Marc Peteresen – President of American Advantage Insurance, Petersen Group, on Agency Revolution's Connected Insurance Podcast

The New Content Marketing for Insurance Agents – Why and How!

Here is what’s different about insurance marketing today: do it right and you’ll never make a cold call and never, ever sell on price again. Need proof? Listen to Michael’s conversation with Marc Petersen, CIC, President, American Advantage Insurance: Petersen Group.

In this episode you will:

  • Learn about the lead magnet that brought Marc $80,000 in new income this year – and that has put him on pace to exceed the agency’s $150,000 goal.
  • Get crystal clear on the psychology behind the new content marketing (and understand why Marc’s new clients thank him for the agency’s marketing!)
  • Discover how to get started on the new content marketing so that it’s easy, effective and lucrative.

Today’s consumer has changed. This conversation – between Michael Jans and Marc Petersen – reveals precisely how to reach today’s consumer on their terms… and get them to call you before you call them. This is the future of insurance marketing in action. Please do not miss this important conversation.

What are other agents & brokers doing to thrive? What are the biggest trends affecting the retail insurance agent & broker? What are the most important strategies and tactics you need to grow faster? Find out here in the Connected Insurance Podcast, where Michael Jans discusses the biggest issues affecting the independent insurance agent and broker with the industries leading figures. 

One More Thing! What do you think? How will you and your peers use this to grow your agency or brokerage? Share your thoughts in the comment section below, subscribe to get updates delivered to you and *please share this if you found it informative.


Michael Jans: Marc Petersen, thanks so much for joining us. How are you?

Marc Petersen: Doing great, Michael. How are you?

Michael: Well, doing great, thank you so much. Let’s start with a little thumbnail sketch of who you are and how you got to be the guy you are.

Marc: Yes, for sure. A second-generation family agency, me and my brother bought out our Dad a few years ago.

Michael: Got it.

Marc: We have a staff of 11 so we’re really young, forward thinking, using a lot of technology.

Michael: Your dad is he still active in the agency?

Marc: Yes, absolutely.

Michael: Because I saw him not that long ago so I figured he was still doing something. You are the president.

Marc: Yes.

Michael: All right, here’s why we’re talking. I know because of your membership in the million-dollar club that you’ve had a little bit of exposure to content marketing. It seems to me that it was about one year ago next week that I delivered one presentation on content marketing and I may have shared with you advance copies of my book The 40% Growth Book and maybe a few other tools like the 19 Secrets e-book. Then next thing I know you are executing on content marketing.

Marc: Yes, exactly. We’ve heard it before but when we finally were talking with you we were like, let’s do this, let’s commit to it and make it happen. You gave us the outline and the structure and we made a decision to do it.

Michael: All right, from our previous conversation as I recall you started things in what, was it January this year?

Marc: Yes.

Michael: It was like seven or eight months ago you got things off the ground. All right, I do want to put this in perspective. By the way, full disclosure to the audience, yes, you are a client of Agency Revolution, you’re a client of mine and in as much as you’re a member of the million-dollar club you’re not an individual client, so we haven’t worked in detail on this. I do want to put this in perspective. Prior to this effort which, obviously, has been successful, prior to this, how did you communicate with the marketplace and how did the agency communicate with its customer base?

Marc: Yes, good question. I guess I should first start by saying we have a niche market with the arborists and that has been huge for us. But prior to doing the content piece of it we would go to conferences, we would write mail. That was basically the way we were getting out on the first line side. Before we had Agency Revolution we were doing the standard phone calls and the old school stuff. Agency Revolution really helped us get digitalized and the email side of it as well.

Michael: Got it. I’m curious what it was that inspired you to say, “Yes, we’re going to make a commitment to delivering content to the marketplace?” Maybe I gave some passionate presentation about it but you still had to feel inspired enough to make a commitment. What was it that got you to do that?

Marc: First of all, I’m sure we’re not any different than a lot of people. We don’t like cold calling. That’s not our sales style, that’s not us.

Michael: Had you done that before?

Marc: Yes, absolutely.

Michael: Got it, all right.

