first way prospective clients, vendors and referral partners learn about you. Your content should be an authentic reflection of what it’s like to do business with you.

  • Are you informative, helpful and knowledgeable?
  • Are you enthusiastic about what you do?
  • How do you handle challenges?
  • What are your thoughts about current events in your industry, and how are you advising your clients?

Your content is an indication of what it’s like to work with you, and it will often be the first step in the valuable know-like-trust relationship cycle.

5. Spend 10 minutes each day
Once you identify the content that you are creating during the course of your day, you only need to set aside a few minutes each day to share it.

I highly recommend using a social media management tool like Buffer or Hootsuite. They make sharing easy, allowing you to post one piece of content over multiple platforms, and schedule posts for future distribution. Using a social media management tool also allows you to post without getting distracted by those productivity-killing notifications and cat videos.

While there can be a lot more to social media marketing, it doesn’t have to be complicated, and it doesn’t require a lot of technical skill, writing skill, or time. Follow these easy-to-implement tips to ensure that you have control over your online presence.

Tags:  insurance agency  marketing  social media  strategy 

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2 Ways Social Media Renewed My Faith in the Independent Agent

Posted By Matt Naimoli, Thursday, March 8, 2018

Between geckos, aprons, quarterbacks, and mayhem, how does the local independent insurance agent gain enough attention to grow?

from PropertyCasualty360.com, February 28, 2018

The P&C insurance industry, especially personal lines, is noisy! Between geckos, aprons, quarterbacks, and mayhem, how does the local independent insurance agent gain enough attention to grow? How can a small agency compete with the ad dollars in our space?

How does an aspiring new agent build a value proposition compelling enough to make a dent? These are the questions anyone from the outside would ask. These are the questions my parents asked me when we decided to leave a top 5 national carrier and open from scratch 8 years ago.

1. Social media levels the playing field

We gained a ton of traction as a fast growing agency the first 5 years through effective networking and hustle, but it wasn’t until we started investing serious time and resources in to social media that we realized how effective it could be to fight the goliaths. There has never been a business tool so powerful.

As a “small” independent, we feel like we have the upper hand against the insurance giants of the world. They can spend their billions on billboards, TV segments, professional sport sponsorships and celebrity endorsements.

On social, attention is underpriced, it’s easy to target your specific audience, it allows you to build and spread brand at a much faster clip than ever before. You can leverage it for marketing your brand and you can leverage it for lead generation.

The options are impressive and we’re only in the 2nd inning of social development. It’s not too late to get involved! Educate yourself on the tools available, design a strategy that aligns with your brand and goals, and then go all in and stick to it.

2. Social media offers virtual support groups

Our impression one, three, even five years in to growing our agency was that there was no one else like us. There were thousands of agencies and hundreds of very successful ones, but few if any were intensely interested and motivated to grow organically at a fast clip.

We’d talk to carrier marketing reps and ask for introductions, but other than a few connections, we felt like we were on an island with a handful of like-minded insurance agents. It wasn’t until we joined IAOA, a Facebook group for insurance agency owners, that we realized how wrong we were.

Facebook groups allow digital communities to grow, develop, and prosper like never before. Insurance Agency Owners Alliance is a FB group of thousands of agency principals looking to be better together. The group is led by Nick Ayers and Dave Jackson, who believe that selflessness, innovation, and collaboration is what is most needed in our channel.

Every day there are agency owners from across the country sharing challenges, successes and new tools in an effort to lift the group up as a whole. Most are focused on growing their agency the right way by being aware of avoidable pitfalls. The sense of give is strong and refreshing.

We would have never been exposed to so many amazing people within the industry all focused on the same core initiatives and interests if it wasn’t for social media. If you’re an agency owner, ask to join the group this second.

Tags:  independent agent  social media 

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Interpreting the Results of Your Online Marketing

Posted By Chris Paradiso, Thursday, March 8, 2018

Facebook Ad Data vs. Google Analytics: Understanding the Differences Is Key

from Rough Notes, January 29, 2018

If your agency is like ours, then you are metrics and data driven, and always look for areas where you can improve. When it comes to our producers, our staff, and our marketing, all aspects of Paradiso Insurance are tracked so we can always be striving to be better.

As we approach 2018, we have been taking a second look at all of our metrics. We discovered something very interesting when it came to tracking some of our digital marketing metrics online. We saw a few discrepancies where our data didn’t line up within Google Analytics and our Facebook ads, so we did some research to figure out why the numbers were coming in with different metrics on each platform for the same advertising campaigns.

Today we’ll talk about how Facebook ads track metrics, how Google Analytics tracks metrics, and the differences we’ve found in reporting between the two.

Many users have noticed that Google Analytics and Facebook metrics sometimes yield different data within their reports, so we’d like to cover the many reasons why this is possible.

Google Analytics campaign parameters. It’s important to add campaign parameters to the landing pages you use in your advertising campaigns. Google Analytics refers to these as Urchin Tracking Module (UTM) tags, which you can designate to individual pages on your website to help with tracking. These tags help with tracking your sources, media, and other metrics, so if you’re running one  ad campaign on several social media sites or platforms, you’ll be able to figure out which yielded the most results. Learn more about setting up your UTM tags. Keep in mind that your sources and medium tags are critical to getting the most accurate results in your campaign tracking.

Facebook conversion tracking. Even if you have designated goals for individual campaigns on your Google Analytics account, it’s still important to set up conversion tracking for your agency’s Facebook ads. This is because these two platforms can report your metrics very differently, so it’s important to take a look at both sets of data so you can make an informed decision on where to direct your next ad. Learn more about setting up your Facebook conversion tracking.

