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Ditch the traditional newsletter and create personalized messages for each client
By Christopher W. Cook
Does your agency spend countless hours putting together a traditional newsletter that’s electronically delivered to every single client, only to find that most of them delete it without reading it? Is it the content? Is it the plethora of images? Something else? Maybe all of it?
Maybe a newsletter isn’t the most successful approach for communicating with your clients.
A recent webinar hosted by Client-Circle, an insurance communications platform, offered an alternative suggestion to the traditional newsletter.
“ClientCircle automates communications through multiple channels, such as email, hand-written cards, texting, and even web chat to an agency’s past, present and future clients to increase efficiency and revenue,” said Kelsey Guenet, a member of CientCircle’s business development team. “We man-age the full customer journey from prospecting and cross-selling to building long-term, meaningful relationships to help increase retention, referral activity and online presence.”
A poll at the webinar’s opening showed that most attendees found that traditional newsletters were too time-consuming to put together; open rates varied amongst the polltakers. For those who weren’t getting a high percentage of reads, it might have been the newsletter itself.
“[A]gencies will send content about their company, like employee birthdays or highlights from the office party. While all that stuff is nice, it’s somewhat self-serving and just not relevant to the customer.”
Marketing Communications Specialist
“Storydoc did a study that I think debunks the common misconception that your clients want a newsletter with lots of images and flashy graphics,” said Brooke Eaton, ClientCircle’s marketing communications specialist. “Forty-three percent of Americans actually prefer a plain text newsletter; only 28% prefer ones with elaborate graphics.
“I can attest to this; I get dozens of emails every day and I check my email daily,” she added. “As I’m going through [messages] on my phone, the ones that have a lot of images are the ones I skip right over.
“HubSpot did A/B testing on this subject; they sent one group of clients HTML emails that had pictures and sent the other group emails with just plain text,” Eaton explained. “The ones with lots of pictures had a 21% lower click-through rate and consistently underperformed compared to plain text. When it comes to emails, less is more.”
A sample newsletter was used to support the contention. It had multiple articles that covered topics like renter’s insurance and home business coverage, and contained numerous graphics, including some that wouldn’t open properly.
“There are a lot of topics here, and there are too many calls to action; [the
client] could not sit down and reason-ably read through all of this during the day,” Eaton said. In the example, the client who received the newsletter had only a life insurance policy with the agency. “None of the articles are relevant to her, so she’s not going to stop and read it.
“[The agency] easily could have tailored this to her and had it be much more effective by using her name in the email and just sending one article about life insurance,” she explained.
As for the graphics, particularly the ones not opening: “They may look great on your computer, but you don’t know if the person is using a phone or a tablet or has a spam filter on their email,” Eaton said.
What other negatives do newsletters present?
“A lot of the content that gets sent is hard cross-sells, like why you need this type of policy or more information about a certain product,” Eaton said. “Customers know when you’re trying to sell to them, and even though they probably could benefit from several more policies, it doesn’t feel genuine.
“The other thing we see frequently is that agencies will send content about their company, like employee birthdays or highlights from the office party,” she noted. “While all that stuff is nice, it’s somewhat self-serving and just not relevant to the customer.”
So, how should agencies communicate with their clients?
“Send something to a client specifically,” Eaton said, “and don’t send too many pictures in your email, because emails with too many images often get classified as spam anyway.”
Tailoring messages to clients improves the likelihood of their being read. Eaton, who lives in Colorado and enjoys snow-boarding on weekends, opens every message regarding snowfall reports, warnings about high avalanche areas, or mountain safety tips sent from her dad.
Finding something your client is interested in and connecting regularly with them on a personal level regarding that topic is key to maintaining a strong relationship.
But with a plethora of contacts, how can this successfully be achieved?
If you don’t have a tool designed for this type of communication, you can start with a simple spreadsheet.
“When you open an Excel file, at the bottom you can create separate sheets to segment out your book of business for things like people’s interest or life stages,” Eaton said. “Keep mental notes
as you’re talking to your customers on ones who like gardening or traveling.
“Put their name and contact information into a category that applies to them, and then when you see an article or a video or a podcast that might pertain to that group, you can save the URL right on that spreadsheet,” she added. “Every month, you can go through your list to see whom you haven’t communicated with in a while, and you can send them a quick, friendly email with a link to that URL.”
