“This is our market — and this is our time.”
— Thomas Minkler, IIABA Chairman 2013-14
President, Clark-Mortenson Agency
Consumers are connected. How do you reach them and interact with them? The American economy is driven by consumers who want and expect to help and serve themselves. Social networking sites such as Facebook, consumer review portals such as Yelp, e-commerce sites such as eBay and Amazon, and community sites such as CraigsList and Wikipedia are the go-to tools for finding information and answers, shopping and buying, and getting things done. Researchers have dubbed this trend “the groundswell.”
groundswell is: A social trend in which people use technologies to get what they need from each other, rather than from traditional institutions like corporations.”
— Groundswell: Winning In A World Transformed by Social Technologies, by Charlene Li & Josh Bernoff
Today’s empowered consumers are taking different routes to get where they want to go.
Researchers at Forrester have segmented U.S. adult consumers by social technographic:
Social Technographic Group
% of U.S. Population
What They Do
Write blogs, maintain a website or upload audio/video
React to others’ content, post comments, post ratings/reviews, edit wikis
Save and tag articles, use newsfeeds, organize content
Set up and maintain social networking profiles
Read, listen to and watch what others produce and publish
None of the above
Groundswell: Winning In A World Transformed by
Social Technologies, by Charlene Li & Josh Bernoff, Forrester Research Inc. (2008);
Forrester Empowered Tool (empowered.forrester.com/tool_consumer.html). Percentages as published by Forrester in October 2013. Percentages add up to more than 100% to reflect consumers in more than one category.
Today, most personal insurance consumers begin their search for new coverage online. In fact, nearly 80 percent of auto insurance shoppers use some form of online research. Only 20 percent depend on an agent alone to do their research, according to the 2012 McKinsey Auto Insurance Consumer Insights Research.
“Today’s consumers have more power and information than ever before. Consumers today expect that their questions are resolved quickly and that those answers are trustworthy. Consumers no longer need information, they desire advice and direction from a seller who is courteous, prompt, and knowledgeable.”
Professional Service Remains Vital. Yet, at the same time, consumers want to interact with product and service providers in insurance and financial services. For example, research and consumer behavior shows they still need and want what independent insurance agents provide: The overwhelming majority turns to a live person – in person or on the phone – to make an auto insurance purchase.
“Almost nobody buys online. Consumers don’t like to buy it online.
They want to talk to a trusted advisor.”
— Bob Rusbuldt
President & CEO
Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America (IIABA)
For a generation, marketers followed a mass-market, megaphone approach. That’s shifted: Today’s marketing environment is interactive and consumer-driven.
Tightly controlled brand message
Customers control the message
Interrupt: Big spending wins
Interact: Adding value wins
Ad-Speak: Spin & deception win
Transparent & authentic
30-Second spot is king
Word-of-mouth is king
Project CAP Marketing, 2013
Now that you’ve recognized these changes in the environment, it’s time to adapt and work proactively and interactively with today’s connected consumers.
“‘Connected Generation’ consumers care about our story more than we realize. There is one business lesson that we independent insurance agents need to come to grips with:
‘Tell your story. Be useful.’
Success is that simple.”
— Ryan Hanley,
Hanley Media Labs
Creating customer connections means gathering what you know about your existing customer base and using that insight to create long lasting customer engagement. Find out how to create a process that starts with the first contact and continues throughout the customer lifecycle.
There some simple steps that you can take to learn more about the customers you already have, and then find ways to leverage that knowledge to attract more just like them.
Determine your ideal customer, melding together a grouping and finding what makes them all similar. Use things like their age, gender, income, along with their personality traits and buying preferences, then consider their hobbies, their community affiliations, their families, their employment, and other traits that could help define their buying behaviors.
Next, determine where you most often find your customers. Word of mouth, community involvement, online, via printed marketing materials or ads in the newspaper? Take time to analyze how you acquired the majority of your customers and use that information to start locating more of them!
Work with your ideal customers to gain insight into why they chose your agency over others. Pick up the phone or send a personal e-mail and ask them to let you know what made them buy from you, why they continue renewing their business and what you offer than others didn’t. Take to social media and solicit feedback, get customer to provide feedback on sites that gather customer reviews.
Survey your new customers to learn why they choose you, what you offered that was attractive to them, even ask what you could improve upon to help hone your customer image.
Remember, the right metrics will help you analyze every interaction and begin to learn more about your customer base, especially as their needs change or their methods of communication evolve.
Finally, it is important to know that consumers today will come to you from a number of acquisition points, come more prepared than in the past, come with many questions and with reams of research that they have gathered online. They will have collected information about you and your agency and will have likely formed an expectation of the advice and service they will receive. Be up to the challenge!