Charles Alexander, Insurance Video Expert
Video accounts for 78% of internet content. People expect it, and you need to use it. Charles Alexander—a leader in providing ‘animated explainer videos’ for the insurance industry—shares his inside secrets for online video for the retail agent:
- Why video holds so much power to influence the viewer.
- Six common and easily avoidable mistakes when shooting video for your agency.
- Five ways to get maximum value from one video – each easy and effective.
Charles brings clarity to one of the most effective forms of marketing communication on the planet. Listen today and get ideas you’ll put into practice tomorrow.
Presented by Agency Revolution, the Connected Insurance Podcast provides weekly opportunities for listeners to dive deep into the trends affecting insurance agents and brokers today and to gain proven strategies and tactics for agency growth. Our hosts facilitate thoughtful panels and 1:1 conversations with a variety of prominent thought leaders, with a focus on how to streamline and drive operational efficiency for your independent agency through the intelligent use of technology.
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Michael Jans: Charles Alexander, delightful to have you on this podcast. How are you doing man?
Charles Alexander: Man how are you?
Michael: Well, I’m doing terrific. Thank you.
Charles: Well, that’s good.
Michael: We’re going to talk about video. Full disclosure on this and it’s a topic that I revisit from time to time and it seems that there’s so much knowledge, there’s so much information that people really should understand about videos that I have no reservations about dipping into it until we get everything juicy out of it. Here’s the word, I’m going to use an alternative approach to video that’s different than any other guest that I’ve ever interviewed on this podcast series.
Michael: This is going to be fun. We’re going to look at this from a slightly different perspective. First of all, if you would be kind enough, tell us a little bit about Charles Alexander. How did you get to be who you are now?
Charles: that sounds like a deep question that people would give you about their childhood. I’ll sum it up for you. I actually am a full-time business consultant. I’ll recommend to any of your listeners out there to reach out to a local small business development center. I am the director here at a college in just North of Nashville, Tennessee. I have a small business development center and my full-time gig is doing one on one advising for small business owners or people who want to grow or even start a business.
Most of the time it totally revolves around marketing. People feel like they can always outsell any issue they have and from there we can also peel back the layers and find out what else is holding their business back. With that in mind, after 12 years of doing that with an extensive training background and even growing up in a family-owned business or a wide variety of businesses that my parents had, I always had an entrepreneurial spirit.
Starting about three or four years ago, I decided I needed to practice what I preach a little bit. Take some of my own medicine. I decided to start doing some freelance work. In that, it took on a variety of forms or writing blog posts. I excelled at and then the very first full-time client I had, they wanted to pay me a monthly retainer. I gave them an offer and in that offer, I would write X number of blog posts, update their website content, what I want to do, sell them.
I decided that I’ll also offer video, which I really didn’t have a lot of experience with other than creating my kids’ videos with Window Movie Maker. Even those weren’t very good unless you actually their mom or grandmom. Anybody else I don’t think would want them.
Michael: Hey, but the star of the show was beautiful. Right?
Charles: Every time. Well, they look like me how couldn’t they be?
Michael: Did they talk like you too?
Charles: Well, unfortunately, they all do. Around here that’s totally normal.
Michael: All right.
Charles: I offered that to him and behold, he wanted me to create video for him. I started learning on the fly, and the first few I created for him he was very happy with. They got views, they beat the written content all day long and, in fact, they weren’t that great. I use a variety of things. Imported images and B-roll footage. I even use Prezi, which is a presentation software.
Michael: I’m familiar with it. I’ve seen it used for a few years now, but I’ve used it myself once upon a time.
Charles: Yes, it was a hotness for a minute. It was never very easy to use. I converted it into several different videos. Either way, after a long period of time, I have finally narrowed down my niche and did it a really strongly a couple of years ago where I focused a lot on the insurance industry and I focus a lot on the financial industry. I make animated videos, explainer videos that are 90-second basically cartoon videos is what you hear a lot of people call them or 2D animation or whiteboard videos that are for agents or advisors to tell their customers story back to them.
They can use these and, gosh, a dozen different ways to really tie all of their marketing together and explain exactly what they do. Even though I call it a part-time gig, it is a right at or equal to or more than the full-time gig I have now.
Michael: Again, recap 12-years business consulting and three or so years in your own private practice developing videos. Here we are, hundreds of videos later and some years a fairly intense penetration into the insurance market.
Michael: You’ve developed a well-known reputation among the property-casualty agents and so you’ve got a unique perspective on videos. Obviously one of the things I want to explore shortly is, what are the big lessons, what are some of the key things you’ve learned now from doing hundreds of videos? First, before we do that, let’s do start a little bit big picture. I want to ask you why do you think video is such a dominant category of content in the online world?
