Business Blogging that Actually Gets You Business

Does your business have an active blog?

There are only two reasons to blog.  Create valuable content for your customers or attract more customers to your agency.

Let’s talk about attracting customers to your agency.  The way content attracts people to your agency site is primarily through SEO or Social Media marketing.

Here’s the bad news blogging about auto and home insurance info. It won’t help your SEO.  Trying to compete with Progressive and Geico online around the keywords “auto insurance” is difficult.

You can compete locally for terms like “auto” & “home” insurance and win, but you will need become an SEO expert or willing to spend money on someone to do it for you.  They exist, and surprisingly you can win this way.  The negative with SEO is that it is harder to target the demographics you want.  SEO on terms like auto and home cast a wide net having pull into fish you don’t want.  You’ll capture good customers, but there will be a lot you will throw back.

If you want to dominate your insurance market through SEO, there are topics that will help you win.

So what should you blog about that will attract attention to your business?

  1. Think Niche.  What are the items your agency has specialized in?  Boats, Motorcycles, Rental Property, Restaurants, Convenient Stores, Niche Manufacturers.  Think about the questions customers ask you.
  2. Think Local.  No matter what you write about.  Localize it.  Identify your geographic business area and include that in your content.  It might be the city you live in.  It might be the region you target for a commercial niche.

Here are some ideas:

1.Specialty Lines.  Granted you won’t make much money selling $200 cycle policies, but the customer traffic this segment can drive to your agency can be huge.  You won’t only sell a motorcycle policy, you will ask about home, auto, umbrella, etc.  Boats, Motorcycles, Classic Cars fit this niche.  Write about local clubs or festivals and share socially and you will get traffic.

2. Rental Property.  The average property investors think they know property insurance, but they don’t.  There are multiple ways they leave themselves exposed.  Think of all those conversations you’ve had with friends and relatives that have a rental property or two.  There is no way they are fully protected.  For many, property investment is their retirement, and they exposing that nest egg.  You can get very local here.  I guarantee there are parts of your city or region that are prime area for investors.  Identifying those areas and the potential risks are beneficial to all your customers.

3. Jewelry.  Save this for those special times of years, like Valentines and Christmas.  Most people don’t have enough coverage for their jewelry or other items. Partner up with a local jeweler and use them to help write the article.  The joint effort will help SEO if you link each other and both share socially.

4. Umbrellas.  No one understands this.  Talk about what it covers and why people need it.  Use humor, don’t get stuck in the insurance weeds.  Give people just enough info to understand it and need it.

5. Commercial Niches.  If one of these items has more potential than the other, this is it.  No one does this.  Try this: Google the handful of niches you insure or know a little about.  You will not find many articles out there helping those business understand their insurance needs.  If you do, they won’t be in your market.  No one does this.  Using this topic to write, creates more opportunity than just  SEO power for your site.  You can use this content with associations and trade organizations.

One agent I work with reached out to an association in a niche she writes business.  She asked if they ever needed content for their own site or newsletter.  They said yes.  She wrote a couple articles about insurance and their business.  The association published it and not only linked back to the agent’s site, but provided their phone number and email.  Instant authority.  Instant credibility.  Instant leads

So how do you do this?

Think of all the questions customers ask you in these niches.  Think about all the gaps you’ve surprised people in discovering.  Those are your topics.  

Create articles around these topics using keywords you research through Google Keyword Tool.  Look for the ways customers search on their topics and the way they ask questions.  Those phrases need to be part of your titles and peppered inside your writing.  

If you need content, your companies probably have a handful of articles they don’t mind you taking and editing.

Warning.  You will sit down to write, especially if you are new and you will doubt.   You will see yourself as an imposter.  You are.  But don’t worry about it.  You know more than your clients.  In fact, you know a lot.  If all you’ve done in this business is taken your insurance class and exam, you know more than 90% of the world about insurance.  You don’t have to be an expert, just be helpful.

Think like a customer and what will help them in their life and business.  Use that info to generate localized content.  Make it shareable, and you will start seeing more opportunities to spread your agency’s message to your market.

Be Productive,

Theron Mathis

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Should You Use Internet Sales Leads?

Internet Leads are a valuable tool for Personal Lines Growth, but not for everyone.    Read on and learn why you should consider adding them to your marketing toolkit.

