Understanding Marketing, prospecting and client loyalty
By Kristin AndreeKristin Andree, CLU, CLTC is the President of Andree Media & Consulting (www.andreemedia.com). She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s everywhere — and people from teenagers to grandmothers are increasingly using social media as one of the primary ways they gather information. Whether they are seeking information on insurance products, asking their peers for recommendations, or doing a little research on you and your background, it is imperative you are present, proactive, and ready to play the social media game.
Our clients — typically insurance industry veterans with years of experience — often come to us hesitant to embrace this (somewhat) new medium, and certainly, concerned with adhering to regulatory guidelines. Yet, they understand the key to growing their business is to attract and attain new clients, while keeping current clients engaged and happy. From a social media perspective, this all starts with having a robust strategy.
So, where do you begin? Let’s start by tackling compliance head on. Both regulators and the companies they oversee continue working to determine the best way to allow brokers and agents to utilize social media, while still protecting the interests of current and prospective clients. With that, comes a lot of fear & worry on the part of agents and companies. Regulatory bodies have published notices & white papers outlining best practices. What they boil down to are a concern over two major things: 1.) that the public is protected from false or misleading claims and representations, and 2.) that companies are able to effectively and appropriately supervise what their associates are doing on various social media sites. Bottom line: follow the specific policies of your firm, and always keeping the best interest of the public in mind.
SO, when developing a social media strategy there are three major areas to focus on: marketing/branding, prospecting, and client loyalty. In terms of marketing & branding, it isn’t enough to simply be “on” LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter — you have to create content, provide resources, and more importantly, engage people. Here’s where to start:
Clearly define your target markets, being as specific as possible (industry, occupation, geographic location). Being very clear in who your clients and prospects are makes it easier to craft your message & share relevant content.
Create a compelling profile that is compliant, yet reader-friendly and highlights what sets you apart as an agent. Make your profile stand out. No one wants to read a dry bio that could apply to any insurance professional out there. Let them get to know you a bit — and tell them how you can help them.
Speak in your own voice. This one is critical. If you want to connect & build relationships with clients and prospects, you have to be your authentic self – both in person and in writing. If your status updates don’t sound like you or are too salesy, people know it, and they quit paying attention.
Build a robust database of connections or followers (connect with clients, centers of influence, professional & industry connections). The greater the network of quality connections with whom you have a relationship, the further your reach.
Provide content that is relevant to your target market (whether you generate the content yourself, or link to other articles). Keep your top clients & prospects in mind when developing content. Educate them on topics important to them (not to you!). One of our clients work exclusively with physician practices, so his status updates frequently provide links to practice management information specific to physician groups. Not only has he has become the doctors’ go-to-guy for all things insurance, he has gained their trust and respect by understanding the non-financial issues they face in their practices.
Engage in online conversations and participate in group discussions (to the extent you are allowed within your company’s social media guidelines). Being visible, adding value & establishing yourself as an expert will help people get to know, like, and ultimately trust you. DON’T ask for business or promote yourself, simply work to establish yourself as a valued resource.
Remember that different social media channels have different uses. A one-size-fits-all strategy will not work across all social media channels. Take a close look at each medium you decide to use and develop a specific strategy for each. While social media sites such as Tweetdeck can save you time by posting status updates across all your social media sites, it may not always be wise to do so. Creating an online presence and establishing yourself as a valued resource in your field is only the first step. Yet, it is where we see the majority of people spending most of their time and energy. While you will likely attain some clients from becoming the “go to” expert in your target market, you completely miss the boat if you do not also create a strategy for prospecting. After all, the best way to build a business is through networking and referrals. This is the same online as it is off. The only difference is that by creating an online presence, we are allowed access to prospective clients we would not have otherwise. Tools such as LinkedIn offer the ability to search for individuals who fit your target markets, and then shows you precisely who in your network can make an introduction to that person. This is targeted prospecting at its best, and is a powerful way to go about building your business. Here are some basic steps to jump start your prospecting efforts:
Proactively connect people (online & off) who would benefit by meeting each other professionally. A quick, selfless “e-troduction” goes a long way in building a relationship. You’ve got to give to get!
Prepare prospecting lists for your top appointments each week. Use LinkedIn & other online resources to research who the client is likely to know — and ask for introductions.
Utilized the LinkedIn Advanced Search feature to research your target market — look for 2nd degree connections whom you can easily be introduced to.
With an established online presence and a jumpstart on prospecting, let’s move to client loyalty. Let’s face it — the insurance market is a crowded one — one that gets a bad rap! Why not dismiss that myth by treating your clients and centers-of-influence like VIPs. Everyone likes to feel important, and social media provides a roadmap to help us do just that:
Set up Google Alerts to monitor your top clients (at a minimum, your Top 20). When you receive an alert on one of your clients, look for unique ways to recognize them for their accomplishments. Lots of room for creativity here!
Monitor the social media profiles of select clients. Look for any special event or happening that would warrant popping a note or a small gift in the mail – or perhaps making a congratulatory phone call.
Systematize your client loyalty efforts to make them easier to implement. Have customized cards and gifts on hand to send for major occasions. These could be promotions, births, condolences, or get well wishes. Get creative ~ make a list (or have your staff make a list) of “reasons to reach out.” Indicate what you will do for each reason. Some ideas: Have a meal or dessert delivered for an illness; send a nicely packaged travel book for upcoming vacations.
Finally, appoint a member of your team to be the “champion” for these efforts, ensuring they are all completed in a timely and systematic manner.
The opportunities are endless. Whatever initiatives you choose to implement, have a strategy, make them unique, and ensure they are a genuine extension of yourself. While it will take some work, you’re sure to grow your business — and have a little fun along the way.