I try to approach most things with a can-do attitude. I feel with the right perspective and enough knowledge, we can understand things need to change and how to go about those changes. And I try to approach my writing that way. It's no fun to be berated.
But the time has come to admit that I'm just depressed looking online at insurance agency marketing. There has been such little progress in the industry* despite all the other businesses and industries around us that are overhauling their companies to adapt to the new way of working and communicating. And despite the fact that agency clients are active participants in this change and evolution.
If you can't even keep pace with your clients, how can you expect to lead them?
When I look at websites, the majority of what I see is agencies saying the same things:
- How long we've been in business
- Who our partner carriers are
- What fabulous customer service we have
When I look at the agency blogs that are available, most of them say the same things:
- The latest regulatory/compliance update
- A profile of the most recent new hire
- A photo of the company picnic or holiday party
- Information about using sunscreen and not texting while driving
When I look on LinkedIn, I see mostly empty company pages, if there is one at all. There are no updates, just the most basic nuts and bolts about the company per the LinkedIn form.
When I search on Twitter, the majority of what I find are agencies doing and saying the same things:
- Not tweeting and just letting their accounts gather dust
- Saying something like, "We're an insurance/benefits agency in your market! Call us!"
When I do find something interesting, it's usually from a consultant trying to teach agencies how to be better at their marketing efforts. But here's the major rub on that: the agencies aren't actually listening. They've passed off their marketing efforts to "the little gal in the office" who blindly posts happy-notes-of-the-day and offers no strategic contribution to their overall efforts.
This isn't her fault. She's doing what she's told.
This is the fault of the CEO for not taking control of his/her company communications, brand, image, strategy.
Who is your buyer?
Imagine for a moment that you are a business owner, an HR manager, or a risk manager who is in need of some insurance and related consultation. Now take a minute to go back and review that list above.
What did you find that was compelling to you in your role that makes you want to call one of those agencies? Or, say you were considering them to be your broker and went online to do some additional research before making your final decision - what did you find that made you think this was the broker for you?
I'll help you answer that with a couple of stories.
What your web site is doing for you – whether you realize it or not
When talking with prospective agencies, we conduct an organizational assessment where we ask a lot of questions that always inspire a lot of conversation. In a recent discussion, we reached the section on agency marketing, and I asked about their strategy. As is often the case, we were met with silence. And then it followed with some ad hoc descriptions of things they're doing.
I commented that they had a good-looking web site, so they must be putting forth some level of effort into marketing activities. Their response was in the form of a story.
Well, it may be visually appealing, but the content does not help us at all. In fact, it hurts us. We had a really good prospect we were talking to that suddenly turned south. When we asked why we didn't get the business, they told us they went to our website – as they should – and they found nothing compelling that gave them confidence we were able to help them.
This agency has come to believe that their marketing efforts should provide relevant information to help readers make a business decision. And theirs clearly did not.
A head-in-the-sand approach does not prevent it from being true
Now, contrast this with another agency discussion we had. This group actually had more thought put into their marketing efforts, but most of it was local and in traditional formats. They admitted they didn't see the value in online marketing, saying they had no proof that people were actually looking for information online.
At this point I could cite studies saying this isn't the case. I could explain how people are not necessarily searching for terms like "local insurance broker", but rather searching things like "how do I improve employee retention?" I could explain that ¾ of B2B buyers are looking at your website for quality content that is relevant to their individual job roles, and if they don't like what they see, they just move on.
But I don't think any of that is nearly as relevant as the first agency story. They have seen it, and heard it, and felt it in their revenue that buyers are actually looking. And the buyers are using what they find, or don't find, as a significant factor in their buying decision – they want relevant, substantial information that will help them improve their business.
We get regular, skeptical pushback from agencies saying that insurance buyers aren't looking online; not their customers because that only happens in other industries.
No. It's happening in all industries.
The agencies that recognize this, take it to heart, create substantial resources, and put their corporate communications under the watchful eye and participating hand of the CEO will own their market.
A quote from HubSpot's CMO, Mike Volpe, sums it up pretty well: "Inbound marketing is a competitive advantage: it's hard to catch up if the leader is still running."
If you're not leading this pack, you're going to have a hard time ever catching up.
*Sure, there are some gems out there and people/agencies doing an amazing job. They are truly the exception, and I applaud them for their vision and their efforts!
Photo by Daniel Kulinski.