What are Internet Leads?

internet leads

By Internet leads, I mean purchased leads, not leads generated by your online marketing, whether that be through SEO, Email Marketing, Social Media, etc.

There are several companies in the market that sell Internet leads.  NetQuote is the granddaddy of them all, but over time more and more competitors have entered the field of play.

Here’s how they work.  A customer clicks on a link for a quote.  Rarely, are these quoting engines but information gathering tools.  In a sense they are click-bait, gathering data that can be distributed to multiple companies and other lead aggregators.  Those leads are then sold back out to agents and companies.

To get a sense of how they work and what kind of information they collect, you should run an experiment and try it yourself.

I did.

After seeing a ridiculous amount of commercials for the General, Mr. Shaquille Oneal convinced me to go online and get a quote with them.  I was pretty sure the General did not write in my state, so I wanted to see what would happen.

I entered all my information, and was told they couldn’t quote me.  They mentioned they had other companies who could give me a rate.  I accepted, and within minutes, I got an email from an Insurance company providing a quote.  Then within 30 minutes, I received a phone call from an agent trying to sell me a policy.  I was honest with the agent and explained what I was doing.  We talked a couple minutes about his business, and I wished him luck.

Over the next couple months, I received multiple emails and a couple more phone calls from other agents and companies soliciting my business.

Who should use them?

Buying Internet Leads are not for everyone.  However, if you’ve never used them, it might be worth a 30 day experiment.  Make sure you have the capacity to handle the activity they could generate.

If you are a new agency, without good lead flow, they a great tool to add to your marketing.  If you have new producers in your agency, and you are trying to generate activity for them, they work.  My experience with agencies that have been successful with them is that they are temporary.  Some use them to kickstart production and activity, and others use them seasonally.  When other marketing efforts are not bringing opportunities, they can prime the sales pump.  They are also good for sales training.  It’s easy to use them to help a new producer learn to communicate and sell over the phone.  Also it helps them create followup systems for future sales.

8 Tips For Using Internet Leads

1. Don’t be cheap.  Be willing to spend as much money as your budget allows.  Lead quality is in direct proportion to how much you spend.  Cheap leads are usually dead or poor quality customers.  The quickest way to find out how much to spend is to determine how much a customer is worth to you.  This will give you your maximum amount you want to spend on the lead.  For example, let’s say a customer is worth $100 to you.  Assume you will close 10% of the leads coming into the agency.  The max amount you would spend would be $10 per lead.

2. Target Leads.  Choose your demographic as specific as possible.  Most companies allow you multiple options for demographic choice, such as zip, age, income, etc.  It all depends on your market and what you are looking for.  The agent I know that uses them best will only buy home leads.  His theory is that if they have a home they have a car, and he plans on cross-selling.  This way he is paying for one lead but gets two.

3. Make someone responsible.  Someone in the agency needs to own the leads.  If not, they fall through the cracks.  They get ignored, and not pursued with enthusiasm.  Also if you have one person managing and responding to the leads it becomes much easier to track results.

4. Respond Quickly.  If there is a golden rule to internet leads, this is it.  You must respond quickly, instantaneously, lightning fast, no hesitation, drop everything else.  If you can’t do it, don’t buy them.  Remember, you aren’t the only one getting the leads.  Multiple agents and company call centers are getting the leads.  The most responsive wins over the most competitive.  If you get in first you have a huge advantage.  If you wait too long, the customer could have purchased or become disinterested.  These leads could come at anytime including evenings and weekends.  You must respond.

5. Sell It.  When you call you are not just selling your rate, you are selling yourself.  If you are an independent agent, there is a good chance one of your carriers is more competitive than the price the customer has today.  The fact they are shopping is a good indication that something is wrong.  The advantage the captive writer has is the ability quote the person on the phone and give them a rate on the spot.  Only having one company makes this easy.

With comparative raters, an independent can do this as well.  You may not be 100% accurate, but no one is in the beginning.  Don’t worry about it, do your best.  There are reports to be ran and more questions to ask.  The goal here is to sell your agency.

Again you are not the only call they are going to get.  Use this to your advantage, especially if you responded quickly and are the first to quote.

Somewhere in your call with the customer use a script like this:

“When you entered your info online, it got sent to multiple agents that will probably starting calling you, so be prepared.  Here’s what I can do for you.  I will do the shopping for you and quote you through X number of companies.  When they call, let them know you already had someone do the work for you.”

