Maybe you’re one of those insurance agents who doesn’t use much content in your marketing. Many agents never send out a single newsletter, email a single sales letter or create a single blog post. And some seem to do okay.
Some agents may be satisfied to make all their sales cold calling or relying solely on referrals. If so, maybe all they need are some business cards and a brochure or brochure-type website.
But marketing content is essential if you really want to leverages your ability to make sales. And, by the way, when I say content, I mean both “sales” content as well as what today is called “content marketing” or information content.
The first step to answering the question which marketing content formats are best for your agency is to differentiate between the various sales and information content formats and understand how each is used.
Here’s a list of the main insurance agent content formats and whether they are primarily used for information or sales:
- Blogs (information)
- Newsletters (information)
- Sales letters (auto-responders) (sales)
- Social Media (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter) (information/sales)
- White papers or “lead magnets” (information)
- Landing Pages (sales)
- Forum Comments (information)
- By-line articles (information)
- News releases (information)
Each format has a unique style and purpose. In this post I’ll provide a brief overview and explanation of how each one can help your insurance marketing. In future blog posts, I’ll dive deeper into each content type, with tips on how to create it, use it and optimize it for your business.
- A blog is a platform for expressing your personal take on things. If you’re a benefits broker, for example, you might blog about what changes the new Trump administration might be making to the Affordable Care Act. Successful bloggers build a following and people look forward to their next installments.
- As an information format, blogs educate readers and build your authority.
- One of the two biggest challenges with a blog is keeping to a regular schedule. Most insurance agent blogs fizzle out after a few posts. It’s critical to be consistent with blogs and newsletters, since their main marketing purpose is keeping you top of mind with readers. (One solution to this problem is to outsource. There are many ways to do this and I’ll cover this topic in a future post.)
- The other challenge with a blog is creating a niche for yourself. Because you can’t just write about general insurance topics. Well, you can but you won’t get a following that way. Generic topics are what a newsletter is for. A blog should be personal. You need to take a unique approach. If you have target markets, like design professionals, restaurants or body shops, you might want to blog about risk management and insurance as it affects those particular industries. If you have a passion — like sports or outdoor activities or even beer (I know of a guy who writes a beer blog and specializes in insuring breweries, etc.) — that somehow coincides with your target market, that’s another hook you can use.
- Some agents use blogs like a channel instead of a format. What I mean by that is that some agents will take articles from their newsletter or use content that someone else published and put it on their blog without any explanation or introduction. That’s using a blog as a channel, as if it were Facebook or some sharing medium. You won’t build a following that way.
- If you’re able to blog on a regular basis, be sure to set up distribution to your email list. There are automated ways to do this, which I’ll cover in future posts.
- In addition to using your blog to create content, there’s also an SEO aspect to blogging. When you carefully pick and use the right keywords, you’ll improve your search engine rankings and get more visitors to your pages. If you can’t create a unique niche for your blog, you may at least be able to improve your SEO.
- Even though a lot of newsletter content is evergreen, it’s supposed to cover the news of its target niche. That’s why they’re called newsletters. In insurance lines such as employee benefits, there actually is enough news to fill a four page newsletter each month. In personal lines, though, for example, newsletter writers and editors end up slicing and dicing evergreen content about auto and homeowners insurance into articles like “Should You Buy Rental Car Coverage” and “10 Ways to Save on Homeowners Insurance.”
- The purpose of a newsletter is to educate buyers, not sell to them. That doesn’t mean you can’t sell with newsletters though. Include a reply card with your print newsletters or hyperlink your email newsletter to your website where visitors can get quotes or request a policy review.
- The big advantage newsletters have is that they are usually provided by third parties (like my company, Smarts Publishing ), so you can easily maintain a consistent, reliable presence.
- Many agents use email newsletters because they are relatively cheap. Even though print newsletters cost more, they can pull as many as five times more readers than an email newsletter. Many if not most people will never even see your content if you deliver it exclusively via email.
- If you’ve been sending blog posts and newsletters to your lists on a regular basis, you’ve been building your credibility as an information source. Now that readers have confidence in you, why not leverage your authority with a series of sales letters targeted to particular product lines? You can even use some of your newsletter content as fodder for your emails. That’s what I did.
