Jason Marlowe – Marketing Director at InsuranceHub
It can be frustrating to get advice on traditional marketing that doesn’t apply to the insurance space. Agents face unique restrictions and challenges when it comes to building their online audience. It’s crucial to take things like your budget, time, and bandwidth into consideration before launching a social media strategy.
In this discussion, Joel interviews Jason Marlowe, a superstar marketing director at InsuranceHub. They dive deep into the world of social marketing. They answer important questions like:
- How much should you pay to promote a post? (Remember, it is pay-to-play!)
- How do you target your ideal clientele?
- How can you build the right content for your audience?
Jason knows what he is talking about and the strategies he lays down are ready to be used immediately! If you want to “Future-Proof” your agency, this is an important conversation for you to hear.
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 our hosts discuss the biggest issues affecting the independent insurance agent & broker with the industry’s leading figures.
Joel Zwicker: All right, Jason, thank you for joining us today, I appreciate you taking the time.
Jason Marlowe: Yes, absolutely, thanks for having me.
Joel: Here is the deal, folks. I’ve said numerous times in this podcast that I should really just record the conversation that happens before the podcast because typically those are really awesome, really engaging. That’s what we’re doing this time. Jason, you and I, we connected after a recent webinar that we had about real practical advice for an independent insurance agency with respect to marketing and you said, “My head is spinning. I have so many ideas, so many things to add.” Tell me where that came from, what do you got?
Jason: A little quick about me, I’m the marketing director here at Insurance Hub and I have been here for probably about four years now. I was listening to the podcast and there is a lot of stuff that you learn just in the world of marketing and once you get specifically into insurance, that kind of sets up for success. It’s not all the same. Strategies that apply to the general world of marketing don’t necessarily apply well to the insurance world, specifically how it applies to independent agents. The biggest thing that you have to be aware of is how much time and how much money you need to invest.
Joel: Jason, I just want to pause you. It’s funny, I said I won’t over-talk too much on this because I want your input. Can you give me some just a little example of what you let off there where maybe traditional marketing principles, if you will, don’t necessarily flow into this industry?
Jason: Things that don’t necessarily apply to the insurance world as applies to like general marketing world is, you have a lot of restrictions when it comes to how you can market. Say, you want to get up and running on Facebook, for example, and start running ads and generating leads. You can often run into restrictions on the type of questions you can ask people, the type of comments that you can make, and the type of targeting that you do. With respect to that specifically, you have to be really aware of these restrictions if you really want to get into the Facebook marketing space with the financial issues that you can get into and the specific types of questions that you can ask.
Joel: Got it. Now I’ll let you get back into where you’re going with that last one. That’s a great example because I think Facebook is pretty popular or a general mystery with respect to the smaller agency, right? Thanks for that.
Jason: Let’s just dive in there. Let’s just talk about Facebook. One of the things I hear a lot because it’s still kind of buzzy, but I feel like the buzz is way different or less now, but social media. Everybody is like, “You got to be on social media. You got to get your brand out there on social media.” At the same time, you have to know, “What’s my balance going to be?” Because social media, you got to pick a place and dive in, and a lot of times it’s a really big time investment. You also have to realize that time investment’s also going to have a monetary investment because Facebook specifically is pay to play.
When I started out doing Facebook eight-nine years ago, like heavy into Facebook advertising, it was so different. Actually, you could get a nice campaign up and running for essentially no money and you could talk to your audience. Say, you had an audience of several thousand people or 50,000 people. You could post something and they would see it. There would be a large amount of people organically who would see it. I don’t know the timeline, but probably around seven years ago or so, there was a huge shift in the visibility that business pages got. There was a point a couple of years ago, I think the stat was around 1% of all of your actual audience is actually going to see your stuff organically, so then you have to pay to get it seen.
It’s nice, it’s all well and good to be on social media and be active and post and engage. You also have to go, “Okay, what budget can I spend? I’m going to post every other day. I need to earmark worth five or ten bucks each time I post, so people see my things.” Then you have to go, “Okay, well, is it really worth that investment that I’m putting in?” Spending a lot of time now, I’m coming up with the content I’m sharing things, but am I also spending money on it? Because in my mind, what’s the point? If you’re not spending money on it and no one’s seeing it, why am I even spending the time to build this content?
