Automate Your Agency with SMS Marketing

Although I am not a millennial, I have to admit that during the busy work day, I actually prefer using SMS messaging and Google Hangeouts as a quick and easy means to communicate with business owners and coworkers instead of picking up the phone, or heavens forbid, actual human-to-human contact. And the truth is, so do a growing majority of your customers.

If you’ve been in business for as long as I have, you may have noticed that when it comes to marketing, things are not the same today as when we started – and that is actually great news! Sure, I know you like to believe things were always better in the past – but were they really? Our perception is usually painted with unadulterated memories of record sales months and celebrations that lasted well into the night. We tend to forget flipping through phone books, making cold-calls and collecting x-date cards in hopes of building a list of viable prospects. Ahh, the memories…

But today is different. We have more information at our fingertips about our prospects, customers and friends than ever before – which is not always a good thing but you get the point. And while you may not be all that comfortable with the new methods of communication, a growing majority of your clients are.

According to a recent Pew Research Center analysis of the current US Population, millennial’s became the largest generation in the labor force in 2016.

Millennials became the largest generation in the labor force in 2016

Maybe you have a large base of millennial customers who would rather pay more than talk to someone about switching insurance. Or maybe your agency caters to an older audience who needs more convenient and accessible communication options. Regardless of who your agency ultimately serves, your goal should be to provide them with channels through which they are more comfortable engaging with you.

So, what I’d like to write about today is why SMS messaging communications and even video meetings should play a major part in your agencies new business and retention strategy.

Is SMS the New Marketing Gateway for Agency Growth?

I recently saw an article that talked about the rise of Facebook Messenger as a business communications platform. While it’s not my favorite idea in the world, since I seldom check my own Facebook messages during the day, I have to admit that it’s actually a pretty brilliant idea and here is why:

  • Every month, there are 2 billion messages exchanged between businesses and consumers through Messenger.
  • 53% of their users said they are more likely to buy from a brand that they have a direct line of communication with.
  • 56% said that they prefer those communications to be done via message instead of a phone call.

Other studies have shown a similar gravitation of the consumer to “instant” messaging with businesses; specifically, in the form of SMS. In the report “The High Demand for Customer Service via Text Message”, Harris Interactive and OneReach found that 64% of consumers who have the option to text a business would prefer to do that instead of call.

And if you’re still not sold on the idea of integrating SMS within your current marketing strategy, think about it like this:

The open rates for SMS messages are amongst the highest across any form of marketing. Frost & Sullivan 2010 & Epsilon 2009 reports found that compared to email marketing, which has an average open rate of 22%, the huge 98% open rate of SMS messages is even more impressive. With SMS, you don’t have to worry about emails going into SPAM or simply getting lost in the clutter. To put it simply – SMS communications get noticed and create more engagement.

Video Messaging and Web Meetings – The Best Kept Secret

Let’s face it, your clients really do not want to talk to you about insurance and you probably prefer not to call them. Making phone calls every day is work and non-stop interaction with clients about claims, justifying rate increases and how “full-coverage” really doesn’t mean their policy covers every loss can make even the most excited business owner wonder why she ever ventured into the world of the self-employed. As harsh as it sounds, the truth is that in a perfect world, your clients would only call when they are ready to purchase another policy or give you a chance to save their business before switching to another carrier. Unfortunately, that is not the case and you often find yourself struggling to put out fires and react to client demands. It’s these demanding customers that get your attention and your best customers, who never call or complain, are the ones left in the cold. Can you relate?

There are only so many hours in the day and only one of you. Knowing this, how can you deliver great service to all of your clients without sacrificing your sanity in the process?

Over the past few years, we have seen a major shift in social media trending from posts written in text to recorded, and even live video. In April 2016, Facebook projected that within 5-years, Facebook will be mostly video. The rapid improvement in technology, increased internet speeds, ease of use and reduced streaming costs have made this all possible.

Benefits of Video Conferencing for Sales

If you live in a large metropolitan area, your frequency of in home or office appointments accounts for a small and decreasing percentage of total sales. Business is transacting at a rapid pace and many agents have shifted away from relationship advice-driven sales and have made insurance more of a commodity one-size fits all product. While most of your customers prefer to communicate with you through the channels described above, make no mistake, they still want and need a professional recommendation. Prerecorded video messages explaining coverage options, answering frequently asked questions and invitations to interact with your agency is a great way to build your agency brand, keep your client engaged and informed while saving precious time in the process.

Adding the option of video conferencing as a way to interact with your agency is easy to do and can quickly become your most effective sales tool! Even older clients love to video chat with grandchildren and find this hew but “old fashioned” way of building relationships refreshing. If you add video meetings to recommend coverage options and policy reviews, it will:

  1. Improve new business proposal rates by as much as 300%
  2. Save time wasted with in office appointments that last far too long
  3. Reduce travel costs for those agents who still make in home presentations
  4. Improve agency value by offering clients the option of meeting from the comfort of their own home
  5. Busy commercial clients will love the option to meet quickly without sacrificing client relationships
  6. Clients who move out of your area are more likely to stay with your agency
  7. Working with relocation specialists love an agent who can meet with their clients before moving into your area

This is not to mention the HUGE benefit of scheduling small group meetings with local business owners and clients who are interested in learning more about your business and their insurance choices.

How Can You Effectively Integrate SMS and Video in Your Marketing Strategy?

You may be thinking text messaging is just a way to send a quick response message – but think again! When combined with your business website and a few simple google docs, your marketing analytics will become your most powerful tool used to market and retain clients.

Below is a short list of ways we use email and SMS marketing to help our agents grow at ContractCoach:

  • Invite clients for a coverage and discount review
  • Set and confirm appointments
  • Use video meetings to improve efficiencies and market to new areas
  • Easily store important client dates and send message automatically at that time
  • Customer feedback surveys
  • Save time by requesting information through pre-appointment survey
  • Request clients to update their records on our site including emergency contact information
  • Conduct many surveys to improve service and improve client relationships
  • Direct market to social media network
  • Establish dedicated referral partners
  • SMS-only contests to get new mobile subscribers and generate greater brand awareness

As you can see, there’s a lot that can be accomplished by sending a simple text message or video message to your clients and prospective customers. And, even better, combined with marketing analytics, you can use these messages to measure the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns and advertising expense.

Just keep in mind the general “rules” you’ll want to abide by:

  • Only send text messages if your visitors have expressly given you permission to opt them in.
  • Always give them an easy out if they decide to change their mind. Include a STOP or OPT OUT option in the message.
  • Keep your messages short.
  • Include a clear call-to-action. SMS should always be sent with a purpose: read this, fill out this survey, etc.
  • If you do include a link, make sure the landing page is optimized for mobile and removes any unnecessary steps so your visitors can get right to what they need, when they need it.
  • And, of course, don’t forget to offer online scheduling options.