Marc: We’re good with technology, we understand that side of it with the social and all that and a light bulb went off and this is the way we’re going to do it.

Michael: Now, again, big picture, did you and are you focusing mostly on that niche or have you used it to branch out in a more general way to the agency customer base and marketplace in general?

Marc: Primarily to that niche but, again, we do a lot of first lines as well. We’ve used similar strategies in the first line.

Michael: Got it, all right. For the sake of this discussion unless something else suggests itself let’s focus on what you’ve done with that niche. You have a niche, you’ve had a relationship for a while with arborists. How many states do you have clients in that marketplace?

Marc: We started in Wisconsin and have branched out to the mid-west the last two years. Probably about six states but we recently got a few more markets and expanded to

about 22 states now we are actively marketing to.

Michael: Let’s break it down a little bit and get into the nitty-gritty. Let’s start at the beginning of a marketing process, at the beginning of the A-core process, attract, convert, optimize and retain. From a content perspective, what are you doing to get your prospects into your funnel?

Marc: To get people in the funnel when we first started we went out on the Internet and pulled about 600 email addresses for owners of tree businesses. That was our initial base. Then we had lead funnels of freebies that we were offering in exchange to get emails, we collected another 400 or 500 that way by people entering a free report.

Michael: When was that?

Marc: We started basically all that in January. Over eight months we probably collected 400 to 500 more email addresses.

Michael: You went out to a list of what was it 500 or 600.

Marc: Yes.

Michael: You offered them a free report?

Marc: Yes, and then they engaged with the email campaign that we have which is a weekly business send.

Michael: Right, okay, do you recall the name of the free report?

Marc: Yes, Eight Things All Successful Tree Businesses Do.

Michael: Okay, got it.

Marc: It was our first one that we did and had pretty good success with it.

Michael: I want to talk a little bit about the piece of content itself, so Eight Things. How long was that content?

Marc: One page PDF. There wasn’t much to it but it was a paragraph under each eight. What’s been cool about this is that has been our pillar piece of content that we’ve used going forward and we break every weekly business tip we do ties back into that overall first thing that we created.

Michael: Got it, all right, of the eight things can you give us a sense of what the nature of those eight things are?

Marc: Yes, like commit to safety, vaccine your employees, get involved in a state association. That type of thing.

Michael: Not a whole lot here about deductibles, premiums, exclusions and other insurance terms, right?

Marc: Yes, nothing insurance related unless safety but nothing.

Michael: There was a safety emphasis on it but did you ever mention anything about number eight, you got to get the right insurance? Was that not even in it?

Marc: Was not in it.

Michael: Okay, got it. However, they knew who it was coming from, right?

Marc: Yes.

Michael: Now, you delivered it via email, yes?

Marc: Right.

Michael: As I recall, you use Active Campaigns for that.

Marc: Yes. The Active Campaign software. Also, our product we branded it a different name from our insurance agency. Our agency name is American Vantage, but we branded this program Arbor Risk.

Michael: Arbor Risk.

Marc: Yes, Risk.

Michael: Got it. Okay, then there was an outbound email and, presumably, they clicked on a link a hyperlink.

Marc: Yes.

Michael: That drove them to a landing page.

Marc: Exactly.

Michael: Was that Active Campaigns or did you use a different technology?

Marc: Different technology and that is Optinmonster.

Michael: Optinmonster, okay. For people who are not aware the two technologies that you just identified are not expensive, right?

Marc: Not at all.

Michael: They get the job done. Then they filled that out and then they were able to download the report, the eight things that successful arborists do.

Marc: Yes, exactly.

Michael: Okay, got it.

Marc: Then they’re subscribed into our email [crosstalk].

Michael: Okay, now they belong to you.

Marc: Exactly.

Michael: You’re probably within safe ground with that original email going out once and offering something of genuine value and of course they can choose to unsubscribe. Did you go out to them again? In other words, for the non-responders, did you go out to them again after the first initial request?

Marc: Yes, we set them up on a campaign which we’re hitting them a few times to get engagement, exactly.