Joel: No, I completely agree and I was one of the fortunate few actually. I was involved with an agency that we blew up our Facebook page and it was back in that time frame. I guess it’s back eight or nine years ago now where we posted something and everybody saw it. Actually, we were a little bit fortunate. I think Facebook was in its- I won’t say infancy, but really in the world of business, it was in its infancy, so we saw some traffic. I know agencies now really do struggle with getting that. What’s a realistic budget for an agency to get their post even seen by, say, you’re in a small city, maybe 80,000-90,000 people, maybe half of those are the target audience. Any general idea what might be a good spend for an agency or just to keep in their mind on maybe a monthly basis?
Jason: I would say that if you’re really going invest the time to build out the content to engage, you don’t want to spend- in fact, I don’t even know if you can spend anything less than probably five bucks a post. Say you’re going to post every other day or even every day or once a week or whenever it is, just keeping that consistent, that’s the big key there. Five ten bucks is my minimum.
Really, all you need to make sure that the people who do engage with your page or could potentially engage with your page see your content. Again, that’s just really boosting content that you’re posting on your page that you want to get seen by your followers. If you want to spin up a Facebook marketing campaign, you want to probably earmark quite a bit more, I would say a couple of a hundred bucks a month, spread out across the month, so it’s not that much per day, with that and some nice targets set in place for the demographics, psychographics, or whatever it is that you want to go after, I think that you can actually see some returns on that.
You have to be really diligent about your ads. I usually run an ad and then I watch it like a hawk for several days after it starts because the audience could not be right or maybe they don’t like the images or video that you’re using in your ad, so you’re getting a lot of visibility but like zero engagements. I think it’s just really important to watch it like a hawk even with a relatively small budget.
Joel: I’m just going to- I don’t know if I’ll call it a little pause here and just ask you a question. I just think that it’s important that we define something for people out there because the general- there is a lot of people that think they know, there is a lot of people that do know and then there is a lot of people that just don’t know. We talk about a Facebook ad campaign that you may spend, as you suggested, maybe a bunch or a couple of a hundred dollars a month versus spending five or ten bucks on a post. I’ll play the fool here. What’s the difference?
Jason: You can go to your page. An independent insurance company, LLC, whatever it is. You go to your Facebook page and you’re like, “I want to post something.” Say, we’re going to be closed for the holiday coming up. “I’m going to put a post out.” That’s a post. Or, “Hey, we just wrote an article about what to do if you’re in a wreck. It’s the five things you need to make sure that you do.” I’m going to write that article and I’m going to post it on our page. That’s a post, obviously. If you want to put some money behind that to get some visibility because you have to now, you can just boost that post with a little financial backing, and it will then go out to whatever audience you want. If you want it to go out to your customers, you can have your customers or you can actually have it go to a target segment.
Now, Facebook ads are different. Facebook ads can run the gamut on any kind of target and any kind of types of ads they have. It’s actually like an advertising platform. If you go to business.facebook.com, you can check out more information. It’s like the Facebook Business Manager. It’s like a slightly different login, but it gives you way more options to get really granular with how you want to target potential customers. You can even upload your own customer list and market to your customers that way, and you can run lead ads and you can run local business ads, so you can promote to specific areas around your business.
Lots of different options that you can do that are independent of the posts that actually live on your page. Instead of just posting something and then putting a little money behind it so your audience can see it, you would be creating an ad going after a specific target segment and then with an angle whether you want to get them on your site or take them back to your page or have them fill out a lead form, call you, whatever it is with Facebook ads, lot more options to get people into the pipeline, and then to talk to your customers and stuff like that.
Joel: I have a clarifying question slash comment, and I just had a holy crow moment, Jason. To start off with clarifying, the second one, it’s more along the lines of what people would be familiar with maybe a PPC or pay-per-click type situation. The first one is just purely I want people to see this because it’s important. More of that social approach versus the PPC, is that an accurate short description there?
Jason: Yes. 100%.
Joel: Awesome. Now, I just had my moment here, and I always have them in these calls and I pride myself on being moderately intelligent when it comes to this stuff. You just said I can upload a list of my clients to Facebook and I can get back those people. Are you kidding me?
Jason: No, absolutely. They’re your customers. You can, as long as you’ve done the correct opt-in procedures, you can talk to them. Then you can synchronize that content, that customer list with Facebook, and you can run an ad directly to them. You can coordinate with email campaigns or direct mail, whatever it is.
