Everywhere we turn these days, the term Web 2.0 is staring us in the face. More and more, we're being told that traditional ways of doing business will no longer pass muster with the rapidly growing number of consumers who research, buy and manage their insurance policies on the Web.
At the same time, many brokers and agents realize that competition has never been greater. For most, telemarketing is becoming outdated. Walk-in traffic is rare and direct mail is expensive. In my own case, I rarely answer my home phone or respond to a direct mail solicitation. I have visited my insurance agent on occasion, but would prefer to conduct business electronically from wherever I happen to be at the time that I need insurance or service.
Web 2.0 enables agents and brokers to create online sales and marketing channels for prospects and customers. You can think of it as your office with all of its resources, but accessible to anyone anytime, depending on the Internet. A prospect can research coverage and get quotes when the impulse to purchase is at its peak. Customers can add or delete cars, increase coverage, change contact information or research additional policies, such as life insurance.
Internet marketing is simply not appropriate for all agents and brokers. Some baby boomers may be in the twilight of their careers and uninterested in the technology/Internet revolution. Others may have a very successful traditional sales and marketing system in place. Everyone else should review their long-term business plan to determine whether or not to create and implement an Internet marketing strategy.
For those who are seriously considering making the internet a priority for sales and marketing, here are five signs to help convince you:
No. 5 -- You use technology such as e-mail, instant messaging, texting and smart phones in your business. This is a major sign to determine whether or not you, and just as importantly, your producers and support staff, are ready for an Internet marketing strategy. If your agency can be categorized as tech-savvy, all sorts of sales and marketing channels are possible. You can use e-mail to promote additional products to existing customers. You can provide immediate quotes and customer service through instant web chat links and smart phones.
No. 4 -- You have a company Web page and or Web site. You cannot participate in Web 2.0 and Internet marketing without a Web site. It's not enough to have a page on a carrier Web site. It's likely that the carrier will restrict your ability to control and own the content. You must have control to maximize sales and marketing initiatives.
No. 3 -- You have a page on social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace and Linked-In. Creating a page on one of these sites is fun and easy. It can also be a great soft sales and marketing tool. Simply letting folks know what you do and providing them with an instant communication option such as a chat link can create leads and boost sales.
No. 2 -- You have either posted, or plan to post, at least one online classified ad on Craigslist and/or other marketplaces. In case you haven't heard, the number of people visiting classified advertising Web sites, such as Craigslist, to buy and sell products and services is booming. In fact, visits increased 84 percent in February 2009 compared with February 2008, according to a report from Hitwise. At the same time, only a small fraction of agents and brokers are placing ads on these free sites. These sites are ripe for selling professional products and services to generate acceptable returns on a free investment.
No. 1 -- You're ready to increase your book of business by converting prospects that visit a Web page, but would not have likely made a telephone call or sent an e-mail to purchase insurance. We know that the Internet represents a sales and marketing goldmine to capture leads and boost sales from consumers at the time their impulse to purchase is at its peak. Let's not also forget about customer retention and upsell. Providing prospects and customers the opportunity to instantly communicate with you via chat links from your Web site pages, social networking pages and classified advertising pages will create more leads, generate new customers and additional revenue from existing customers.
The Internet marketing train is ready to board and leave the station; you need to strongly consider buying a ticket for a ride to future success.
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