If today’s buyer isn’t intrigued with what an adviser is sharing on sites like LinkedIn, there is no reason to believe that they’ll be interested in person, says Wendy Keneipp.

Doing the right, strategic hard work for insurance agency growth is all about marketing and sales.

When you hear, “marketing,” do you think of sending RFPs to the carriers? If so, then it’s time to step into the modern business world. We hear this from agencies of all sizes, and it’s holding agencies in a pattern of stagnation. Agencies need to drop that vernacular and recognize that what has held true for the rest of the business world is now taking root in insurance agencies.

“Marketing” is communication to people outside of your company with the goal of turning lookers into buyers. In other words, marketing communication is the critical first step of your sales process now, and if you’re ignoring it, you’re likely suffering the consequences with an anemic pipeline.

The lack of agency attention focused on this type of external marketing is, quite frankly, shocking. The relationship that has evolved between marketing efforts and sales efforts has completely transformed the buying experience. Yet, the lack of understanding that agencies have about effective marketing is keeping them from moving ahead and growing the way they should be and need to be. We see three things go hand-in-hand so frequently that we believe it’s the norm and not the exception within the industry:

1. Agencies report insufficient pipelines to meet goals
2. Producers are not meeting their goals
3. The agency admits to a complete lack of marketing efforts

And it makes complete sense that sales are suffering. Because without a focus on the right marketing efforts, you aren’t able to fill the pipeline with viable prospects. Today’s buyers are looking for a new consultant relationship only when they are experiencing some discomfort, either with their current broker or with something going on in their organization — something likely that the current adviser can’t fix. Outside of that, they have no reason to be randomly shopping around for a broker or adviser. They’re too busy to waste their time just seeing who’s the most popular these days.

Your buyers have their own problems and they want someone to help them solve those problems. If you can help them, you win. If not, you lose.

Your buyers are going online and looking for two primary things:

1. Information to help them solve the challenges they’re facing in their organizations
2. Validation information about someone they’ve heard of, been referred to, or learned something about from some source

How to lose a prospect in 60 seconds
If the buyer is looking up information on a challenge they’re having and all the information you posted on your website and your LinkedIn profile is about your agency (how long you’ve been in business, what products you sell, and what carriers you work with), they will never even see your site. You won’t show up in search engine results because you’re not talking about things the buyer is searching. You lose.

Another scenario is when the buyer has heard about you or been referred to your agency and they specifically look you up. This time they make it to your website or profile, but once they arrive, they find that same me-focused website described above. You can celebrate that you’ve gotten their attention somehow, but make it a very quick celebration. By only talking about yourself, you’re still not addressing their challenges and allowing them to see how their world could possibly improve by working with you. Again, you lose.

These two scenarios play out day after day, and I’m quite certain they’ve played out on your site more times that you’d like to admit. This was your one shot to grab the reader’s attention and instead of intriguing them and giving them reason to learn more, they just left, no longer a viable prospect for your pipeline.

How to win a prospect and pull them in for more
Now, imagine that same buyer came to your site (either through search engines or referrals) and found you writing and talking about things that mattered to them:

· Ways to influence cost containment for a benefits program
· How you create communication programs to help employees better understand their benefits so they are placing a higher value on them
· Testimonial stories about the effectiveness of your comprehensive compliance services
· Discussion about how technology can help alleviate so much burden on HR administration

Then, let’s say they find a blog with articles discussing these very topics. They read through a few of them and look around a bit more. They see pictures of your team members with quick bios that describe how they work and why they do what they do. And then those bios include links to their LinkedIn profiles, where the reader then finds more articles (written and/or shared) that address these different challenge topics in more depth.

After finding this intriguing, the reader continues looking around and clicks through to the LinkedIn company page and sees many more articles, videos and ideas shared about these very challenging topics they find themselves struggling with. And they see the members of your team leaving comments and engaging in discussions with other HR managers and CFOs around these ideas. They’re thoughtful, helpful and saying the kinds of things the buyer wants to hear.

Do you think the reader may be interested in clicking the ‘follow’ button? Or perhaps asking to make a connection? Or maybe even go back to the website and subscribe to the blog or newsletter offered by your company?

Yes. Yes, they will.

And now guess what? Now you have the name of a person who is genuinely interested in what your agency does. You now have a legitimate lead that came to you through marketing efforts; marketing that is working on your behalf all hours of the day and night.

Cold calling used to be the primary source of getting in front of new buyers. And now, the person who just read all of your articles and scoured through your website and LinkedIn profile feels like they know you, even just a little bit. So now when you take the step to reach out and email or call them it’s not a cold call — it’s a warm call. You’re familiar to them and there is instant rapport when you make the connection. A friendly, welcoming voice responds because they are intrigued with what you’re doing and how you might be able to help them.

Win or lose: your choice
That is how marketing influences sales and your pipeline. It allows you to lose or win before you ever have a conversation. Because if today’s buyer isn’t intrigued with what you’re sharing online, they have no reason to believe that they’ll be intrigued with what you have to say in person, so you’ve never given yourself the chance for that conversation.

The biggest push back we get is producers and owners saying they’re “too busy” to market; no time to spend writing. We call BS on that. Do an audit of your time and see how much of your day is spent being “busy,” doing work that can likely be done much more effectively by someone else.

Marketing is selling now. And if you choose to not make the time to write, record, speak, present, network and educate then you’re choosing not to put full effort into selling, and you deserve the results you get.

Remember, it’s marketing + sales. As great as the scenario is that I described, marketing isn’t the only way to fill your pipeline and it does not preclude you from prospecting. You still need to put a constant focus on getting your name and your message out in front of people so they have a reason to go look for new solutions, to question their current situation, and to look you up specifically.

Marketing is there to support and enhance your prospecting efforts. Remember, your readers have come to your site or profile to learn more after hearing about you from some other source. Perhaps those sources are referrals from clients or centers of influence that you’ve requested, cold calls or emails you may have sent, and networking efforts you’ve engaged in.

Don’t use marketing as an excuse to not prospect, thinking that you can sit quietly in your office and wait for prospects to roll in. You still have to generate activity. But respect that without marketing, you don’t have a complete sales process.

"No marketing, no meetings" will become more and more real for anyone competing to win the business of an employer looking to hire a consultant.

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Wendy Keneipp

Wendy Keneipp

Keneipp is a partner and coach at Q4intelligence, driving agency transformation.