Joel: Jason, I’m stopping you right here, because everybody that’s listening to this right now, regardless of size of the agency, grab a pen, grab a piece of paper, because Jason and I are going to create a winning campaign for you in this moment because I’m sitting here and I’m thinking, Jason, why wouldn’t you grab a list of cross sell opportunities?
Here’s my example, really basic, people that have home no auto, upload those to Facebook. You can leverage that with maybe- you can do that, and we could do like almost a Facebook targeting campaign for everybody that has something but doesn’t have something else we want to provide them, correct?
Jason: Right. As long as- it’s a work primarily or it’ll work probably better with personal lines because it syncs up with people who have the same email address on Facebook. You might lose 40 to 50% because they don’t have a Facebook account or they have a different email address that they use. But you can still talk to a large segment of your customers through Facebook. There’s no reason why you wouldn’t do it.
Joel: Which means I’m going to combine that with maybe an email marketing campaign as well?
Jason: Yes, for sure. Absolutely. Because it takes, what’s it like? 7,8, 9, 10 touchpoints to bring a point home when it comes to marketing. Hit them up on a customer care call or whatever. Maybe sync up that list to Facebook, and it’s just like a branding opportunity so they keep you on top of mind. Tons of opportunities. It’s really just like what I was talking about before. It really depends on how much time and energy you want to invest into it.
Joel: A lot of agencies are getting into and I know a lot of listeners of this podcasts are that agency marketer. I’d have to think that this would be something that that person could focus on because that’s their job, but as an agency principal, that maybe a list that doesn’t currently have a marketer or maybe someone that’s a little bit junior and they’ve brought that young millennial in that, they have a know-how about social media. What’s some advice would you provide them in this avenue? Because I find this really intriguing. This is the grassroots stuff that I think most agencies scratch their heads and don’t even know exists. What kind of guidance, aside from strategy here that we just talked about, that we can provide them?
Jason: I threw out the URL earlier, but it’s at Facebook Business Manager, you probably just can Google, Facebook Business Manager, and I believe that Facebook has some guides on how to use it and how to target. Most of the stuff in the back-end for Facebook Business Manager, which is again, what runs the ads and what’s lets you do all the magic beyond just those front end-posts, it’s very, like- what is that old link thing when you would set up something on the computer that’s got the wizard? It’s like, did you just keep clicking next, and it guides you through the whole process?
It’s got the whole wizard process as you’re building out those ads, and you really just pick and choose what you want to do, it allows you to review it, and even comes with a library of stock photos if you don’t have your own, lots of stuff that’s in there. I would just check out the Facebook Business Manager. That’s where I would start.
Joel: Awesome. I know here at Agency Revolution, we have Elevate clients, Ali leads that team that work in that world and you think I’d know better than that, but I know they really leverage that. That’s really cool to share that out to the world and I learned something new. We’ve been going on this Facebook world, we dove in, is there more there or let’s jump on to maybe something else here?
Jason: We can move around. I do want to leave one thing is that for Facebook, it’s really really important to remember that it’s pay to play, because I feel like far too many harp on the fact that you should be on social media. For me, you maybe put one or two posts out a week on your main page, and then really focus maybe your efforts on the advertising piece of it to talk to your own clients, and to potentially look at filling up the pipeline with new ones. I feel like that’s where you want to spend more of your time. Putting out continual light communication, but then work on the back-end. That’s my suggestion.
Joel: Just a little follow up question, that was a pretty Facebook-y conversation we just had, is that similar for other social platforms?
Jason: I have not found success in our industry with Twitter. I feel like it’s just not there. The customers don’t live in that environment, at least in my experience. I just wouldn’t spend the money there. Now, however, if you looked at something like LinkedIn, LinkedIn has a pretty nice marketing platform. If you are going after commercial clients, that might be a nice way to talk to them, but the investment is much higher than what you’re going to see with Facebook.
Joel: Sure. I have to say that I would be if you’re a commercial lines agency, commercial lines producer, commercial lines manager, this may seem really basic, but if you’re not on LinkedIn, you should be.
Jason: At the very least, you should have a premium account so you can actually communicate with the people that you want to. That’s what like 50, 60 bucks a month. It’s an investment, but I think that if anything, it’s worth it in the LinkedIn space before you even try and dip your toe into the advertising there.
Joel: For sure. We got this Facebook idea, we got some great ideas. Flipping back to the webinar podcast you were listening to, give me some more feedback on where you think maybe you had some questions or some things that came to your mind.
