THINKING AHEAD: 2022 NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS
Add “improving your agency’s digital footprint” to the list
By Chip Bacciocco
What do insurance customers want in an online shopping experience? For independent agents, this isn’t a particularly hard question to answer. We are all buyers of insurance, so it can help to think about what you personally want and expect in a shopping experience.
More likely than not, you want to know that you will be able to access the advice you need, answer the questions you have, and secure the coverage you need quickly and professionally. You’re also looking for a fair price; and you want the process and people you work with to be trustworthy and helpful. So, knowing what customers want is the easy part.
The challenge is in delivering on those customer expectations-what we call the digital customer experience.
Two key elements for success
From an insurance agency perspective, being found and being responsive are the keys to success in winning new customers online. These are also two areas where many agents struggle. Today, most insurance customers turn to the internet when they begin shopping. Last year, an overwhelming majority of insurance shoppers ran an online search before making a purchase. Most didn’t have one company in mind when starting their searches according to recent industry studies.
We all know that, today, insurance agents are no longer found in the phone book. People instead search Google from their laptops or phones. An agency that can be found through a link that appears on the first page of Google Search results is the one that will have the most success. Agents need to find ways, directly and indirectly, to be found through those Google searches.
But being found is just the first step. How the agency handles the incoming opportunity will have a significant impact on whether or not the prospect becomes a client. Today’s shoppers are used to instant gratification. They can get approved for a mortgage in minutes. They click a button and groceries can be delivered within the hour.
Consumers want the same experience with insurance. Agents need to be easily accessible online and be responsive in “internet-time.” Customers require prompt replies to their inquiries, not filling out online forms and waiting days for a response.
Preparation means standing out
Everyone has become more digital in the pandemic-and insurance consumers are no different. People of all ages have become more comfortable with transacting business in an online environment. This is something that’s not likely to change, even as life gets back to normal.
The importance of establishing and constantly improving their digital footprint is becoming increasingly obvious to every business.
So, here are four things that every independent insurance agency can do today and throughout the next year to establish a strong digital presence and ensure that they are successfully being found, understood, and recommended online.
1. Spend time on SEO; it’s worth it. Unfortunately, websites are not like baseball fields in the movies (Field of Dreams, anyone?). If you build it, people won’t necessarily come. Agencies can increase the chances that their sites will appear higher in Google Search results ranking with thoughtful search engine optimization (SEO) strategies. While SEO does not require a computer science degree, to do it well it does take time.
One tactic is to build credibility by having third-party sites link back to your agency’s website. For example, if your agency partners with other organizations, ask if the partner’s website can list your agency and include a link. Backlinks let search engines know that your site is current, active, and relevant.
Also, make sure to ask customers to review your agency so you can feature those reviews on your site. Without reviews, search engines may assume your business is less legitimate, which makes it harder to appear high in search rankings. Make reviewing your agency as easy as possible for customers. Provide the links to the review page and even sample reviews to show how short and easy it can be.
Last, explore opportunities with solutions that can help take over some of the heavy SEO lifting. For example, some online directories help boost SEO for their members by providing backlinks to the agencies’ websites and social profiles. They also connect the agencies with key insurance terms so they are more likely to appear in the results list when customers search these key words.
2. Differentiate all the time. Describing your agency as a generalist that handles personal and commercial lines won’t help separate you from the thousands of other agencies-even if you say you have the best service. Everyone says that. What is it that you do that few other agencies do? What are your best products? Do you specialize in insuring any niche industries? Do you have a unique three-step risk assessment tool? Or a price comparison guarantee? Think about what you can say that is different.
Dedicate specific pages on your website to your areas of specialization. For example, if you do a lot of business insuring vacation homes or take-out restaurants, make sure your website has a page for each. Include basic information about these coverage areas, as well as answers to frequently asked questions. Add your agency’s location with specific place names and geographical locations. Search engines consider both matching keywords and location proximity when rendering search results.
3. Remember that trust is earned. Insurance is an industry built on relationships. Agents are entrusted with the well-being of their clients’ families, homes, businesses, and livelihoods. Insureds want to know they have the right coverage to protect them from the worst circumstances.
In the recent past, when customers visited their local agencies in person, it was easy to begin building relationships and creating a level a trust. Transitioning trust to an online environment-where anyone can create a website-can be a significant task. Your website, which you can also think about as your digital storefront, is where you start. Use it to showcase partnerships and past client successes. Include client testimonials. Ask your carrier partners if you can use their logos. Include pictures of agents working, which enables people to put a face to a name.
And make sure to publish those trust-building customer ratings and reviews on other websites as well, including our national directory of independent insurance agents at TrustedChoice.com.
Don’t forget to leverage other tools that we have all learned to use during the pandemic. Go beyond email and phone calls and utilize videoconferencing tools to have face-to-face interactions. Using video for initial meetings can help jumpstart relationships and lay the foundation for trust as you move forward with your clients.
[B]eing found and being responsive are the keys to success in winning new customers online. These are also two areas where many agents struggle.
4. Be responsive and make it easy for buyers to get in touch. Today’s customers have many options for insurance. Google Search magnifies those possibilities. This gives them power; they’re not going to jump through hoops to make connections. If they can’t get in touch with you quickly, they will move on to the next potential solution on their lists. You need to be available. Make sure callers can speak with a person. Don’t ask them to navigate through complex phone trees.
If you don’t want to burden producers with incoming calls, have a dedicated person answer the calls, learn about the customer’s needs, and then forward the call to an agent that is available to talk to them.
Also, implement processes to field incoming opportunities during non-office hours. For example, consider having someone on-call to respond to incoming emails. This individual doesn’t have to quote policies all night long but can simply let the customer know that your agency can help them and set up a time the next day during office hours to talk with the customer about their needs.
So when you’re starting that New Year’s resolution list, put your agency first. Resolve to improve your agency’s digital footprint. Being found, being responsive and establishing trust are how agents can excel in today’s digital world. With a robust digital footprint, you’ll be able to acquire and engage new opportunities, and successfully turn them into new customers.
Chip Bacciocco is the CEO of TrustedChoice.com, an online market-ing platform for independent insurance agents and Independent Agency channel insurance companies. Prior to joining TrustedChoice.com in 2012, Chip served in multiple roles over his 30-year career in the insurance industry, including as chief operating officer of Aon Private Risk Management Services, Inc., senior vice president of Product Strategy at Zywave and vice president of E-Business Application Development at Arthur J Gallagher & Co. Chip is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame and lives with his wife and children in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.