Senior Benefit Services
On Friday, October 23rd (a week into the 2021 AEP) our entire office joined a Zoom meeting for an update on the company among other things that you would not find interesting. The meeting started as usual, but during our President’s rousing Friday morning speech he stopped talking…then again, was he frozen…Oh! Everyone is frozen!
Was it me?
Was it my iPad?
Not this time! Everyone’s Zoom meeting crashed.
Apparently at shortly after 9AM there was an internet outage in our area. One might say we were “off the grid.” Now, I know that’s an exaggeration, but I started to think: We’ve been so dependent on the internet, even encouraging agents to communicate with their clients online, invest in an online CRM(link), submit eApplications, etc. …what do agents do if they lose internet access at the office?
While staring at my spinning Zoom call, I thought of two alternatives:
1.) Keep important information on your computer server
2.) Have an alternative internet connection
Let’s dive into the details!
Typically, an existing client calls into the office because they need something. That could be:
- Policy numbers
- More competitive Medicare Supplement options
- Alternative products (Life, Critical Illness, DVH)
- Questions on filing a claim
The backup information you should store on your computer is information that the client might need. I decided that there are 3 main sections that you should look at when storing information on your server:
1.) Client Contact Information
Our Marketing Department has always recommended an online CRM to safely store your client’s information. An alternative is to save your client’s applications and policy numbers to a secure server so if they call in you have all their information from their previous or current carrier application. Regularly exporting a copy of the data in your online CRM is a way to have a “best of both worlds” type solution.
2.) Carrier Contact Information
This is something that can be stored in a CRM as well, but it never hurts to have this information on your desktop saved in an excel sheet. You will want to save important information such as:
- Phone number (Agent Support, Policyholder Support, Underwriting, New Business, etc)
- Fax number (New Business and Underwriting)
- Mailing address (New Business)
Carrier information stored on your computer might not be the fastest to find information, but you will have what you need to submit business or help a client while there’s no internet access.
3.) Carrier Supplies
Most carrier supplies can be downloaded to your computer, with the exception being some Medicare Advantage or Prescription Drug applications that are individually barcoded. While you still have access to your carrier’s websites, we suggest that you download forms to store on your computer or laptop to have right at your fingertips. If you are having trouble downloading forms, feel free to give our Marketing Department a call and we can email you the PDFs you need. Forms that you should always have on hand are:
- Outline of coverage
- Replacement form
- HIPAA form
Be sure to set a reminder in your calendar to keep your “offline” copies up to date. Many cloud storage apps like Dropbox, and OneDrive have a desktop application that allows you to sync your files to your desktop automatically giving you can always current and offline accessible copy of your stored carrier forms.
If you are the type of agent that needs the internet to submit business, then we suggest that you have an alternative to your internet connection. A couple of ideas that we suggest are:
1.) Switch to Cellular Networks
Typically, if your wired internet connection goes out, your wireless connections are still operating. Switch to a device that uses a cellular network to access the internet like your smart phone. Or use your cell phone to tether your tablet, iPad, or laptop to your cellular service. This will allow you to have internet access thru your data carrier. Keep in mind the internet speed will be slower, and if you have limited data using the internet through your cellular network could increase your monthly bill. Using a cellular network is a good and often quickly accessed alternative if you need to be on the internet for brief amount of time but not for the long hull.
2.) Mobile broadband
Using mobile broadband is like using your cellular network, but instead of tethering through your mobile device, your using cellular data through a separate device that provides a mobile internet connection. This creates what most people call a WIFI “hotspot” allowing you to work from anywhere. The connection is better than running through your mobile device, but the cost of an extra line can be pricey. However, if you are an agent that has a traveling office this might be a good investment for your business since it allows you to access the internet on any of your devices, even those without cellular connections.
3.) Go To Where There’s Free Wifi
If you need WIFI in a pinch and your office is “off the grid,” we suggest you go where there’s free WIFI. College students, millennials, and bloggers do it, and so should you! Drive to the nearest Starbucks, grab a cup of coffee and connect your laptop to the free WIFI. If you are not in the mood for coffee, typically the local library will have free WIFI to help you out, or use a site (or app) like WifiMap which will allow you to search for Free WIFI hotspots near you. If you lost internet in your home office this is great alternative if you have business to submit the same day. One word of caution when using a public and open access network: these networks are not always 100% secure. It’s a best to avoid entering, sharing, or accessing any of your own or your client’s personal information. But these WIFI hotspots are great for downloading forms or looking up rates.
If you are curious to know, our internet connection came back in roughly 90 minutes and our business survived! And, if anything, hopefully you can learn from our internet outage so now you can have a backup plan to keep your business running smoothly.
Have any tips to share about alternative internet access or what you do when you lose internet? Leave a comment below!
Want More Business?