Guenet shared an example. “I recently had to take my dog, Kevin, to the emergency vet for a back injury. I had been reading up on things that I could do to help him and read this insightful article on how harnesses are much better than traditional collars when taking your dogs for long walks, which I do frequently.
“As an insurance customer, if my agent sent an article like that to me, not only would I be very receptive to it,
but it also adds a lot of value to our personal relationship, just knowing that they care enough about me and my interests to take the time out of their day to send me something that’s going to be relevant,” she explained.
Eaton added, “If you send that harness article to your customers who are dog owners, it shows right away that you care about their pets’ well-being, and it can open up the door to talk about pet insurance in a non-awkward way.”
Additional information to share in a message to clients, suggested by attendees of the webinar, included events in your local community and new recipes.
But what happens if you’re not sure where to find information to share with customers?
“Even if you aren’t someone who goes out and finds content yourself, you probably have friends and family who are sending things to you,” Eaton said. “I had a friend send me a podcast about embracing change in the workplace, and that’s something I think we could all use a little bit of help with. The podcast was short, I could easily send it out to clients, and a lot of people would find value from that. I didn’t have to do any work to find it because it was something that got sent to me from a friend.”
“If you find an article on ‘things to do after a car accident,’ go ahead and send it out to all your auto policyholders. It’s helpful information for them to know in the moment, but it’s also easier for them to reference back if they ever get into a predicament.”
When searching, find topics that your clients would enjoy, or start with what you’re already reading, watching, or listening to.
“Try to sprinkle in insurance content without being too heavy with it,” Eaton said. “If you have a history of sending articles, videos and podcasts that [your clients] enjoy, then when you occasionally send them an article about insurance or a type of coverage they may be missing, they’ll be much more receptive to it.”
If you have the time, consider creating your own content or seeing if someone else in your office would like to write blogs or create videos. “If no one jumps at it, there’s so much out there on the internet already,” Eaton said.
Still not sure what to send clients? Here are a few examples of specific content:
- If the client is a first-time homeowner—“Ten things to do regularly to keep your home in great condition”
- If the client added a teenage driver recently—“Top ten mistakes young drivers make”
- If the client mentions that they love to travel—“Tips on staying safe when traveling to an unfamiliar destination”
- If the client is approaching retirement age—“Eight things no one tells you about retirement”
- If the client is a small business owner—“Tips on how to protect your small business from a lawsuit”
“If you find an article on ‘things to do after a car accident,’ go ahead and send it out to all your auto policyholders,” Guenet said. “It’s helpful information for them to know in the moment, but it’s also easier for them to reference back if they ever get into a predicament. Send an article with maintenance checklists for your home- owners and let them know how they can keep up to date on their home
over the course of a season.”
Guenet also suggested articles on “making remote meetings more effective” for business owner policyholders, budgeting tips, or advice on life insurance for those thinking about retirement.
After you’ve found content, it’s a good idea to read, watch or listen to the information all the way through to make sure it’s accurate and also relevant to what your agency offers.
“If you sent an article about ‘five types of insurance you never knew
you needed,’ it would be embarrassing if a customer wrote back and asked to purchase one of those policy types, only to find out you don’t offer that product,” Eaton said. “Read it all the way through; it’s going to save you a lot of trouble.
“Also, before you start sending something out,” she added, “ask yourself if what you’re sending will be relevant down the road? You’ll want to find articles that stand the test of time for two reasons—you’ll want your customers to be able to look back on that content later on and still find value from it, and it will save you time to not have to find new content every time you get a new policyholder.”
For example, a number of articles written during the COVID-19 pandemic describe being in “the middle of the crisis,” and articles covering specific cyber breaches may be relevant for only a few weeks before the next major cyber event.
“You want to update your libraries every so often and make sure that you’re not sending outdated content,” Eaton said. “Beyond checking the date, you’ll want to make sure the content is still relevant.
“A good rule of thumb for how recent dates should be is within the last three years or so. An article about cybersecurity tips that [clients] can practice at home and at work is going to be relevant for years to come,” she concluded.
To develop more meaningful relationships with your clients, consider ditching the traditional newsletter and creating personalized messages with useful, relevant information for each client. It might still be a lot of work, but automation options are also available.
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