Learning about and buying insurance has changed dramatically over the past couple of decades, but with a little work, agents can stay relevant amid the move to customer independence and self-service.
Nearly three-fourths (74 percent) of people shopping for insurance go online to research options and obtain quotes, according to the J.D. Power 2016 U.S. Insurance Shopping Study. And while half still close the deal directly with an agent, 25 percent purchase their policy online, the study found.
For agents, the competition is tough — you’re vying not just against other people in your field, but also with insurer websites and aggregators that send customers straight to a transaction page. You can meet your customers online, but getting the upper hand involves doing something these websites often can’t: delivering a personal touch.
Here are 10 ways to make your online efforts more effective.
On social media
Focus on platforms your customers use. Invest time in the social media that your clients use — chances are that the platforms are filled with potential clients, as well. If you have limited time to engage online, use Facebook to reach the most people.
Post useful content. Make each update count. A status update about the weather will do nothing for your business and brand, but using current conditions to explain how seasonal car maintenance can cut down on ownership costs, for example, will demonstrate that you're a trusted, helpful source of expert information.
Engage, engage, engage. Don’t post and walk away. If people comment on what you share, engage with them. Start a discussion, and when the time is right, contact them and offer your services.
Follow up after telephone or in-person exchanges. Send a thank-you note or reach out if you haven’t heard from a customer in a while. Put effort into maintaining the relationship after any transaction.
Start a regular newsletter. A monthly newsletter can be as simple as discussing seasonal insurance topics and reminding current and former clients that your services extend beyond the initial policy sign-up.
Send customer reminders. Check in with your customers a month or so before their policy is up for renewal. Ask to set aside time to talk through life or policy changes and potential discounts.
On your website
Keep it simple. You’re not selling your services as a website designer. Stick to the topics at hand and give customers several ways of contacting you, including email, phone and social media accounts.
If you start a blog, maintain it. Blogs can be a great tool for informing customers and getting search traffic. But don’t start a blog that you can’t maintain. When online shoppers see you haven’t posted in a year, they may wonder what else you’ll neglect when you get busy.
Sign up for a lead-generation service. If you want to take some of the work out of finding clients online, let someone else help — but make sure you’re getting a good value. Look for one that sends only highly motivated customers your way, to make every contact worthwhile.
Respond to online reviews, even the negative ones. Every review — good or bad — is an opportunity for you to show potential customers the kind of professional you are. If you’ve found negative reviews about yourself, others are likely seeing them, too, so respond with tact and grace.
Nahu Ghebremichael is the Head of Insurance at NerdWallet, a personal finance website that recently launched AutoConnect, a lead-generation service to match high-intent auto insurance customers with agents. The program has a current conversion rate of 30-40 percent.