I’ve said before that the best way to obtain new clients is through referrals. The problem is you have to start somewhere to obtain new leads, especially if you’re new to the insurance market. I touched on this topic briefly with a previous blog post: “Want More Leads,” but let’s get right down to it; the challenge of being an independent broker is getting your name out there for people to find you. Many independent agents start with cold calling a list of phone numbers or spending hundreds of dollars on direct mailers, but there’s a different way to advertise your services. A way to market your business that we encourage all of our Producing Partners to utilize is Digital Marketing.
What is Digital Marketing?
Digital Marketing can be explained in many ways but to sum up an array of definitions; digital marketing is simply the promotion of your services using digital technologies and media. The purpose is to bring new clients or even recurring clients to your business (versus chasing after potential leads) by using technologies such as the internet, apps, or online advertising. Honestly, digital technologies come in many forms; however I wanted to focus on the Top 3 avenues of Digital Marketing that will help you promote your business:
- Social Media
- Digital Advertising
When you hear about a new business, what is the first thing you do? If you’re anything like me, you “Google” that business to try to find a website with more information about what they do and who they are. And once you find that information, seeing a website, especially a well-built website, gives that business more credibility for the services provided. In talking with some agents they think that because they work from home and don’t have their own standalone office that they can’t have a website. This is the exact opposite. When you don’t have a physical location to further reinforce your credibility, a website allows you to have a “digital store front” to give your potential customers more confidence in their decision to contact you. To give your business more legitimacy to newcomers it’s best to create a website that, at least, contains the services you provide and contact information.
Getting Started with a Website
Building a website can seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be a challenge. If you have the cash flow, the easiest thing to do is hire someone to develop your own website and most website designers will keep up on the website’s maintenance for a monthly fee. However, if you don’t have that kind of cash then look into building your own website using 3rd party companies such as SquareSpace, Weebly, or Wix. These websites are much more affordable than hiring someone and are designed to be simple for any one to use – even if the only experience you have is browsing the internet. With these website builders, you can add a simple drag-and-drop feature to create your website layout with pictures, descriptions, links, and basic information about your business.
The Power of SEO
One thing to keep in mind about websites is keeping up with SEO (Search Engine Optimization) so when your potential clients type in Google, “insurance in __(enter your city and state here)_” then your website page is at least on the first page of results. In order for you to appear on your client’s Google search, you need to have certain keywords on your website. Google picks up these keywords and will push your website towards the top of the list of possible answers for anyone typing a question into the search engine. Great keywords to have for your business if your focus is the senior insurance market is: “Medicare”, “Medicare Supplement,” “Senior Insurance”, “Senior Coverage,” “65,” “Part A,” “Part B,” “Part D,” “Rx”, and make sure you include your location as well. You can use these words through descriptions on your “About Us” section of your website or the “Contact Us” section or, another option, is to post a monthly blog that would increase your SEO. If writing is not your forte, then film a quick video to post on your website. Blogs and vlogs (video blogs) alike can be shared on social media driving traffic back to your website.
Now, I won’t go into the nitty-gritty of SEO so you’re welcome to do your own research for more details, but I will suggest using Google Analytics. This is a great source to see how many people are visiting your website so this gives you an idea of how your website is doing right now and what you can do to improve website traffic.
The amazing part about technology is that you can connect with people without being face to face. Yes, I’m talking about the power of social media! If you are unfamiliar, consider it the digital “door knocking;” but instead of being face to face you now have the ability to connect and talk with potential new clients without even leaving your desk.
Connecting on Facebook
A great place to start is Facebook only because (as I mentioned in my previous article, “Want More Leads?”) it is the most popular social networking website among seniors and has been consistently growing every year since 2012. So where do you begin? If you prefer to keep your profile on lockdown and staying within your friend group then we suggest that you create a separate business profile page so you can connect with people outside your friend group. With your business profile (or personal profile if you don’t mind using that) you can then create a business page.
Creating a Facebook Business Page
In my opinion, it’s important to have a Facebook Business page because it is a free and simple way to advertise your services, plus you have the ability to connect with your clients. Your Facebook Business page is a great source for potential clients to find out more about your business, read reviews, see photos or videos, find your website, and ultimately connect with you. An excellent feature is the ability to create a community within your page. So wherever you live you can connect with the business around you – not necessary in insurance – but in the same location. The people that already “liked” the other Business Pages that you connected with now discovered your services available in their area. This is basically another great way to connect with new people so they can find out more about your services. Lucky for you, Facebook has easy to use guides to help you get started building your social media presence:
There are more social media outlets available such as Instagram (owned by Facebook), LinkedIn, Twitter, and YouTube and I know this section has been real Facebook heavy. But remember, if your business is the senior insurance market then focus on Facebook because it’s the most prominent among seniors. Even better, using your Facebook business page you can connect with seniors in your area for potential new business. As an added bonus, Google loves finding businesses on social media sites. Even if you don’t actively use social media, having a Facebook or LinkedIn page is an instant boost to your personal website’s SEO and an easy way to make it to the top of someone’s Google search results.