I learned this from an agent friend. This tactic immediately increased his close rate.

6. Create Loyalty.  Congrats!  You converted the lead to a customer.  Warning! Internet customers typically are a greater danger for leaving you at renewal.  You didn’t get them through a relationship.  They may not want one.  You are a just a transaction for them.  You have to change that.  These are customers you need to touch a lot during their first renewal.  Send thank you notes, birthday cards, holiday cards, etc.  Make sure they are getting emails from regularly that first year.  Make them feel a part of your agency family.  No matter how you do it, whether through calls, mail, email, social media, etc; make sure to touch them multiple times that first year.

7. Follow-Up.  You didn’t sell it, but don’t let the lead die.  Two things have probably happened.  You didn’t reach the customer or didn’t sell it.

Call them 7 times before you give up.  Send an email or postcard if you never made contact.  If you have their xdate, put them in your followup system to contact before their next renewal.

If you didn’t convert them, do the same.  Put them in your followup, and don’t give up until they buy or tell you to leave them alone.

8. Track Results.  Like your other marketing activities, you must track it.  This is the only way you will know if you are getting your money’s worth.  Are you making more than you are spending?  Are you losing money on them?  Are you breaking even?  Do you have one salesperson doing better with them than another?  Does one vendor have better quality leads than another?  It’s tedious, but you will be much more effective with your marketing time and dollars.

If you’ve used internet leads before, what’s your experience?

Be Productive,

Theron

Need More?

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter.  It will give you up to date content as well as tips on how to grow your business.  You will get the first look at new ebooks I am working on.

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8 Ways to Market to Realtors & Lenders

Marketing for personal lines has become increasingly harder over the years.

Customers squashed telemarketing sales.  Fewer people have land lines, so it is harder to find a person’s number.  Many go unlisted, and this makes them hidden.  Many people will just not answer the phone if they don’t recognize the number.

Door to door is really not cost effective because of the return on investment.

Direct-mail still works, but you need to a lot of it, as well as time and money to get your copy just right.

Email marketing is amazing, but for it to work without becoming a spammer, you have to capture emails from current customers, prospects, and potential lead sources.

One method that has a low barrier to entry, but can generate almost instant returns is marketing to lenders and realtors.

When a customer buys a home, he is more likely to allow his insurance to be shopped.  To find and interact with those customers, you have to get to those involved in the transaction.

Realtors and lenders are the perfect people to insert you into that transaction.

This is not a secret anymore.  I would bet these businesses sees more insurance agents today than they did 10 years ago.

It’s not impossible to stand out among this lead-source, but it takes a little more thought and strategy than it used to.

1. Think like a glass rep.  Every week your agency gets 1 or more glass reps soliciting business from you.  I am sure there are a couple of these vendors that you really use, and encourage your customers to use.  But why?  Why are there some vendors that you use and others you don’t?  Think through this question.  It will help you develop a strategy to improve your own marketing with realtors and lenders. The good ones are consistent marketers.  Someone in your office needs to be that person.   Print out a 5 mile radius map of your agency and all the realtor and lending offices within that scope.  List them out, then make a plan to consistently visit these offices.

For example, maybe you can only spare one day a week to this type of marketing.  Grab you list, start from the top, and start visiting.  See as many as possible in the time you allotted yourself.  Check each off, and make notes.  Next week pick up where you left off and do the same.  Eventually you will get to the bottom of your list.  Maybe it will take you a month or two, but once you reach the bottom start over.

Being a consistent face and voice in their business will help you understand them, and allow them to be comfortable with you.  I guarantee that many of your competitors make one or two visits, then quit, when no business starts flowing.

2.  Leave- Behinds.  These don’t have to be complicated, but are markers of visit.  They are footprints and clues you were there.  It can be as simple as a business card.  The only problem with cards is that they are easily thrown away.  Notepads are great because they get used, and if they are sticky get posted around an office.  Pens tend to hang around as well.  Food and candy jars are always appreciated.  If it’s your first visit, take their card and then email them a followup note after you get back in the office.

