I have a friend, who has been an insurance agent for over 30 years. And he is good at what he does. He helps his clients find the right insurance and financial products for their families, their businesses and themselves. He has weathered a lot of changes in the insurance industry – both in the way insurance is sold and the products available, and he has been diligent about keeping up with all of those changes. He has gone from a “captive” agent at one company to an independent agent, representing several carriers. In short, he is an expert in the field of insurance.
While he does have a loyal clientele and receives referrals from them, he is finding that the marketing and “prospecting” tactics that he found effective up until a few years ago are simply not working. Do Not Call lists have made cold calling all but obsolete. He is no longer getting a response from his Yellow Page ad, and the local newspaper that had carried his ads has just closed its doors for the last time. Even his direct mail pieces are falling flat.
He asked me if I thought he should be using Facebook. At first I said yes, of course. However, after doing a quick website search for his agency and even his name, I found virtually nothing. He does not have a website. He is not on LinkedIn, and is not listed in any online Local Directories. The only listing I could find was a one-line listing in one of his carrier’s agent lists. He is not sure that using the Internet will help him.
We talk to business people all of the time, who are intimidated by the Internet. They know that what they have been doing is not working, but are reluctant to try something new, and may not know where to start. They are not even sure their potential customers are looking for them online.
Today, over 85% of people in North America have Internet access (up 178% since 2000). People of all ages are accessing it from computers, tablets (e.g. iPad and Kindle) and cell phones. To believe that your customers fall within the unplugged 15% is a mistake. If they have enough money to buy from you, they have Internet access. To believe that they are not making purchasing decisions based on Internet searches is an incorrect and dangerous assumption.
I told my friend that Facebook was an important element of an overall sales and marketing plan, but I suggested that he put it on the back burner until he took a few other steps. Here, in a nutshell, is what I believe he (and anyone like him) should do:
- A Website. If you are in business today, you must have a website. It can be as short as one page, but should contain information about your products and/or services, information about you, and complete contact information.
- Submit to Search Engines. Verify and add the site to Google, Bing and Yahoo! This will assure that your site is “crawled” and makes it to the search engine pages.
- Google Places for Business. This is a key step. It will get you on the map, enhance your listing, and help with SEO. It also has a place where people can leave reviews and testimonials.
- Add company name to online directory listings. Listings on directories like Manta, Yahoo!, Bing, Merchant Circle and online “Yellow pages” will help with help customers find you. However, it is critical that you have a website first, as it is a fair bet that most people will not call unless they have at least looked at the website.
- Join LinkedIn. All business owners should be on LinkedIn. Carefully fill out the Profile and Summary. Be sure to add the link to the website.
- Start a blog. Adding content to your website through a blog will increase the chances of page 1 listing on search engines. It can also be a great resource for your customers.
- If you already have a list of email addresses, consider a monthly newsletters. Adding your blog posts and links to articles your customer might find interesting will keep you in their minds if they need more insurance – and may help with referrals.
- Finally, explore other options for Social Media Marketing. Facebook has 1.3 billion members, so that is a perfect place to start, but don’t forget about Twitter, Google+ and others.
While this seems like a daunting list, it can be done in small steps. Also, hiring someone to help may cost less than the traditional marketing you once did, and in today’s world will be far more effective.