With any business to increase revenue, you have to get your name out there and bring people in. You got it! I’m talking about advertising, particularly focusing on digital advertising. To dive in a little bit of detail, examples of digital advertising can be:
- Posts on your social media page (FREE)
- “Boosts” on your social media posts (where you pay to have your post reach more viewers)
- Purchasing online ad space on websites or social media (i.e. Facebook or Instagram)
- Email newsletters
Posting on Social Media
Advertising can be really expensive so the most inexpensive (and most of the time FREE) form of advertising is posting on social media. And I’m not referring to a simple status update, I’m talking about uploading a flyer, or advertisement piece that tells a little bit about your business. This can be something as simple as, “Confused about Medicare Supplements? Click Here to contact an expert in the field.” Then you can link your uploaded design to the contact page of your website. Now you’re probably wondering how to create something like this to post on social media. Lucky for you, there are a few websites out there that have the answer by offering solutions that can make anyone a design pro.
How To Create Posts That Stand Out
If you don’t have money to spend, we recommend using Canva. This is a free website that gives users hundreds of layout options for all different forms of advertising (Emails, social media posts, newsletters, postcards, flyers, etc.). All you need to do is edit the wording and possibility a picture, and then you’re done! Your design then can be downloaded to your computer and used however you need it. Now, you can pay a monthly fee for access to more images, design layouts, and different fonts, but we have found the free version is sufficient enough for those not focused on design details.
Another website that offers design layouts at a monthly premium is Venngage. Originally this website was created so users can easily design infographics, but they recently branched out to include flyers, presentations, reports, whitepapers, and all forms of digital and print advertising. Since you get what you pay for, our Marketing Department has found that this website is easier to use and their online support is more than helpful when developing your advertising pieces.
These two websites I highly recommend if you’re looking for an easy solution to start your own advertising. The prefilled designs make it easier than ever to create something quickly to get out to the public. However, if you’re feeling creative, then you can always build your own advertising pieces. Check out our previous blog post, “Posting On Social Media…” for details on how you can develop your designing skills.
Boost Your Post
If you’re posting your advertising piece on Facebook and you want to get that information out to more people than your followers then you can “boost” your post. A boosted post is an ad that you create from your post on your Facebook page and according to Facebook, “boosting a post may help you get more people to react, share and comment on your post as well as reach new people that might be interested in your personal page or business, but don’t currently follow you.” Of course, this feature is not free, but you can adjust the cost to what you can afford and set the specific demographics of people you want your post to show up in front of. Check out Facebook’s help page for more information on Boosted Posts.
Posting Ads on Social Media
Now, boosted posts are different than purchasing ad space on Facebook. Unless you’re not frequent to social media newsfeeds, then you’ll probably notice that every four posts you’ll see an advertisement from a company or business. Advertising on Facebook or any other social media is expensive but you can really customize what you want out of your advertising such as: who you want to reach, when you want to reach your audience, what kind of ad you want to build, and even ways to collect data on clicks. With more features like this, advertising on social media sounds complicated, but it can give you the greatest turnaround with obtaining new potential clients from an extremely targeted group of people.
Outside of social media, another way to connect with clients and potential clients is through email newsletters. Newsletters are a form of advertising that is more indirect; basically it’s advertising without advertising. By using this form of indirect marketing your business is in front of your clients (or potential clients) once or twice a month but a newsletter is not a blatant advertisement of your business. Instead, keep the information in your newsletter to articles about healthcare, financial advice, or maybe a good dinner recipe. Now, in this same newsletter be sure to also include your contact information for your business plus links to your website and social media pages, but that’s not the main objective. With indirect marketing (like a monthly newsletter) your business will be in your client’s or potential client’s minds until they need your services.
How To Create A Newsletter
Newsletters are not as difficult to build as you think. There are easy to use online services that can help you create monthly emails with drag and drop features making your newsletter informative and eye-catching. Some online emailing services that our Marketing Department recommends are MailChimp, Constant Contact and Robly, but there are plenty of other services out there for you to choose from. Typically these services come at a monthly premium, but that cost is worth it since your email templates are saved online so you don’t have to recreate your design every time you send out a new email newsletter. Plus these online services will store your client’s emails so you don’t have to type in all your client’s email addresses every month. However, make sure you only email clients or potential clients that have given you permission to email. These newsletters are connected to your individual email account and if too many people report an email as “spam” or “junk” you could end up having your other emails blacklisted from reaching anyone’s inbox. So I encourage you to slowly build a good list of emails from people want to receive your monthly email newsletters and updates. With these online services and a good email list it’s safer and easier to touch base with your clients once a month to stay in their minds and increase client retention.
The hardest part of Digital Marketing is getting started because this process can be overwhelming to add on to your day to day schedule. My suggestion is to start with one piece of the digital marketing I suggested above and then move on to another. The easiest way to start is by creating a social media page and business page. That’s free to you and it gives you an immediate online presence where potential clients can find you. From there you can move on to creating a website (if you don’t have one already) and once you have that established then start advertising (Social Media Boosts, Online Ads, Newsletters).
What are you waiting for? Get started with your Digital Marketing and push your business to the next level increasing your overall business and client retention.