Jason: Did you guys talk about content marketing for a little while?
Joel: Yes, we did.
Jason: That’s where I like to focus my efforts. It’s the content marketing approach. If you don’t know, it’s where you essentially take a piece of content and your market it. It’s in the name but for us, it’s been something that has really driven our marketing team for a while. I think that a lot of agencies are starting to see that benefit as well and the note that I really have for content marketing is that of anything else that’s out there, it really helps to future-proof the agency.
Joel: Future-proof the agency. I love that. Trademark that. Keep going, I want to hear more about future-proofing my agency which I think is that’s a real deal comment here and here’s why because we have the agency that has the family, the continuation plan here because someone from the family’s coming in taking over, but then have the agency, the person, that business person that spent their whole life building this brand and this name and maybe think they’re going to be bought or whatever have you.
Jason: I think for me that really means that you are looking to your clients, looking to who your customers are and then making sure that you live in the world that they live in. For us, it’s about writing the content that people want to find online and it’s living in that space, so answering and discussing the insurance questions that a lot of people have but they’re maybe too embarrassed to ask actually. So, they go to the internet and ask their question within the quiet and peace of your own home without actually having to pick up a phone or ask your agent.
Living in that space where we’re having all these conversations online, whether it’s on the website or in Reddit which is another social platform or on blogs or whatever, it’s making sure that we have the content and the conversations that we have with customers that we actually have it online in a digestible format whether it’s a page or blog or social media post or something like that. For me, that’s what future-proofing is.
Joel: I have a question there, Jason. I’m interrupting you, I just want to clarify something on there because it came into my mind because I see this a lot. I’m on social media, I am following agencies, doing my job. A lot of times it’s like, “What you need to know about Umbrella Insurance,” really broad things, really wouldn’t think it would be typical or, “Here’s what you need to know about commercial auto insurance.” Obviously, that’s important. But is that what you’re talking about or do you think it’s going a little deeper to the real questions that people may have day-to-day?
Jason: It’s much deeper, you got to get granular. It’s all well and good to have that content on your site because you want to give a valuable experience when you send somebody there, especially if it’s a potential client, but you need to have– Literally make a list. Go to your account managers or sales staff or whoever it is and say, “Give me a list of every question or every time you talk to a customer on the phone this week and they ask you a question, write it down.” Create a blog post out of every single one of those questions over the next month because that’s the kind of questions that people are going to look for online that’s going to help you find new business.
When you put that content out there and it’s structured well and it’s written well and it’s rich with the keywords that it needs to have, that’s going to find a new business, going to get people filling out forms of picking up the phone to call you or texting you or live chatting you or whatever your communication method is, but when you take whatever it is those conversations, this questions and you put it in a format online where people can actually read it, when they search for that question, there you go. That’s the future. People live online, people ask questions online.
Joel: No, I get exactly, and I think when people hear keywords, “I need to make sure I have auto insurance, need to have commercial or BOP,” or whatever. Those are great, big, huge words that are just everywhere is out there. Tell me about an example of maybe the more granular type things or whether some of those keywords may play and people would actually search, I’m sure you got a back pocket example here somewhere else.
Jason: When your account managers get off the phone and they just spent 10 minutes with somebody because they had a wreck, it was raining, they didn’t know what to do, they didn’t have a little card in their car that says, “Call the police,” it runs down the list. So, you write an article that surrounds that. It would be, “What do I do first when I’m in a car accident?” That would be your article. You would include content that makes sense. You would say, “Step one, do this. Step two, do that.” All the while, you keep circling back to the fact that what you’re talking about. I’m talking about what I need to do if I’m in a car accident.
Within that article, you talk about insurance and then you say, “Hey, let me give you a quote.” You kind of slide that in, but I think it’s about more than just selling your individual products and talking about things that people actually need to know and care about and then talking about your products too.
Joel: You’re bang on there, my friend. It’s funny because you brought up the accident, I was sitting here thinking, “What to do in the event of an accident,” and I’m sure there’s listeners out there, there’s agency out there with principles that are saying like, “Hey, I’m not a copywriter. I don’t know how to write. I’m not an English major.” But you know what, there’s not a person that’s listening to this podcast, I wouldn’t think, they couldn’t write a couple hundred-word blog on what to do in the event of an accident.
