It’s September, and Life Insurance Awareness Month (LIAM) has arrived. Life insurance and annuity producers should be taking advantage of this opportunity to market their services to clients.
One of the first rules of marketing is to be where your customers are, and social media sites are the pulse of consumer interaction. The nonprofit LIFE Foundation offers an information-packed toolkit of materials and resources — including an entire month’s worth of social media posts to help bolster your LIAM marketing campaign.
This is a great month to take the plunge into social media, armed with a ready-made marketing campaign. But after September, you might ask yourself, “Now what?”
Here are five steps for building your social media marketing plan for LIAM and beyond.
1. Have purpose.
As with any good marketing plan, know your objectives before you start. Do you want to deepen your relationship with existing clients to become their go-to resource for financial advice? Do you want to build a referral network? Perhaps you focus on a niche market, like business continuation planning, and want to engage with small-business owners and entrepreneurs.
Producers targeting the mass affluent market have had success using LinkedIn1 to connect with doctors, lawyers and other high-net-worth professionals. To reach the same demographic with women, Pinterest may be an option. Its users are mostly “female, well-educated and have disposable income.”2
The point is, don’t be on social media just for the sake of being there. Figure out the why before you implement the how.
2. Know the rules.
A key part of marketing in our industry is understanding and following the rules that apply to social media use, especially when it comes to the various licenses you may hold. Remember, the government entities that regulate licensing have different rules about licenses you use in daily practice.
It’s also important to stay current. Social media is a fluid environment, and regulators try to adapt to the shifts in technology as they happen. Follow industry resources like LifeHealthPro, LIMRA, and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) for the latest news and updates to social media regulations.
Know your agency’s policy on social media, too. Agencies, make sure you create a policy. One of the first things regulators may look at in a spot-check of social media communications is not only how a firm is using social media in the course of business, but also whether a social media policy exists.3
3. Don’t sell — engage.
Product pitches should not be a part of your social media communications. Not only does discussing specific products or making recommendations get into complicated compliance territory, but it can also turn people off.
Rather than souring social media followers with tired sales pitches, offer them information that is relevant and useful to them. In step one, you figured out why you wanted to be on social media. This is where the how begins, with engaging content.
Engaging could mean creating a blog where you offer tips on saving money and planning for retirement and linking to it from Facebook or Twitter. It could mean sharing interesting articles with a LinkedIn group or network. It could be creating a Pinterest board of healthy recipes and lifestyle tips, which might help clients improve their overall health.
Try a variety of media, not just text-based posts and links. Try to mix in videos, photos and infographics.
“A simple photo or quote can often have a much bigger impact than, say, insurance how-to information,” says Marvin Feldman, CEO of the LIFE Foundation. “It’s about finding the right balance for what your followers will find engaging and what they’ll want to share with their followers and keep them coming back.”
So whatever your purpose is for being on social media, make sure you’re following through with relevant posts that your audience is likely to interact with in some way, thereby amplifying your message and leading to more engagement.
“If it can encourage or inspire people to think about their loved ones and the uncertainties life holds, then that’s an indirect but powerful reminder about the need for life insurance,” Feldman says.
4. Be authentic, but professional.
Think about it — if you needed a good mechanic, where would you look? Would you dust off the old phone book? Maybe search for nearby mechanics on Google? Most likely, you’d ask a friend for someone qualified and trustworthy.
Word-of-mouth has long been considered one of the most powerful methods of marketing, but it doesn’t grow out of impersonal advertising. To make an impression that’s worth sharing, you have to be more than a canned message feed.
You are likely in this business because you want to help people and enjoy interaction. To translate that into sales, you have to bring both personality and knowledge to your business conversations.
Stephen Selby, assistant vice president of social media at LIMRA, points out that “social media is a great opportunity for an agent to talk about how life insurance can be used to change lives, rather than just the features and benefits of a product.”
If you are authentic and professional in your approach to social media, people are more likely to trust you, listen to you and recommend you to people they know.
5. Listen and measure.
“It’s called the Fail Fast Ethos,” Selby says. “When it comes to starting out in social media, we don’t know what’s going to work. So we have to try new ideas and move very quickly to make it effective. Abandon the stuff that doesn’t work or try it in a new market. Run with the stuff that does work.”
Given that life insurance sales are at their lowest since World War II4, it’s clear that the tried-and-true methods of the past are no longer effective on their own. Producers can’t afford to ignore the power of social media anymore, so devise a strategy that fits your purpose and then track your results.
“What’s important is that we aren’t just pushing marketing messaging, but we are listening to our fans and followers to continually adapt the content we’re providing based on their feedback,” Feldman says.
Don’t focus on return on investment alone. Instead, focus on return on objective. Look for metrics that are tangible, like clicks to your blog, increased website activity, followers, comments, likes, shares, or other forms of engagement.
The truth is, there’s no easy way to connect the dots between sales and social media, so keep your sights set on your goals, listen to the response you’re getting, and adjust your tactics appropriately.
Life Insurance Awareness Month doesn’t have to end in September. Consider how you would like to continue to use social media, and keep these steps in mind as you create a plan to propel your customer engagement into the future.
For more on social media, see:
1. Friedman, E. (2012). Influencing the Mass Affluent: Building relationships on social media. 2. Reuters (Feb. 28, 2013). “Pinterest Is Worth $2 Billion Because Its 25 Million Users Are Rich, Female, And Like to Spend”. Business Insider. Retrieved from http://www.businessinsider.com/pinterest-is-worth-2-billion-because-its-25-million-users-are-rich-female-and-like-to-spend-2013-2
3. FINRA. Spot-Check of Social Media Communications (June, 2013) Retrieved from http://www.finra.org/Industry/Regulation/Guidance/TargetedExaminationLetters/P282569
4. LIMRA. Household Trends in U.S. Life Insurance Ownership 2010