Slow to adapt to the Internet, insurance agents and advisors have found an unlikely bedfellow: Obamacare. In March 2014, Google trends reported the highest peak of searches for “health insurance quotes” since January of 2012.
About five million people per day visited healthcare.gov as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, registration deadline neared. For the 40,000 insurance brokers and agents who sold insurance the old-fashioned way, this was a sign to adapt.
For those insurance advisors who were ready and easily found online, this was a boon. Thanks to the accessibility of digital marketing tools like LinkedIn, YouTube, and Facebook, hundreds of agents were ahead of the curve to provide the much needed hand-holding required.
A recent study by LIMRA (Employee Benefits Producer: Use of Technology 2013) revealed that in 2009 only 18 percent of the producers surveyed utilized social networking sites such as LinkedIn, and 57 percent stated that they had no interest in using these sites at all.
By the fall of 2013, this had changed radically. Though three in 10 continued to express no interest in social media, a clear 53 percent of producers had become LinkedIn users. In four short years, more than half of those who previously expressed no interest in using social networks had become users.
Greater awareness of the need to connect with clients via digital sales channels is no doubt the reason for this increase. “Although many insurance advisors have historically been slow to adopt to digital marketing, we’ve seen a recent surge in investing in insurance training around digital marketing,” says Jeremiah Desmarais, founder of the AgencyGrowthAdademy.com, a training and education organization for the insurance and financial services industry.
In 2013 alone, the Agency Growth Academy gifted more than $1 million in online sales and marketing training to the health, life, voluntary benefits, and property and casualty industry.
“We saw this trend coming, which is why we wanted to do something for the community to help them prepare. Our $1 million donation of thought leadership to the insurance industry is something we’re really proud of gifting to serve the industry,” Desmarais says. ”Though Obamacare is a U.S. phenomenon, advisors from 51 countries, including Brazil, Australia, the United Kingdom and South Africa have subscribed to our training on how to market their insurance products.”
An example is Randy Pifer, an insurance agent from Grand Junction, Colo. After attending an Agency Growth Academy digital training program, he recorded a simple video to assist those struggling to sign-up for PPACA, then uploaded it to Youtube.
In a matter of months, Pifer, who previously had shied away from the Internet, topped 19,000 views using the online strategies taught to him at the Academy. “We have brokers who used the digital marketing strategies we taught them earn over $150,000 in commissions,” Desmarais says.
Like Pifer, Virginia-based insurance broker Jonathan Katz reports his business has also been booming due to PPACA. Interviewed by Dan Gorenstein of Marketplace.org in October 2013, Katz said: “In the last two days, I’ve received over 40 calls and 50 emails a day… Current clients are asking, ‘what are we going to do with my current plan? What’s my situation?’”
Sure, with millions of new customers shopping for insurance online, a large volume of sales will continue to take place without an agent or broker getting involved. But for advisors like Katz and Pifer, and graduates of programs like the Agency Growth Academy, times couldn’t be better and consumers couldn’t be happier.