3.  Ask for business.  Of course you are going to do this.  But most people ask for it in the future: “When you have something you are trying to close, please give us a shot at quoting it.”  Add the present.  “When you have something, we’d be happy to quote it for you.  Are you working on something now I can look at for you?  Is there something I can take back to the office, and get you an answer today?”  I worked at an agency where we did a lot of this type of marketing, and when we started asking for something now and not in the future, we often walked out with quotes in hand.  Sometimes all you need is a chance to generate future streams of business.

4.  Find the right person.  Knowing the decision maker is one of the keys to sales.  It is no different here.  Someone in the office you are visiting has enormous influence, and can usher you into that position of influence as well.  The secret is knowing them.  This can be difficult to discern on a first visit.  Once you figure it out, begin a relationship of trust.  This will allow you to create a mutually beneficial partnership going forward.

5.  Be a sponsor.  Lenders and Realtors are sales organizations.  They do regular sales meetings, sometimes weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc.  Ask to sponsor their meetings with food or giveaways.  Most will let you speak for 5 to 10 minutes if you are bringing something to the meeting.  This is something most insurance companies will comp for you as well.

6.  Find a need and meet it.  This one takes time, and you will rarely discover on the first visit.  You need to build trust and find the right people to talk with.  But every organizations has needs.  These are the gaps and struggles inside their business.  It could be anything from sales training, access to information, marketing relationships, etc.  Over time look for these needs and get creative on how to help them.  One agency I know found a smaller realty office that was trying to grow.  Their marketing wasn’t great, but they were trying hard.  The agent partnered with them for a trade show, splitting time and booth cost.  You can bet the agency got the majority of their leads.

7. Pay for it.  Agents are scared to do this, but every day they pay for radio spots, direct mail, yellow page ads, internet leads, telemarketing leads, xdate sheets, etc.  It’s the same thing.  The only thing you need to worry about is not making the payments contingent upon selling the business.  Most if not all Departments of Insurance outlaw this.

I’ve seen two effective ways agents have done this successfully.  First they pay a dollar amount per lead.  You have to run some ROI calculations to determine your maximum spend; based on close rates, average revenue, average retention, etc.  Also it needs to be attractive enough to make a difference as well.  This works.  The other is to do contests.  Within an office, give a gift card of a substantial amount to the realtor or loan officer that sends the most leads in a month.

Make sure you stress they need to be a qualified lead.  You don’t want to get a name and number, call the customer, and have them act surprised at your attempt to quote their business.  I know some agencies require a list of information to make the quote valid.

8.  Lunch & Learns.  This strategy is highly effective at getting you in front of groups.  Realtors and Lenders give misinformation about insurance to consumers all the time.  Be an expert and give them information they can use with their customers regarding insurance for their property.  You are not trying to make them an expert, but it empower them with a couple accurate talking points.   Plus if you are providing lunch, most people will give you the courtesy to listen for a while.

Before you reinvent the wheel, grab a company person’s wallet and their powerpoint library. This is an easy spend for most company folks.  They may even throw in gift cards for a drawing.  Also, they might have presentation already created about property insurance.  This saves you some time.  Gather the business cards of everyone there, and send them a followup note, if you really want to impress.

If you networked with other agents for any length of time, this strategy is one frequently mentioned as a personal lines growth driver.  It may feel like everyone is doing it, but I promise few are doing it well.  Schedule your marketing, be consistent, ask for opportunities, and repeat.

Need More?

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Customers You Don’t Want

One of the hallmarks of marketing is developing a profile of an ideal customer.

You pick the customer or niche that fits your business model, and then you keep that niche in mind when you craft any marketing strategy or customer facing material.  This helps immensely when brainstorming new lead sources or marketing ideas.  An image of the ideal customer informs how you design your website, business cards, trade-shows, brochures, etc.  When you understand this person fully, and take action on that information, you become a better marketer than your competitors.

This became clear on school field trip.  I chaperoned a trip to a radio station.  This was a radio conglomerate with multiple brands and channels stuffed inside their building.  Each channel had their own booth and office.  One was talk radio, another country, today’s hits, classic rock, etc.  In each booth, printed in large letters on the wall was a list of characteristics of their target demographic.

DJ’s, salespeople, and decision makers could not avoid this sheet when performing their daily actions.

Agencies have this list as well.  Most don’t have it posted, but the owner knows it, and sometimes the staff.  It’s a great idea to get this out of your head and distribute it throughout your organization.