Discrepancies in tracking clicks

As far as tracking clicks is concerned, the Google Analytics and Facebook platforms report slightly differently in some areas. First you need to know if you’re looking at “All Clicks” on Facebook or if you’re looking at “Link Clicks” because these are not the same thing. All Clicks include clicks on ads, likes, and shares on your campaigns. In contrast, Link Clicks are just clicks that lead to your website through your ad. Be sure to compare only Link Clicks to your Google Analytics.

Next it’s important to recognize that Link Clicks within your Facebook metrics are completely different from your “sessions” on Google Analytics. A session on Google Analytics means any time a user spends on your website, usually with a 30-minute cap. That means that if a user clicks on your Facebook ad once and arrives on your website, then waits an hour and clicks it again and arrives on your website a second time, you’ll see two clicks and two sessions on your tracking because it was outside of the 30-minute window. If you see a user click on your ad once to arrive on your website, however, then do so again within a 15-minute period, Facebook would track both ad clicks but Google Analytics would report only one session because the user was still within the 30-minute window of the first session. Minor discrepancies like this can make a world of difference in a metrics report.

You also should know that Google Analytics requires a user to have Java, images, and cookies enabled to accurately track online behavior, whereas Facebook does not have this requirement. This means that if your website is using Google Analytics, you need to have a privacy policy in place; visit this link to check out Paradiso Insurance’s privacy policy.

Although we are focusing on things we can control and how to minimize differences in our reports, it’s important to note that certain factors simply cannot be controlled. For example, a user can click an ad on Facebook but then exit the site before the Web page is finished loading. In this case the Google Analytics tracking code might not have had time to load at all. This results in Facebook reporting the click that happened whereas Google Analytics doesn’t report the session because the code didn’t load. For that reason Facebook can report a higher number of clicks overall than Google Analytics.

We also cannot control the fact that Google Analytics doesn’t report raw data but instead reports sample data. This means that not all of the data from your website is used but only a sample; this allows Google to report your results faster. Learn more about Google Analytics’ sample data.

Another issue in Google Analytics is whether you are using filters in your data. Of these filters, the most common one we see is that agencies will filter out their own IP addresses in terms of their tracking. This means that visits or clicks that happen to their website among their staff will not be tracked on Google Analytics. Facebook does not provide this filtering, so it will not filter out any clicks among your staff.

In two instances, the UTM tracking we set up earlier can be stripped from clicks that happen on your Facebook ads or other online ads. The first is that certain mobile apps can remove referral data when your ad is clicked on by a user on a mobile device. If the UTM data is stripped in a click like that, the traffic reported in Google Analytics will be direct traffic instead of traffic that came from the user’s mobile app.

The second instance is that URL redirects also can strip the UTM data. This means that if the ad itself used a URL that is no longer active or that your agency has redirected, it can prevent the Google Analytics tracking code from firing during the click. For example, say we included the URL “flagsfromparadisoins.com” in one of our ads. This URL is not a real website but instead redirects the user to a landing page on paradisoinsurance.com (www.paradisoinsurance.com/flag-day/). In this case, we use the original URL instead of the URL we purchased to have redirected so we can prevent discrepancies in our metrics.

In two more scenarios discrepancies can occur between Facebook and Google Analytics in the way your clicks can be reported. The first is caused by time zone differences. To ensure that your data is all reporting on the correct time zone, make sure that both your Google Analytics and Facebook profiles are set to your agency’s time zone. Finally, it’s important to ensure that your Google Analytics code is present on every page of your website. Several services can help you accomplish this but click here to learn more.

Discrepancies when tracking conversions

Tracking conversions can be tricky when looking at the metrics reports from Facebook and Google Analytics. The first and most notable difference between the two conversion tracking methods is that they have different attribution models. Facebook usually points to the Facebook ad by default (as long as the viewer had viewed the ad within the last 24 hours), whereas Google Analytics usually tracks conversions based on the last site the user visited before arriving on a landing page on your website that triggered your Analytics tracking code. This means that if a user visited Google and punched in a search, went to Facebook from Google, then clicked on your pay per click ad, the conversion would be attributed to pay per click.

Conversely, if the user had come from Facebook, seen the ad, then gone to Google, and found your website, Analytics would report a Google search as the source. On Facebook, so long as the ad was seen by the user within a 24-hour period and arrived on your website after that, Facebook counts that as a conversion regardless of any other steps the user took along the way. Visit this page to change your settings on Facebook for tracking/counting conversions.

The differences in tracking and conversion addressed here occur in most industries. We should control the data within our metrics and reporting to the best of our ability and understand the differences between Facebook and Google Analytics. The key is that we are tracking and that we are concerned with improving over time to get better results with our online marketing.

Happy marketing, everyone, and I wish you the greatest success as we begin 2018!

The author

Chris Paradiso, CPIA, is president of Paradiso Financial & Insurance Services in Stafford Springs, Connecticut, and he is the featured speaker for our PIA of Kentucky Annual Meeting on April 21, 2018.

His agency won PIA National’s Excellence in Social Media Award in 2013. He also heads up Paradiso Presents, LLC, which provides social media consulting, seminars and workshops to help agencies thrive in the online marketing world. Contact Chris via email at cparadiso@ paradisoinsurance.com.

Tags:  data  digital  insurance  marketing  online  results 

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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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