How to reach the opportunity-driven consumer

I wrote a post for the MyLifeProtected blog centered on the opportunity-driven insurance consumer and how we use marketing and technology to reach that consumer with the digital insurance platform, MyLifeProtected:

The intent-driven consumer describes the traditional, legacy insurance consumer, one that has been served well for generations by traditional agents and direct writers. Conversely, the opportunity-driven consumer is a new breed, one that is less likely to be served by the traditional agent or direct writer. Those consumers may not be driven by a specific risk management need, but instead are driven by relevancy or overarching value.

So, on one side, we have the rise of the opportunity-driven consumer. On another, we have a second trend uncovered by Accenture in 2014, stating that 67% of consumers would happily buy insurance from a non-insurance brand.

The intersection of these two trends is powerful. When combined, it creates a persona that could describe millions of Americans: the consumer who is open to buying insurance when it’s offered at a relevant time by a brand it already trusts and has a relationship with.

We built MyLifeProtected because of this intersection.

Check out my complete post here.

How insurance companies can use social media to retain and create business

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This post originally appeared in print in 11/13/15 issue of The Standard, found here

You’ve heard it a hundred times, perhaps from another independent agent, a friend who works in another industry, a carrier or a customer: “You really need to be active on social media.” It’s a familiar refrain. But, really, why? Why should independent insurance agents care about social media and be active on social networks?

The answer is simple: it’s good for business. Social media can help with two of the most critical challenges facing independent agents in today’s highly competitive market: customer retention and the creation of new business.

Oftentimes, it’s difficult for independent agents to stay top-of-mind and demonstrate value to their customers throughout the year, beyond the time of policy renewal or in the unfortunate case of a claim. Activity and interaction on social media directly addresses that challenge. It’s a great way to build stickier relationships with your custom- ers to help retain your existing book of business.

Social media can also be very effective at generating new business for your agency at an affordable cost. While a typically sized agency may not be able to acquire customers via social media at scale, the amount of new business that can be generated by social media can more than off-set an agency’s cost to build and manage a social media presence.

Here are five tactical things that every independent agency can do to build a more effective social media presence:

Share freely.

For decades, independent agents have functioned as trusted ad- visors and conveyed their expertise to consumers via personal interactions. Social media provides the opportunity for independent agents to play this same role for consumers, but in a different medium.

Independent agents should freely share their knowledge and expertise via social media and provide valuable content and insight on social media networks. Your social media content can be inspired by your proficiency in insurance. Don’t try to sell. Instead, educate.

According to a study by ODM Group, a digital marketing agency, 74% of consumers utilize content on social networks to guide purchase decisions. Independent agents are uniquely posi- tioned to take advantage of this trend to aid both retention and creation of new business.

Fit the right content to the right channel.

There are so many social networks in 2015, and it feels as if the market is in a constant state of expansion. Consumers are using a wider variety of social networks than ever before, so it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the number of options that are available to independent agents.

At most agencies, time and resources are at a premium. As a result, you should consider what kind of content you want to create and distribute that content through the appropriate social media channel. For example, if you find that it’s easy to share insurance factoids or brief insurance buying tips, Twitter is the channel that’s the right fit for content of that type.

If longer-form content is what you’re most comfortable creating, Facebook is ideal. If you’re a visual communicator and enjoy using images to convey ideas, Instagram is excellent.

The point is that you don’t need to be in all channels at all times; focus on getting your content into the right channel, even if that means fewer channels.

Embrace paid media.

It can’t be un- derstated how much social media has changed in the last half decade, and the primary change is the sophistication of paid media available to advertisers like independent agents.

You may not know it, but paid media opportunities on social networks represent a highly unique digital advertising opportunity for independent agents. The reason for this is targeting. Social networks can allow independent agents to target marketing by zip code, gender, interests and affinities.

Do you want to target prospects that live in one of five zip codes and know someone who follows your agency on social media? Independent agents can do that using paid media placements on social networks. It’s a unique opportunity. If you see a path to using social media to grow new business, paid media on social networks is an effective way to enable that strategy.

Focus on engagement, not numbers.

For agencies of a typical size, it’s unlike- ly that you will achieve the kind of scale of fans and followers that a big brand or a company with a national footprint will have. That’s completely fine. As an independent agent, you don’t need scale to be extremely effective in social media.

To be effective without scale, focus on quality interactions and engagement with your customers and prospects who have the largest reach. If you have a customer with 2,000 Facebook friends, try to build a strong social relationship with that customer in hopes that he or she will help amplify your business and brand message by liking or re-tweeting your content.

Be shameless; ask for that follow.