Michael: Got it, all right. Then between now and then you’ve also generated, I think you sent another 400 or 500 emails, so you have about 1,000 in that niche somewhere around that?

Marc: Yes. They’re all owners of tree businesses so it’s a pretty solid list.

Michael: Got it. You got that by you or somebody, maybe you hired somebody go scour the internet and then manually identify email addresses?

Marc: Yes, good question. Our target is the more professional tree businesses. They are parts of the state associations, they have designations, things like that. We had the lists of the company names from those associations.

Michael: Okay.

Marc: We then went out to each one of their websites Better Business Bureau, whatever it was, to get his name and then the email. It’s tedious. It took a couple weeks. We had a few people doing it off and on but we manually went out and got those.

Michael: Got it, all right. Now they’re in the funnel. Now have you done anything else in the last seven or eight months to get prospects, not customers, just to get prospects or leads into the funnel or was that it?

Marc: We have a pretty good Instagram following with Arbor Risk. We have reports that we put out there, you can link in your bio. We’ve done three ways to branch out your marketing and a few other freebies like that.

Michael: To branch advocate.

Marc: Yes.

Michael: You’re so clever.

Marc: We’ve done five or six of those that have constantly have been feeding people into it.

Michael: Now, I don’t know if you’re measuring this but of the lead generators or the lead magnets, as we sometimes call them, that you have put out into the marketplace, is there one or more that have been exceptionally attractive?

Marc: Yes, that first one, eight things all successful tree services do. That one has by far been the–

Michael: Now you also have an Instagram account that is dedicated just to the arborist industry?

Marc: Correct.

Michael: How did how did you attract followers for that?

Marc: A lot of different ways, we go out and we follow certain ones that we want to track.

Michael: In other words if an arborist has an Instagram account, you’re a follower.

Marc: Yes. It’s not for every industry but for some reason the tree guys love putting stuff on Instagram. It’s huge with them. We realized that-

Michael: Yes, interesting.

Marc: As opposed to Facebook, Instagram is where they-

Michael: Even more so.

Marc: -take pictures of their jobs and things like that. We have a treetop Tuesday, is what we call it, where we say tag Arbor Risk and then we’ll send you some safety gear. That’s gotten a lot of attention to bring in new people on. They’re posting in their friends are seeing it [crosstalk].

Michael: Okay, cool, right, and you like their pictures.

Marc: Yes, another thing is engaging with them. Yes, commenting on them, congratulating them if something comes up, liking their pictures. That’s huge.

Michael: Right on. Hey, I really like what you did with that tree.

Marc: Yes, exactly.

Michael: Okay, got it.

Marc: Or they’ll post a safety picture and we can appreciate that or how we phrase it.

Michael: Okay, I’m asking a little bit out of personal curiosity on this. What about LinkedIn? Are they active on LinkedIn?

Marc: We had just talked about that and we did some research on how many owners are in each state that you can pull up. There’s a lot and we have not gone down that road but that future we’re going to do that here.

Michael: By the way, we’re going to talk about that next week when I see you in Bend at the MDC meeting.

Marc: Awesome.

Michael: You’ve gotten some customers. It’s relatively young but you’ve got some new business from this.

Marc: Yes, absolutely, when we started out with this we had a goal of $150,000 new business revenue from this niche for this year. We’re August now we’re about halfway there $70,000, $80,000. We are close to closing a couple big ones. One of them is about a $40,000 revenue account. What’s great about all these, this is them reaching out to us. Because they saw value in us, they got the know like and trust factor. They were like we want to do business with you. This large one, we want to do business with you. Because you support the industry and blah blah blah. It’s insane the different mindset that you create with a prospect when you give them value first and not just try to sell them. Great success so far.

Michael: Generally, content marketers brag that their closing ratio is ridiculously high compared to other forms of marketing or outbound calling. How’s the closing ratio been?

Marc: We got a killer closing rate. If we get to the point where we’re quoting it or talking insurance they’re already sold.

Michael: They’re going to be your customer.

Marc: Yes.

Michael: Okay, got it. Other than these reports, have you experimented with or explored other forms of content like, for example, video.