- I recently created several sets of sales letters with teasers about the myths or little known facts about life insurance, disability, homeowners, annuities, long term care and health insurance, using material from our newsletters. If you’d like to use one of them for your own marketing, send me an email. Mention the product you’re trying to sell and I’ll share. No charge.
- In a typical sales letter series, such as the ones I created, each information nugget ends with a call to action for the reader to contact the agency for a free quote.
- When you’ve made the effort to create pure information content with your blog and newsletters, you’ve earned the opportunity to send sales letters to your lists from time to time. But never be apologetic about providing people with services that will truly help them.
- Though most agents shouldn’t make social media a priority — it can be a hellacious time-waster with little tangible benefit — having a presence on Facebook, or LinkedIn if you’re a commercial broker, is probably a good idea. Prospects, especially younger prospects, may view whether you have a social media presence as social proof.
- Use it as a channel for distributing your blog or articles from your newsletter. You can even curate third-party content.
- The nice thing about social media is that it doesn’t require much original content. But it does require some original content, even if you’re just curating third party content. I’m talking about you. If you didn’t write it yourself, you shouldn’t link to it without saying why you linked. Offer your perspective, ask a question related to the article, pull a quote from it, summarize it or state the author’s conclusion and say whether you agree in part or completely.
- The purpose of social media is to be social, so you need to minimize blatant sales tactics. However, it’s reasonable to post about upcoming seasonal events that affect insurance, like Medicare and healthcare enrollments, flood season, safe driving tips during Christmas, what kinds of coverage kids off to college need and so on. For the most part, your social media posts should strive to be helpful to the community, often not even involving content related to insurance. Post the local high school football scores, announce a new business in town, celebrate a client’s business anniversary and of course post funny cat videos.
White Papers and “Lead Magnets”
If you want to write new insurance business, it’s critical to build a prospect list. How do you incentivize people to give you their name and address so you can convert them to customers? One of the key list building methods is using a lead magnet, such as a free special report. Some agents are posting offers on their websites right now for reports such as, “How to Save Insurance Dollars in 2017” or “10 Ways to Save on Auto and Homeowners Policies in 2017” in exchange for a visitor’s email address.
One of the easiest ways to create special reports or white papers is to gather together content from several related newsletter articles or blog posts and publish them as a single report.
Most insurance agencies either try to feature all their products on their home page or don’t feature any at all (they just talk about themselves, which is another problem). If you serve different niches or specialize in a number of different products, it makes sense to dedicate a landing page to each niche or product.
For instance, if you are a personal lines agent with a specialty in motorcycles, you should have a landing page just for motorcycle insurance. You can optimize that landing page in the search engine rankings and drive visitors specifically interested in motorcycle insurance to that page rather than your general website. Visitors will engage longer and your conversions will be higher.
Even if you don’t consider yourself a writer, it’s easy to jump in with your observations and opinions when visiting forums. This type of content marketing is primarily for commercial insurance producers, but it can be an important component of your LinkedIn marketing strategy, if that’s your focus.
There are probably opportunities for you to get articles published in local community papers and trade journals in niche industries you serve. Take content you’ve already written or that’s appeared in your newsletter and repurpose it for the specific audience of that publication.
The days of SEO news releases are over. Google’s Panda update put an end to them, as they did to PBNs (private blogging networks), which a lot of insurance agencies used to use to optimize their websites. That’s black hat stuff now, says Google. If you send out a news release now using PR Newswire or Business Wire or a legit press service, they will use no-follow links to your domain name.
But news releases can still make sense for your agency. After all, the purpose of a news release is to inform journalists, not consumers or SERP rankings. Your small town local paper or the business section of a larger regional paper may be interested in special events at your agency, such as a merger or purchase of another agency, new locations, a relocation or a special hire, etc. You can also post your new releases in a special section of you website.
Of all the content types I’ve listed, which ones are the most effective? I’ll offer some opinions and suggestions in my next post.
By the way, there are a few content formats I didn’t mention that are extremely important, not to mention influential. The problem is you don’t really get to write them yourself. Well, you shouldn’t anyway. But more on that next time.