Made ya' look!
Greenworks Video simplifies adding video to your agency Web site
By Nancy Doucette
You’re not imagining it. Video has evolved from being a “nice-to-have” at Web sites to being a “need-to-have.” And it’s not just for entertainment. Growing numbers of independent agents are adding
video to their agency Web sites to do everything from welcoming visitors and
providing navigational tips for the site to reinforcing the agency’s expertise in a particular niche or specialty and sharing customer
Is it worth the investment? Bryan Costello thinks so. He beat out Marsh on what
he describes as a “significant deal” involving a multi-state Internet company, and he gives part of the credit to
the strategically placed, informative videos at his agency’s Web site.
Costello is CEO of Costello and Sons Insurance (CSI), headquartered in San
Rafael, California. The multi-location agency concentrates on three niches:
highly affluent personal lines, technology companies (software, Internet,
venture capital/private equity firms), and real estate brokerages.
“All these niches appreciate an agency that understands the importance of
technology and its use for customer service functions,” Costello notes.
But back to that “significant deal.” It began with CSI insuring a large Nevada-based Internet company, a roll-up of
eight different Internet companies, Costello recalls. The agency had saved the
firm a considerable sum when they took over the account and then expanded its
insurance program, taking into consideration the different exposures that
resulted from the larger operation.
When a Florida-based company acquired the Nevada-based firm, the CEO of the
Nevada company recommended CSI. Costello remembers his first conversation with
the Florida CEO. “I started to tell him about the agency—that we insure 350 technology companies—it’s a specialty of ours. He stopped me and said he had been to our Web site,
watched the videos, read the content, and was convinced of our expertise. He
wanted CSI to handle the whole deal.
“The videos don’t sell the insurance but they do help establish credibility,” Costello continues. “That’s a key element in the process of selling insurance.”
Along with Costello, Mike Grant, one of the other CSI principals; and COO Nicole
Finn, appear in the numerous videos at the CSI site. They are either casually
walking toward the viewer, talking about their specialty or speaking to the
visitor as if sitting across a desk. Costello’s niches are technology and personal insurance. Grant oversees the real estate
division so he’s the spokesperson for the videos pertaining to the REALTORS® program. Finn is featured in the navigational videos.
Costello credits his and his colleagues’ relaxed appearance to the creator of the videos—Greenworks Video, based in Denver, Colorado. Licensed agent and 20-year industry
veteran John Love, CPCU, partnered with Jim McConnell and Brian Doubleday to
found Greenworks. Love says that McConnell’s ties to the insurance industry date back to the late ’80s. “He was one of the pioneers of insurance video use. He saw the need for video in
the corporate environment—whether it was insurance or any other industry,” Love points out.
After McConnell founded his own video company and began freelancing, he met
writer and director Brian Doubleday. Love says that Doubleday has produced
documentaries for PBS and was co-producer for the Hollywood movie “Instinct” starring Anthony Hopkins. “With Brian’s 37-plus years of TV and movie experience, he can work with people on their
scripts and their performance style,” Love says.
McConnell handles the post-production editing. “After the video has been shot, Jim brings the scenes together, adds the music
and any effects,” Love explains.
“The floors and walls of our studio are green,” he continues. “A person or multiple people can be put in that setting and then transposed into
a digital set during the editing phase. (The Greenworks Video Web site includes
a demonstration of how this works.) It’s a common technique. Your local TV weather forecaster is standing in front of a
uniformly green wall when reporting the weather. The maps and storm animations
are all electronically ‘matted’ to appear behind the reporter.” Greenworks uses that same technique. Part of their studio is pictured at left.
The pricing for this capability is less than what an agency would spend to
sponsor a hole at a golf tournament or buy a table for a dinner, Love says. “Those are single events where the agency might spend between $600 and $2,500,” he points out. “Do those events yield the same benefit as a video at the agency Web site that is
viewed by countless prospects?”
Bryan Costello says the “significant deal” that he won more than paid for the videos he created with Greenworks.
Agents don’t have to be their own spokespersons, Love says. “Greenworks has a stable of professional actors. Jim and Brian assist these
actors in looking and sounding like insurance professionals.”
Costello observes, “People come to independent agents because we’re professionals and we have knowledge in areas where they need assistance. CSI’s videos reflect that.”
