Just 30 years ago, when you turned on the television, you had a choice of a handful of channels, and your day was timed to meet the network’s programming schedule. Fast forward to today, and you have a choice of programming on nearly 300 channels, and with technology like the DVR (digital video recorder), you can now watch TV on your schedule, if you even watch on a traditional television instead of your tablet, phone or other electronic devices. As a society, we demand our content and products on a more flexible schedule to our needs, and insurance is no different for our customers. This is why we now focus on the customer with customer-centric marketing.
In the summer of 2008, I predicted that within a few short years our entertainment would be completely “on demand.” I anticipated that paid premium channels would premier a show on the network just as movies release in the theaters. We’ll pay to view these programs on a sliding scale during their first, second and third runs. The reason they will do this is because the advertisers who have been supporting the television industry for almost six decades will realize that they are throwing money away in their advertising. Why? People will record all programming and fast forward through the advertisements to permit the programming to “flow” properly. The final transition will occur when advertising money slows sufficiently to allow the “ad-blocking recording” device.
Imagine a DVR that will identify all programming breaks and stops recording until the programming returns to the air. That will be the death knell of advertising as we know it today.
During the previews, advertisers market the upcoming television series or future movies that will be featured. Live opera and stage shows are being simulcast live in thousands of theaters. High-speed internet has progressed to where you can watch any show at any time: at home or away on your television, tablet, and even your telephone on demand. Netflix’s stock is soaring as they stream video. And Blockbuster is out of business.
The “TiVo” phenomenon is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to consumer-centric product and service marketing. This change, most noticeable in television advertising, is, in itself a remarkable change in the way we spend and manage our recreational and spare time. But, more importantly, the “TiVo phenomenon” in all of its forms will doom media advertising and marketing as we have known it and learned it for our own industry.
BUT WHAT’S THE ALTERNATIVE?
Customer-Centric marketing and advertising means that the customers decide when to purchase a specific product or service at the time they seek out those products and services. If you provide a way of purchasing the product or service at the time of need, the purchase is almost immediate.
How does this work? Look at the Yellow Pages, another trademarked name describing the generic telephone book advertising media. It wasn’t so long ago that the Yellow Pages was the preferred product and service reference book in everyone’s home and business. Need a plumber? Get out the Yellow Pages. Need insurance? Get out the Yellow Pages. Anything generic in nature from accountants to zoos could be found in the Yellow Pages.
Do you read the Yellow Pages when you have a few moments or is it only after spending time reading the dictionary? Remember the time you searched the dictionary when you needed to spell check a word and you perused the Yellow Pages when you needed to located a specific product or service?
Whether using a word search, synonyms, products or services, the Internet has become the preferred reference source. Spell-check and word-search for synonyms have generally eliminated the need for printed dictionaries and thesauruses.
A truly informative website with continuously updated search engine positioning combined with banner ads linked to the major search engines can put you on top of the delivery list for consumers who are searching for insurance at this very moment.
People who need insurance services will look for them when they need them. “Googling,” a third example of a trade-marked name for a generic function (internet searching), is a preferred way of searching for a service such as insurance that is generic enough to warrant customer interest.
I cannot sufficiently stress the importance of an informative, interactive and changing website, not just a billboard-type site that may as well be a Yellow Pages ad. The more information you provide on your services and products, that are different from those of your competitors, the more likely a response to your ads from the public searching for your services.
I’ll use Agency Consulting Group, Inc. as an example. Our website is now going through its fifth version. It remains a work in progress. A few years ago we added Flash video that allows our searchers to either read information on their own or to see me talking about the service or product that interests them. If you are interested in an of our products such as agency valuation, in compensation programs for producers or for non-producer staff, in the Asset Protection Model of sales, in strategic planning as well as many other products, you will be able to get as little or as much information as you want. All of this is available to you 24 hours/day, 7 days/week, 365 days/year. And this is available to you when you need these services and products.
We already know that we are different from our competitors because most of them rehash the same programs that they used for your parents’ agencies. So now that we have constantly changing, new information in a presentable fashion when you want it, we are attracting all of the consulting clients that we can manage.
Now look at your own website. How deep is it? Ours has approximately 1200 pages of information before we began linking and streaming video. We don’t fear competitors because they can read what we do, but cannot do what we do without our specialized knowledge. Can you say the same?
If you don’t have product or service differentiation yet, begin looking for the cutting-edge add-ons to the traditional personal and commercial lines products. Without adding new products and services to differentiate yourself, you may as well say “We’re as good as most anyone else.” If you need help differentiating your products and services, call us at (800) 779-2430.
But this article is not about Add-On products and services. It is about effective advertising and marketing when your customers are specifically seeking insurance products and services. Your website look and content is a key element in attracting clients to you when they need you. But how do they know how to get to you?
Search Engine Optimization is not the same anymore. No, it is not dead. There are certainly things that can be done to enhance your position on search engines and to allow interested buyers to reach your site. However, the gimmicks and tricks that have been used for a decade to artificially direct Google and the other search engines to place one website over another no longer work. In 2013, Google released their new algorithms with blocking mechanisms for most of the SEO “tricks”.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t achieve your goal of being near the top of the page in a search for insurance in your area. But it does mean that you are going to have to earn that position honestly and most agencies aren’t sufficiently committed or aren’t sufficiently marketing savvy to accomplish this task. You see, the new algorithms search for actual content and unique authorship. “Keyword stuffing” (which is the act of loading pages with keywords) is now denied by the new algorithms. If your website is constantly updated with fresh, relevant, credible and engaging content specifically targeted to your audience you will still gain high positions on searches. And, after all, the actual marketing is supposed to be what attracts the customer in the first place, not the various gimmicks. Perhaps gimmicks brought prospects to your site, and if it was a simple static site with no changes, those same visitors may leave quickly and never come back.
BANNER AD PLACEMENT
There was a time just a decade ago that banner ads cost as much as $1 each. Now they cost mere fractions of one cent. And the Search Engines are getting much better at ad placement related to the recent searches that are done by a user. In other words if you Google “insurance” as your search topic, Google Ads will give you insurance based banner ads to match your search in addition to the generated results.
This intuitive banner ad placement combined with additionally refined target advertising will eventually pinpoint your particular clients instead of providing you unqualified placement for inquiries from around the world.
We can no longer “shotgun” advertising through print, radio and television expecting to build positive response. Even our targeted marketing to specific sectors that could use our services are so diluted that most of our marketing pieces never get opened. The customer is deciding if and when he needs our products and services. When he does, we only get one chance to “be there” for him. The best way for us to get our message to him is to be in a marketing position exactly when he is interested in our products and services. Search engine placement gives us that chance of being the prospect’s choice when he does his internet research. A well- constructed website will have definitive points of service and product that separates you from your competition.
Agency Consulting Group, Inc. can help you evolve your marketing program to respond to the Customer-Centric form of product and service search that is fast becoming the customers’ preferred method of identifying his suppliers, including insurance suppliers. Call us at (800) 779-2430 to arrange a consultation to maximize your marketing efforts and grow your customer base.