Marc: Yes, for sure. Video is huge for us. We are in the process of doing three testimonial things with clients with whatever, we’re redoing our website right now and we’ll have those lives. But we use Bom Bom internally here. So when we see people that are engaging with us we send them a personalized video embedded in the email. That’s one thing we have. Video embedded in our onboarding campaigns, our renewal campaigns. Yes, huge with video.

Michael: You’ve got video onboarding. Now, we’re talking post sales.

Marc: Yes, that’s post sales.

Michael: Fair enough. We’re going to circle around to that, believe me. Pre-sale videos, how can somebody consume a video if they’re not a customer yet?

Marc: In our weekly email, we have embedded video in those as well on some of them depending on the topic. We have different email series for starting a tree business, give them the basics for it. A lot of stuff on our website that are embedded.

Michael: I’m going to ask some innocent questions or sort of no right or wrong. First of all, I think you’re being extremely generous having just kicked off content marketing this year. When I heard how successful you were, I’m sorry, I just–

Marc: Thank you.

Michael: I wasn’t going to let you wiggle off of it. Content calendar, do you have an editorial calendar? Have you developed that yet?

Marc: Yes. My brother is actually the one that writes the weekly business tip. We do have a calendar of the upcoming topics that we talk about because it’s a lot to plan. Yes, we

definitely have a strategy around all of it. We’re prepared.

Michael: Now, the weekly tip, I’m going to guess, goes to both leads and customers.

Marc: Yes. What we did was, and we didn’t know if this was right or wrong, we added all of our current customers to our email list so they’re getting them as well.

Michael: Sure.

Marc: Without asking them which we probably should have, had them opt in.

Michael: Is anybody complaining about it?

Marc: No. It’s a value add so I think that it was okay.

Michael: Now, on your website, what kind of content do you have there that’s not generic?

Marc: Part of this whole program is we have the Protect then we have the Grow phase of it. Protect is the insurance of safety blah blah. Grow is the business solutions to help these tree guys grow. That’s what a lot of the business tips tie into, the grow [crosstalk].

Michael: Got it.

Marc: Those are the two main points on our website. Then we have some video series, like I said, starting a tree business. How to create a good safety program. Those type of things.

Michael: Some of the video content we’ve talked about, that’s on the website?

Marc: Yes.

Michael: What about text because from an SEO perspective, of course, Google is not quite reading your videos. That isn’t factored into the algorithm yet. Are you posting video tips or do you have a blog for your arborists?

Marc: The weekly business tips that were put on the blog those are all text. We are talking about dabbling in doing text and video. But right now it’s all text.

Michael: From a practical point of view, it’s terrific to hear about $80,000 in new revenue. It’s terrific to hear it. I think you’re about to close a $40,000 customer. Of course, it does take some investment of your time. Do you have a “marketer on staff”, somebody on staff besides you that rolls their sleeves up and gets their hands on marketing?

Marc: Yes, we have a full-time marketer.

Michael: You have a full-time marketer.

Marc: We only have 11 people in our agency. We committed to that and we said this is huge for us. Let’s get a full-time person to do a lot of that.

Michael: What are their responsibilities?

Marc: Managing the email system, our social media platforms, any marketing pieces that we need. We did a big campaign mailing boxes out with some safety gear and things like that. Website content where we just redid our website. She did all that.

Michael: Does she write some copy?

Marc: Yes. But a lot of it is my brother. He’s the writer.

Michael: He’s the expert?

Marc: I’m not a writer. That was just not my forte to do content marketing. He loves it. He’s good at it. It was a perfect fit.

Michael: All right, if somebody is in your funnel, they consumed at least one lead magnet and maybe they’ve been consuming some of the weekly tips. At some point, they call you. Is that typically how they reach out or email or what do they do?

Marc: Let me step back here. We get them to put their email in. They get put in our funnel, so they get the free report or whatever it is. Then they get dropped into the welcome sequence, which there’s three emails basically introducing who we are, why we’re passionate about this industry. I forget what the third one is. You get three emails and then they drop into the weekly tips.

