It's clear that internet marketing is the key to future success for brokers and agents. Research shows that the Web is becoming the primary channel for researching insurance purchases. This fact alone proposes both a dilemma and a new opportunity for agencies of all sizes. If prospects are surfing the Web to buy and manage policies, it's unlikely they'll respond to a telemarketing call or direct mail piece. Yet many brokers and agents still spend a majority of their sales and marketing budget on these traditional methods. On the other hand, shifting resources and support to an Internet marketing strategy could dramatically increase your bottom line.
Here's another data point to consider: The number of consumers that visit online classified advertising Web sites is booming -- up 84 percent in February 2009 compared with February 2008, according to a report from Hitwise. As you would expect, Craigslist is the most popular of these sites. I would venture to suggest that nearly all of us have used this site to buy, sell or trade at one time or another. Craigslist and other free online marketplaces represent a golden opportunity for marketing professional products and services, such as insurance.
Internet marketing is a bit complicated. It's not enough to post an ad on Craigslist for an insurance quote that includes a phone number or even an e-mail address. Internet consumers are much more sophisticated. Relying on a service like NetQuote to provide leads doesn't work very well, either. According to a Forrester report, almost one-quarter of those intending to complete an application (sale) abandoned it because they were looking for more information on the product or service. E-mail is considered too slow and the phone initially too obtrusive, assuming you can even reach anyone.
A successful Internet marketing strategy thus requires not only posting ads on the most popular Web sites, but even more importantly, instant two-way communication technology. The Forrester report created a sample company to implement instant two-way communication, or chat technology, to respond to customers on their Web site who were seeking product information. The report noted that approximately 75 percent of the expected chat interactions represent contact with an agent that would otherwise be absent. In other words, the customer would not have likely made a telephone call or sent an e-mail to the company.
The gap between a prospect or customer clicking on an ad and seeking instant two-way communication is being referred to by some as the "chat gap." How do you transform the chat gap into a chat advantage?
The Word & Brown Companies, a leading health plan distributor in California, has recently signed a partnership with an Internet marketing technology company to provide their agents and brokers with the chat advantage. Using instant chat as part of an Internet marketing strategy, insurance professionals can communicate with prospects and customers at the time when their impulse to purchase insurance is at its peak. At a fraction of their sales and marketing budget, brokers and agents can place an instant chat link on their Web site home page and other product pages, social networking page such as Facebook, Craigslist ads and other marketplaces, and even e-mail marketing campaigns.
Word & Brown Companies co-founder John M. Word III says the company is committed to making it easier for agents and brokers to communicate and build long-term relationships with their clients. Word believes this partnership supports their business model by providing cutting-edge technology with personalized service to all of their licensed brokers across the nation.
Remember: Internet marketing is the future. Now it can be the key to your future success.
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