Filed Under:Agent Broker, Agency Management

National Underwriter Picks the Top 3 Producer Portals

As customers increasingly choose to shop online for insurance, and many clients gravitate toward a mobile experience, a robust Internet presence for agencies has never been more necessary. An independent panel of judges reviewed and graded the nominations for NU's Best Agency Websites award program on factors including appearance, mobility, brand awareness, services offered and multimedia: Our top selections follow.

As customers increasingly choose to shop online for insurance, and many clients gravitate toward a mobile experience, a robust Internet presence for agencies has never been more necessary. An independent panel of judges reviewed and graded the nominations for NU's Best Agency Websites award program on factors including appearance, mobility, brand awareness, services offered and multimedia: Our top selections follow.

1. R&R Insurance Services

Three years ago, R&R Insurance Services in southeastern Wisconsin came to the same conclusion as Guy Kawasaki, former chief evangelist at Apple: “If you have more money than brains, you should focus on outbound marketing. If you have more brains than money, you should focus on inbound marketing.”

 

Back then, the agency’s website was antiquated and unfriendly, but it did offer valuable content; the agency provides commercial, personal and benefits services. Prospects and clients weren’t attracted to the website through traditional marketing methods, however, and as such, agency knowledge wasn’t being passed on effectively.

The site’s cumbersome content management system was time-consuming and costly for her team to refresh material and update pages. Due to the site’s custom coding, updating to more efficient and automated processes was a struggle—which hurt lead generation. “We were all complaining about the website,” says Traci Catalano, R&R’s creative marketing director.

R&R’s advertising agency, Stream Creative, suggested that it was time to upgrade—and for $20,000 migrated all of R&R’s web content to a HubSpot platform that’s infinitely more user-friendly for both the agency and its clients.

“With inbound marketing, producers at R&R can target their leads with follow-up content relative to their interests and actions on our websites,” says Ken Riesch, R&R’s president and owner. “It’s a more natural way to start developing a relationship with a prospect before the first face-to-face meeting, and will certainly shorten the sales cycle for our producers.”

For these reasons, and for the agency’s dedication to and use of SEO, analytical tools and integrated brand awareness, NU’s judges named R&R Insurance Services as the winner of the 2014 Commercial Agency Awards for Excellence—Best Agency Website.

Blogs, video, SEO, social media and other forms of content marketing attracts R&R’s leads into warmer prospects. Each piece of content includes a call-to-action such as signing up for a webinar, downloading a workplace tool such as a return-to-work alternative list of duties, or requesting direct contact.

“This places the relationship-building in the hands of the lead,” says Catalano, “giving them more control of how, when and where they want engagement with R&R Insurance.”

This concept has paid off: R&R’s website visits increased by 50% and quote requests nearly quadrupled in the span of a year. Catalano acknowledges that there has been some difficulty in connecting the leads (from HubSpot) to the accounting side of the business (AMS 360). The agency uses Microsoft Dynamics as its customer relationship management software, and plans are in place to automate both HubSpot and AMS 360 content into Microsoft Dynamics to give the agency a clearer picture of conversions and lead nurturing.

Web content is updated daily by the creative marketing department through the HubSpot platform. The creative marketing department also monitors Google Analytics and creates a monthly dashboard—sent to all employees—that analyzes traffic, lead generation, video views and social engagement. 

Employees are encouraged to conceptualize videos for the site, and their efforts are rewarded. Each year, R&R hands out a statue (called an Otis, and named after Ken Riesch’s father and agency founder) to the employee who created the year’s most watched video. “It gives them kudos and creates a little competition,” Catalano says.

The creative marketing team uses dashboard information to determine future content. Popular content, such as R&R’s distracted driver campaign, is re-deployed to encourage traffic. Says Catalano, “There’s no rule against sending the same message twice.”

Monitoring and implementing SEO is key, she adds, as 31% of the site’s traffic comes from search engines. Another 36% is direct.

Building Brand Awareness 
The HubSpot platform hosts the URL myknowledgebroker.com. R&R had coined itself as the “knowledge brokers” more than 20 years ago, and bringing that brand into its website resonates with clients and prospects, according to one of the judges for the Commercial Agency Awards for Excellence program: “Insurance often seems distant, faceless and impersonal, and use of the brand ‘Knowledge Brokers’ is strong and meaningful.”

Clients and prospects get an opportunity to “meet” their knowledge brokers though the site’s broker directory. These pages highlight each producer’s professional expertise as well as personal interests. All pages have custom photography: for example, the producer who enjoys bicycling has a photo of him riding his bike outside. One 6’10” account executive is shown on the basketball court with children.

