I recently commented on a question a newer producer asked on LinkedIn about how to succeed in the insurance business. My response was straight forward and succinct offering advice on how to set up a marketing plan to generate new business. There were so many comments that It was worth a blog post. So here it is…
Before you begin your lead-generation strategy, you need to create a plan. Determine what and whom you want to target and your geographic reach. Assess the revenue potential if you reach moderate market share goals, and how you can maximize the dollars spent on each and every lead.
Once you know whom you want to target, be sure you can keep track of prospects in your sales pipeline to not only establish communication with them, but to also nurture them on an ongoing basis. In order to do this effectively, sign into a cloud-based sales CRM that can scale with your business, such as Microsoft Dynamics, SalesForce, or NetSuite that will allow you to focus on your selected niches by implementing a relationship-building strategy. If you’re a small- to medium-sized insurance agency and want to use a smaller, less expensive CRM, look at Capsule or ZoHo.
Now you’re ready to generate leads. There are two approaches: One involves a “pull marketing” strategy, such as Internet Marketing, which works best when applied to the portion of your prospect database where demand uncertainty is high and distribution is demand driven. Think personal lines and small commercial where there are a lot of choices such as direct writers, captive agents, on-line agents, and independent agents. The other approach is a “push marketing” strategy, such as insurance telemarketing, which is best applied to the portion of your prospect universe where demand uncertainty is small. Think medium to large commercial lines, or niche commercial targets. Pull marketing works for this group too, but push marketing allows you to target in on specific size, SIC codes, and geography.
Pull Marketing: Internet Marketing
Develop an on-line presence to generate leads by setting up a well-optimized website. Educate yourself and find out which companies are experts in Internet Marketing in addition to fully understanding the nuances of the property and casualty business.
Website optimization revolves around establishing keyword search so your site comes up high in the search engines. Understanding the terms that people use to find your products and services is as important to search as a list is to direct mail or telemarketing. Don’t rely on yourself or your staff to come up with the keywords. You’re encumbered by insurance nomenclature. People do not generally make the distinction between insurance agencies and insurance companies and they rarely search for things like “personal lines”. Go out in the community and ask non-insurance family members and friends how they search and then formulate a good keyword search strategy.
Make sure your site is submitted to ALL directories, both locally and nationally. Some of the local directories are Yelp, YP.com, and Yellow Pages. On a national scale, it’s Yahoo and DMOZ. The more directories you’re in the more the search engines trust your site. There are three objectives for your website are reputation, authority, and trust. In submitting your sites to these directories, you’re helping to build trust.
Now establish authority for your website, which is accomplished through link building, and helps in getting your site ranked high in the search engines. The number of links and their source are two very important factors in determining the authority of your site. Links coming from more highly ranked sites on the search engines (Google, Yahoo, Bing) have more value than links coming from sites with no ranking. Too many links from the same highly ranked site dilutes the value of all of the links from that particular site. Too many links from sites with no relevance to your business and you run the risk of looking like a link spammer which could hurt your site’s reputation. External link building is a very important component of Internet Marketing and it’s critical to know and follow the rules.
Build a blog and social media presence as part of your Internet Marketing strategy, using Facebook, Twitter, Google +1, and LinkedIn. This will also help with your search strategy and ranking, and in engaging with your prospects and customers. Start giving away your knowledge and experience in order to foster a "know, like, and trust" strategy. Social media is not a place for a hard sell. Think about being cornered at a party by a stereotypical life insurance guy – it’s very uncomfortable. On the other hand, imagine the same person providing some valuable information and advice regarding retirement and/or life insurance. You might walk away thinking, “That guy really knows what he’s talking about, I’m going to give him a call.” That’s exactly how social media should work. Establish the relationship and attract friends to your website which is where you do the selling.
Push Marketing: Telemarketing
Telemarketing is an effective way to generate leads and can be used on its own or in conjunction with your Internet Marketing strategy. The first step in starting an insurance telemarketing campaign is to identify your target, which you should have done when creating your plan. Just as a key search strategy is paramount to Internet Marketing success, a list is equally important to telemarketing success. Identify the SIC codes, counties, and minimum employee size you want to target. In most cases you can use 4-digit SIC codes. Knowing the size of your marketing universe is vital in determining marketing costs and projected sales.
Calling a list of business prospects will generally yield a 15%-20% conversion rate to interested X-dates and leads. Calling those X-dates back closer to renewal time in order to set up an appointment will yield about a 10%-15% conversion rate. The difference between 10% and 15% is in who makes the follow-up call and the number of touch points you’ve had with the prospect since the original cold call. Remember, it takes about 9-12 contacts before someone associates your name with what you do.
In order to maximize your return on your lead investment whether it’s from a pull or push marketing campaign, a follow-up system that will drip emails and even an electronic newsletter, will solidify awareness of your brand, keep your name in front of prospects, and help develop the relationship that is so important to converting prospects into clients. The system will not only keep track of your leads across all channels (website, social, telemarketing) and where the leads are in the sales process, but it will also allow you to connect to your prospects repeatedly through a carefully planned targeted series of communications that will get your message across to prospects and customers.