The Wheel Way to Market Your Agency

Develop a Well-Rounded Marketing Plan

It seems that it’s all social marketing all the time whenever you peruse an industry publication or attend an agent’s meeting. All of this attention makes it easy to imagine that the world we trade in has evolved from real to virtual. Fortunately, for three-dimensional beings like us, it hasn’t. If you think it has, then you are confusing the media with the message.

The Wheel Metaphor

Social media messages vary from agency to agency, but the intended common denominator is dialogue between seller and buyer. Some offices handle it better than others, but the intent is always the same. As fascinating and fun as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are, they function best as elements of your agency’s overall marketing plan, not as your entire marketing machine. Metaphorically speaking, the social networks are “spokes on a wheel.” Imagine your Web site is the hub of an old fashioned wagon wheel and each individual marketing channel that your agency employs are the spokes in that wheel. The more spokes, the stronger the wheel. The better your wheels, the further you can go.

The Spokes

Each agency has its own set of spokes. Each marketing spoke serves the dual purpose of performing its own function (communication, promotion, etc.) plus it drives visits to your Web site. Permission e-mails, direct mail letters and postcards, inserts, cable TV and radio ads, captive audience marketing, selected sponsorships, and print ads are all common examples of spokes employed by promotionally-oriented agencies – in addition to the social marketing.

Old and New Spokes

The social networks are unquestionably the newest spokes in the agency wheel. But if you rely exclusively on them to get you where you want to go, you’re in for an uneven ride. Other, less glamorous media, still have life in them. Take print magazines for instance. A consortium of magazine publishers is now touting that their overall readership has increased over the past five years, including by the desirable 18-to-34 demographic. Clearly, younger insurance prospects enjoy print publications in addition to their online activities. Similarly, the U.S. Postal Service notes, in their Deliver magazine, that nearly 80 percent of all households either read or scan the direct mailings that they receive. And as far as radio is concerned, ratings show that about 90 percent of 18-to-34 olds continue to listen in, at least a few hours a week.

Smooth Ride

The key to a smooth ride, as any tire manufacturer knows, is a balanced wheel. So, to help assure yours, balance your marketing methods to incorporate both social and traditional media. Allow each medium to communicate its own message to build your brand and to drive visits to your agency’s site. Once they are there, Web visitors can gain a fuller picture of you and what you do, request or calculate an insurance quote, leave their contact specifics, and more. Of course, this assumes that your Web site is contemporary and comprehensive. Tip: See my June 21, 2010, column titled, “Is Your Agency’s Web Site Dangerously Obsolete?” for helpful tips.

Fashion Versus Results

Never let fashion dictate how you market your agency. Focus, instead, on what works today for each group of prospects that you solicit, while keeping an eye on tomorrow. Be open to recognizing that in certain circles, consumers and businesses react better to tangible insurance promotions (direct mail, inserts, ads), others to virtual (social media, e-mail marketing), and still others, to a careful blend of both. Generational preferences factor into this, but age, alone, is not the absolute determinant. Marketing experimentation, with diligent result tracking and adjustments, always trumps a prospect’s birth certificate.