“Insurance producers can have the reputations of car salesmen, but these producer branding pages show the human side of the agency,” one of NU’s judges commented.

“It’s a true testimony that reflects our long-term commitment to our brand as The Knowledge Brokers,” says Riesch. 

This brand also is emphasized on its blog microsite at myknowledgecenter.com, which provides risk management and loss prevention resources. Its most popular pieces are blogs on credit scoring, company vehicle coverage under PAP, and the OSHA 300 log. All of the content is produced in-house.

Narrow blog topics help the agency stay on top of search engines. For example, instead of posting a blog about safety in schools, R&R publishes a piece on a science lab teacher who is a champion for safety. The blog then directs the reader to download a chemistry lab safety kit.

“On the Internet you can find just about anything,” Catalano says, “but how do you make it unique? You have to have something of value for someone to be willing to give up their email address for it.” 

Judges' comments
Nominations for the Commercial Agency Awards for Excellence—Best Agency Website program are reviewed and scored by a panel of outside judges polled from NU's advisory board, ACT and brand consultants.

Here, the judges weigh in on R&R Insurance's winning website:

  • “The homepage design delivers a large amount of valuable information without appearing cluttered. The choice of colors neatly separates the sections—and the placement and brightness of the ‘Request a Quote’ button immediately draws the visitor's eyes.”
  • “Total leadership commitment to its website and training.”
  • “Very solid home page: The graphics slider mid-screen, minimal vertical scrolling needed, excellent navigation and even a clear link to seminars and webinars.”

2. Watkins Insurance Group

"We wanted our website to be a reflection of our agency, and it wasn’t; it was cluttered and confusing,” says Hanna Ogle, personal lines manager and director of agency automation at Watkins Insurance Group. “We didn’t want our agency to be portrayed that way.”

Starting from scratch, the Austin, Texas-based agency worked with developers at Project CAP all throughout 2013 and completely redesigned its website, which launched in the beginning of this year.

Project CAP manages the day-to-day publishing and upkeep of the site. The agency marketers also create an “editorial calendar” of sorts for the year, where blog topics are set each month for commercial, personal and benefits markets. The content is written in-house, and then sent to Project CAP for publishing to the site.  

Website activity is measured through Google Analytics. Customer quote requests are coded and processed through Applied TAM, which then tracks how much premium volume and revenue are generated by those online leads--and compares those numbers to leads from other sources.

Online quoting is powered through an EZLynx plugin on the site. Instead of generic quoting forms, the website offers comprehensive forms, such as for community associations, which asks for the number of units and square feet per building, loss runs and community declaration documents.

The website’s online chat is one of its most popular features, especially among existing clients. When a client engages in online chat, he or she selects which department should receive his or her question. That question is then forwarded on to one of 10 account managers in commercial, personal or bonds who are set up to work with the chat software. When both parties disconnect from the chat, a record is set to the agency management system.

“We do fairly steady online chat sessions with our customers,” Ogle says, “And we service them right then and there.”

A more significant value for clients is the MyWatkins247 portal, which gives customers access to their limits, vehicles, drivers and other policy information; process their own certificates; change policy information; and print ID cards. This feature also is available through smartphone access.

All of these enhancements have boosted website traffic by nearly 40% from 2013. Because 50% of the traffic comes from organic searches, keeping aware of SEO metrics is key; Project CAP provides Watkins with keyword research and targeting that will attract a specific group of prospects in Watkins’ geographic area. 

3. Seibert Insurance Agency

In 2012, Karyn Roeling purchased Seibert Insurance Agency from her father and set about one of her first tasks: creating a website. The Tampa, Fla., agency’s only online presence was a billboard site that was composed of 5 pages—one tab for home, auto, business, contact and quotes.

After interviewing website developers and unable to find the right fit for her budget and her vision, Roeling decided to design the website herself. She sketched all of her ideas, wrote all of the copy and compiled her vision in a 3-ring binder. She posted ads on Craigslist asking for actors to be in her videos, which a friend shot and edited. Through networking, she found a developer who could turn her 3-ring binder into an online site through the WordPress platform.

Now, when a prospect requests a quote, the website initiates a drip campaign: Within two hours the prospect receives an email that says that his or her quote has been assigned and that an agency representative will be calling to collect information. From here, many different scenarios can take place.

The agency has eight different status codes, for example, “quoted, not sold,” “quoted, no contact,” or “quoted, sold” that will set off the new drip course. Roeling’s assistant Candice Smith monitors Google Analytics. In Florida, animal liability is excluded under many homeowners’ policies, and Smith suggested that the site include an animal liability page and keywords to draw in traffic. With 55% of traffic from search engines, the animal liability page is now one of the site’s most trafficked pages. 

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