As a technology entrepreneur focused on bringing financial security to all people, whoever and wherever they are, I’m often struck by entrenched misconceptions the insurance industry has when it comes to technology. Headlines paint a stark picture of doom and gloom e.g. “digitize or die,” and emerging insurtechs are often viewed as enemies bent on putting advisors out of business. It’s unfortunate because it’s the wrong lens: technology can be a powerful enabler.
Change is hard when our intention is to boil the ocean, but it can be much easier when we decide to solve one problem at a time. Think about all the productivity tools we use today: email, chat, smartphones, shared workspaces, etc. We didn’t start using everything at once, we evolved as productivity and technology improved over time. We adopt technologies that provide the most value, and dismiss those that don’t — does anyone remember Juicero? (The company raised $120 million to build its vision of “the future of juicing.”)
My point is this: as advisors, you know your business, you know your customers, and none of that needs to change. But what if you could more easily and cost-effectively engage with more of your target customers and bring them into your book in days rather than weeks? That’s value, and it’s within reach for carriers and independent agents alike. It just takes a practical and pragmatic approach, plus a willingness to try new things.
Think about your buyer’s journey. Who are your customers? Where do you typically find them? Can you improve the way you target them? Make it easier to do business with you? Improve your cost of customer acquisition? Let’s start by thinking through how customers make purchasing decisions and what that means for advisors.
Advisors need to be available to their target customers when they are most receptive to information and/or actively looking for products. Basic digital marketing tools (think website, email, social media, etc.) are powerful tools for targeting. The key is knowing your niche and understanding your buyer’s persona: The narrower you can target, the stronger the lead. Start small and measure the results. What types of information are your target customers responding to?
Keep in mind that your target consumer wants to self-educate online. They will still need an advisor to help guide them in the purchasing decision, but research starts online, and this is a great opportunity for advisors to establish trust. As you know, trust is built over time but there are some steps you can take to speed the process when establishing trust online. If you don’t already have a website, look into site building tools that allow you to personalize user interactions. If you already have a website, you’ll need to work with your site builder and host to determine what features you can add.
Another opportunity to establish trust comes from knowing what your buyers want — consider offering needs analysis calculators and quoting tools to help prospects get fast answers to their biggest question. can I even afford insurance? Many carriers you already have a relationship with offer direct-to-consumer tools you can tap into (Breathe Life powers these kinds of tools for multiple carriers). You can also find free versions of calculators and other widgets on the Web that you can embed into your site.
Lastly, think through your site experience as if you were a prospective customer, what else would be useful to offer? It helps to think through the most consistent questions you get from clients and make sure you are providing the explainers, definitions, and FAQs they’ll be looking for to get answers.
2. Building Trust
Once you’ve established a trusted digital relationship with a prospect, you’ll want to build on it — and this provides an opportunity for advisors to shine. Prospects need your expertise, but they’ll seek it on their own terms. Think about how you can be “always on” to offer guidance when needed. Consider offering services like live chat, click to call, and scheduling tools on your landing page to make it easy for prospects to reach out to you. Many of this type of widget is easy to integrate into an existing site for little to no additional cost.
You also need to make it easy for prospects to continue self-educating. Are you providing straightforward information about your products and services? Resist the temptation to simply upload or cut and paste detailed product information and concentrate on presenting information in an easily consumable way.
At the end of the day, your goal is to build trust just as you would in a traditional sales process using digital tools to reduce the cost of customer acquisition and modernize the buyer experience.
Advisors need to continuously identify and eliminate points of friction in the buying process. Don’t make prospects answer the same questions more than once. Be available on demand even if you need to schedule a time to follow up. Can you enable direct online transactions for any of the products in your portfolio? If not, are there more consumer-friendly products you can add to your portfolio? Always be asking how you, the advisor, can make it easier for customers to transact with you.
Online sales lend themselves to less complex products but instead of looking at this as an obstacle, think about the opportunities. Simpler products provide a foothold that you can use to expand upon over the long term. Regularly review your book of business to identify clients whose needs may have changed. Remain visible after the initial sale by following clients on social media, attending local events, and regularly updating your own digital presence.
Given the sheer volume of technology and terminology, it’s easy to become overwhelmed, but there are simple steps you can take to improving your customer’s buying experience. Focus on a discrete challenge such as the cost of targeting or points of friction in the buying process and take steps to address those first. Remain objective about how you do business today and where it makes sense to go digital in order to reduce costs. And above all else, stay focused on improving the buying experience. Technology is not the enemy, it’s a critical enabler of your long-term success.
Ian Jeffrey is the chief executive officer of Breathe Life.