Most agents work hard to maintain strong relationships with clients, however, all too often business gets in the way. Agents need to take steps, digitally speaking, to stay connected continually with the right messages rather than wait for a claim or renewal discussion to demonstrate value. In practice, however, many agents send mixed signals, on their websites, in email messaging and on mobile applications and social media.
“Everything you do online needs to look and feel the same – it’s your brand,” says Brian Appleton, a co-author of the just-released Jason Cass book, “Customer Service Is Just Foreplay.”
“Think of McDonald’s,” he says. “Why do people buy from McDonald’s? Consistency. Everything from their cups and napkins to their golden fries and Big Mac with special sauce brings about an emotion that says you can trust them. You know what you are getting, whether you go to one in Chicago or Los Angeles.”
Appleton says that most agencies give prospects and clients conflicting messages about who they are online. Even worse, some agencies are doing nothing at all.
“This breaks down the trust these individuals feel when doing business with you. How people ‘feel’ and how much they ‘trust’ their agent always play key roles in their purchase decisions and this will never change,” Appleton says.
Jim Schubert, president of Southern States Insurance in Alpharetta, Ga., uses the example of Starbucks to support the need for agents to project a consistent message.
“Starbucks presents a unified message in their stores and online,” Schubert says. “Customers know they will have the same experience, whether they are online and regardless of which store they’re in. For agents, we can’t present a disjointed experience. If we do, that’s a huge disservice to our clients and prospects.”
Transaction vs. Relationship
When an agent’s focus is primarily on the point of sale, the moment when a customer receives a premium notice – that process falls into the category of transactional marketing. The online quote plays into that process. Find a product, click the request for quote, compare prices, and make a purchase. Most consumers like “simple” and the ability to use their smartphone to research and buy products and services. Buying the right insurance, of course, is more complicated than buying a loaf of bread, yet the one-and-two-click culture works against that idea. At the same time, digital reality underscores the importance for agents to offer at least some services through a smartphone.
On the other hand, the focus of relationship marketing is not the transaction but in establishing trust. In this process, insurance buyers do business with an agent because they expect to receive positive value – not just the product itself but also in-depth information – and help in finding the best coverage and assistance with other issues. The agent also takes every opportunity to help clients feel confident about their purchasing decision.
“We’re always asking questions online to both clients and prospects,” Schubert says. “We have a blog plug-in on our website asking readers what they want to learn about. We also always ask for comments and I make sure all our employees include our social media sites in their email signatures so people can interact with us there, too.”
Providing clients and prospects with multiple touchpoints is critical for agents in building relationships, according to Ron Berg, executive director for the Agents Council for Technology at the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America Inc.
“It’s just as important, however, to make those touchpoints meaningful,” he says. “It’s not just the number of touchpoints but also their quality. Agents need to find their ‘sweet spot’ balancing quality and frequency.”
Wetzel heads his own insurance marketing firm that specializes in social media programs for agents through its Social Media Content Roadmap. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Website: www.wetzelandassociates.com.
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