ACG - Agency Consulting Group

The PIPELINE

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

ARE YOU STILL USING THE TELEPHONE BOOK AS YOUR ADVERTISING MEDIA

WHY?

About a month ago we got a notice at home that they weren’t “distributing” the white page telephone book any longer. We could have them if we wanted them but had to ask for it to be delivered. Why? Because there was little call for the white pages – most people were throwing them away, recycling them at best. Many people are opting out of home delivery of the Yellow Pages for the same reasons.

Most agents realize that they are not getting their money’s worth from telephone book advertising but here are some of the common comments we hear when we suggest terminating that medium in favor of a more holistic approach using multi-media marketing to get their image and message to both clients and prospects – my responses follow parenthetically:

“I’ve spent years getting to the front of the telephone book “insurance” section.” (and don’t forget all the money you’ve spent to get there...)

“I spend so much on the telephone book that I know I don’t get my money back, but it shows us as an important part of the insurance community in our marketing area. If we lose that image we can’t get it back.” (how many folks in your community casually flip the telephone book to page 1794 to see your ad (besides you and your staff)? Compare that to a simple road billboard that could be changed monthly, would probably cost you less and is viewed twice a day by thousands of people. Consider a website that would certainly cost you less and would be accessed by everyone who searched for an insurance agent in your area.)

“I think we get a good response from telephone book. When we ask, folks tell us they found us in the phone book.” (In 2005 60% of the population sought local businesses in the telephone book. In 2010 65% used the Internet to search for service and product providers. Bill Gates predicts that in the next five years the number of people under 50 using the telephone book will drop to zero. People may not remember how they got to you and still use the phone book as a default when asked)

“I can’t reduce the size of the ad. It would cost me nearly as much for a much smaller ad.” (if it doesn’t work at the higher price all you’re doing by making the ad smaller is lowering your cost. If it doesn’t work at all, you’re best off eliminating the ad completely.)

“We get a lot of calls on our telephone book ad.” (Do you get a lot of “calls” (quotes) or customers and how many of those customers do you get that aren’t price-shoppers who will come to you if your rates are lowest and leave you just as fast if they are attracted to another lower price next year)

Telephone book advertising appears to be most effective in getting automobile prospects who are new to the area or who are shopping for their insurance because they got a rate increase (or shop every year as a matter of prudent consumerism). This causes a lot of quoting and much less success in achieving clients. And, if we simply quote and write a client without establishing a relationship that carries over to other insurance products, you may have another one-policy customer who will come and go at will. Is this worth investing thousands in a telephone book advertisement? Is this the target audience that you wish to attract to your agency?

Long before the Internet and its obvious use as a search mechanism, many agents stopped using the telephone book advertising because the response they DID get pulled them away from their intended market segment.

We have seen agencies that spend from several hundred dollars to tens of thousands of dollars each year on a dying advertising media. Please consider moving your money to a media that will actually provide you a) a return, and b) a way of measuring results.

That marketing strategy uses print, mail, e-mail, postcards, audio postcards and live intervention with clients and prospects and evolves around the new version of a much expanded form of telephone book ad, your website.

No I’m not suggesting you post a nominal website and claim that you are “on line.” Billboard websites (websites that are inactive and simply tell people who you are, where you are and what you do) are literally the same as telephone book ads but cost a lot less (and have pretty much the same impact as telephone book).

I’m suggesting that your website become an extension of your office and be the central part of your marketing program. This means it must be vibrant, informative, AND CHANGING CONSTANTLY. If you have a billboard website, you are waiting for a prospect or client to search for you when they need something specific (usually your phone number or directions to your office). When you have an interactive website as part of your marketing program, much of what you do to interest clients in your agency and services will direct them to the website for more information. These websites are dozens, if not hundreds of pages deep. For instance, our website, www.agencyconsulting.com is well over 1000 pages deep and can answer an agent’s questions about any phase of agency operations. That facility, alone, provides value added services to thousands of agents who access our site simply for information. Of course it also describes everyone of our 41 (soon to be 42) services and products for insurance agents to help them grow and earn greater profits. Helping agents help themselves shows them that we’re not just about the money. Providing services and products to support agents is the way we earn our way for agents who need professional help to implement the steps they know will aid them to growth and profit. Agencies should construct the same multi-dimensional approach to helping their prospective clients through their website.

An interactive website and a full marketing program using that site will finally show your clients that you provide value-added service, not just a price quote, as the local insurance professional. Of course, it can (and does) provide a quote mechanism and on-line rating if you so desire. But it also provides the prospect a live chat option at any point in his review (to ask questions to a real person during business hours) without having to call the agency. Your marketing pieces can direct prospects to your site 24/7, when you are not in the office, to look at their area of interest, request a quote, or ask any questions to which you or your staff can respond during business hours.

The best websites support marketing campaigns and target markets by providing all of the tools to manage the marketing program as it occurs.

Be aware and wary of the template websites that are offered free or at very low cost. Template websites look like cookie-cutters and many agents have the same look in self-created sites using templates, not a great thing if your prospect looks at more than your site. They also count on using either the same generic language or your own documentation, sometimes not the most professional of copy writing available.

Here are some suggestions and one recommendation:

1. Hybrid websites have many templates but can mix and match all components to give every agency a unique look.

2. We recommend using a developer who can provide an extensive website with many options of services available, but don’t get caught in the trap of signing up with a developer that charges you for every addition or change to the site. These sites MUST change frequently. You WANT a web program that provides you those changes rather than leaving changes to you or charging you for every change made during the year.

3. Create a website that is hosted by the same folks who provide the content. That way you don’t end up dealing with multiple companies who inevitably point to each other for reasons why things can’t be done.

4. Find a developer who knows the insurance industry and provides content for the site. Of course you know insurance, but most agents are not expert in copy writing.

5. SEO is the acronym for Search Engine Optimization, the method used by web specialists to drive traffic to your site. This needs to be done regularly in order to get you and keep you in the first page of any search for which your agency is a proper solution. Find an organization that provides this service.

6. If you can, incorporate customized marketing programs targeting your products, your client base and your target markets into a web solution. This melds print, mail, image, e-mail and web-based media into one combined marketing program.

There are many web designers available. There are many fewer who are dedicated to the insurance industry. There are even fewer who can incorporate all agency marketing using the internet as only one of many ingredients to keep communicating with your clients and prospects.

We recommend AgenciesOnline (www.agenciesonline.biz) as one of the only complete marketing solutions that has incorporated the internet into a combined, seamless marketing program rather than relying on the internet and websites as the only tool for agency marketing. If you use their solution you will find an A to Z approach to marketing inclusive of website development, audio, video, print and live chat, all wrapped up in a comprehensive marketing program designed for your agency.

AgenciesOnline is the brain-child of Val Jordan and our old friend, George Nordhaus. Val can be reached at 888-985-3331 X225. George can be reached at X210. If you use AgenciesOnline as a replacement for your telephone book advertising and especially as a complete marketing program its cost is very reasonable and will give you a MUCH higher return in new clients and revenue than most agency marketing has done in the past.

If you call Val or George, mention that you came to them through Agency Consulting Group, Inc. to get our A C G client discounts and pricing. Agency Consulting Group, Inc. is dedicated to bringing cutting edge methods of advancing independent agency growth and profit to the industry. We accept no remuneration for our comparisons and recommendations. Instead we request special pricing consideration for A C G clients and friends. Call us for any questions on marketing solutions and any assistance with agency efforts to grow, become more efficient and effective and generate greater profits.