What You do for Your Marketing is Up to You.

If you’re reading this article, then you validate my first point: EVERYTHING IS IN THE HEADLINE. In articles, press releases, and ads, people are enticed by the headline and will then decide to continue on if the content interests them.

My headline, like so many other things in marketing, is unoriginal. It is a spin-off of David Ogilvy’s 1963 book, Confessions of an Advertising Man, which is arguably the definitive guide to modern advertising. If you stick with me through this column, and subsequent columns I write over the next 6-months in The Standard, I will share with you advice I have learned from my 20 years in the trenches of marketing-communications in the digital age.

So let’s get started, but first a TRUTH ALERT – marketing advisers only include your phone number in TV and radio ads to make you happy. I don’t know of anyone who has written down the phone number when listening to a radio or TV ad. It doesn’t hurt the ad, so we do it; but when you come back and ask for it to be bigger and bolder, good ad people often make a stand because it can downgrade the overall quality of the ad. Moreover, today’s consumer is tech-savvy and will Google you or visit your Facebook page if prompted to do so.

Now, let’s get down to business.

First, you need to fix your website. I can speak in broad strokes because even if you have recently updated your website, it can still improve. A website is meant to be a living representation of your brand that continuously evolves with you.  Simply put, it needs to be updated.  Fresh content makes your website, and ultimately your agency, more relevant and appealing.  For those agencies who have neglected their website, what are you waiting for?  If your website is not responsive – not adapting to smartphones and tablets – you could be turning away more than half the web visitors who access the Internet through mobile devices.

And enough with trying to trick the search engines.  Let me tell you, Google is on to you.  There are enough ways to apply Search Engine Optimization best practices to make sure your website comes up high in search engines than to resort to trickery. You should have a graphically appealing website that is responsive with an easy to use content management system so you can regularly update it and stay relevant.

A website today is the first impression many potential customers will have of your agency, and a video on your website is the best way to communicate with them. People today would rather watch a short video to learn more about you than reading on your website. You don’t want to simply place your TV ad up on your site, but instead, you should develop a video that tells your story and even more importantly, explains how you can help the people who have chosen to watch what you have to say.  With this in mind, you should consider additional product videos in which you explain to consumers how you can save them money and provide more streamlined service by combining their home and auto together; or how they can have peace of mind with a very affordable umbrella policy; or how the different types of life insurance policies may change at different stages in life.

Beyond these foundational aspects of your marketing, what I would focus on next would be email marketing, public relations and social media.  Your email marketing is your most efficient means to cross-promote product lines to your existing customers as well as to inform them of important insurance and consumer updates.  A short message from you with a link to a video or blog post on your website about a relevant topic will be appreciated by your customers.

Important announcements, such as new employees, special company recognition, and new offices, should also be communicated to your customers via email and disseminated to the local press. A press release accompanied with a photograph is welcomed by your local newspaper or industry publications. But please make sure your press release is straight-forward factual information and not a thinly veiled sales piece.

In addition to sending your press release to local media, make sure you distribute it through social media. You should include a short summary of the release in your post and provide a link back to the article posted on your website.  By showcasing specific news about your agency, you help drive traffic back to your website.  Beyond press releases and news updates, social media is also a real-time tool to update your clients with helpful hints, weather events, and community activities. With two billion Facebook users, you need to have a presence where the people are today.

What you do next is up to you.

John Houle is the CEO of JH Communications, a marketing-communications firm specializing in the insurance industry in Providence, RI. He can be reached at john@jhcom.net and at 401.831.6123.