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Building Effective Websites for Independent Insurance Agencies

Insurance WebsitesYour website is complicated mix of technology and marketing. It’s an intersection of many of your agency’s services, helping you gain new customers and keep the ones you have. Because of the important role of your website, it’s important that you invest in it and make sure it is up-to-date. You need to consider the different roles your site plays to make the right investments in it.

Digital Storefront

You know to make sure your storefront or office looks nice because potential and current customers will consider your storefront to reflect the kind of business you run. No matter how simple it is, your storefront is an expression of your brand.

Think of your website as your “digital storefront.” It will form important first impressions for potential customers, and your current customers will see it as a reflection of the service you offer. You want to make sure your website – from how fast it loads to what it looks like – reflects the business you run. It should match the brand you want to convey and provide functionality to help you gain new customers and keep the ones you have.

Inbound Lead Generation

Your website should be built in a way that helps it earn new business for you. There are two components to building a site that will do this for you: an effective search engine optimization (SEO) strategy and the ability to collect website visitor information via website forms.

Improving your SEO will cause you to be found more for searches on Google and other search engines. The best SEO strategies are built into websites from the ground-up, beginning with when the website is first being conceived. Your SEO strategy should target specific local searches in your area. For instance, if you’re in Columbus, Ohio, you’ll want to specifically target searches like “auto insurance in Columbus.”

Once you get prospects on your site, you want to make sure they contact you to buy insurance or learn more about your services. Your site should include effective calls to action (like “Request a quote”) with website forms that allow prospects to easily contact you.

Self-Service

If your site doesn’t include self-service functionality yet, you should begin thinking about if this kind of functionality would be a good fit for your business. “Self-service” refers to the ability for customers to take care of some services on your site without needing to take up your time or the time of those in your office.

You might want to think about allowing customers to print off auto-ID cards, for instance. There are other self-service capabilities your customers may be interested, too. If you talk to them you’re likely to find more. Allowing your customers to take care of these services automatically through your site frees up the people in your office to take on more important tasks.

Your website is a hub of activity for your agency. It’s important to keep it up-to-date to help you gain new customers and keep your current customers impressed with your service.

Insurance Marketing: Social Media and Local Search

Just a few years ago marketing your independent insurance agency meant putting an ad on TV or in the newspaper. Though TV, radio, and print media are still vital ways to market your business, they are not the only outlets available promote your agency, nor are they the most cost efficient. Social media sites (i.e. Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn) and local search sites (i.e. Yelp, Poynt, and Kudzu) spread the message like never before!

Social Media

With so many social media marketing tools available, have you ever wondered which ones you should use and how you can do so successfully? Here are a few tips on how to use these tools to help you get more out of your social media marketing campaigns.

  • Talk About More Than Yourself: You will quickly lose your audience’s attention if all you talk about is yourself. While it is appropriate to share your blog posts and landing pages on social media, you should also aim to be helpful to viewers as well. A good rule of thumb is to post relevant and interesting content from other sources, such as business press, trade journals, and industry specialists.
  • Make it Easy to Follow Your Company: Since social media is all about sharing, make sure you have “Follow Us” links on your website, email signature, and any additional electronic media you send to your clients. Take advantage of the share and follow modules that most email marketing and internet marketing software have to offer.
  • Review Your Material Monthly: Look at key performance indicators (KPI) each month to see what is working well and what is not. These include (but are not limited to) monitoring leads generated by your social media network, social media mentions, and views, chares, and comments on blog posts. Also, remember to update your information regularly so information does not become stagnant.

Local Search

Did you know that over 2.2 billion unique local searches are performed each month by US individuals? Local search engines optimize results to include the audience your marketing strategy is attempting to reach. Here is a high-level list of some of the more popular options that may work for you.

  • Yelp: Yelp is a fun and easy way to find, recommend, and talk about what’s great and not so great in a local area. It is an online city guide that helps people find the preferred places to eat, shop, and relax. Business Yelp accounts allow businesses to share information with the Yelp community such as deals, messages, and business trends.
  • Poynt: An application that individuals download on their mobile devices that enables them to connect with local businesses and events. Poynt allows you to search for businesses and events close to your current location.
  • Kudzu: Available for mobile devices, Kudzu helps consumers find the best service providers for their home and family. It provides detailed business profiles including address and contact information, reviews, and valuable coupons or special offers.
  • Foursquare: Foursquare is a free application that helps users make the most of where they are. It enables users to mark locations that they visit, rank them, share them, and rate them. Founded in 2007, Foursquare is used by over 40 million people worldwide and currently houses 1.5 million merchant platforms.