Jason: The internet is so conversational. You don’t have to be a wordsmith. Now, if you just absolutely cannot write, I’m sure there are services out there or you can hire some freelancer to help you out, but you’re the one with the knowledge. You’re the agent. You know how to talk to these people. You know the appropriate terminology. You know how to advise, so do it online.
Joel: We agree, anybody can write, we can leverage copywriters. That’s really key. Where does someone go from there, any other examples?
Jason: I think the biggest thing that I’ve told people over the years is just stay consistent. It’s really easy to get super pumped and then to burn out. The last thing you want to do is get your AM’s to write down all those ideas, whoever it is you’re getting ideas from. Write it all and then publish it all and do nothing for like six months. There’s doing no value to- yes, you’re getting it on the website. Yes, Google’s going to index it and say, “Hey, look, there’s content there.” But one of the things that Google loves is fresh content continually. So write it all and get like six in the hopper and then post one every other week. When you feel like you’re comfortable and you’ve got enough content, post one a week and just stay consistent. That’s the biggest thing when you’re getting into the content marketing space is just pick a place, be consistent and then scale as necessary.
Joel: I’ve got a question there. We’re always talking about the principal or the manager perhaps our marketing person writing. Any thoughts on different voices writing, like does that matter? If, say for example, I’m the agency owner and I write 70% of this stuff, but then maybe I have an account rep that write some stuff or producer that writes some stuff, does that matter?
Jason: To an extent but people read certain- like when it comes to just reading for pleasure, certain people read certain authors because they like the way it’s written. That’s always going to lend itself to your writing professionally, but I would say more often than not just keep it conversational, keep it light, don’t make it stuffy, don’t go on and on about specifics. Just hit the points, explain why and then get them to get in touch with you somehow.
Joel: Maybe veer away from the insurance lingo we would like to use and make it like understandable to the average– Remember, that’s who you’re writing to, right?
Jason: Exactly. That’s actually one of the new initiatives that we launched this year for us. We have a whole website called Insurance TLDR meaning Too Long Didn’t Read. It’s like internet-speak. The whole purpose of that is to discuss and answer questions that are relative but really really short and explained concisely because we found that people don’t want to read.
It’s a site that is geared toward the next generation. We talk about future-proofing. That’s one of the big initiatives that we’ve done is try to be where the next generation is going to be. It’s a site kind of based on insurance for millennials. Discussing the topics that are interesting to them like, “Hey, I’m leaving home. I’m moving out. I’m leaving my parents’ insurance. What do I do?” It answers that question. But its also does ridiculous things like, “I just had a zombie. Do I need a comp or collision?”
Joel: That is awesome. I love that because we think so traditional especially in recent history about these things. There’s an article that I think a lot of people would read.
Jason: Exactly, and it’s short. They’re all short format stuff. I think you just got to be fun with it because people are not just going be like, “Let me google what’s happening with the insurance industry right now.” That’s not going happen unless you’re in the industry and you’re caring what other people are doing. I think you got to find, like I was saying earlier, you got to find where your customers live on the internet, go there or make a place for them.
Joel: This is a little contradictory I think to some things that maybe I know I personally probably said, we get tied up with the idea of millennials and it’s really important to understand and focus on because they’re the next generation, but don’t fool yourself. Other generations are here too right? I think of my dad, dad if you’re listening to this, I’m sorry, I’m emoting you here. He is 70 years old, but guess what? When he wants to figure something, he goes to his phone or he holds on his computer and he searches it up, so it’s not just 20 and 30 or 40-somethings doing that.
Jason: The behavior kind of gets lumped in millennial category just because- like I’m on the far end of it, I’mone of the first years or two of millennials and I don’t consider myself the stereotypical millennials, but I think there is just that trend to lump people into whoever is doing that new behavior. Although it gets adopted by everyone else. I get it. It makes sense.
Joel: Jason, I think we could do a part two of this anytime and surely leave the door open to that. I appreciate your conversation. I know I had my two or three aha moments, I love the future-proofing our agency. I did not know about Facebook what you shared there and I’m sure that I’m not the only person that is going to hear that and think, “Wow, I can do that.” I really appreciate you taking the time. I think it’s more important if people have questions and they want to track you down, how do they do that?
Jason: I live in my email. I’m over at firstname.lastname@example.org. Feel free to shoot me an email. We’ll chat.
Joel: Absolutely. Thanks again. We’ll chat again soon, I’m sure.
Jason: Yes, man.
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