Why your Web site is letting you down
Ask clients & prospects how they want to connect to you
By Adrian Holloway
Are you happy with your Web site? When I ask agency owners this question, I get mixed responses that fall mainly into three categories:
1. No, but we have not changed our Web site in years and need to ASAP and get more traffic.
2. No. We spent a lot of money and time on a recent redesign, but we are not getting the results we expected.
3. Well, we recently redesigned and we like the look of it; it's cool, but it doesn't seem to be working for us in terms of traffic.
The common theme among all of them is this—"We are not getting great results."
The history of agency Web sites
In the old days we thought, let's build it and they will come. Well, they didn't really come did they? So, we printed our Web site URL on all of our marketing materials and advertising. Some of them came, but not as many as we'd hoped.
So then we decided that we needed to hire an expensive search engine optimization specialist to get us to the top of the organic search results on Google—and then they will come for sure. So we did that—the SEO specialist redid much of the content, put up all the meta-tags, talked about onsite and offsite content and quality back linking, and even dressed up the Web site. We felt pretty good about our decision and waited with our fingers crossed.
Still the phone did not ring with people who found us online.
Finally, we purchased expensive paid ads (AdWords) and complained to the SEO specialist, who showed us some ranking reports where we were showing up at No. 3 for our main product. So why isn't the phone ringing?
Shouldn't a Web site, some SEO, paid advertising, and drip marketing be enough?
The insurance buyer—the all important consumer
A recent survey from Accenture (July 2011), polled 2,500 North American customers and found that:
1. Sixty-five percent plan to purchase insurance from a broker or agent in the next year.
2. Broken down by age group, 60% of 25-34-year-olds prefer contact by phone or e-mail.
3. Thirty percent will buy online.
4. Twenty-one percent will switch providers at renewal time.
If these results are any indication, consumers will research their choices before picking up the phone to make a personal lines purchase: home, auto, life or travel insurance purchase. The study is consistent with trends we have watched during the past decade.
But let's go one step further (a key foundation step) and try to identify your target demographic—not the demographic of your existing customers, although you should already have that handy, but the target demographic of your Web site prospect. Personal lines make a good starting example:
1. Age target—Boomer, X, or Y?
2. Gender target, if any.
3. Household income target.
Function over form
The landscape is peppered with examples of what works and what does not work. I am a firm believer in function over form (unless you are in the media, design or entertainment business). Let us examine some very successful examples of this truism.
• Google.com—As far as Web sites go, it doesn't get simpler than Google, and it's the best example of function over form. Enter your search term, hit go, get results. Google delivers exactly what users are looking for—no bells, no whistles and no other distractions. This is true of Google's other products as well, such as Google Analytics, Google Insights, etc. All of them function as you would expect and give you the information you expect to find—no flash animation, or some corny lady walking across the screen, or fancy images appearing and disappearing.
• Amazon.com—What a great example of achieving the company's goal of getting the consumer to buy with as few clicks as possible. Amazon is also living proof of the fact that consumers illustrate the path of innovation for businesses.
• Bershirehathaway.com—Perhaps the most interesting example, this Web site has not changed in more than a decade. In fact, it really is a simple page with bland links to investor information and properties.
The bottom line? Give readers what they want in the shortest possible time, and do it well, consistently. When it comes to the serious business of insurance, anything other than helping your clients or prospects find what they need is a distraction.
The independent relationship
An independent agent invests in relationships. So does his or her client. Why do clients continue to use independent insurance agencies for such products as auto insurance when they could just as easily go to direct writers? Because they want an advisory relationship with you. They might window-shop online but would prefer to talk to someone before they make a decision. The exception category might be the Gen Y monoline auto prospect.
Why then is your personal lines client attrition getting worse? If you survey your clients, you will find that the reason they leave can almost always be traced to the fact that one or both of you stopped investing in the relationship. Your ex-client no longer saw you as a credible and trustworthy expert and/or no longer thought you were available when they needed you most.
A Web site alone will not fix this, nor will SEO. Social media can help to a great extent, but the single most important change you can make is to re-invest in your relationships. This doesn't mean that you get in your car and meet every renewal client. Instead, it means that you need to connect with your clients in the ways they prefer to connect with you—phone, in person, fax, social media, e-mail, local events, giveaways, and so on.
Have you asked your clients and prospects how they would prefer to stay connected with you? And most important, does your Web site reflect this as an imperative objective for your agency? Does your Web site reinforce this urgency to your clients and prospects, in plain language and with the applicable response mechanisms displayed prominently? When you can answer these questions in the affirmative, you will go a long way toward employing your Web site powerfully: as a vital component of your overall outreach efforts.
The mobile factor
According to a recent (June 2011) research report from Flurry, where 85,000 participants were surveyed, consumers spend more time online via mobile apps than they do on traditional desktop/laptop and mobile Web platforms. The average user surveyed spends 81 minutes per day on his or her mobile device and around 74 minutes on the Web by other means. That's 10% more device time than traditional Web time. Of all this time spent on their devices, users spent about 47% playing games and 32% using mobile social network apps such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. These users also spent 10% of their mobile time reading news content.
Flurry also found that 14 of the 74 minutes (of traditional browsing) are spent on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. The trend is clear. Mobile usage is growing rapidly, about a 91% uptick since 2010, and trending toward more substantial content than just games and entertainment. People are getting serious about using their cell phones for social networking, and for connecting with people and businesses.
Is your Web site mobile ready?
Hubspot.com's 2010 Inbound Marketing Study found that 71% of Internet users read blogs. Ideally, your agency blog should be a part of your Web site (integrated). Your blog projects the personality of your agency, and it should be updated regularly. By nature of the frequency of updates, blogs rank higher than static Web site pages. If you do not have a blogging strategy, you are reducing your chances for success.
Customer reviews & testimonials
Nielson Online and similar studies report that 81% of all consumers read reviews before making buying decisions. This is perhaps the most important trend today. People are taking reviews and references very seriously, as information is more freely available.
The plain old testimonial is not enough anymore. You need a section on your Web site that is dedicated to testimonials. The simplest way to do this is to use Google Local or Yahoo Local Business Reviews.
A word of caution: You could possibly get a negative review together with the positive reviews. Be prepared to handle them in a professional manner and to resolve the reviewer's issues. Often, when you resolve their issues satisfactorily, they will change their review from a negative to a positive one and become an enthusiastic advocate for you.
Examine the role that your Web site plays in your agency's overall marketing strategy, with key mission-related questions that should help to remove any barriers between your agency and its audience. Remember: Your Web site is not the relationship. It is a two-way communication hub that helps you—and your clients and prospects—to grow and maintain the relationship.
Adrian Holloway is president & CEO of INSOMIS Corp, parent company of CompleteMarkets.com, Insurance Marketing & Management Services, and MVP Insurance Marketing, Inc.