Filed Under:Agent Broker, Sales & Marketing

Websites Optional

Unless it’s a strategic part of your marketing mix, a website is useless

“What? Not every agency needs a website?” That’s right. I’ve come to believe that there might be viable alternatives.

The more I meet with agents, the more I hear about their challenges with social media. Many are complaining about the constantly changing landscape, the ever-growing demand for their time to manage this “soft marketing stuff,” and the time and energy it takes away from selling insurance.

Many make the mistake of believing this type of marketing is so technology-based that IT should run it (mistake). Or they think to outsource the management and creation of content (bigger mistake). Or they can ignore it altogether because their business is doing fine and their client base “doesn’t use that stuff” (biggest mistake).

We are in the middle of a communications convergence. The way we communicate, market and sell is changing so drastically and quickly that a corollary to Moore’s Law for this phenomenon might read, “Every 18 months the number of viable methods for marketing shrinks while the number of creative platforms for it quadruples.”

Leave it to IT

Whether it’s a website, Twitter or creating a Facebook page, it takes a varying degree of technology know-how to do what’s necessary—but that doesn’t mean IT should be making the decisions. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: It’s not about the technology, it’s about what you do with it. The business side of the agency must always drive the technology, not the other way around.

Outside content developers

It’s challenging for a small agency to consistently keep track of blog posting, tweeting or updating a Facebook page. For many, the tendency is to find someone you can pay to do it for you—not entirely a bad idea.

Related: Read Rick Gilman's previous column "The Why of Business."

Two concerns you should have: First, no matter who writes the content, you need to ensure that it reflects your agency’s culture and brand. Second, make sure it’s relevant. Too often, outsourced content comes from a stock supply, meaning the outsourcers use articles and posts for a number of their agency clients. 

In the days when newsletters were printed and mailed, using the same content for multiple businesses within the same industry wasn’t a problem. Today, however, with online information and consumers researching themselves, the idea that clients might come across the same material on different websites is a greater probability.

I recommend you mix in content that is specific to your agency. You can do this by including items about community-related activities your agency is engaged in. Occasionally recognize someone on your staff for volunteer work they’ve done or a significant achievement they’ve received. This type of content helps you build a more personal relationship with your prospects and clients.

If you choose to use an outside contractor to supply content, don’t think it absolves you of the responsibility to help plan out the content strategy and to be certain it fits into your agency’s focus, it doesn’t.

It doesn’t apply to my agency

Regardless of your client base demographics, assume it’s going to change. All business is in the midst of a communications and marketing convergence.

Related: Read another Gilman column "A Thousand Words."

It’s no longer a digital revolution; it’s a “Connected Revolution.” How consumers want and expect to interact with the businesses from which they buy is driving this revolution. Because this revolution is taking place in the digital world, how your business reaches out, finds and connects to prospects is changing as well.

Traditional marketing methods no longer work the way they used to. The Yellow Pages ad, the newspaper presence or the direct mailer do not receive as much attention. With television, cable certainly has brought the cost of advertising down, but it’s troublesome to identify which channels match your market metrics.

Psychology of speed

Instant gratification is nothing new, but the psychology of speed is something businesses need to address. It’s what drives the growing development of 24/7 service and the interactive websites that more businesses are creating where customers can self-service. 

Having a presence in social media is part of this psychology. The immediacy of Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and others addresses a fundamental tenet of marketing: the importance of getting noticed quickly.

There are three basic means for getting noticed:

  • Proximity—being in the right place at the right time
  • Impact—doing something that stands out and makes a difference
  • Destiny effect—having the right stuff at the right time. It’s sometimes called “kismet.”

In our online world, getting noticed is both harder and easier. It’s harder because there is so much noise, a 500-decibel horn blasting sometimes can’t be heard. It’s easier because blowing the horn doesn’t require a lot of investment. 

Relating to people

Being able to have you and your agency relate to people, regardless of what kind of insurance you sell, is critical—and that’s exactly half of what social media can do for you. It helps you relate to them. At the same time, social media allows consumers to find common points of interest, concern, passion and beliefs where they can connect with you. The better you are able to orchestrate that connection, the greater the likelihood that a relationship can be cultivated.

Do you need a website?

I began this column with the blasphemous statement that “not every agency needs a website,” and I believe that. I’ll go further and say that not every agency should have a website. For far too many agencies, it can do more harm than good—lacking an understanding and a solid strategy for your website can be deadly to your business.

Some agency owners still think presenting a website with nothing more than an online brochure is enough—or that displaying Twitter or Facebook buttons on that site means they’re “on” social media, even if they only post once a month. 

Related: Read the article "Information Overload" by Rick Gilman.

The problem with this mistaken approach to websites goes back to two things: consumer expectations and what your competition is doing. Consumers want to do business with companies that let them control the relationship; that provide the interfaces of “where, when and how” of their choosing. If your agency requires clients to call you when they need to make simple changes or want to check on a claim, you’ll lose them to agencies that let them do it online. 

If your agency takes a voice message after hours instead of having a human being answer the phone or gives an option to conduct business on your website, then you’ll lose them. If the only time your clients think about you is at renewal because they received a notice from the carrier or if they need to file a claim, they won’t know or care who you are and you’ll lose them.

The adage “If you’re not moving forward, you’re falling behind” relates to the best of marketing strategies when it comes to being online. If you are not in a state of perpetual process improvement, you can be certain your competition is. 

So don’t choose to have a website frivolously. Be sure to make it interactive, full of dynamic content that is relevant to your agency and your markets, and keep the content fresh. Point your social media activities back to your website but don’t take on more than you can chew. Too many plates spinning in the air isn’t going to work if you can’t keep them spinning.

However, with the right approach, everyone should have a website.

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