I had the opportunity to speak with my good friend, Danny Chang, and picked his brain to provide marketing advice for new and emerging insurance agencies. Personally, I believe his advice could be applied to agencies of all sizes and stages.
Danny was the former head of marketing and site experience at eBay Motors, and has a long list of amazing credentials and accomplishments. Please see his bio at the end of the blog.
Q: As a seasoned marketing professional, what advice would you give new or emerging insurance agencies to establish a marketing presence for themselves?
A: It doesn't really matter whether you are new or established, the first rule of marketing is to understand and empathize with your target customers. One of Jeff Bezos' key values at Amazon is customer obsession - start with the customer and work backwards. The same applies to insurance agencies.
You must decide who you're going to serve, then study them to learn what their needs are (in this case when it comes to buying insurance coverage for [X]), and how you can meet these needs. Then think hard about why they would be better off working with you versus the competition.
In other words, what is your unique value proposition?
What does your brand stand for?
After you figure out these basics, then you can begin to think about how best to reach and capture your target customers.
Q: How can agents develop a marketing plan if they've never had one?
A: Once you went through the steps above to establish a clear understanding of who your target customers are, what problems they're trying to solve, how you can help them solve those problems, and why they should choose you over the competition, then you're ready to move onto the next step.
You need to understand when your target customers encounter these problems and how they go about finding solutions. Write down a list of key questions to answer such as:
What are the purchase triggers for insurance? When they buy a new car? A new house? When they witness an accident?
Where are they when these triggers occur?
How do they figure out what insurance they need, where do they go to find this information?
What are the consideration factors?
Q. What are some basic steps agents should take to develop a good marketing plan?
A: One can use marketing frameworks such as the 4 Ps to make sure you're covering all bases. The 4 Ps of marketing are Product, Price, Promotion, and Place.
1. The Product in this case is not simply the insurance policies that you sell, but it includes your unique value propositions for your target customer segments.
2. I think of Pricing as part of product positioning, for example, do you offer premium products and services geared towards the high end of the market? For insurance products where the rates are largely dictated by the issuers, think about what additional value propositions that would set you apart from your competition. Do you offer additional services that would be useful around insurance products? Do you have other advice to offer your customers?
In short, rather than discounting your products and services, what extras can you throw in to make a customer choose you over the agent down the street?
3. Promotion is basically how you tell your target customers about your products and services.
What are the triggers for your target customer’s wanting/needing to buy insurance? You need to identify these triggers and understand when and how your target customers shop for insurance products.
What are the best channels to reach them during these times of need? You can build a web site but if nobody knows how to find it or if you have nothing useful to say, is that the best tactic?
Of course, you should also understand how much you can and are willing to spend on marketing. For example, how much margin do you have and what is the right cost of acquisition for a new client? What ROI, or return-on-investment of your marketing spend makes sense to your business? How much should you spend to retain a customer?
4. Place: Where do your target customers go to find answers to their insurance questions? Is it by word-of-mouth? Online or offline? Do they price shop? Do they Google their insurance questions? Do they Google on a desktop PC or on their iPhones? Perhaps you're targeting older adults, who may gather more information the old-fashioned way...in print or on TV?
Your agency may probably only target customers in a given geographic area, so bidding on keywords on Google for users outside your area is likely a waste of money.
Q: With the rush to digital marketing, what is your advice on how new and emerging agencies should approach this channel?
A: One hears a lot about digital marketing these days. The term gets thrown around and is used in fairly generic terms. I generally define digital marketing as any channel that is not print, outdoor, or broadcast media. So that would cover a wide swath of marketing channels including web/mobile, email, paid search or SEM, organic search or SEO, affiliates (people who refer you business digitally), social media, etc.
The key advantage of digital marketing is the ability to track, measure, and iterate your marketing strategy and tactics at a faster pace and at greater scale. But remember, the key to great marketing is a deep understanding of who your target customers are and how you can help them solve problem [X] better than anyone else.
Millennials may be spending a ton of time on Snapchat, but should you advertise there? Not if you're selling insurance to Baby Boomers. Even if you are targeting Millennials, do they shop for insurance or think about insurance needs when they're busy sending friends selfies with stickers on Snapchat?
Q: Are there any hacks or tips you can provide a new or emerging insurance agency that is limited on time and budget to increase their marketing results?
A: The best advice I can give is the need to prioritize and focus, no matter how much time and budget they have. Be ruthless about prioritizing whom you're targeting, build deep customer understanding and empathy, and figure out what your unique value propositions are to these customers.
Be equally ruthless when it comes to choosing the marketing strategy and tactics you employ to reach these customers. Factors you should consider when prioritizing marketing channels and tactics include reach vs. ability to target, total cost vs. return, etc. Build a prioritized list of tactics and channels to test and go down the list one at a time.
Q: Any final words of advice?
A: Building good marketing is a lot like building great products. In web and mobile development, the better teams run what's known as continuous discovery and delivery. Basically they continually talk to customers, figure out what to build to address customer needs better, test new features with customers and measure what works and what doesn't, and iterate. They are always improving and talking to their customers. Marketing works the same way. As they say at Amazon, start with the customer and work backwards.
About Danny Chang
I am a veteran product marketing leader passionate about building and scaling great B2B and B2C experiences in e-commerce, automotive and finance at both large and early stage companies. Currently I run Product Marketing for Tech at CEB (acquired by Gartner). Previously I built the marketing team at eBay to run acquisition, lifecycle, and retention for its biggest and baddest vertical. I'm a creative problem solver: I developed one of the earliest social games on Facebook, pioneered personalization before it was cool, have 3 US patents and won a Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity award. Most recently I’ve been hacking my own startup in the knowledge sharing and game-based learning space. I also like my eggs a bit runny.