ACG - Agency Consulting Group

The PIPELINE

A national monthly newsletter for agency principals dedicated to agency management topic

Internet Marketing

How would you like to be the only agent in your town with a display ad in your local yellow pages?

How would you like to be preprogrammed on all telephones as a service for people who want insurance quotes?

Unfortunately I can assure you that the publishers of the local yellow pages will refuse to give you the only display ad for insurance. And, similarly, the phone company and telephone manufacturers simply will not pre-program all of their phones with your number as the "emergency" number to call for insurance quotes.

But the Internet has created both a new market and a new marketplace for commerce and industry of all types --- including insurance sales. And some Internet companies have done so with a hook that is hard to resist - exclusivity of territories.

As we encounter Internet opportunities for insurance agents we will review them in the pages of the Pipeline to at least give agents and other readers of the newsletter the ability to explore them before they find themselves too late to take advantage of arising technology.

4INTERNET.COM

Interactive Commerce Group (toll free 888-307-4638) is an internet company established in the mid-1980's. It's home base on the internet is 4INTERNET.COM and they deal in internet commerce in a number of industries - including insurance.

The purpose of the company is to drive new customers to their client's businesses using the Internet as the vehicle. They do this by offering free quotes in a variety of insurance categories and referring prospects who fill out quote worksheets to client agencies who are local to the prospects.

Advertising on the Internet and through other media, 4INTERNET.COM is a perfect example of internet commerce. In addition to constant advertising to attract attention of people (and businesses) interested in getting customers from the Internet, 4INTERNET.COM offers to create a full web-site tailored to the needs of the agency as a part of their service to their clients. This service alone could be worth thousands of dollars if purchased independently from web site designers. They also host the website and provide free E-mail service, saving even more money for their clients.

Those are the "bells and whistles" that can help you automatically become established on the Internet, even if you have no experience on the "net". But here's the meat:

The five categories currently available on 4INTERNET.COM is auto, homeowners, life, health, and business under the addresses of 4Autoinsurance.com, 4Homeowners.com, 4Lifeinsurance.com, 4Healthinsurance.com, and 4Businessinsurance.com

4INTERNET sells each line of insurance by 3 digit zip code with discounts for multiple lines of insurance and multiple zip codes selected. The best news is that each zip code purchased is EXCLUSIVE. All responses and inquiries in that zip code go to the agency that "owns" that territory. The program works well enough that 4INTERNET guarantees 75 leads per year as a minimum with financial penalties if you do not achieve at least 75 leads. While those leads are not guaranteed to convert to policies, their reported hit rate is between 33% and 35% -- much better than the average hit rate on telephone call solicitations (20%).

The prospect who gets to 4Internet has the opportunity to either locate the agency in their territory or they can complete and submit a short-form, generic quote application that is then e-mailed to the agent who "owns" the territory.

The cost of this service is $2,500 per insurance line per territory per year. Discounts exist for multiple territories and multiple lines of business. This pricing compares very favorably to yellow page advertising, but it doesn't mean that you stop using print media, as well. The number of people accessing the internet is increasing geometrically, not mathematically. But many people will still feel more comfortable with print media than with electronic media for another generation or two.

BENEFITS:

1. First and foremost is the capture of a 3 digit zip code territory for your use alone (and blocking any other agent from getting the same leads).

2. The tailor-made multi-page website with full e-mail capability, itself, is well worth the fee for the territory. Hosting the website is another expense avoided with this service.

3. The guarantee of a minimum of 75 leads is a great incentive that returns a part of your fee if 4INTERNET does not deliver.

4. The users of the Internet who ask for quotes appear to be more serious than the shoppers by phone. As a rule they are more educated and in higher income brackets than the average insurance shopper. The most likely candidates to shop by Internet are professionals and business owners in their 20's and 30's with families - YOUR PRIME PROSPECTS.

DRAWBACKS:

1. This is not brand new technology. While companies like 4Internet require substantial financial and talent capital to go into business, there are competing firms vying for the insurance customers and for client agencies. This means that while the territory is exclusive to you for 4Internet, other insurance marketers will also be available to the buying public.

2. There is no way for 4Internet (or you) to know if the leads that come to the agency clients are successful. We are e-mailing some of 4Internet's customers to ask that very question.

3. If you are not automated or have no internet experience, you will be forced into this new technology. It is ludicrous to have an internet presence and not be on the internet (although I am told that a number of agents get their referrals faxed to them).

Paraphrasing a quote from Inc. Magazine, There will be two types of companies in the 21st Century, those who are on the Internet and those who are out of business.

The Internet is experiencing what the telephone industry felt as it grew through the 20th Century. It was a curiosity. It was a hobby. It was an interesting interlude. Soon it will become as much a part of our lives as telephones, yellow pages, answering machines and fax machines. I urge you to learn and enjoy the power of the internet. If you enjoy it, you will also use it and you will begin to understand its power as a tool of commerce.

A few years ago we stumbled on a small business on the internet that was an on-line auction. It didn't own, buy or sell anything. But it permitted people to buy and sell things through its media. When we first found it, it was already getting 25,000 hits (contacts) a day. Today, Ebay has 942,949 items for sale in 1,089 categories, having sold 30 Million items since its inception with 112 Million bids. Today Ebay is experiencing 12 Million hits per day. It went public last month and reach a stock price of $150 this week.

There's no telling if 4Internet will enjoy this kind of success. The only thing we know for sure is that more people every day are using their computers and the internet for business and pleasure. If you are on the internet, capitalize on its power with your own website and advertising. If you are not yet on the carousel, jump on before it goes to fast too accommodate you.

You can view 4Internet by keying http://4Internet.com as the internet address or call Arthur Staerk toll free at 888-307-4638 ext 133 at Interactive Commerce Group.