Life Agents Make Practical Use Of The Web

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The reality surfaces once the hype fades.

A year ago, the Internet and e-commerce were the source of buoyant optimism to many. In the past year, however, a variety of corporate experiments on the Web, ranging from www.kozmo.com to www.webvan.com, have failed, suggesting that it is not easy to make money on the Web.

While ambitious dot-commers were burning through millions of dollars only to learn this all-too-costly lesson, however, some life insurance agents who were running Web sites made quiet progress in the use of the Internet as a new marketing vehicle.

Their Internet strategy looks simple. Their approach to the Internet is practical, rather than radical. For insurance agents, the Web site is a supplementary vehicle that cannot replace traditional sales tools and methods like telephone calls and one-on-one talks with customers.

“For us, the Web site is like a high-class brochure,” says Edward K. Meyer, president of Joseph M. Himmelstein & Associates, Wellesly, Mass. “The Web site has broadened the customer base. At least in theory, millions of people can see it and contact us by e-mail.”

Joseph M Himmelstein & Associates is running a Web site at www.jmhinsurance.com.

Although the Web site does not generate many hits, Meyer believes it is not a serious problem at least for now, as “customers go to our Web site because somebody has already introduced us to them, or they somehow know about us.”

He is currently considering stepping-up marketing over the Web. “Id like to make the Web site more interactive,” says Meyer. He is planning to add capability for customers to get life insurance quotes online. In addition, he plans to “link the site to search engines to generate more hits.”

To diversify the content of the Web site, Meyer is planning to put up a quarterly newsletter on the Web site.

American Marketing Group, New York, launched its Web site at www.amcinsurance.net about three years ago. Its aim was just as simple as Joseph M. Himmelsteins. “We launched the Web site for advertisement,” says Chris Vivona, information technology supervisor. “We plan to use the site for e-commerce in the future.”

American Marketing feels the need to incorporate e-commerce features into the Web site because more and more customers want to do business online, says Vivona. “More and more people are asking how they can contact us online,” he adds.

Although they can currently download a policy application from the Web site, customers have to send it by fax or regular mail. “People can submit applications directly to our system soon,” notes Vivona.

Insurance agents who are preparing Web sites are following the example set by life insurance agents sites that are already in place. However, these newcomers plan to use their Web sites more aggressively to lure new customers.

“We are making the Web site interesting enough to make customers contact us,” says Barry Cohen, president of Cohen Partners, LLC, a New York life insurance agent who is currently building a Web site at www.cpinsurance.com.

“We feel that we can supply information that will enhance our relationship with our clients,” he notes. “Our aim is not to sell insurance online.”

To attract new customers, Cohen maintains, the Web site must be interesting. “My concept of a good Web site is not to give customers information over the Web that bores them,” he explains. “What we are trying to do is to provide them with certain sources and things which are very attractive to them.” The Web site will be completed on Oct. 1, he adds.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, August 27, 2001. Copyright 2001 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.


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