Five tips to optimize your tech and grow your benefits business
By Matthew Davis
It’s no secret that the way companies market to consumers is changing. “Changing customer expectations” has become a buzz-phrase across all industries. For businesses to be successful, they must understand what their prospects and customers want and how they wish to be marketed to.
However, it is important to first understand why customer preferences have changed.
Over the past decade, we’ve seen technology introduce new ways of advertising to consumers. Companies large and small use data to segment and target specific audiences. Now that advertising has become so customized to the consumer, we are extremely sensitive to advertising that does not relate to us. Just think back to the last time you got a promotional email that didn’t apply to you. You couldn’t hit “unsubscribe” quickly enough!
It is critical to ensure you are marketing to the right audience, and make sure they understand why they are the right audience. For example, insurance is extremely complex, so many customers and prospects may not know that they need a particular type of coverage. Agents must ensure they are not only advertising the policy, but they are educating their customer or prospect why they need that particular coverage.
While the thought of catching up to ever-evolving customer expectations can seem overwhelming, there is technology available that can support you in keeping pace.
As the owner of a small insurance agency, I decided my business needed marketing automation so that my team could use the data in our management system to market to prospects and customers. From the first day we began using marketing automation, we saw a significant financial benefit. In fact, one of the first emails we sent was to our current customer base regarding cyber policies. It contained a brief message from their sales representative along with a company-branded attachment containing information about cyber insurance. We sold four policies within the first four days of sending the email, and more after that with a consistent cyber campaign.
While you’ve probably heard similar stories about marketing automation, it can be daunting to adopt the technology and know where to start. We’ve tried several different marketing automation platforms—including one we created ourselves—and finally implemented one that has shown both immediate results and even more return over time.
As you get started on your journey in adopting and implementing marketing automation for your business, here are five tips that you can use to get started.
1. Educate your customer. As a trusted insurance advisor, it is important to educate customers and prospects on the various types of coverages they need for themselves and their businesses. But like most independent agencies, our agency does not have the resources to create our own educational content. Having access to a content library containing insurance-specific articles, infographics and more for both P-C and benefits enables us to engage with prospects and customers and offer information that is relevant to them—without having to assign resources to manage it.
I saw this work in my agency when I had a customer that only had group life insurance, which doesn’t generate much commission on its own. I put this customer in a campaign that had curated content, educating them on the different kinds of benefits coverage. The campaign sent automated emails every so often and, after about six months of getting these automated emails with different pieces of content each time, the customer purchased dental and vision to go along with the life insurance and bumped up the commission with virtually no extra effort from me or my team.
2. Integrate with your management system. Before using our current marketing automation platform, we used an application that did not integrate with our management system. We struggled to keep all departments up to date on where customers were in their buying journeys, and we even lost sales because we couldn’t properly track them.
Now, our marketing automation platform integrates with our management system, allowing every team member, regardless of department or role, to see what communications a customer has received, clicked through, and responded to. When a customer replies back to an email or calls into the office, we don’t have to shuffle them between team members to answer questions. All the information has been synced from the marketing automation platform to the management system, so team members can view it directly within their daily workflows.
We can also use the data housed in our management system— including current policies, location and more—to filter for marketing campaigns. We can pull even the most granular information like the type of plan to use as a filter for a campaign. For example, we have a customer who was on an HMO plan but could get more coverage with a PPO. While that HMO plan may be highly profitable for us, we could lose that sale eventually by just offering the upsell and not what the customer actually needed. So, we put them in a campaign to educate them about other options, and they ended up switching plans and even purchased another policy after speaking to their agent.
3. Know when to use branding. Branding can be tricky. There’s a fine line between looking salesy and being professional. When deciding when to use branding, it’s important to think about the message you are sending and who you are sending it to.
When sending content, I have found that our customers and prospects are much more likely to open and read content that is branded to our agency. Our marketing automation platform has made this extremely easy; we just select a piece of content and instantly brand it with the colors and logo of our agency. Because of the professional look, we’ve seen a 10% increase in open rates compared to the emails we sent with our previous application that did not brand the content to our agency.
While branding can be great for open rates, we have also found that sending automated emails with no branding is extremely valuable to encourage responses, as the messages look and feel like they were manually drafted and sent from one of our team members.
Our current platform allows us to create campaigns with email templates that look like a personal email from Outlook, Gmail, or another email provider. These are especially helpful during renewal season, when we are sending reminder emails for information or tasks, because customers are more likely to read and respond to a personal-looking email than an automated, branded one.
4. Boost benefits sales by filtering for workers comp. One of the best ways to increase revenue is diversifying your book of business. Marketing automation is a great tool to help cross-sell to current customers. However, a common problem for agents is not knowing who to market to. My advice is to start with your workers compensation customers because you know they have employees.
For example, the very first email we ever sent out was regarding employment practice liability. It contained an attachment with information on the coverage and why it’s important for business owners to have it. We filtered our customer list for those who have workers compensation policies and sent the email. Within a week, we had customers coming to us who were ready to buy.
5. Measure success on net income, not incoming leads. When it comes to marketing automation, many agency owners only look at the number of leads coming in or how much new commission is immediately coming in. Those metrics are difficult to attribute to technology because there can be so many other factors at play. However, we can track initial cost savings by looking at the monthly cost of the platform then comparing that to the increase in net income. If we haven’t increased our headcount, but have increased our net income, then I can more easily attribute that to the technology.
The success of technology is so much more than just my cost savings and net income, however. My business is increasing its bottom line without having to hire new team members, which is extremely difficult and can be strenuous on the team. Additionally, my team is making more commission without having to put in extra effort or time.
While the thought of catching up to ever-evolving customer expectations can seem overwhelming, there is technology available that can support you in keeping pace. Marketing automation has helped my agency build and diversify my book of business by providing the visibility and automation needed to cross-sell and upsell to current customers.
For those agents who are considering adopting this technology to enhance customer acquisition and retention, my last piece of advice would be to find a platform that works for your business. There are countless tools on the market that have the same capabilities, but they don’t work together with your current tech stack.
Your marketing is only as good as the amount of data you are able to use to target the right audience. When you can market the right message to the right audience at the right time—then you’ve got yourself a sale.
Matthew Davis is president of GDI Insurance Agency. Born and raised in Turlock, California, where he currently resides with his wife and their five children, Matt obtained his Property and Casualty insurance license and began his insurance career with GDI while still in high school. He later obtained his Bachelor of Science degree in Business with a concentration in Strategy and Entrepreneurship from California State University Stanislaus and his Master of Business Administration (MBA) with a focus in Corporate Finance and Entrepreneurial Strategy from University of the Pacific. After holding positions at Kaiser Permanente and E. & J. Gallo Winery, Matt returned to GDI Insurance in 2010, and became president and sole owner in 2015.