Q&A with Justin Blase: Why email belongs in your digital marketing plan

Email marketing (still) works.

It may not be the latest, sexy trend in digital marketing, but a good email program can accelerate the effectiveness of all of your other digital marketing efforts. An email marketing campaign can be one of the easiest types of campaigns to implement, and the ROI is hard to beat.

To learn more about how email marketing should fit into an overall digital strategy for insurance agents, Insurance Forums spoke to digital marketing expert Justin Blase, founder of InsuranceLibrary.com, an online knowledge base of consumer insurance answers provided by licensed insurance professionals across the United States.

Blase is a big proponent of the importance of email marketing as part of an overall marketing strategy, and earlier this year hosted a webinar on the topic. Blase offers these statistics that support the effectiveness of email marketing:

  • A recent ExactTarget survey found that 77% of consumers prefer to receive communication through email than any other channel.
  • 91% of consumers check their email at least once per day (ExactTarget)
  • A recent study concluded that email is almost 40x better at acquiring new customers than Facebook and Twitter (McKinsey & Company).

In the Q&A that follows, Blase provides a strong argument for why email marketing belongs in your marketing plan for the coming year, along with tips and ideas that will help you grow your email contact list and craft effective programs.

Question 1: How does email marketing ideally fit into an agent’s overall digital marketing plan?

Blase: Where email really stands out from other marketing methods is in its ability to effectively nurture relationships with consumers that have expressed some level of interest in what you have to offer. With insurance products, not everyone is ready to buy from you right this instant – but email is a good way to gently remind consumers that you are there for them when the timing is right. It’s definitely one of the most effective marketing channels available to agents for both communicating with existing policyholders as well as potential prospects. It’s also a great way to stay in front of people who will send you referrals.

Question 2: What are some tips for how an agent can grow his or her email contact list?

Blase: Email opt-in forms are a great way to add consumers to your email contact list. Not only should you include these opt-in forms on your website, but you should also have custom landing pages dedicated to obtaining a consumer opt-in. In addition to having an opt-in form on your website – you need to have a good strategy in place to “push” qualified consumers to the form.

Landing pages can be campaign-specific so the copy on the landing page lines up exactly with the message you are using to promote the landing page. One of my favorite ways to build an email list is to create a simple opt-in landing page in which you provide a “freebie” in exchange for the person’s email address. Maybe something like, “3 Things You Need To Consider Before Renewing Your Auto Insurance.”

I then like to use Facebook to create ads that target a very specific group of people that I feel will react well to the message of the landing page. Due to the incredible ad targeting abilities provided by Facebook advertising, you can reach a very specific target audience affordably. Plus – EVERYONE is on Facebook.

Question 3: Why is an organically grown opt-in list better than buying a bulk list?

Blase: It’s all about responsiveness of the consumer. If you are buying a bulk list – you are buying a list of potential customers that anybody else can buy. When you have your own process or mechanism in place to attract and obtain email addresses yourself – you have a unique list of people that have already shown interest in what you have to say. Best yet – it’s all yours. Your competitor is not able to put up some cash to have access to these people.

• Have something to add to the conversation on email marketing? Please share via this new thread on Insurance Forums.

Question 4: What are some of the key advantages of an email list/campaign over direct mail?

Blase: One of the biggest advantages is that the majority of consumers in the market for insurance in the United States own a phone that is capable of sending and receiving email. Because of this, you literally have access to them any time of day – and your message gets to them right in their pocket. Add to that the fact that many people obsessively check their phones for new messages – and it gives you a good chance of being seen by the consumer.

With direct mail, you get one shot to reach the consumer. And you are delivered at the exact same time to the consumer as several other messages (when the consumer opens their mailbox and has several pieces of mail).

Additionally, with email you can leverage data to optimize and control your delivery time to ensure you reach people at the optimal point in their day.

Question 5: What are some of the biggest roadblocks agents encounter when trying to first create or implement an email marketing campaign, and how can these roadblocks be overcome?

Blase: Typically, the biggest challenge I see agents struggle with is related to being able to generate as many opt-ins as they would like. Unfortunately, it’s not a Field of Dreams scenario where “If you build it they will come.” The reality is, if your opt-in forms aren’t getting a lot of consumer eyeballs – they aren’t going to generate many opt-ins.

The best way to address this issue is to build a strategic marketing campaign around email list building. What are the biggest questions your potential customers need answered? Perhaps you could answer these questions within a brief guide or checklist. Then simply ask the user for their email address so you can send them the list.

Another pretty common issue is that a lot of the emails I see are focused on explaining the benefits of bundling insurance products or available discounts on products. While this probably does support the agent’s goals of trying to direct consumers into the purchasing funnel – ultimately the content does not typically resonate well with people that are catching up on email and looking to read something online – so it’s typically ignored.

A better strategy for email content might be to focus on helpful tips related to car & home safety. Another great strategy is to focus your content on local events and happenings since your list is likely focused on a common metropolitan area.

Question 6: What are some different types of email campaigns that you have found to be most effective?

One of my favorite approaches with email campaigns is to attempt to serve as a local resource for tips and events. It’s very important to remember that in order for your email campaigns to be effective – people need to actually read the content. One strategy I have found effective is to create a weekly newsletter of local events or “boredom busters” to keep local citizens in the loop with what’s going on in the city.

This type of campaign is great for building up a large, faithful list of followers that can serve as a referral pipeline for many years. Remember, when somebody is going to purchase insurance – they probably aren’t going to wait until they get an email from somebody. A great strategy is to already have the relationship within an individual so when they do decide it’s time to change update their coverage – they instinctively call your company because you have already identified your brand as local and trustworthy.

• Have something to add to the conversation on email marketing? Please share via this new thread on Insurance Forums.