They’re getting the weekly tips and we’re at number 32 right now, or whatever, and they’re getting each one. Every third email weekly tip there’s a solid call to action on there. We’re trying to get them- have you looked at your safety program? Do you have an employee handbook? Those type of things. We try to put that in the bottom of those weekly tips as a call to action.

Michael: Got it. The call to action would be to do what? To hit a link and it runs to your website?

Marc: Click here, give us a call, email us back.

Michael: Now, about the safety program, do you have a program that you guide them through or what do you offer?

Marc: We have a templated program document. We walk them through and help them customize it to themselves.

Michael: Got it. Can they participate that in some of that safety training without becoming customers? Is that content that you’re giving away or is that post-sale content?

Marc: Great question. It’s post-sale right now. But we’re actually thinking of flipping that and saying, here, let’s work on this first then let’s go insurance out.

Michael: All right, got it. Now, boom, they reached out to you and they’re like they can’t wait to do business with you. Finally, they have an insurance agent who understands them and they’re a customer and, for course, in the real world of content marketing, we don’t forget about them. This is where we really cultivate depth of relationship. Now, they are a customer, what do they get? What content can they consume?

Marc: Like I said, we enroll the current customers into these weekly tips, so they’re getting that.

Michael: But they were getting that before?

Marc: Yes, true.

Michael: Probably, all right.

Marc: We have this Grow section to our program. I mentioned the Protect and the Grow. The Grow is helping them doing some marketing, understanding the basics, help with the website, we can give them some guidance on that. How do we actually help your business grow, is more of the content once they’re a client.

Michael: They get the weekly tips and they get some onboarding. There’s an onboarding package that they get?

Marc: Yes, absolutely.

Michael: What about cross-selling? What other campaigns do you have?

Marc: After we sign someone up we create an action plan and it’s broken down quarterly. That is, in essence, quarter three we’re going to talk about this and that can be an upsell cross-sell opportunity. Let’s look at your disability insurance or whatever it is at that quarter. We lay it out up front. Then we let our AR system, 90 days after this you’re going to get this email.

Michael: You’ve created some custom campaigns in Agency Revolution to deliver content.

Marc: Exactly.

Michael: One of them is what this quarterly thing where you remind them that there’s, what is it, a conversation that’s going to take place or how do you do that?

Marc: Exactly. This is the third quarter. These are the things that we want to touch on with you. Do you have all your employee job descriptions put together? If not, let’s talk.

Michael: Got it. Then what? Then if they reach out to you you’ll help them because you’ve got a module or a package that you could give them?

Marc: Yes, we have a back-end login into our website that they can get all these documents.

Michael: We’ve walked through how you attract them, the conversion takes place over the phone but the conversion rate is ridiculously high. Then there’s cross-selling that takes place during the relationship throughout the year and they are sufficiently being nurtured that my presumption is you’re satisfied with your retention?

Marc: Yes, absolutely. Retention’s huge.

Michael: It’s going in the right direction?

Marc: Yes.

Michael: Retention, got it.

Marc: Yes, we don’t really lose accounts in this niche. Once they’re on with us, it’s solid. It’s huge. Another reason why you do need niches. We know the industry, we know what they need, what they want, how to help them.

Michael: Do you have some things in mind that you’re going to be testing or experimenting with in the next six to 12 months that are different?

Marc: Yes, we do. I think a lot of this is going to go on the Grow side of it, really getting deep with them on helping them get better at marketing, how do we actually get more people into their door to grow their business. Once we’re positioned in that light with them, they’re not going to leave us for the insurance and that’s how we get paid. We have this other membership that we do get some revenue off of, but it’s exciting.

Michael: I’m curious about this, if you have heard anecdotes, comments, from either new customers or existing customers about this way of creating relationship.

Marc: Yes, we’ve gotten great feedback. On our weekly email tip, we get about a 30% click-through rate. We know that it’s not everyone but out of 1,000 people you’re getting 300 to click and read [crosstalk].

Michael: That’s past the open rate. Your open rate is higher. A lot of people already know that even if they haven’t consumed the content that, “Hey, these guys are giving me value.” But not everybody has time, or whatever it is. 30% of them are consuming it. What kinds of things do your customers now say to you?

