Independent agents face some stiff competition. The Statista team reports that there were nearly 1.1 million agents, brokers and service employees in the US alone in 2016. And that number will only continue to grow.
One of the best ways to stand out in a competitive market is to create a strong personal brand. Without it, you’re more like white noise to your average customer, and they’ll simply tune you out, Jayson DeMers, founder and CEO of internet marketing company AudienceBloom explains.
A big part of achieving strong brand recognition is gaining consistent exposure. Kathi Kruse of Kruse Control Inc notes the old rule of thumb that it takes an absolute minimum of seven brand impressions before consumers will remember your company. In these days of information overload and social media, however, you’re better off with even more.
This requires a comprehensive approach that encompasses in person, online as well as print strategies.
Defining Your Brand
Creating a brand identity is necessary before you can do anything else. Core components include your company logo, voice, values and personality, marketing strategist Laura Lake writes. The specific types of insurance you offer, your target audience and company mission will also determine your brand identity, she adds.
The team at design agency Emerson Stone say you’ll need a clear understanding of the problems you help customers solve and why they prefer you over the competition. Another strategy is to ask your employees which five characteristics they would use to describe your brand.
This is a quick way to figure out what makes you unique so that you’ll know which angle to take. From there, it’s all about promoting your brand across a variety of channels.
Here are some specific ideas.
Offline strategies are instrumental to brand building, and one of the best is networking.
Making in-person connections is still incredibly valuable and inspires prospects to learn more about you, Elizabeth Harr, partner at branding and marketing firm Hinge writes. And while this is important for most industries, it’s absolutely vital for independent agents where relationships are integral to their success and longevity.
Harr also says that joining local associations and organizations is one of the most efficient ways to go about this. It allows you to get your name out there, be seen in your community and find opportunities to connect.
Besides the immediate leads that you get, you are opening the door for referrals. Some 2.4 billion brand-related conversations take place in the US every day, Grace Miller at customer marketing platform Annex Cloud writes. You can get in on the action by developing meaningful relationships, which should help grow your business and expand your brand.
Another strategy she recommends is speaking at local events. This puts you in front of a audience interested in what you have to say and can help you quickly build credibility and authority — two things that are highly valuable to an independent agent.
In addition to the long-term benefits, the Egg Marketing team makes the point that speaking at various conferences can generate instant leads. By revealing the face behind your brand, it puts you in a position to connect with potential customers in need of your services. So making the transition from speaker to trusted insurance advisor is a relatively small leap.
A robust content campaign is a good place to start. Marketing advisory firm Demand Metric says internet users spend 20 percent of their time absorbing content, and 80 percent enjoy learning about a company through custom content.
Creating different types of content across multiple platforms can help you attract leads and gives you a chance to gradually nurture them. The best part is that this allows you to naturally work in the core components that define your brand, so prospects really get to know you.
Kevin Kononenko at business analytics platform Databox lists some of the top content formats as blogging, video, email newsletters, ebooks, case studies, infographics and webinars. The biggest trend this year is video marketing, with 71 percent of the marketers they asked reporting they’d be investing more in that format.
Whatever method you use, however, you’ll need to ensure that your content really hits its mark: You’ll want it to be personalized and cater to the unique needs of your customers.
Product marketing specialist Dillon Baker talks about the significance of personalization and how it can provide brands with an edge over the competition. He references an article by Heather Pemberton Levy at research and advisory company Gartner, which states that companies that have fully invested in personalized content will outsell competitors by 20 percent by the end of 2018 — a massive margin.
In terms of specific strategies, brand strategist Justin deMontigny highlights five of the most potent in Stratabeat. These include targeting:
- Segments of your customer base.
- Specific personas.
- Customers at various stages of the sales funnel.
- Specific accounts (focusing on a particular organization).
- Individual leads (going after a single person).
Once you know precisely who you’re targeting, you can create custom content variations for them. In turn, you can expect more engagement and higher conversions.
The next step is establishing a solid presence on social media. The willingness to buy from a brand increases for 71 percent of people when they follow that brand on social media, digital marketing specialist Eric Hammis reports.
So being active on popular networks can be immensely helpful from a branding standpoint. In terms of the networks that most deserve your attention, some of social media strategist Saige Driver’s top recommendations include Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube and LinkedIn. All have large user bases and significant engagement.
Digital marketing intern Arielle Kimbarovsky makes a great point at Crowdspring saying that you want to try your best to use the same name across various platforms. This creates a sense of homogeneity and makes it easier for prospects to recognize your brand.
Finally, there’s SEO.
A staggering 93 percent of digital experiences start with a search engine, Pat Ahern, director of traffic generation at Junto writes, and 81 percent of consumers perform online research prior to making a large purchase.
So it makes sense that independent agents will want to increase their visibility in search engines. Consultant and digital marketing strategist Jasmine Sandler explains that analyzing the way your top competitors are using search marketing is a good way to begin. You should look for the keywords are they ranking for, their ranking position and where they are getting their links from.
These are good questions to ask and can provide you with direction for your strategy. An excellent tool for quickly finding this information is SEMrush. You simply enter a competitor’s URL, and it will provide you with all the information you need.
Victorino Q. Abrugar, marketing strategist and president of digital marketing company Optixor, also provides some practical tips to maximize your search engine visibility. Here are some techniques he suggests include:
- Make your site mobile friendly.
- Target geographical-based longtail keywords for your content (e.g. “independent insurance agents in Miami Florida”).
- Write in-depth, longform content (SEO expert Brian Dean at Backlinko found that the word count of the average first page result in Google was 1,890 words).
- Guest post on highly authoritative sites in the insurance industry.
Although print may seem antiquated to some, it can still have a tremendous impact on your branding efforts. And since being in as many places as possible is the name of the game, this is yet another way to make yourself more recognizable.
There are two main ways to take advantage of print.
One is to get featured in local publications that are likely to be seen by potential customers. This could be a newspaper, magazine or trade journal. Digital marketing consultant Daniel Threlfall suggests identifying local newspapers by city and even neighborhoods, and then finding the journalists who write for them. You can usually find their contact information either on the website or by searching for them on LinkedIn.
The other option is to write articles for local publications where you provide your expertise on insurance related topics. For instance, you might give tips on how to find the right coverage and key criteria to look for. To do this, follow the same process, but contact key individuals within the editorial department, and pitch them your ideas.
What’s interesting is that this not only provides you with valuable offline exposure, but can help you online as well. SEO expert and Moz cofounder Rand Fishkin explains that raising awareness offline can increase the number of branded searches you receive — something that can ultimately improve your search engine visibility.