Going Head To Head With The Internet

By

The amount of insurance and financial product information thats available on the Internetfree and, yes, unfilteredcontinues to astound me.

Just put “life insurance” into your favorite search engine and you will be presented with legions of links. Its the same with “health insurance,” “long term care insurance,” “annuities,” etc. For example, a “search” done on April 21, 2004, on “life insurance” brought up nearly 10 million links!

Is it any wonder that people get confused? Advisors need to keep those numbers in mind when dealing with techno-happy clients.

By the way, in the search, I entered insurance words the way many consumers do when surfing for insurance information. That is, I typed in the broad term “life insurance,” not the more specific “single premium variable universal life insurance Chicago.”

Specialists exist who study the kinds of words people enter for searches. These people help businesses decide on the “key words” to “tag” in the site to ensure the Web site will rank high in the search listings. That strategy does help firms get attention in Web searches, but it doesnt solve the content problem. Insurance professionals continue to encounter clients who mainline onand get lost inthe Internet info maze.

Even if visitors do find a good (read, accurate) insurance Web site, how can the advisor address all the misinformation the visitors find in other sites?

The question comes up because, in doing my own searches, I have many times found Web sites that feature scathing criticisms on certain insurance products while other sites tout the very same products as godsends. In too many cases, information on both sides can be wrong, out of date, distorted or confusing.

If consumers happen upon those sitesand many dothey may later show up at some advisors doorstep, armed to the teeth with this mish-mash of “facts.” Then the producer ends up unpacking all of that jumble rather than addressing the clients unique and sometimes pressing needs.

Talk about a time waster.

But, if the advisor doesnt sift through the distortions and half-truths for the client, something worse may occur: The person may not obtain necessary coverage, and the advisor may not get a new clientto say nothing of a new sale.

What to do?

Here is a suggestion for advisors that might help reduce the time wasting and increase the time advising: Do a search on the product/service class(es) in which the advisor specializes. Use words that consumers are likely to use. Check out each site that comes up on the first 2 or 3 pages (which is probably as deep as most visitors will ever go before moving on).

Then, identify both the accurate and the inaccurate information in those sites. Put those “findings” into a chart along with any personal comments. Use this chart as a reminder of points to make with clients, particularly “surfer clients” who have probably already been to those sites.

Many producers tell me clients often refer to “the Internet” as if it were an authority, as in “the Internet says that product is a rip-off.” If that happens, the advisor will be well prepared, from having done this research, to address many of those concerns.

Naturally, some agents are very skilled at meeting Internet challenges without doing searches and building charts. More power to them. But, from what I hear, its getting harder for most advisors to address those challenges convincingly, without also demonstrating that they, too, have “gone to the Net” and have seen those very same sites and statements.

No doubt, being Net savvy can actually bolster advisor credibility among the surfing crowd. It positions the advisor as someone who is up to speed and who can discuss what “the Internet” has to “say” on insurance.

Offering strong client education and information up front is, of course, the best strategy. Advisors who do this on their own Web sites and in their client meetings will help keep misinformation from rearing its head in the first place.

Chances are, advisor-educated clients will not even go to “the Internet” for financial information. Or, if they do, they will view the content they find with an informed eye. And thats as good as it gets, when advisors go head to head with “the Internet.”


Reproduced from National Underwriter Edition, April 30, 2004. Copyright 2004 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.