When used wisely, social media can be an excellent way to create positive brand impressions and get in touch with the wide number of people who are interfacing online. . While the older generations are gradually getting used to managing their personal business online and on their phones and other mobile devices, the younger generation is already there—and has been for quite some time.    Since your goal is to find customers and keep them for life, it only makes sense to make it as easy as possible for the younger generation to find you.

While some social media pundits say you need to go “all in” and post several times per day, our suggestion is to take it gradually and work in chunks you can manage.   Leverage a tool such as HootSuite that allow you to manage all of your social networks from one interface.  HootSuite, which offers both free and paid versions, advertises itself as a “dashboard designed for you and your team to listen, engage and measure all from one simple interface.”

In addition to cutting back on time spent posting, using an interface tool is a much simpler way to monitor activity on your social media sites than logging into each and every individual account. This is important because it is critical to monitor the social media sites that you become part of and maintain a consistent presence. Not all posts made to your social media site will be positive ones. How you react can either diffuse a negative situation or ignite it. It is important to always respond in a timely and professional manner that will promote your brand in a positive way.

Aside from providing a solid software platform to help agencies run better, we aim to provide assistance to our agency partners in every way we can. For that reason, we have taken the time to research and write about areas such as this that we feel would be of benefit to independent agents.  In cases such as this we are able to draw from the knowledge of the marketing team at NuGrowth Solutions, our parent company, and Agency Marketing Partners, the insurance marketing arm of our business.

If you would like to find out more about our core competence – our Partner XE agency management system – and how it can help you as you strive to streamline workflow and build your books of business, please contact us at 800-747-9273 or [email protected].

Insurance Marketing: Networking, Community Events, and Referrals

Insurance MarketingAs an independent insurance agent, finding a cost-efficient marketing strategy that fits your style, budget, and business needs can be quite a challenging feat. In our previous blog titled “An Introduction to Effective Insurance Marketing on a Limited Budget” we discussed the importance of selecting a marketing strategy that will optimize what you have and focus on capturing the customers that will provide a return on your investment. We provided various website, social media, email, and direct marketing strategies to capture the customers you need on a marketing budget you can afford.

In this blog, the three main facets of marketing that we are going to explore are Networking, Community Events, and Referrals. Each of these marketing approaches will enable you to build a strong presence in both the insurance industry and your community.

Networking

Traditionally, when one thinks of networking, the first thing that comes to mind is the local Rotary ro Chamber of Commerce meeting and “Business After Hours” events.   These days, however, networking can be done in any number of ways – from traditional functions to speed networking events, to online communities.

Local Networking Events: Your local Chambers of Commerce and many additional professional organizations host networking events that enable business people to meet. Attend these events and make as many contacts a possible. Many of the individuals that attend these events are salespeople; focus on how you can help everyone that you meet and have fun! Don’t forget to follow-up with a “Nice meeting you…” email or letter.  If you really want to gain exposure for your agency, consider a leadership position. While everyone involved in the group will not know every member, you can rest assured that they will all know the President and other members of the leadership committee.

LinkedIn: LinkedIn is a great resource for building your network online. It provides you with an opportunity to network with not only the people you know, but the people they know as well. Unlike Facebook, LinkedIn is primarily a professional social networking site, and many groups and organizations that meet in traditional settings offer LinkedIn groups as well.  Extend your traditional Rotary, Kiwanis or Chamber membership by joining the affiliated LinkedIn group. Become an active participant in group discussions. Post links to blogs you’ve written. Comment on others’ blogs.  Don’t comment just for the sake of commenting, however.  Be sure you have something valuable to add to the conversation.

Community Events

Volunteer: There are many opportunities for growing your business while volunteering. Not only will you get great PR in the newspaper and meet other local business owners and community members, you will also have the opportunity to educate people about their insurance options. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Sponsor a police or fire department event.
  • Host Seminars coving information such as Insurance Basics, Baby Car Seat Safety, or Financial Planning.
  • Step up when local organizations are looking for speakers for their monthly meetings.
  • Volunteer to coach or sponsor a youth sports team
  • Take a leadership position at the local Chamber of Commerce
  • Set up educational booths at community events.
  • Get Creative:  Unless you do something memorable, very few people will really remember the insurance agent he or she met while attending the county fair. So get creative.  One trick is to use smoke detector batteries as hand-outs. Don’t just count on foot traffic either. Promote the event via community boards and Facebook to get the message out in a cost-effective way. Get even more leverage by pulling the promotion back into the office as well.  Invite current and potential clients to stop by the office for free batteries. Charge America and your client-base one battery at a time!

