Switch your marketing strategy from outbound to inbound to increase ROIArticle added by Philip Eide on January 24, 2012
BenefitPlace.biz - BPTradeshow.com

Philip Eide

Shaker Heights, OH

Joined: December 12, 2010

We consistently get emails and calls from those in the insurance and benefits industries requesting proof that inbound marketing works. We generally respond that by most estimates, 75 percent of all insurance and benefits related decisions in 2012 and beyond will be initiated on the Internet.

While there is nothing wrong with continually spending on tried and true marketing strategies when they provide verifiable positive results, it is foolishness to consistently do the same things over and over again when they have limited or no return on investment. This is the case with most of the insurance and benefits industry's traditional outbound marketing strategies.

Albert Einstein observed, “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Yet many, if not most, agents, brokers, insurance companies, and industry-related organizations continue to expend the vast majority of their marketing and advertising time and money:
  • Focusing on expensive paid advertising in trade related and other media
  • Purchasing leads
  • Sending out mailers
  • Utilizing call centers
  • Making endless cold calls
  • Exhibiting at trade shows
  • Visiting trade shows
  • Buying expensive meals
  • Sponsoring seminars
  • Churning new agents
In a lighter but observant vein, Guy Kawasaki (former Chief Evangelist of Apple) noted, “If you have more money than brains, you should focus on outbound marketing, If you have more brains than money, you should focus on inbound marketing.”

Until recently, the lack of alternatives was the problem. As John Wanamaker pointed out in the early1900s, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half.”

The power of the Internet, social media, search engines, SEO and analytics has changed all of this. We now have an alternative to traditional outbound marketing. This is called inbound marketing.

Strategies of the future

John Battelle, media entrepreneur, has observed, “Search, [that encompasses the Internet, SEO, and social media] a marketing method that didn't exist a decade ago, provides the most efficient and inexpensive way for businesses to find leads.”

Quite simply, inbound marketing turns the insurance and benefits traditional marketing and advertising models around. As HubSpot, a software company focused on marketing, points out, “Instead of driving their message into a crowd over and over again like a sledgehammer, they attract highly qualified customers to their business like a magnet.”

HubSpot further notes that there are three major attractions to inbound marketing:
    1. It costs less,
    2. It better targets,
    3. It's an investment, not an ongoing expense.
Inbound marketing has qualified potential clients knocking at your door. As with all forms of marketing and advertising in the past, this new strategy requires that you:
  • Understand and penetrate your target markets
  • Add value
  • Build trust
  • Consistently deliver valuable content appropriate to your markets
  • Build relationships
  • Provide a clear call to action
  • Allow the qualified potential client a convenient platform for reaching you
  • Solicit and promote feedback and related discussion
  • Utilize analytics for tracking your success
HubSpot CEO Brian Halligan noted that as the economy slows down, companies are turning to inbound marketing because it is a more efficient way of allocating marketing resources than traditional, outbound marketing: “With inbound marketing, the thickness of your brain matters a lot more than the thickness of your wallet.”

Making an industry shift

I believe the problem in getting the insurance and benefits industries to begin a shift to inbound strategies is the difficult task of embracing change. After many decades of business as usual, acceptance of an entirely new marketing model is not easily implemented. New technologies, a new vocabulary, and a broader marketplace requiring a different relationship building paradigm generate confusion and sometimes fear.

We consistently get emails and calls from those in the insurance and benefits industries requesting proof that inbound marketing works. We generally respond that by most estimates, 75 percent of all insurance and benefits related decisions in 2012 and beyond will be initiated on the Internet. Search engines, social media and SEO will deliver those starting the search to those providing the plans, programs and/or services the organizations and individuals need — bringing buyers and sellers together.

How long does it take to implement an inbound strategy?

Unlike traditional outbound marketing where ads run for a specific period of time or a database has a specific number of mailers to send or calls to make, inbound marketing is an ongoing process and strategy. Building trust, adding value and establishing relationships takes time and consistency.

Gaining brand recognition in these new forms of media requires developing a ranking and exposure on search engines, i.e., Google and Bing, and through social media outlets like Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook, ProducersWEB, Insurance Campus and Agent Navigator. The sooner you begin — the sooner you will see results.

How much will it cost and what is the ROI?

Compared to traditional outbound marketing, inbound marketing requires a much smaller expenditure of capital. Money and time spent is an investment rather than an expense. The Internet is essentially free. To get results it does require an ongoing commitment of time.

The functions required can be built internally or outsourced. Given a consistent effort the ROI can be far greater and more measurable than with traditional outbound strategies. HubSpot provides a free university for studying inbound marketing strategies.

What companies provide inbound marketing services?

There are a growing number of qualified and experienced companies in the marketplace.
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