It’s challenging to build a following of customers on social media, but it’s even harder when you don’t directly ask for help and participation. Don’t be shy; ask your customers to like you and friend you on social media.

Add this “ask” into your normal pro- cess when interacting with customers, add social media links onto your website and make sure your team adds social media links to its email signatures. Social media follows that are generated by personal interactions are most likely to stay with you longer and amplify your message.

If you put all of these one-off tactics into play, and you’ve had enough success to get your attention, what’s next? A content marketing strategy, which would include a full social media strategy, is the natural evolution for independent agents who want to double down on so- cial media. Full coordination between social media, content production, mar- keting and sales unlock further social media opportunities for independent agents to leverage.

Data: Insurance Prospects Love Mobile

I originally published this post on LinkedIn. Here’s a link.

At Next Generation Insurance Group, we’ve used digital as a point-of-sale and point-of-quote for insurance products since our founding. As you might imagine, the ecommerce and user experience landscapes have changed dramatically during that period, but nowhere is that change more dramatic than in the use of mobile by insurance buyers.

It’s clear after an analysis of our own data that there has been a tectonic shift in the hardware preferences of insurance prospects over the past five years.

Let’s first check out GradGuard.com, our higher education business at NGI. GradGuard is the leading consumer-centric insurance and benefits solution designed to meet millennial consumers where they are, not only across different platforms but also product verticals.

The peak season for GradGuard products is May through September. In 2010, mobile comprised a paltry 1% of traffic to GradGuard.com during the site’s peak season. One percent! Half of one percent of the site’s conversions occurred on mobile devices.

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In present terms, it’s intuitive to state that in order to meet millennials where they are, your company needs a strong mobile practice. (This we luckily have at NGI.) But looking back to 2010, it’s easy to understand why we paid barely a passing interest to mobile.

Fast forward to peak season 2015, which just concluded: 38% of traffic to GradGuard.com originated from a mobile device and 16% of all insurance policy sales occurred via a mobile device. Five years ago, 1% of GradGuard.com’s traffic came from mobile. Five years later, 16% of its SALES came from mobile. It’s crazy.

The use of mobile by insurance prospects isn’t limited to speciality products found on sites like GradGuard.com – it extends even more dramatically to more ubiquitous products like car insurance. MassDrive.com, the Massachusetts-focused website that’s part of our national auto and home insurance business, has seen an even larger explosion in mobile activity. (I opted to use MassDrive.com for this exercise instead of the site for our national auto and home insurance solution, MyLifeProtected, because this business was exclusively located in Massachusetts back in 2010.)

I looked at the last three months on MassDrive.com versus the same period in 2010. From 8/1/10-10/30/10, less than 2% of traffic to MassDrive.com originated from a mobile device. Like GradGuard, less than 1% of conversions overall were generated on a mobile device. Times have changed in 2015; for the same period this year, 38% of traffic to MassDrive.com came from a mobile device and an unbelieveable 37% of total conversions occurred on a mobile device.

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(In the case of MassDrive.com, the conversion rate on mobile devices is nearly identical to the conversion rate on desktops; there is a much larger variance in desktop and mobile conversion rates on GradGuard.com, where the desktop conversion rate is significantly higher than mobile. We’re not sure why that is, but we’re looking at it.)

These and similar data points are impacting how we market and approach our process and experience designs at NGI. What was something of an afterthought five years ago is now an active part of our creative, engineering, and QA operations.

The data tells us that insurance prospects are ready to buy on mobile – we’re focused on capturing them with an experience worthy of that expectation.

User Experience Improvements To A Flawed Purchase Process

Our team at NGI spends a ton of time thinking about customer experience, usability, and frictionless ecommerce.

Soon after we created the Upromise Life suite of insurance products with our partners at Securian and Sallie Mae, we were faced with a common marketing challenge: our purchase process was dragging down our customer growth significantly.

We were asking our prospects to jump through too many hoops in order to purchase. The mobile experience wasn’t strong enough. The clustering of form fields wasn’t as logical and intuitive as it could be. Payment was too difficult. The friction caused during the purchase was enormous and essentially wasted what were quite strong response rates to our marketing.

We set out not to solve all these problems to perfection, but to push out a new version of the site that addresses as many of these issues as possible in order to quickly improve the customer experience on UpromiseLife.com. We’ll continue to push incremental changes in the future once we can learn more from data we get back from this round of changes.

Some things to look out for:

  • Quote start on the landing page.
  • Quote availability without providing any personal info.
  • Responsive design for purchase path, better-enabling mobile purchases.
  • Consolidation of questions onto fewer pages.
  • Completely stream-lined and integrated purchase process for those consumers who choose ACH as their form of payment.

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