Marc: I think that when my brother goes to, say, a convention they come up to him and they all know him and they talk to him.

Michael: You’re the guy on video?

Marc: Yes.

Michael: I’ve never had that happen [laughs]. I’ll get in an elevator if there’s an insurance thing and people talk to me like they know me and I’m like, “I don’t know you but I know you’ve seen me in your inbox for the last five years.”

Marc: He’s gotten some requests for a lot of speaking engagements and things like that. He’s still a name in the industry, which is huge.

Michael: When prospects call, I realize it’s probably your brother who’s closing that but their attitude must be different than the attitude of whoever was randomly calling two years ago because maybe somebody said something about you, right?

Marc: Yes, big time. We’ve had this branded program for a few years. When people call in it was all about, “Give me a low rate, give me a low rate.” It was all price driven. Now it’s to the point where I understand that you understand this industry and I choose to work with you because you support it, you know it, that type of mentality. It’s been a big mind shift change.

Michael: As I think you’d mentioned earlier, you are second generation?

Marc: Right.

Michael: Your dad is still active so he at least knows what you’re doing. This is slightly different than the situation of other agencies in some of my other clients where Dad is still fully in charge. You’ve got to make this decision yourself but I am curious what your Dad’s thoughts about it are and maybe what his thoughts about it were when you were thinking of going in this direction.

Marc: We’re blessed. Our dad has supported us 100% and he gets it. I think he knows that the world has changed and the way you need to market has changed and he’s been a huge supporter of it. I think he’s really excited for us. As long as we keep selling, I think he’ll be happy. I hope that answers your question.

Michael: If we go down the road a few years what do you think your agency looks like?

Marc: Great question. We’ve talked a lot about this. We don’t actually want to be just tied into one niche so what we’ve done now is January 1st, 2019 we’re going to be launching a second niche. What’s beautiful about this is we have everything set now.

Michael: You have an infrastructure in place?

Marc: Yes, where we can copy this, a lot of the content, a lot of the different systems and all that into the second niche. Fast forward three to four years, we want to have four to five niches and go vertical. We’re not a generalist, we don’t want to be a generalist, have four to five of these that are just rocking with different email systems and that is where we’re at.

Michael: Now, retrospect, given what you know now and your experience with this kind of content marketing, if you were going to get on the Connected Insurance Podcast soapbox and deliver a message to the insurance industry about which we all care deeply or at least the independent insurance agency channel, what would you say? What’s the message you want to deliver to your peers throughout this industry?

Marc: First of all, I think we all know this, the riches are in niches, so get your niche, commit to it, start the content. Commit a couple hours a week to start writing, create your systems with your email funnels and all that. It’s not that hard. It probably seems very overwhelming at first. Once you get going and dissecting each piece of it, the systems are pretty easy. Commit to it, like I said, and understand this is a long-term play. We want to become an expert in the field, we want that know like and trust factor. That doesn’t happen overnight. You’ve got to commit to it.

Michael: In closing, but I’m curious what your observation is about this. Generally, with content marketing, clearly, you can get some traction right away. You offer something like eight tips or eight things all successful arborists do, you’re probably going to get a lot of hand raises. Generally, what happens is that know like and trust factor it builds over time.

People are exposed to a consistent branding of you giving value to people, and then they get to consume it when it’s most appropriate for them. Do you think you’re seeing your presence in that niche build over time?

Marc: Absolutely, if you fast forward six months ago compared to today, a whole different light. I anticipate to keep going. Like I said, we’re in about 22 states now and a year ago we were only in three or four. This is really going to scale quickly. Next year 2019 is where we have some aggressive goals. We’ll see where this goes.

Michael: Things are rocking and rolling. Marc, you’ve been very generous by sharing your experience and your insights. Congratulations on your success. Thank you very much for joining us.

Marc: Thank you very much, Michael.

Michael: You bet. Great to talk to you and I will see you next week.

Marc: Sounds good. Take care.

Michael: You bet.

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