Agent to Agent: Why Your Small Business Should Be Using Social Media
By Jim Mansfield
It’s a Small World After All.
What if you could get every client that you insure — and all of their friends and family — to drive by your business every day and see your latest message on your sign out front?
Well, you can.
My most popular post on my Mansfield Insurance Agency Facebook page this year was very simple: I “checked in” at 24244 Stateline Road and posted the photo below of my sign out front.
Suddenly, clients who live hundreds of miles away were virtually at my doorstep. Not only that, but those clients who both saw the post and “liked” it — their friends and family saw that activity, expanding the reach of my business.
At Mansfield Insurance Agency, we use social media to flame the marketing plans that help us meet our sales goals. In the last five years, there is no doubt from our sales increase and overall growth that social media has had an impact. Since 2009, when we first started getting involved in social media, our sales have increased every year, along with an increase in retention and thus an overall growth. Our website is a rock solid placement on the first page of local searches which is one of the main goals of using social media.
If you are not involved in social media you might think that accessing the Internet or search engines are mainly accomplished on a desktop computer or through Google searches. This is not true. Over 75% of consumers use some form of social media to search the Internet, and a majority of them are accessing it through Apps on mobile devices. This is crucial in that just having a website and using social media on your computer is a good first step, but you need to make sure you have the right kind of website and are preparing to have your own app or use your parent company’s app.
The following is an assessment from one of our district sales managers from the Erie Insurance Group:
“Jim has embraced social media and has made it an integral part of his marketing strategy. He is able to promote what’s going on in the insurance industry and in his local community in a fun, easy way that lets him interact with current and potential clients. He also uses social media to promote agency events, such as a recent flat-screen TV giveaway. Thanks to this activity, Jim is seen as someone who is ‘in the know’ and who can be trusted to give the most up-to-date advice when it comes to insurance needs. In 2013, he grew new P&C premium by over 31%, new policies-in-force by 26%, and increased his retention to 91%.”
— Rachel J. White, CIC, CLU®, AINS, Erie Insurance, District Sales Manager
As Rachel pointed out in the quote above, it’s important to “promote what’s going on.” My first rule of using social media is to give. To give you must be informed, which is why I rely heavily on my professional associations, PIA of Indiana and the National organization and the AIMS Society, which distributes the CPIA designation and classes. Those two organizations are constantly giving information that is vital to our customers. Not only do they give information but, more importantly, I am surrounded by the best leaders of our industry by being a part of them. My lead company, Erie Insurance, also has an awesome social media marketing resource.
Steve Andersen, at a PRO to PRO (AIMS SOCIETY) meeting in Tampa: “It is like dancing,” he said. “At first you feel awkward and not sure what you are doing, but the more you participate the better you become.”
Our agency is signed up for almost every social media outlet you can think of, and we remain active in four of them. Creating a presence on each of the social media outlets is relatively easy: Just follow the prompts to create an account. As soon as you accomplish the basic setup, follow other similar organizations to get ideas for refining yours or consult with your web developer.
Mansfield Insurance Agency mainly uses Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Yelp. Another important platform is blogging, which we have used in the past and is great for content marketing. In 2012, 78.6% of sales people using social media to sell out-performed those who weren’t using social media. ¹
There are several reasons to acquire more than one social media site. First, you need them to help promote your website, so don’t forget to include your URL on every application and also to link to it when you post various items. You also need these sites to help with Search Engine Optimization (SEO), which gets your business to the front page of a Google search. If done correctly you get your website on the very first page of all Internet searches in your area. Our agency is there and we are constantly tweaking our plans to stay there.
Finally, most searches are now done on mobile devices, not traditional personal computers. Most consumers use social media apps on their mobile devices to get updates on what is happening in the world, so you need to have an Internet location that is responsive to that. If you do not have a professional website designer hosting your website and social media sites, I highly recommend getting one.
If you’re not sure where to start with all of this, I recommend creating a Facebook business page, the easiest and most popular for the most part. One million web pages are accessed using the “Login with Facebook” feature and 23 percent of Facebook users login at least 5 times per day. ²
We use our business Facebook to give information to our customers about texting and driving, tornado safety, fire safety, car safety, etc. We get this information from our associations, insurance companies, and magazine articles in professional publications. Most insurance companies and our associations give you this information on social media already — all you have to do is copy and paste to share the information with your customers.
My second rule of using social media is to make it fun or make it seriously informative. Do not combine those two concepts. There is nothing funny about texting and driving.
If you’re wondering how putting this information out there would help you make a sale, that is often not immediately foreseeable. The goal is to establish yourself as a professional and an expert that social media users can contact if they have a question about the field of insurance.
Taking Advantage of Resources
The best reason to use social media is that it is free! It is similar to having a storefront, a huge billboard, a daily reminder delivered to hundreds if not thousands every day, all at no extra cost. Your name is in front of all these friends and followers, expanding to their friends and followers. My very first advertisement on my business Facebook page netted a sale. I simply posted that we sell Landlords Property and Liability Insurance, and a neighbor of mine (and a friend on Facebook) who did not have insurance with me called me up within an hour and said, “Jim, I didn’t know you sold insurance for rentals!” Boom!
Most companies, like my lead company Erie Insurance Group, will pay co-op money to advertise and get you paid advertisements on social media, which is a whole different level of social media. Why would you not take that money?
Social media is not hard, but it takes time for you to get followers and get others to share your information. When you look at your “insights,” stats about your page that are only visible to you, you’ll often see that more people see your post than like your page. This is a result of your followers sharing, liking, or commenting on your posts. Also, you can discover information about the demographics that follow your page: My largest demographic on my Facebook business page is women ages 35-44. Information like that at my fingertips is extremely valuable when I am designing our marketing strategy.
The most important rule is to have fun. This is the “social” part of social media. Many days I will read about an interesting story and I will then ask my followers for an answer to some aspect of that story. The first one to respond through my email on my website will get a free lunch. No quotes, no insurance, just something fun. As a result, they are likely to look for my future postings, more serious posts that could result in a sale. When we ask people how they discovered us, they usually say our website or our social media accounts.
I owe much of my success as I have said to the AIMS Society, PIA of Indiana and several individuals such as Steve Anderson and my fellow board member at AIMS, Chris Paradiso.
Start your social media marketing now, get engaged with associations and watch your business grow!
Jim Mansfield is an insurance agent (CPIA) with more than 35 years of experience in the industry. In 1981, he opened Mansfield Insurance Agency in his town of Bright, Indiana, where he has served as owner and president ever since. Jim began his career as a teacher in the public school system, and this background has greatly influenced how he has grown in the insurance industry. He enjoys educating his clients about different insurance policies and how best he can help them. He also is a facilitator for the CPIA classes and has led several social media events. Jim’s professional affiliations include the Professional Insurance Agents (PIA) of Indiana, where he recently served as president from 2012-2013. He is currently serving as one of two vice presidents of the AIMS Society. He also serves on the board of the local Bright Area Business Association.
¹ Forbes, May 19, 2013, “Study: 78% of Salespeople Using Social Media Outsell Their Peers
² Jeff Bullas, “22 Social Media Facts and Statistics You Should Know in 2014”