How Nationwide and other carriers can support agents going digital post-COVID

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We knew 2020 was going to be a year of change, but no one could have anticipated how significantly the COVID-19 crisis would reshape the business environment and accelerate the need for change in the insurance industry. Challenges created by social distancing and economic volatility have presented new opportunities for insurance agencies.

Successful agencies are shifting their strategy to use digital tools to reinvent the way they market to and interact with customers. At Nationwide we call this transforming into a “digital powerhouse.”

Many agents are already making this transition, with 80% saying they have changed the way they sell or market to clients during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a recent Nationwide survey of independent agents. Still, some agents are struggling to adapt, with six in ten saying they have faced challenges with shifting their agency’s marketing to a more digital-based approach, and 69% indicating they are struggling to develop new business in the current environment.

These agents are finding their traditional playbook is no longer working. In-person meetings and events that used to help agents reach new customers likely won’t be happening in the near-term future. It’s more than likely many new consumer behaviors and expectations will stick around beyond the pandemic.

Digital and virtual tools will become table stakes for successful agents moving forward. Agents who aim to become a true “digital powerhouse” should focus their attention in two key areas: digital marketing and streamlined self-service.

Revisit your digital marketing strategies

It’s vitally important for agents to rethink marketing plans for 2020 and beyond and consider cost-effective investments as they shift away from low-impact activities into efficient efforts to digitally attract new customers. The top three digital marketing opportunities for agents to address are their website, social media presence and email marketing.

Quick tip: Ask your carrier partners if they have marketing training or co-op resources like Nationwide to help you in your digital marketing transition.

Optimizing your website: Make it easy to find
The most vital thing an agent can do today is a have a strong web presence. Review your website to ensure people can find it via search engines such as Google. When they get there, make sure they can be easily led into a virtual selling path. To help with this in the COVID-era, Nationwide accelerated new digital capabilities, working with agents to create customized Nationwide Express web pages for their agencies, allowing them to reach and sell to customers online 24/7.

Quick tip: Filling out more fields on the Google My Business profile should yield a significant impact, even before customers reach your site. When there are more than 30 fields completed in Google My Business, it leads to a 25% increase in searches and a 37% increase in views.

Optimizing social media: Build a content strategy
Social media content fuels the marketing engine, with Facebook and LinkedIn being good places to start. If you want to focus on one, LinkedIn provides significant value for agents when prospecting for clients and maintaining relationships. By consistently delivering social media posts that are relevant to your customers and referral sources, as well as unique to your local community, you can demonstrate dependability and expertise. Your audience will grow to rely on and appreciate the insights you post. Be sure to focus on content that helps them make more informed decisions as business owners or consumers – as opposed to bombarding them with constant sales pitches.

Things to consider:

  • Facebook vs. LinkedIn: Consider creating a LinkedIn page focused on business clients and a Facebook page focused on personal lines clients.
  • Engage with your connections: Actively engage with your community. Those who are fully engaged by posting regularly and advertising find it twice as effective as those who post irregularly.
  • Post content regularly: Establish a consistent cadence in your social posting, email marketing and blog content to increase your touchpoints with clients and become a top-of-mind thought leader.

Optimizing email marketing: Personalization is key
Using email to reinforce connections with your existing customer base will increase the likelihood they will not shop around with competitors. By making virtual communications more personal, agents have a chance to stand out. The risk associated with poor personalization is high, with more than 40% of U.S. consumers having dumped a company because of “poor personalization and lack of trust.”

Quick tip: Now is the time to reach out to your customers. Customers who aren’t contacted at this critical time — with the expectation that they should be — say they are almost twice as likely to switch carriers. With a mix of virtual and digital touchpoints, you can make sure they know you are on their side during this time.

Streamline your approach to quoting and self-service
A critical element to becoming a digital powerhouse is finding new ways to digitize, thereby saving time and resources your agency could devote to generating business. This means you need to have quoting and binding capabilities available on your website, as well as the internal resources to quickly turn quotes around and get them to customers instantly. Another opportunity is providing self-service tools that allow your customers to quickly check their account and billing information on their own, as opposed to bogging down your team with time-consuming requests for information.

Working with carriers that make this easy will make your life easier. To help our agent partners, Nationwide launched Nationwide Express, which gives agents the power to quote multiple products in as little as 2 minutes.

Now months into the pandemic, insurance agents are making some unfamiliar and perhaps uncomfortable pivots to meet customer needs. For many this means transforming their business strategy, increasing their digital capabilities and reinventing the way they market to and interact with customers. Agents who embrace the opportunity to become a digital powerhouse will emerge from today’s challenging environment with an edge over the competition.

The good news is – you don’t have to do it alone. Make sure you’re holding your carrier partners accountable for providing tools and expertise to help you navigate through this important transition.

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