Consumers shop online for nearly everything nowadays – health care coverage included. That means a different approach is needed for selling insurance, says Wendy Keneipp, partner and coach at Q4intelligence.

“The Web has completely changed the way that we buy,” Keneipp said during a Tuesday session at EBA's Workplace Benefits Summit.

Buyers are doing online research before purchasing a plan, she said, making marketing the new first step of selling. Buyers want information and providing that through a website is essential, she added.

“We need to make ourselves found and attractive,” she said.

Cost isn’t the only concern when shopping for health care, buyers are seeking information so they can make the best decision, Keneipp told attendees.

“We’ve taught ourselves to believe that price is all that matters,” she said, but that’s an insulting view of buyers. “They have a whole lot more sophisticated means than that.”

Online marketing isn’t just about brand recognition, she said, websites must provide buyers with new information. She warned against wasting valuable space by posting information buyers already know and/or assume.

A marketing strategy begins with purpose, Keneipp said. Industry employees need to ask themselves why they are in the business. Even if earning a living is the main factor, she said, a company needs to know why it chose this particular industry.

“You’re purpose is really, really critical,” she added, and it should be reflected online. “You have to understand very clearly what you’re going to say.”

Keneipp told session participants that a creative website is key – "You don’t want to look like everyone else."

Buyers also turn to other buyers for information about insurance, she said, adding that there is three times more user-generated content than company-generated content on the Web. She recommends having a “robust” LinkedIn account and creating a blog.

Buyers also expect new information from consultants. Buyers want year-round service, she said, not just an annual chat when renewing a policy. They’re also seeking a consultant’s opinion on an issue.

“They want your advice,” she said.

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