Strategy First, THEN Build Your Website

Discussion in 'Insurance Websites' started by cminer, Apr 21, 2017.

  1. cminer
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    cminer Member

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    I talk with businesses everyday about their websites and one common sense thing almost always gets overlooked and for some reason this is especially true in the insurance industry.

    That very common sense thing is developing an actual strategy BEFORE you build the site.

    We've all heard the saying "failure to plan is planning to fail", this holds true in pretty much everything in life including your website and overall marketing strategy.

    One of the first questions I ask someone when discussing their site is "how much new business is your site generating now?". Nine times out of ten the answer is none. My followup question to that is always "what was your strategy to generate business from the site?" and the answer is usually silence and then pretty much a response of "we didn't have one". This means that the majority of businesses out there are all building websites for no actual good reason or purpose which is just insane!

    Think back to when you had your website built, did you have a real strategy and purpose in place? Why did you put the time and money into building the site? Has your website met the goals you had for it when you initially built it?

    In 2017 your website should be the cornerstone of ALL of your marketing efforts both online and off. This includes radio, newspaper, direct mail, referral building, client retention and even in person networking. Today when someone hears or sees your ad they're not going to go pick up the phone, they're going to look for your website first. This means your website is almost always your first point of contact and your initial sales rep as well as plays a direct role in how successful your offline marketing is.

    Before building or rebuilding your site you should have a good strategy in place for all of the following:

    1. Clean modern and intuitive mobile responsive design focused on CONVERTING your target new customer. This means limiting distractions and keeping the sole focus on and funneling directly to your primary call to action, less is more here.

    2. Determine who your target ideal new customer is, "Everyone" is not your ideal target customer. If you're in P&C then you know most new customers reach out to you for a car insurance quote, that's where your primary focus should be as far as converting new customers. You can possibly even refine it even farther into a certain age group, income level or whatever other criteria you tend to do the best with. Car insurance is the honey, once that new customer is attracted then you can explain the benefits of bundling homeowners, life insurance etc.

    3. Determine your primary call to action, what do you want your visitors to do? Too many times people tell me that they want to "give people information" and use calls to action like "find out more". Folks, you're NOT in the free information distribution business, you're in the business of writing policies. Your primary call to action should either be to get a quote or to schedule a consultation. If they want more information they can find it farther down your site or give you a call but your above the fold section of your site needs to only focus on the primary call to action.

    4. Develop a strategy to integrate your offline marketing campaigns with your website. People are going to go to your site anyway so you need to direct people to a specific landing page that laser focuses your message on that specific campaign. If you send out a direct mail piece your call to action should be to go to yoursite.com/landing-page which should be designed to reinforce the product/service your promoting in that campaign funneled to a clear call to action, again usually to get a quote or schedule a consultation. This simple tactic will dramatically improve your offline marketing campaign conversions and ROI as well as help you better track specific campaign performance by checking basic analytics on how many people visited that site and how many clicked through your call to action.

    5. THIS ONE IS IMPORTANT...
    Establish and improve your local online presence in Google Places, Bing Local and Yelp. This is incredibly easy to setup, costs no money, simple to improve and will give you the biggest quickest improvement out of anything else you could do.

    If you're not yet listed in Google Place (business) then head over to google.com/business and setup your account. They'll mail you a postcard with a verification code on it to prove you're at the location you provide then you're in and you'll start to appear in the local listing results at the top of the search results (section with the map) for competitive keywords such as "car insurance", "insurance agents", etc. Once you're listed you need to start working on raising your ranking and the best way to do this is start getting customers to review you on Google. You should have a link in your website footer to review you on Google as well as in your email signature, the more reviews you get the better.

    Bing & Yahoo both rely on Yelp listings to power their local results so this means you MUST have a Yelp account. Once you have a Yelp listing setup for your agency start asking for Yelp reviews as well as Google. Again, the more reviews you get the better! Just like you ask for referrals, ask for reviews too.

