The greatest growth opportunity since the telephone
Create a bulletproof Internet marketing plan
By Tim Sawyer
Is there anyone left in the agency world who does not believe that the Internet has dramatically changed the way the modern consumer chooses a service provider?
Is there anyone who believes that this trend will reverse and Internet usage will diminish?
To most agents these are silly questions. The real question is: “How can agents take advantage of the greatest growth opportunity since the invention of the telephone?”
Walk the walk
First, there must be real conviction within the agency that this is a viable source of business. For agencies to be successful, there must be strong leadership driving the effort. Phrases such as “Let’s give this a try” or “Let’s see what happens” will lead to resistance from team members and ultimate failure.
Agency principals must ask themselves, “Do we really believe?”
Perhaps the bigger question is: “Why wouldn’t you?” Statistics indicate that 80% of consumers use the Internet to research insurance. If that’s the case, is your agency spending 80% of its marketing resources, or even 20%, trying to capture this segment of the market?
If not, why not? And when do you think it would be a good time to start?
The challenge is to clearly determine what the agency is trying to accomplish with its Internet marketing efforts. This is where it becomes difficult. Most agencies lack specific goals. To be effective, the strategy must be very specific, in crystal-clear terms, by department and by individual employee.
Most important, WHO is ultimately responsible for the strategy and WHAT will be measured to determine the effectiveness?
The greatest business concept
Think of your marketing efforts in terms of find, sell and keep.
Find: How can we increase the quantity and quality of targeted consumers to our Web site and phones?
Sell: How do we put systems and strategies in place to increase the conversion of that traffic into actual policy holders?
Keep: How do we automate the right marketing messages at the right time to increase retention and customer satisfaction?
Some of the fastest growing agents in the country have discovered how to improve their business in each of these critical areas.
To find more customers, they use a blended strategy of:
•Organic optimization (improving your visibility on all major search engines)
•Targeted pay per click (PPC) campaigns (buying the right key phrases that are known to convert into a sales opportunity at a lower cost)
•Buying third-party leads (to supplement their growth)
•E-mail marketing (to both existing customers and targeted prospect lists)
•Automated voice broadcasts
•Niche direct mail
In order to sell more customers they use:
•Automated response messaging
•Automated follow-up marketing
•Phone scripts and sales guides
•An increase in focus on creating a world-class sales culture
To keep these customers, they utilize technology to send routine correspondence, birthday notifications, monthly newsletters and, more important, to send the right marketing message at just the right time to cross-sell products based on the customer’s needs.
Will Penny of Penny Insurance, Hendersonville, North Carolina, utilizes PPC advertising to attract small business clients from more than 500 miles away. Will is not afraid to market outside the agency’s immediate area, and the company loves working with motivated online consumers. With a conversion rate in excess of 70%, the agency has written more than 40 new policies in less than 90 days.
Steve Lewis, owner of Security First Insurance in Winter Springs, Florida, is a perfect example of an agent who knows how to use technology to his advantage. He recently received notification from his largest carrier that he had a year-over-year increase in retention of 1%. Given the housing market and the overall economy in Florida, this is a huge victory for Steve. He credits his success to the automated marketing messages he used to keep him in front of his clients.
To achieve real organic growth in 2010, agents must adjust their marketing strategies to meet the growing demands of modern consumers. Market expertise, community involvement and a strong referral base will never be replaced by technology or the Internet. That said, some of the fastest growing agents in the country know they must have a bulletproof plan to capitalize on this segment of the market.
So, if the consensus is that 80% of consumers use the Internet to do research before selecting a provider, shouldn’t your agency adjust its marketing strategy to take advantage of the greatest opportunity since the invention of the telephone?
Your agency team members must know: This is necessary for the agency to grow. This is a long-term strategy. Non-compliance is NOT an option. Explain the vision, let them know they play an important role in achieving the vision and you need their buy-in. Period.
Agency principals all over the country are falling back in love with their businesses. Why? This is the most exciting opportunity in their lifetime. They see the potential. They know there are real challenges, but they also know the juice is worth the squeeze. When insurance professionals look back on this period in history, the impact of the personal computer will be discussed in the same terms as was the impact of the telephone. The legends will abound with stories of wildly successful agencies whose owners saw the opportunity, jumped in with both feet, refused to accept failure, and forever changed the destiny of their businesses. n
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.