If you’re an independent insurance agent, creating awareness and generating leads is the lifeblood of your business. While necessary, it’s no easy feat and can be extremely time-consuming. Even so, bringing in outside marketing help can seem daunting. It’s hard to know when and where to start. In this post, we’ll help you understand if it’s time to consider outsource marketing, what tasks to outsource and how to make your strategy effective.
Signs That It’s Time to Invest in Marketing
First, let’s go over some general signs that it’s time to invest in marketing. If any of these apply to you, don’t worry, you’re not alone. These are challenges that many small businesses face.
You don’t have a strong brand. Knowing what you stand for and the unique value you bring to your clients is key. “Businesses exist for a reason, and your insurance agency is no exception. You don’t just have the best service or the lowest prices. You have a story that makes people feel connected to your business,” suggest the team at American Agents Alliance.
Technology feels like the enemy. While the internet and mobile technology makes the lives of independent agents easier in many ways, many feel like it is a threat to their existence. Consumers have more tools at their fingertips than ever before, and it can feel like you’re being cut out of the process. An outside marketing vendor can help you embrace technology in order to keep up with the changing landscape. “By leveraging new technology, agencies can address persistent challenges and take advantage of new opportunities,” says Mike Furlong, CEO of Indio technologies, a software platform for commercial insurance brokers.
Competition is fierce. Independent insurance agents recognize the need to market themselves as simply the result of an increasingly competitive environment. “If you’re sure your competitors are doing something better than you, you need to respond and make some changes,” advises Jayleen R. Heft at Property Casualty 360. Marketing companies can help assess the competitive landscape, and gather intel about what others are doing. They’ll provide strategic advice on where you can go head-to-head, and where you’re better off forging your own path.
You’re unsure of what’s working. If you’re running marketing activities on your own, and not sure what (if anything) is working, it’s likely time to ask for help. “You need insights, you need analytics, you need metrics. Without these things you’re effectively marketing blind. It may not get you killed, but it could kill your business off pretty darn quick,” warns Owen Matson, Ph.D at MarketScale.
You don’t have a strategy. “Winning in a mature and crowded marketplace requires strategic clarity,” says Katie Butler at Independent Agent Magazine. Understanding who your target client is and what challenges drive their decision-making is critical. If you struggle with this, an outside marketing consultant can help paint a picture of who to target and how to deliver value to them.
Think Long-Term From The Start
Even if you’re not ready to start marketing just yet, the sooner you start thinking like a marketer, the better. Take note of the selling points that work, and also be aware of objections. Over time, you’ll have invaluable insights for a messaging framework.
Another strategy you can adopt right away is segmenting your client list. “In order to succeed in insurance marketing, smaller insurance agencies need to be able to hone in specifically on their target clientele,” says Wes Marsh, marketing director at business software solutions provider BCA Technologies.
The more information you collect, the easier it will be to effectively market to your audience in the future. How you gather this information will vary based on the tools you currently have. Even if you don’t have a website (you should), keeping track of customer email addresses and segmenting that list is a great place to start.
Keep in mind, segmentation doesn’t only involve demographics such as age, gender and class. “Segmentation…groups customers in relation to their attitudes, behaviours, motivations and barriers, providing much more effective and reliable insights,” explains Chris Cowen at Insurance Business Magazine.
Collecting this information from the start is much easier than scrambling to fill in the blanks later. As Insurance Technologies Corporation’s Becky Schroeder says: “It’s easy to think you have time before that special project becomes critical. That working in your business is more important this week than working on your business. But, if you wait to plant a tree until the day you need shade, you’ve waited too long.”
When to engage with a marketing vendor for your insurance business depends on your skillset, current tools and time constraints. If you’re having trouble organizing your customer relationships, investing in a CRM is a good first step.
Evaluate Your Digital Presence
Online visibility is increasingly important for small agencies. “Even the small firms and businesses can compete with the big ones on an equal footing with the help of the internet,” says digital business consultant Torkild Smith.
If you’ve been getting by with only a LinkedIn or Facebook page, it’s time to rethink your strategy. “We no longer live in a world where we as insurance agents can dictate the terms of communication with our prospects and clients. Highly effective insurance agents make themselves available, not when it is most convenient for themselves, but rather those they would meet with,” writes Ryan Hanley, founder of and chief strategist at Hanley Media.
And, the idea of being accessible is evolving. Your online presence plays a major role in connecting with your customers when and where they prefer. This includes on your website, through local business listings and social media channels. All of these platforms can be used to engage your prospects and generate leads.
It’s important to note that consistency across these platforms is key. For example, you’ll want to use the same logo or photo across each social platform. “Keeping your logo and color scheme consistent is an easy way to be more recognizable to prospects and clients,” explains Erin Letson at design blog Looka.
Consistency is also critical when it comes to local business listings. That means ensuring the information in each listing (your business name, address and phone number) is the same wherever it appears. Not only does this look more professional, it improves your presence in local searches making it easier for potential customers to find you.
Your Time is an Investment
Once your online presence is in order, content marketing is a highly effective way to drive people to your pages. “Put in the time and effort it takes to discover how people would most enjoy your content, and then deliver that content to them in that medium,” suggests LeadPops CEO Andrew Pawlak.
Some independent agents take the time to personally create content. However, many, if not most, will outsource it. When you’re trying to decide whether or not to outsource your marketing, always remember that your time is valuable.
As with all things marketing, calculate your return on investment. Will return exceed the cost of the marketing activity? The time you spend blogging is time you’re not spending in front of potential clients.
The same goes for other marketing-related tasks. “When you automate your marketing needs, you decrease your workload, increase your effectiveness, and generate more leads,” writes the team at Agency Revolution. When deciding whether or not to engage a marketing vendor, ask yourself if there’s someone who can do it better, faster or cheaper than you. If the answer is yes, you’re probably on the right track.
Strike a Balance Between Digital and Traditional
There’s no doubt that to be competitive, you need to be visible online. However, don’t ignore the tried and true marketing tactics, either. Referral marketing, networking, local event sponsorships and other traditional tactics are still very effective today.
“Insurance is a referral driven business, and it used to be that smaller, independent agents relied exclusively on that channel for new business. But today there are so many affordable ways for smaller businesses like local insurance agencies to market that it’s not only worth it – but essential – that you do some marketing,” says Scott Yoder at Marketing 360.
Also, remember that insurance is personal. It involves big life events, like a couple buying their first home, and worst case-scenarios, like accidents. It’s important to approach the entire subject, including all marketing efforts, with that personal touch in mind.
“In today’s tech-driven mortgage marketing world, connecting in person may sound a bit old-fashioned, and even difficult. But when it comes to building real relationships, there’s no substitute,” advises Taylor Landis at Outbound Engine.
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