It seems like every day we hear about the Internet and how some sort of new online social networking site or service will revolutionize the way people communicate, collaborate, or do business. With all this hype one has to wonder, can the Internet really be leveraged to help your insurance business, or is it simply just an overhyped fad?
Whether we like it or not, the Internet is the future in every sense of the word. A recent Harris Interactive poll found that in 2009 the average Internet user spent 13 hours per online. Consumers are flocking to the Internet for all their needs, and where consumers go, business should and will ultimately follow. If you are reading this article right now, you are obviously an Internet user, but that does not necessarily mean that you are taking full advantage of everything the Internet has to offer.
Think of it this way. Imagine being able to easily and effectively reach out to a prospect personally, quickly, and in most cases for free. Social networking lets you do this. Angelyn Treutel from Treutel Insurance Agency puts it best.
“Social networking is merely an extension of how agents have conducted business in the past. The successful agent of yesterday invested in a storefront and used community networks to develop referrals and prospects. Printed advertising abounded in newspapers, magazines, and phone books. Business cards were used as a calling card and a convenient way to remind prospects how to contact you on the office phone. Today’s consumers want convenience and everything at their fingertips! Successful agents are reaping the benefits of having an integrated website which presents an outward face to the online consumer. This extends the brick-and-mortar storefront and reaches out into the Internet marketplace.”1
But although, communication with prospects has gotten significantly easier, your message can now be easily lost in the mix. You aren’t the only company that it making its claim to the Internet, so instead of becoming part of the clutter, understand the fundamentals of a successful online presence to make your company stand out.
1. Create a decent website! – Your foundational online presence should be a website that you and your company can be proud of. Not all of us are web designers or artists, and that’s ok. There are many companies that can help you achieve a great website. Investing in a decent website design from the beginning ensures that you are taken seriously by consumers. Like Angelyn stated above, your online presence is an extension of your brick-and-mortar storefront. Just as consumers would be turned off by a shady, unkempt office, they will be turned off by your lackluster website as well.
2. Create a reason for consumers to go to your site, or be interested in what you have to say – The age old saying “If you build it they will come” is not necessarily true for a website. When you are competing with literally thousands of websites vying for the same attention you are trying to get, you need to put in the extra effort to make your site relevant and worth visiting. There are many approaches to this, including frequently updating your site with useful industry information, commenting on the industry, and providing your own research or opinions. But be careful, regurgitating what others have already said is not the key here, add something truly relevant, to be relevant.
3. Expand your online presence – Once you have established a strong foundational website, you can start using social networking to get your message out. Many companies make the mistake of simply signing up for all the latest and greatest social networking services without really establishing themselves in any one particular niche. Although your name and message may be spread all across the Internet, an interested consumer will have a hard time tracking you down if they are truly interested. Slowing down and branching off from your website methodically, will allow consumers to be hooked and then be reeled into your site. Once there, you can impress them and make a conversion. Relying solely on say, small Twitter posts to attract and then convert a deal, is not effective. Imagine your website as a fishing boat, and all of your social networks fishing lines. Again although you may hook a “fish,” it needs to be reeled back to the boat before it can truly be yours.
4. Invest In a Web-Based Lead Management Solution. – Once you have convinced a lead that they are interested in your services, it is a necessity to be able to capture their information quickly and then intelligently direct them to the appropriate person to close the deal. In the age of streamlined technology, there is no excuse for any potential lead to not be quickly contacted and decisioned. A Web-Based Lead Management Tool enables your company to make the most out of all the hard work you put into generating the leads and is a proven method to significantly raising your ROI.
5. Learn From Others! – Utilize what others are saying via social networking to benefit your company. The Internet is a great resource for sizing up your competition, making adjustments to your own business, and simply learning more about the industry. The insurance industry in particular is changing very quickly, so being up to date with what is going on is vital for continued success.
Although the Internet can be an extremely important tool for your company, there are definitely things to be aware of. Remember that Internet offers many distractions that can easily lead agents astray from conducting business. Obviously every business has different policies, but it is vital to come up with a policy that is clear and in line with how you want the company to conduct itself. Whether on the phone, in person, or on the Internet, ensuring that agents are conducting themselves in a way the benefits your business is obviously very important.
The Internet can be an extremely valuable tool for your business and using it with these guidelines in mind can allow your company to leverage the Internet for all that it has to offer.
1 Treutel, Angelyn. “[Internet Marketing] Tools for the Successful Agent of Tomorrow.” Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America Web. 5 Mar 2010.
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