Insurance agencies have long been in the relationship business and most would agree they are in a rapidly commoditizing business. And that creates an inherently challenging scenario, for commodities ultimately get purchased on price and availability, ease of access and simplicity of transaction. Another challenge faced by insurance agencies revolves around insurance agency marketing. After all, if you’re in a relationship business, you need to drop by, shake hands, build rapport and grow the relationship. For many, however, those days are ending. Yes, referrals can help with insurance agency marketing, but often these referral methods lack consistent pipeline growth effectiveness, or add insufficient opportunity to sustain effective growth.
As we move into the era of Generation Y purchasers, instant access, pervasive connectivity and comprehensive comparative information available at the touch of a button, sales and marketing methods must change to conform to the new model. For example, I purchased my company’s health insurance plan without ever having met with my insurance agent. After all, why would I need to, and to be candid, why would I want to take the time to do so? Granted, larger plans with more employees, particularly plans which insure 100, 500 or 1,000 or more employees, encompass greater complexity and cost, and these types of purchases often warrant an on-site visit. But even these visits are now often preceded by a web meeting or web seminar, few executives these days want to invest 30 minutes or an hour with a prospective insurance agency representative chatting in their office.
Current insurance agency marketing methods are trying to embrace this virtual paradigm shift. Recently agencies have started to update their web sites and embark upon eMarketing, web seminar marketing and even SEO (Search Engine Optimization) campaigns. This is an important first step, though it is a step that many consider to be happening very late in the current marketing evolution. Sadly, some of these insurance agencies are embracing poor practices, the foremost of which is the “talking head”. One of my pet peeves is the talking head, a cyberspace insurance agent who automatically screams at web site visitors as soon as they navigate to an agency web page.
I use the word scream, because the volume is often poorly calibrated and the cyber agent automatically yells at the website visitor while said visitor scrambles to turn down the volume or find a way to make the virtual agent “shut up” virtually and pragmatically. It’s bad enough when your PC speakers are on, but it’s even worse when you are using a PC headset – think of this as placing iPod headphones on your head while somebody immediately turns the volume to the highest level, Non Profit Growth playing a head banging, hard rock group. Why do agencies think talking heads are appealing to their existing or prospective clients? Have they ever heard of the term “interruption marketing”? This is interruption marketing at its’ worst, after all, I never gave this cyberspace insurance agent the right to scream at me! Seth Godin’s blog says, “Permission marketing is the privilege (not the right) of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who actually want to get them. It recognizes the new power of the best consumers to ignore marketing. It realizes that treating people with respect is the best way to earn their attention.” These screaming cyberspace agents don’t seem to be giving me, or other visitors, the respect we deserve!
Recently I was speaking with a West Coast Insurance Agency CEO and we were discussing eMarketing. He lamented that, “I sent out 30,000 emails about our insurance offerings to prospects and received no response, no results at all from my email campaign.” I tried to break the news gently. “You shouldn’t send out unsolicited emails, you should never try to sell something in your initial offering, and you should always provide an educational opt in opportunity when approaching prospective clients via email marketing.” Where did you get the emails I asked? “I just bought them from a vendor, he said, my eMarketing company offers some list brokers to contact.” This is a good example of having the tools, but not understanding of how to use them. Think of this as if your agency is handed a scalpel and medical monitor to operate on a patient, but has not been provided with any surgical training.