Referrals

Referral Marketing Program: Provide a reward to existing policyholders for sending new clients to your agency, such as movie passes or a gift card. Promote your referral program on billing statements and/or via your website page and make mention of the program during each interaction you have with your members.

Referral Marketing Exchange: There are many successful agencies that offer incentives to car salesman, local real estate firms, and mortgage brokers who refer their agency to individuals they conduct business with. Some of these incentives include cash, shared expense in publications, or assistance with the distribution of marketing material. (Please check the laws in your area as this is not legal in all locations.)

Referral Specialist: Designate a referral specialist in your office and assign them to develop and support a referral process. Ensure that you track referred business and provide a greater commission to the individual responsible. Not only will this enable a specific person to take ownership of the program, but it will also spark other employees in the agency to see how they could benefit from referrals as well.

Through the many discussions we have had with clients over the years, we understand how challenging it can be to effectively grow and market an insurance agency. Strong referrals, consistent community involvement, and wise business networking, though time consuming, can be very beneficial to your business. Volunteering for the American Red Cross and attending a city council meeting will not only promote your company brand, but will show current and potential clients that you take pride in those communities you insurer as well.

Aside from providing a solid software platform to help agencies run better, we aim to provide assistance to our agency partners in every way we can. For that reason, we have taken the time to research and write about areas such as this that we feel would be of benefit to independent agents.  In cases such as this we are able to draw from the knowledge of the marketing team at NuGrowth Solutions, our parent company, and Agency Marketing Partners, the insurance marketing arm of our business.

If you would like to find out more about our core competence – our Partner XE agency management system – and how it can help you as you strive to streamline workflow and build your books of business, please contact us at 800-747-9273 or [email protected].

SIS Releases Version 2.0 – the Next Generation of Partner XE

Strategic Insurance Software (SIS), provider of Partner XE, a leading agency management system for independent agents, recently announced the release of Partner XE version 2.0. 

This release brings SIS customers an improved web based architecture and over one hundred enhancements aimed at streamlining business operations, putting critical information at their fingertips, and allowing agencies to grow and scale without replacing their systems. Almost all of the enhancements were the direct result of customer feedback.

Some of the major enhancements in the release include:

  • Branch management capabilities,
  • An enhanced agency accounting module,
  • A new web-based dashboard page,
  • Increased Outlook integration,
  • More mobile options, and
  • A new download assignment process for better policy management.

New integrations available through Partner XE 2.0 include R-Post, a market leader for Registered Email® delivery proof, email encryption, and e-signatures and SEMCAT, a leading comparative quoting provider.  Agencies using the Outlook plugin can now fully leverage the benefits of R-Post to offer clients safety and security with their email communication, and track compliance for E&O purposes. Agencies who choose to benefit from the SEMCAT integration can now rapidly provide accurate automobile insurance quotes based off of information contained in PartnerXE. This is anticipated to save both time and money in the quoting process.

In addition to the visible product enhancements, improvements to the SaaS based architecture and database structure were made that increase the performance and reliability of the system, allow for stronger interoperability with other best of breed systems, and lay the groundwork for integration with additional value added business applications and technology solutions.

“Partner XE Version 2.0 brings a new level of usability to our agencies,” stated Paul Fuller, EVP of Product Management for SIS.  “It also allows us to better leverage Partner XE as the hub of agency operations, and tie in other critical technologies that an agent needs to operate their business.”

For more information about SIS and Partner XE, please give us a call at 800.747.9273 or fill out a short contact form and we will be in touch.

October Letter from the President

Greetings,

By now nearly all Partner XE users should be up and running with Partner XE 2.0 – the start of the next generation of your agency management system. Partner XE 2.0

features over 100 enhancements, most of which were driven by feedback from our users, and lays the groundwork for integration with value added business applications and technology solutions, Acord e-forms,  and customer web portal access. More information on these enhancements, including demos and answers to frequently asked questions can be found on PartnerNet.

Overall, initial feedback we have received has been quite positive.

  • “Wanted you pass on to the whole team at SIS what a good job they did on the Partner XE 2.0.  I came early this morning and updated everyone’s computer, which was easy, thank you. Everyone came and went to work as if nothing had happened.  What a smooth transition!” – Waynesboro, PA

If you or any member of your team has any comments about the transition or Partner XE 2.0 itself, our team would appreciate hearing from you. Your input will be valuable as we continue to work to enhance and improve your user experience. Please send feedback to Bryce Lee at [email protected].