While knowing your ideal customer is critical, what might be equally important is understanding the “Customer You Don’t Want”.

bad customers
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What does that person look like, and what do you do to avoid them?

Here some identifiers to help brainstorm this person:

  • Time-wasters. Write down the qualities of a customer that is a time waster. He never offers any opportunity for revenue activity, but demands attention more than normal.
  • Late-payer.  You chase him each month to give you money to keep their policy in force.
  • Frequent claimant.  They call in a claim too regularly, or are always asking “what-if” claims questions.  Alarm bells ring in your head, suspicious of their potential next move.
  • Billing questioner.  They pay their bills on time, but have questions every month related to the accounting breakdown of their bill.
  • Endorsement happy.  Every month they are doing something different to their policy; new cars, new drivers, change in coverage, etc.
  • Grumpy & Angry.  This one ruins the mood of every person in your office.  Every interaction is negative, and you can’t believe they stick around.
  • Bad Demographics.  Not red-lining, but identifying areas outside your scope of business.  if someone contacts you about their homeowners and they live in another hundreds of miles away they might not be the best customers.  Million dollar homes are attractive to write, but you might not have the markets for this and trying to fit a square peg in a round hole could generate more work than it’s worth.

There is no doubt that a few of these customers are part of being an insurance agent.   Some even have very good reasons to retain as clients.

By identifying them, they give you an opportunity to minimize their influence inside the agency.

If you are an owner, I bet you have a blacklist.  Does your staff know it?  What do you do in your agency to minimize the bad customer?

How A Local Business Taught Me How To Engage Customers Online

Local businesses have groaned for years under the weight of national giants.  Small retailers curse the big box store when it moves down the street.  Bookstores rail against the online stores.  Insurance agents complain about the budgets of the direct companies with lizard mascots and mega marketing.

How can we compete?  Social media, content marketing, and email strategies equalize the playing field, and even give us little guys an advantage.

Local businesses don’t need national attention.  They only need the obsessive attention of their local market, and these new tools allow such attention because it can magnify the engagement a local business already garners from their small base of customers.

Don’t believe me?

Here’s a story of a local business that is dying and being swamped by national corporations.  Yet, one employee, Adam, decided to quit complaining about the big boys and get creative.  He used these new tools to create demand for his product making it unique and specific to his audience.

Adam is was local sportscaster, and he chronicled his experiment on his own blog including a video of the broadcast which evolved from creative engagement with his customers.

Listen to his insights.

First, he recognizes the realities of his business:  “The local sportscast is dying. The emergence of all-sports channels and catered fan websites has rendered this medium mundane. No opinions, not enough time to delve into details and a complete lack of resources.”

Second, he finds a solution: “So, other than expecting people to turn on their TV at a designated time because they always have…how does the local sportscast attract an audience? Engage them.”

Third, he applies it to his problem: “Last night I tweeted out that I’m starting something called #Sportscast. This week’s theme: Old School Wrestlers. I simply asked for people to tweet me the names of former wrestlers and I’d try to fit them into my sportscast.  Nearly 50 responses later, I had a pool of possibilities. The result is the video…”

Ok, I know we are not in a business as exciting as sportscasting, so you are probably thinking, “Great idea, but how does this apply to me.”

Ask yourself questions?

Who is my audience (or customers)?

What can I do for them that big boys can’t?

What do I uniquely know about them?

Brainstorm with me.

I live in Louisville, KY, and every year we have a big event that you may have heard of—the Kentucky Derby.

Think through questions that people might have about Insurance related to this specific local event that the big boys won’t answer.

  • Do I have coverage to rent my house for Derby week?  (this happens a lot)
  • What if I have a Derby party with lots of mint juleps, should I worry about liability coverage
  • If I am at the track, and someone steals my winning ticket, am I covered?
  • What if someone breaks a car window at the track or steals my ipod out of the car?  Should I pay out of pocket or turn in a claim?
  • What if my business sponsors an event at the track and someone gets hurt, who is liable?

These questions could easily turn into newsletter content, blog posts, tweets, etc., and they are uniquely you.

Or you could get plain silly with social media, and post pictures of agency owners in crazy Derby hats.

At your next agency meeting, think through who your customer is and what are their likes and dislikes.  Find ways to ask and engage them, and create content that demands their attention because it answers their questions and fills a need in their world

(this post originally appeared on the Grow website)