    6. Search engine optimization is not quick, cheap or easy. The cold hard truth is you just can't compete for keywords like "car insurance" in the organic search results, there's only 10 spots and you're competing against companies with million dollar marketing budgets.

    What you should do however is determine 3 "long tail" keywords that you can realistically rank for and optimize your website for those 3 keywords. This would be something like "mytown car insurance agent". You're not going to get a ton of traffic from these keywords but if they just get you 1 new client per month that's 12 new clients per year you would have missed out on had you not done it.

    7. Create a "tell a friend" referrals page. You can include an option to allow people to put in an email and refer a friend directly from the site, post a recommendation on Facebook and again ask for reviews on Google and Yelp. A link to this page can be included in your email signature and you can always email your existing book of business and ask them to visit the page to refer you to friends. You should also print out some sheets that you include with quotes and new policies asking to visit the page and refer you to a friend and review you on Google and Yelp.

    8. Give existing customers a reason to visit your site AGAIN. First, you need to have access to basic customer service tools in your main navigation menu such as a "request certificate of insurance" form, "file a claim" link, etc. Second you need to have new/different content, if you never change stuff on your site then nobody ever has a reason to come back. One simple thing you can do is setup a blog on the site and periodically post agency news, advice, etc. Another thing you could do is setup a customer appreciation page and list customer appreciation events. If you don't already hold these types of events I highly recommend you start, these are things like bicycle safety courses for kids, fire safety & prevention classes you can host with your local fire department, new driver seminars for families with teens about to get their license and medicare 101 type seminars to explain medicare to customers getting ready to turn 65. These types of events don't cost much to put on, a little bit in refreshments and if you don't have the space at your office you can usually find a reasonably priced place to host them like in a local hotel.


    None of the stuff I listed above is rocket science, most of it is free or very low cost & most of your competition is simply ignoring this stuff!

    Obviously there's a lot more you could do in addition to what I listed here, I didn't even touch on social media marketing. But these simple things listed above you can start doing right now and will get you light years ahead of most of your competitors quickly without breaking the bank.

    Good luck and if you implement any of this stuff come back and let us know in this thread how it works out.
     
  2. lrixford
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    I agree with this. You need to know why and how so you can understand the what.
     
  3. InsCommentary
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  4. CALTCAgent
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    Interesting post! I think I had one on this very subject. The advice to me when I talked to web designers, including ones that post on here, "build it and they will come".

    I think the dilemma is HOW to develop the strategy. Many times people are developing new ways and areas of generating business when developing a website.

    It seems flexibility is important without losing appearance. This is where the "template" site developers say they have an advantage. It doesn't seem to me they do but I could be wrong. Sure if their templates are exactly what you want.

    Then there are the designers that do it custom. The dilemma here seems that you should know exactly what you want. Well if you knew that you are doing good already. If you develop something that doesn't work, then you pay for a new site or changes and try again.

    Just some of my thoughts.
     
  5. cminer
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    cminer Member

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    CALTCAgent, I don't think the "HOW" is really that hard as long as you put some though into a couple of key aspects.

    1. Really determine who your niche target market is, this gives you the foundation for a much more laser focused strategy as opposed to trying to shotgun-blast something like "small businesses".

    2. Narrow down who your ideal customer is, are the seniors with a particular income? Maybe families with teenagers about to turn 16.

    If you can establish those 2 things then the strategy building is pretty simple. Now you just need to determine where those types of customers are and how to craft your message to speak directly to them. Think fishing in a small pond for a specific fish as opposed to fishing in an ocean for any type of fish, now you know that maybe your type of fish tends to hang out in shallow water along brush and really likes certain types of lures, you're odds are much much better now.
     
  6. cminer
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    I'll throw in one more strategy tip that is probably the MOST important thing you can do regardless of your website...

    ALWAYS BE HAVING A CONVERSATION!

