By Carl Maerz
DITCH THE GENERIC NEWSLETTER
Curated content is where it’s at, and it’s easier than you think
Back in the day, the newsletter was used by businesses to keep their shareholders up to date on progress between annual meetings. The end goal was for businesses to put their own spin on company news as a way of driving up their share price. And it worked pretty well. Newsletter distribution expanded to important clients, public officials or anyone else the business felt inclined to influence with its content.
Then the Internet happened.
It made sense to use email to easily and cheaply reach a bunch of clients all at once. What used to be reserved for shareholders and client dignitaries was now available to the average Joe with an email address. In this way, newsletters shifted and became general relationship building communications and follow-up purchase campaigns. Other industries, like retail, started sending newsletters; and before long, pretty much anything qualified someone to receive a business’s newsletter—like having visited its website, for instance. That’s when people really lost interest in them altogether.
Today, newsletters are mostly just one of the many emails we delete each morning. Some even call it a human micro-evolution—our ability to effortlessly scan lists of data and sort relevant from, you guessed it, junk mail.
If newsletters seldom get opened and the content is only occasionally valuable, are they still worth sending?
There are plenty of industries where it would make sense for a business to send its clients a newsletter. Yes, including insurance. But the reality is: Newsletters have largely lost their reputation, as they’re now grouped side by side with run-of-the-mill promotional emails. After all, much of that junk mail cluttering our inboxes every morning is made up of “newsletters.” To put it bluntly, they aren’t cool anymore.
I know several agents who sent newsletters to their clients that included well-intentioned content. Each told me their goal was to build relationships with their clients—and so increase retention and crosssales. It makes sense. But, having read through their newsletters, I noticed that most of the content covers broad insurance issues: stuff the agent believes is useful to clients of all shapes and sizes. Sure, there were some creative spins on topics, but it was really much of the same. After a handful of uninteresting newsletters like this, just about everyone is going to tune them out moving forward.
But the question remains: If newsletters seldom get opened and the content is only occasionally valuable, are they still worth sending?
A study last year by Bain & Company (the inventors of the Net Promoter Score®) showed that insurance clients are much more loyal if they receive even one meaningful interaction throughout the year. This improved loyalty when applied across an entire book of business translates to an overall 3% increase in client retention.
Agents who have several meaningful interactions with their clients each year see even larger boosts to retention and referrals. So staying in front of clients in a meaningful way is a good thing for insurance agents to do, but a newsletter will not help you accomplish this. Instead, the communication must be meaningful, personal and impactful.
Keep it personal. People like to think that their insurance agent is looking out for them individually. So, when an agent takes the time to communicate with them personally, they assume the agent must also be setting aside time to look out for their insurance needs. Because newsletters are written for everyone, they don’t check this box.
Impactful content (and delivery) keeps the reader interested. Essentially, does the communication make the client smile or does it leave another positive impression? This can be accomplished with a thoughtful gesture like a handwritten thank you card. Another way to keep clients interested is to take the time to share content that is specifically relevant to them. Because newsletters speak to and are intended for everyone, they don’t meet the impactful threshold either.
Curated content can really switch up your relationship with clients. Newsletters that include curated content have survived and are thriving today. Why? There’s so much noise out there that the problem is no longer access to information, but rather choosing what to pay attention to. Media companies figured this out and started creating newsletters with the aim of curating content for specific interests or demographic niches. Take “The Hustle” newsletter. It was created for young tech professionals and reached more than a million regular subscribers inside a couple of years by promising to “cut through all the nonsense out there and concisely tell users what they need to know and how it impacts them.” The bottom line is there’s no shortage of content. What we want today is content meant for us.
Agents can be successful with curating content for their users, too. But here’s another little myth that won’t go away: You need to write the content yourself. Clients understand that most agents are not copywriters. As long as the content is relevant to them, they don’t really care who wrote it. Instead of typing out a newsletter, agents could spend that time curating relevant articles and education that would benefit different groups of clients. The more specific the information, the bigger the impact.
If you’re an agent, it’s your job to make sense of policies and their coverages for regular people. A well-positioned article emailed to specific individual clients can do just that. In fact, it can work a whole lot better than an entire newsletter because it’s well targeted. But make sure you don’t over explain it. Just include a sentence or two with the article, telling the client that you were thinking of them and briefly explain why the article might be useful. This makes them feel like you’ve taken time out of your day to care for them personally. If you do it thoughtfully, curated content can provide meaningful communication that increases client loyalty.
Curated content (e.g., shared blog posts and articles) can also help agents position cross-sales to existing clients. In many cases, if a client has only a single policy with his or her agent—perhaps they don’t have a life policy, for example—it’s not necessarily because they are unaware that the agency offers it. The issue could be that they didn’t know they needed it to begin with. A well-positioned article could help inform clients of the initial need for a product or service and make it clear that you offer it, too.
Example: You could email an article to a client with a young family and tell her about the best time to buy life insurance. Include a note, something like this:
“Hi, Jennifer! Not sure if you’ve thought about a life policy yet, but I thought this article might be a good place to start; it’s a quick read. Hope all’s well—and by the way, if you have any questions or are thinking about a policy after reading this, I’m here to help.”
Automation makes it easier
So, there you have it. Curated, personalized, well-positioned content wins out over generic, scatter-shot newsletters. Plus, it doesn’t have to be hard work to find the articles and write the messages. In fact, at Rocket Referrals, we’re helping agents automate the process so their clients get targeted content that still feels personal. Stay tuned for future updates.
In the meantime, test out sending specific messages with curated articles. I think you’ll find it makes a big difference.
Carl Maerz is the co-founder of Rocket Referrals, an automated communication strategy that helps agencies improve their referrals, retention, reviews and relationships. He aims to help local agencies leverage their advantages over direct writers by replacing common industrial myths with relevant and practical advice. Contact Carl at firstname.lastname@example.org.