Creating Web content for larger accounts
How to make your Web site a member of your team
By John Love, CPCU
I was asked a really smart question today by an experienced, successful commercial P-C producer: "How do I change my sales approach to make use of our new Web site?" We had developed videos and content for the agency's Web site targeted at middle market and larger accounts, and this producer wanted to evolve his prospecting and sales style.
I think most agencies in the United States will redo their Web sites over the next three years in order to evolve them and take advantage of new technologies. Most agents are asking: "How do I design my site to appeal to personal lines, small commercial, benefits, and large commercial accounts?"
That is a challenge indeed.
Now think about the fact that most producers are focused on, and perhaps only paid for, commercial accounts paying $25,000 or more in premium. For many agencies, the minimum is $5,000 or $10,000 in commission. A Web site focused on personal lines and small commercial does little to support producers in these agencies.
Are the buyers at larger commercial accounts initiating their search for a new agent via a search engine such as Google? Is the CFO at a $100 million annual revenue manufacturing company using Yahoo to find his next agent? Well, no—at least, not yet.
Here's why: The larger the account, the more of a "target" it is for multiple insurance agencies. The buyer is being called, e-mailed, and snail-mailed by 10 to 20 agencies on a monthly basis. Now consider that annually only about 15% of these accounts (mid-to-large commercial P-C or benefits prospects) are switching agents.
Buyers reveal that they consider switching agents either because of a mistake the incumbent made or because of a truly compelling offer or proposition made by a prospective new agent. In fact, most of buyers' meetings with new agents come through an introduction where the buyer is doing a favor for a respected colleague by agreeing to see a producer.
In other words, the existing ecosystem for the types of accounts your agency probably wants to write more of does not require the buyers to initiate their own searches on the Internet. They are, in fact, somewhat overwhelmed by the number of agencies calling them and are not inclined to switch anyway (remember, 85% stay put every year).
At this point, these buyers cannot have a meaningful shopping experience on the Web anyway in terms of getting real-time price quotes. Agencies and carriers are falling all over themselves to develop customer-facing quoting platforms, but the CFO of that manufacturing company cannot get multi-lines quotes today, so he has less incentive to do that type of shopping online. He has never met a peer who said: "I'm so happy; I just bought all my insurance for the next year online," so he has little inclination to think that way—yet.
How will your Web site affect buyers at larger accounts? In two ways, and both are very important to your plans for the next 36 months:
1. Prospects will visit your agency's Web site after you have marketed to them five to seven times and asked for appointments. If you have delivered some enticing value propositions, I would venture to say that the majority of buyers will check your agency's Web site first before responding.
2. When deciding whether to accept the appointment, or perhaps after meeting with you the first time, it is increasingly likely that the buyer will check your social network and look for ratings and comments about you and your agency.
What this means for you is that you have to work on your Web site to provide compelling content such as video testimonials from clients, benchmarking, white papers, interactive tools (e.g., "What coverage do I need?"), and examples of your success stories and great work. Your site needs to be a member of your team. Just as you would take with you on an appointment another associate who has expertise, your site must complement and reinforce your message.
Your message needs to be reconsidered too. If you sell like this: "I will be your out-sourced risk manager," then your site needs to reflect that. General text about your agency's insurance expertise doesn't really cut it, does it? You have to develop examples in multiple media formats so the buyer can visit your site and learn based on his or her preferred style from the examples you give.
You also have a narrowing window in which to build your social networking relationships, accumulate a history of posting content, and earn ratings from social sites. You want to build momentum now for expanding your connections and the people who "like" or "friend" you so that you don't have to work harder later to make up lost ground.
At Cazador Associates, we do not believe your agency is in grave danger today from the Internet. It won't put your agency out of business tomorrow. You are already successful because you have technical competence in insurance, and a good attitude with your clients. However, your Web site truly can become a successful producer—and make your human sales force more productive.
The issue then is: What is your plan for developing a new look for your site, one that integrates with your agency's selling style for mid-to-large accounts? How will you outsource the development of content, or will you assign it to members of your team?
Unfortunately, producers spend little time on their agency Web site and are frequently not aware of everything that has been added (assuming you are active in adding new content). I suggest you display and review your agency's Web site at every sales meeting and make sure producers are sending e-mails to their prospects with links to new content on the site. The best practice is that their marketing activities can be more frequent because the Web site is giving them a reason to contact prospects by e-mail, print mail, or phone calls.
Short and sweet
Client testimonials are gold on an agency Web site and usually become one of the most visited features. But these need to be produced and edited for brevity and energy. I recently watched a seven-minute video on an agency's Web site and, while the production quality was high and the clients said some good things, it all got lost in the length and low overall energy of the video. The agency spent over $6,000 on something that virtually no one is watching all the way through.
If you think attention spans are getting shorter, just wait—most corporate Web videos will need to be less than 90 seconds.
An effective sales tool will be to e-mail a prospect with a simple message such as: "We just posted a client testimonial from Jay Smith of Smith Co., and I thought you might be interested in what he had to say about the impact of our approach to enterprise risk management." Add the link to the video and—presto!—you have a prospect moving another step down the sales funnel.
Now take the above scenario a step further. When that prospect goes to your Web site to watch the (short) testimonial video, he or she sees next to the video a message such as: "Want to benchmark your insurance program against your peers? Use this tool to download an exclusive report."
Larger account prospects want to know who is buying from you that they respect; see examples of your work—especially anything unique to your agency—and value-added tools that demonstrate how you are different and better. Once you have begun developing this compelling content for your Web site you can, and will, change your sales approach because you have something "cool" to get their attention and move them down the sales process.
John Love, CPCU, is president of Cazador Associates, which creates Web sites, videos and other forms of Web content for insurance organizations. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or comments. John has been a producer and agency principal for more than 20 years and serves as executive director of www.techassure.com.