Warm up those fingers . It's time to blog
Topics can include answers to everyday questions from clients
By Tim Sawyer
The resources used by consumers to research products before they make a purchase are constantly changing. It started with advertisements and catalogues and progressed to Web sites and online reviews.
Now blogs are becoming a popular resource for modern consumers to get the scoop. More than 345 million people view more than 2.5 billion blog posts each month on Wordpress.com alone.
As an agency owner, no doubt you jumped on social media and e-mail marketing when you realized you could easily reach consumers and close deals. But have you been blogging?
Your potential clients aren't just reading blogs to be entertained. They're using them as informative news sources, providers of advice, and educational resources in the buying process.
If you're not claiming a piece of the blogosphere for your agency, you're missing an opportunity to reach potential buyers in the sales process, build brand exposure, and please the search engine gods.
What's in it for me?
Are you trying desperately to convey the essence of your brand in 140 characters or less on Twitter? There's not enough space or audience attention span on social media sites to talk about all your products, amazing staff, and involvement in community events.
A blog gives you the unique opportunity to expand on the message you're trying to send through your social media outlets. Think of a blog as an extension of your brand and an opportunity to become the local insurance expert.
Unlike social media, you can use a blog to vividly paint a picture of your agency and how you run your business. Write whatever you want, as much as you want, and about what you want. Just be sure to reinforce the consistent brand you've created on other online outlets.
Develop a giant audience that consists of both your social media followers and Web site visitors by sharing blog post links on your social media sites. Make it easy for your readers to “Share” your blog entries on their social media sites as well. Direct your blog reading audience to your social media sites and cross-generate a following for all online avenues.
If you've ever dipped your toes into the online marketing pool, you know how important search engine optimization is for your agency's online success. If no one can find you, no one can buy from you.
Use your blog to sneak in a few key words and possibly increase your search engine ranking.
Google's latest Penguin update sent a clear message that the search engine giant is looking only for valuable and relevant content. The update penalized many business Web sites that were obviously keyword stuffing and focusing on sales and ranking instead of providing useful information.
Blog entries that are designed to inform, educate, and distinguish your agency and brand will help your ranking and put you in Google's good graces.
If you keep your blog informative and consistent with your online brand, you'll achieve a greater following, create another medium to express your agency's voice, and enjoy a higher search engine ranking.
Go blog about it
Now that you know the many benefits of creating a blog, you're probably amped to get writing. But wait a minute—who wants to read a blog about insurance? Probably not a lot of people. That's why agents who are successful with their blogging efforts focus on relating to readers, not selling more business.
As with social media and your Web site, your blog needs to be all about the audience. Engage your readers by giving them what they want.
People read blogs to get reliable, relevant information, about something or someone. If people are visiting your blog, it's because they want to know about insurance, your agency, and how you do business. So tell them.
Think about the frequent questions you receive from prospects and clients. Highlight them in your blog posts and offer detailed and informative answers for readers. Teach about insurance on a level that engages your audience. Use everyday examples that your readers will relate to, understand, and enjoy reading.
If you focus on pitching a sale, you will watch your subscriber rate diminish quickly. To sell without selling, focus on the attributes of your agency that directly benefit the reader.
Consider occasionally posting interviews with individual staff members about their daily tasks, education, and advice. This shows that your staff members know insurance and are accountable without actually preaching to readers.
Blogs have become the new research resource because they're informative yet fun to read. Reading a personalized blog entry beats reading a long, dry white paper any day. Make your blog enjoyable to read and your readers will keep coming back to learn more about insurance, your agency, and how you can help them.
Think about jazzing up that block of text with photos, stories, contests, or infographics. You might also consider using video or audio on your blog as a fun new way for readers to get information.
If you want to add immeasurable value to your agency's digital marketing strategy, start that first blog entry today. Coordinate your blog with your Web site and social media sites to maximize the impact of your digital marketing. But, if you enhance your other online marketing outlets with a blog that provides relevant content and a consistent voice for your agency, you'll snag more readers, visitors, and social media followers.
Adding a blog to your online presence gives you another medium to express your agency's brand and ethics. Your online audience will feel closer to your business and will get more involved in your social media efforts if you create a blog that they can relate to and enjoy reading.
So go ahead and start your agency's blog . . . write away!
Tim Sawyer is president of Astonish Results, a digital marketing firm based in Rhode Island. He has trained hundreds of insurance professionals in every aspect of the business with a focus on leadership, digital marketing, and best sales practices.