    This doesn't mean trying to sell, rather always be putting yourself in the places where people in your target market are and start a conversation NOT related to insurance.

    Here's an example:
    Maybe your focus is commercial lines and your target niche market is contractors. Find where contractors tend to go such as trade shows, conventions, social media groups, etc and be a part of whatever it is. You're not there to sell so don't try to sell, rather start regular conversations focused on them and the venue your in. Eventually they'll ask you what you do but you still don't want to put on the salesman pitch, just tell them what you do and continue the conversation. Ask for their card and then give them yours and walk away at the end, you didn't make a sale but now that person gets put into your prospecting database and you can then soft-market to them. Direct mail works well here, maybe just saying it was great meeting them and to get a hold of you if they're ever in a position to reassess their insurance needs.

    Here's how you can make it more powerful:
    I always tell people to make the main focus of their business card their website address. In this case I would recommend having a very specific landing page on your website specifically speaking to contractors and have the link to that specific page on your business cards and direct mail pieces for these contractors. If that contractor is the least bit interested he'll visit your site way before he's ever ready to call you so now you've gotten your very specific message in front of a person in your target market and directing him to your very specific call to action which is probably scheduling a consultation.

    It really doesn't matter what business your in, what you sell or how great of a salesman you are. If you are constantly meeting and having conversations with people in your target market it will eventually lead to getting sales and even more important you will begin building market momentum.
     
  7. GeorgeInGA
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    A lot depends on how much time and money you want to spend. First and foremost, your site needs to be clean and professional. There's no question clients will look you up. An agent working at home in sweat pants has a better chance than a starch shirt Armani suit agent if the prior has a more professional website. Logo design is also worth the investment from a branding perspective.

    As far as SEO is concerned, it's a very competitive space. If you want the search engines to treat your site favorably, you have to invest a LOT of time generating industry relevant content, and then more content, and then even more content. It's very time consuming. Also, keep the content fresh, and have an index file for search engines to find. An adwords campaign is possible, but very competitive. Find more specific keywords than general unless you have a HUGE budget. Something like... group health insurance plan in Dubuque Iowa with 1000 max deductible. 1 good commercial lead could pay for the campaign. Also, be active and engaging in social media. Don't just promote your product...show some love for others products and opinions.
     
  8. cminer
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    cminer Member

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    Absolutely spot on and actually funny you gave that example!

    I ran an independent agency for about 10 years in Iowa, it was multi-line but I ended up niching primarily in major med (obviously pre-08).

    Towards the end probably 90% of my business was generated online using keywords like "iowa health insurance", "iowa health insurance preexisting conditions" and stuff like that.
     
  9. GeorgeInGA
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    LOL. Sorry I "stole" your secret sauce in Iowa cminer. Maybe should have referred to Hamberg, ND, population 21.;)
     
  10. CALTCAgent
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    CALTCAgent Well-Known Member

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    Not hard. Interesting. Everywhere I turn there are digital marketing gurus telling me they have the answers. Each one with a different take. Then you come along.

    When you say "your niche target market", I will assume you mean people you are already targeting with methods other than online marketing. (since we are talking about building a website).

    When you say "niche target market", does that include current geography too ?

    Does it include the same sales process ?



    Again we are talking currently, correct ?

    So you are saying ideal customers built by different marketing methods can be re-created easily with a website ?

    What about say FE, that is targeted more by Direct Mail for example. Would it be easy for a FE agent to target the ideal customer they have been seeing already ?

    I agree that IF you can establish those things. I just don't see that it is easy like you say. I hope I am wrong. Things that are easy, everybody can do.



    Oh, is that all ? Cool, I didn't like all the algorithm mumbo jumbo.

    On the deadliest catch show, some guys come up empty and some catch all the crab.

    The point being, knowing where the fish are and how to catch them is not always simple or easy like you are implying. Again, I hope I am wrong.
     

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