In some cases, though, embedding great videos at the agency Web site needs to be
preceded by a Web site makeover. “Ninety percent of insurance agencies treat their Web site like the birth of a
child,” Love observes. “They spend nine months working on it and once it’s done, they don’t want to do it again for a while,” he says with a smile.
“I’ve been doing agency Web sites for 14 years,” he notes. “And during that time, I have looked at hundreds of agency sites. To a large
degree, agents aren’t clear on whom they want to communicate with at their site. Is it current
clients or is it prospects? Is it for personal lines? Commercial lines?
“Too often what ends up happening is that the site is an electronic version of a
corporate brochure that’s designed for everyone but focused on no one,” Love asserts. “When a consumer is looking at agency Web sites, they tend to look the same so
the consumer decides to go with whoever is cheapest because there’s no differentiator beyond that.”
Love offers Web design project management through his newly-formed company,
Cazador Associates, LLC. Although he describes Cazador as a sales training and
marketing consulting specialty firm, Love says once he and business partner
Patrick Fouche have worked with an agency on sales training, the usual next
step is to upgrade the agency Web site to complement the marketing plan that
was built around the sales approach the agency decided to take. “Cazador can help agencies decide who their site is speaking to,” he says.
For those agencies that are focused on mid-sized to large accounts, Love
recommends that they design their site or a section of their site strictly to
appeal to those prospects who may be checking them out. (Remember Bryan
Costello’s “significant deal”?) For those agencies, he says, “videos of customer testimonials would be good—talking about the work that the agency has done for larger complex accounts.”
Another benefit of having video at the Web site, Love says, is higher ranking by
search engines. “The current algorithms of search engines prefer videos and white papers when
“I act as a project manager to connect the agency with the best resources for
doing their Web site,” he explains. “My role might be to simply review the project design specs or I might do
everything from soup to nuts—conceptualizing the look and feel, hiring the graphic artist and programmer,
getting the new site launched, and then training the staff how to edit the site
That self-editing capability is a key piece of what Love says agents should
insist on when upgrading their Web site. “The primary self-editable software that people are shifting to is an open source
program called WordPress. Learning to use WordPress takes less than an hour. It’s as easy to learn as Microsoft Word or PowerPoint,” he maintains.
When researching potential Web site designers, agents should find out about the
designer’s experience with WordPress or other self-editable software, Love suggests. “At the very beginning of the project, agents should tell the designer they
absolutely want a site that they can edit themselves. That way the agency can
add or delete text or pages, update photos and the employee roster, even upload
Greenworks specializes in videos designed for the Web, Love points out. “We get the specs from the Web designer—the size window that the video will run in. Knowing that, we design the video
optimized for that size,” he says.
When scouting for graphic designers, Love says he uses 99designs.com or
elance.com. “These two are the leaders in aggregating thousands of freelancers and
independent companies around the world. I’ve been thrilled with the results I’ve received for the graphics design projects I’ve posted at these sites,” he says enthusiastically.
“I’m a fan of doing sites as inexpensively as possible and then building
interactive tools and creating videos to make the site friendly and inviting to
visitors,” he says.
Agencies can use videos to provide a “how-to” session for the site’s quoting or online application process, Love says. Videos can also be used to
educate visitors on why they need certain types of insurance or how the agency
handles certain services. Additionally, an agency spokesperson could share a
brief customer success story—perhaps how the agency helped the client improve their workers comp experience
using the agency’s proprietary safety training program.
“The growth of video on the Web is a societal trend, so the insurance industry
needs to get on board,” Love says. “Video-enabled Web sites have been off the launch pad for about five years and
insurance is trailing the trend. Agents don’t need to wait and see if this is going to work. It already is.”
Love says Greenworks Video plans on opening green screen studios across the
country. “Every vibrant city would benefit from having a low-cost, easy-to-use green
screen studio,” he maintains. “We’re going to do for Web video what Kinko’s did for color printing—make it easy and affordable for business people.”
For more information:
Costello and Sons Insurance (CSI)
Web site: www.costelloandsons.com
Greenworks Video, Inc.
Web site: www.greenworksvideo.com/
Cazador Associates, LLC
Web site: www.thegreatestbroker.com