When we started our consulting practice waaayyy back in 2009, we knew we had to do things differently than how the typical insurance agency or small business was marketing itself. We weren’t necessarily working with local companies – our insurance agency clients are all over the country. And we didn’t have a big budget to draw on – we were bootstrapping as a startup. So we had to get creative.

Having already waded into the social waters a little bit with LinkedIn and Twitter and blogging at my previous business, we knew this was the way to do it. And so we immersed ourselves into the world and theories that were social media marketing. And it was exciting! I spent a lot of time following and obsessively reading the pioneers who were creating a business case out of all this “nonsense” and “fluff” of social media. I had to completely re-learn everything I knew about marketing. And forget Kevin’s marketing degree. That was practically worthless.

We jumped in and took our Tweeting and Linking seriously. We had weekly standards to meet in terms of posting and interacting. We did this to build a habit and keep one another on track. We launched our blog with an inventory of articles to immediately publish, plus an inventory to draw on over the next few months. We were committed, and it was a lot of work. But we believed it was the right thing to do and knew it was going to be the future of marketing. We wanted to get there first.

And we got very little response from the insurance industry.

The possibilities and the reality

I interacted with many people in other industries who were very active and responsive, and I learned so much from them. And it also set my expectations of what we could be seeing in our own industry.

But from the insurance folks, we got crickets. There were cries that insurance brokers and social media were incompatible; that this new territory went beyond the legal boundaries of the industry regulations; and that their employees couldn’t possibly be trusted to participate in the wild west of the INTERNET – they might say something BAD about the company. Or my favorite: “My competition might see what I’m saying!” Goodness. I’m so glad we’ve moved beyond those simpleton arguments (read: excuses).

But brokers haven’t moved very far beyond it.

While brokers approached this from a position of fear, we looked at it as being an open platform for our ideas, which we very much wanted to share with the entire industry. Want to know what we think? We’ve been posting blogs diligently from the beginning and now have nearly 400 articles for our readers to peruse.

All those articles seemed to generate nothing. Sure, we got traffic, but no comments. No shares. No likes. No retweets. We eventually turned off comments on the blog because it was embarrassing. No matter how much we asked, we got so few comments that choosing to just keep going on (mostly) blind faith was actually the easier decision.

Now here’s where this story gets weird. What we did get were emails. And phone calls. We heard (multiple) stories that people found an article so compelling that they printed it out and routed it around the office.

Yes. I just said that. Printed an online article and routed it around the office for people to read the paper version of it. I couldn’t make that up.

Meanwhile, the rest of the world was catching up with the idea that social media was a very useful platform and began embracing it – albeit slowly. Except the insurance brokers. Carriers began well before the brokers and they were the ones I often pointed to as examples. But brokers resisted.

Gaining new acceptance

Fortunately, time has way of changing minds and attitudes, and we’re now seeing everyone online to some degree. But there are still far too few who truly believe that interacting on social platforms is valuable to their business. Those who do are really fun to talk to, and I look them up at in-person events so we can develop better relationships.

Because that is exactly the point of social – present yourself as honestly as you can and you’ll attract the people who are compelled by you. They’ll want to learn more; meet you in person; discuss your ideas; even do business with you!

But instead, what we still see and hear too often are agencies and brokers saying that you can’t sell online so why “waste the time?” And “we don’t have time” to be distracted by social media applications – we’re too busy.

The critically growing importance of marketing

Busy trying to drum up business the hard way, perhaps? Because without a strong online presence, all prospecting is hard these days. Buyers expect you to have a LinkedIn profile and be actively participating and sharing your ideas – it’s how they learn what you’re all about and if they want to talk with you further.

If you don’t share your ideas during the marketing phase of the relationship, you’ll never get to the selling phase, which will never allow you to get to the client phase. If you fear your ideas are silly and invalid, then you’re probably not a very good advisor to begin with. Because being an advisor means analyzing and coming to educated recommendations.

But think about it, you do that every day with your clients. It’s just time to recognize it, embrace it, and own it. And then go out and share it. Your prospects want you to! They’re begging for someone to say something different in the insurance industry that will help them make a decision on which look-alike broker to choose.

We’ve had two client scenarios where their online presence was actually the deciding factor for prospective clients: One lost the prospect to a competitor because of their weak online presence; and one won business because of their strong online presence.

The reality is that online/social participation has become an ingrained and expected part of business, and brokers have been woefully far behind in embracing what it means to them and to their current and future business. I fear for those who fear it. Because the days of being able to get by without it are rapidly fading away.

The value of perseverance

And what happened with our own online efforts? Well, the industry has slowly caught up and as people are getting online and taking it more seriously, they find our content out there everywhere. And as they are compelled by it, they email us, call us, look us up in person, and attend our speaking events and/or invite us to speak because they’re familiar with us. And more regularly now we get online comments and feedback from the brokers that are willing to publicly share their ideas and opinions.

Oh, and our new clients now all come to us as a direct result of the ideas we feel so passionate about and willingly put out there in the universe.

 

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Insurance Agency Marketing Assessment