Filed Under:Agent Broker, Agency Technology

Mobile Musts

Smartphone apps reach clients quickly.

The iPhone 5 launch left consumers around the world both in love and frustrated. Many of its reviews glowed about the new form factor, improved optics and audio and updated operating system. Just as many consumers were disgruntled with the loss of the native YouTube app, the subpar Apple Maps app and the all-new charging dock connector.

Despite these issues, Apple sold 5 million of the iPhone 5 mobile devices in just the first 10 days.

Notwithstanding the power of the Apple brand, many other smartphone brands like the Samsung Galaxy S III also achieved great pick-up within the consumer market, once again underscoring the long-held belief that we are quickly becoming a mobile society.

Related: Read Rick Gilman's previous column, "Hunt and Gather."

Trending toward mobility

Hubspot’s recent 2012 Mobile Stat Report notes some startling trends:

  • Worldwide, more people own a cell phone (5.1B) than a toothbrush (4.2B)
  • There are four times more cell phone users than PC or laptop users
  • Three out of five searches are performed using a mobile phone and 70 percent of all mobile searches result in action within 1 hour
  • It takes a month for the same percentage of desktop users to take action.

Internet searching isn’t the only activity taking place in growing numbers on mobile devices; text marketing is proving to be an effective means of reaching your audience quickly, efficiently and successfully. According to the same report:

  • It takes 90 minutes on average for a person to check and respond to an email
  • It takes 90 seconds for that same average person to check and respond to a text
  • Text messaging has been estimated to be five times more effective than direct mail and 10 times more effective than newspaper advertising.

Finally, the report states:

  • 43 percent of businesses now use mobile phones
  • 25 percent of businesses plan to do so within the next 12 months
  • 16 percent of businesses plan to do so in more than 12 months
  • Only 15 percent of marketers have no plans to use mobile technology at all.

With trends like these, if you find yourself in the 15 percent group, with no expectations of implementing mobile technology, then your agency will become irrelevant.

The pros and cons

There are many reasons for not implementing a mobile strategy for your agency.

Applying another technology and marketing tool may be too much to consider right now. Or perhaps your agency is concerned with the inferred security issues stemming from mobile access. Exposure of sensitive data through a mobile device might cause enumerable damage.

Maybe you don’t see the value for your agency to provide this "painful," "extra" service to your clients. The return on the investment just isn’t obvious.

Read another Gilman column, "Personal Touch."

The truth: Mobile is here to stay. Your current clients use it and your future customers look for your services on it. Your staff and future hires expect it. If you don’t embrace mobile technology, your agency quickly will become irrelevant.

The business community is in the midst of a perfect storm in the world of marketing and communications. First, constant change and its pace are increasing exponentially. Technology is the root cause of this quickening pace, with Moore’s Law the oil lubricating the engine.

Add to that the fact that we are inundated with messages by the thousands each and every day. Consequently, agents are finding it harder to get their messages heard. Finally, let’s throw in the mix this thing called social media.

Keep your brand visible

One key to thriving in this growing digital marketing revolution is finding ways to build an effective brand that demonstrates rather than just communicates. In the long run, if your brand is not visible, you don’t exist.

One way to help your brand stand out from the competition is to leverage mobile technology and the powerful aspects of video-based marketing.

Many studies have shown that when it comes to information retention, people remember about:

  • 10 percent of what they hear
  • 20 percent of what they read
  • 80 percent of what they see and do.

This means that if you can implement tools that show your brand—and I don’t mean your company name and logo, but actually demonstrate the "attitude, aptitude and action" of your brand—then you’re on the way to distinguishing your agency from the others.

Video is a great way to do that by adding video-based email marketing, video messaging and video resources throughout your website. Your website should include a mobile-optimized site to simplify access over mobile devices. If you visit your website on a smartphone and you have to zoom in to read or to click a link; or if you have to scroll in any direction to see the whole page, then you will lose prospects if they’re searching for insurance via the mobile phone. And more and more people are doing just that.

Finally, what better way is there to get noticed than being able to put your brand in your client’s hand via your own customized phone app? Many of the biggest carriers are offering mobile apps for their clients directly. GEICO, State Farm and Progressive offer apps that make filing a claim easy, accessing basic policy information convenient and communications between carrier and insured a one-click option.

So why shouldn’t your agency have an app, too? There are a handful of companies that target insurance agencies with their mobile apps. Some include components of ACORD forms that can be completed right on the mobile device; some have the feature allowing your insureds to report an accident with photos of the damage, automatic GPS location, and capturing of the other person’s insurance information, all connected to the VIN number and policy number.

Related: Read "New ROI" by Rick Gilman.

Additional features agents can bring to a mobile app include one-touch calling or emailing, information on the agency, products and services listings, office locations and directions, appointment scheduling, listing of approved service providers like repair shops and glass replacement services also with one-touch calling. Video functionality and the ability to post podcasts within your app demonstrate your knowledge, professionalism and caring, which are essential when convincing prospects to buy from you.

These features bring both value-added benefits to your existing clients and enormous credibility to your marketing efforts to find and keep new clients.

And don’t think that this is way out of your price range. Developers  build apps for your agency anywhere from as low as about $1,000 all the way up to $10,000 or more; some give you only one platform, others give you all three platforms (Apple, Android and HTML5) and the input on design varies as well. No matter what your budget is, there is a solution for you. Even if all you have to spend on a build is $200, if you have some basic design skills, there’s do-it-yourself approach as well.

So there’s no excuse anymore. You know it’s going to happen. Similar to where the business community was at 15 years ago with the need for websites, we are at that point with the need for mobile phone apps. At some point in the near future, you will wake up one morning to find everyone has a mobile app. If your agency isn’t among them, then you’re out of the game.

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