Charles: Well, for a wide variety of reasons and primarily it has everything to do with our attention span these days. A lot of folks will watch video and this isn’t just my experience and I have a ton of my own anecdotal evidence to back it up. Statistically speaking, video just outranks everything else. That’s just not from an SEO standpoint which is important but it’s just in a real-life manner. If you and I are working together and I want to chat back and forth and eventually give you a tiny pitch and maybe move you from point a to point B, a 90-second video is going to do that light years better than text, a PDF or any kind of Flytxt. People will click on it, they’ll watch it, they’ll be engaged with that before they will anything else. The sophisticated thing that we all, not all but a lot of us will try to say is that “Well, not me, I want to read about it and ingest it, I don’t want to be just entertained,” which is total BS. That’s not true at all. Everybody-
Michael: Everybody does want to be entertained whether they admit it or not.
Charles: They do. There’s a very common misconception that’s just a millennial thing that’s not true at all either. We spend about four and a half hours per day on our phone. If any of your listeners don’t believe me, if they have an iPhone, pick it up, look at the setting, look at the screen time on it and check out what they’ve been doing for the past week. They’ll see very quickly that everybody of every generation is knee-deep into their phone, on their laptop, at their desktop and a lot of that time is spent watching video.
Even my, gosh man, my father and father-in-law both at 70 are right at 70-years-old, neither one of them are tech-savvy at all. However, if they want to learn how to do something or they want to catch up on the day sports or news, they watch a video. That has gotten to a point where it trumps everything else. When I’m talking to somebody at this point, especially in the insurance agency and I really hope this connects instead of offends, but insurance folks are more likely to be on the late adopter to even laggards in terms of accepting new trends with their business or marketing.
In many of those cases where they’re looking at video now, it’s not at a point where it’s the new hot thing, it’s actually you’ve got to almost have it just to be in the game anymore. It’s like websites were several years ago, where it was a cute idea but maybe I’ll do it, maybe I won’t and then you got to a point where you had to have it that’s where we are with video now.
Michael: Okay. Clearly, it’s well-established as a communication medium in the online world. In terms of how much content is consumed in video as opposed to other forms of content, I’m sure it’s-
Charles: Over 70% of online content is video and I say over, it’s probably right at 75% and that will not reverse anytime soon that is going to only increase.
Michael: If somebody now, presumably– We have the audience’s attention. Okay, it’s important, we want to have a relationship with the marketplace, we want to be able to deliver a message, we want to influence and persuade them. We want them to move closer to us to like, trust and admire us ultimately. If somebody now is thinking, “Oh, well, what do I put in a video? Charles is saying, 90 seconds. What am I going to shoehorn into 90 seconds of the video?” How do we answer that question? What do you put into a video?
Charles: Here’s how I answer the question and the concept is what do you need your customer or potential customer viewer to understand? What do you need them to feel? They don’t need to know everything there is to know about you and yes, 90 seconds. The reason for that is and I’ve tested this personally and there’s a lot of data that backs it up, anything shorter than that, you’re right, it gets difficult to get your message across. Literally anything longer than 90 seconds and it surely can be done but anything longer than 90 seconds in most cases, has to almost be Oscar-nominated worthy to hold somebody’s attention.
We have text notifications, emails popping in, somebody knocking at the door and a disruption of some form or fashion that we can’t stay focused on. The reason I say 90 seconds is because it works. The idea of what should be in there is almost always, at least in my opinion, it should be all about your customer or the viewer. You need to get them engaged with it, they need to be the star of the show, not you. What I have often used as an example.
I stole this directly from StoryBrand, which is a business in Nashville by the way who does great work in terms of helping you clarify your message, it’s a free blog for them but the analogy they always use, I think it’s the Joseph Smith hero’s journey type thing is where our Joseph Campbell, wh0o is a big difference. Joseph Campbell where you go from beginning to end on a story, the hero’s journey. The potential viewer or the viewer is the hero of the story, they use Star Wars as an example.
In Star Wars, Luke Skywalker has to learn the fourth, conquer Darth Vader and get to the happy ending where they can move on with their lives. That’s who the customer is In this case, they get to be Luke Skywalker. Not you, you’re Yoda, you’re the short green guy with big ears that talks funny that has to guide them, teach them and pull them through the story, that’s the big thing. When you’re trying to create and decide what goes in here, you’ve got to take the viewer from point A to point B, let them have the hero’s journey and you’re the helpful guide.
Michael: Okay. A couple of minutes ago you said that the question you start with is, I think actually are two, what do they need to know and what do they need to feel?
Charles: Yes, that’s right.
Michael: Okay. I want to spend a moment on that. First of all, I think you’re making it very clear that the idea is not to get on video and say, “I’m so great,” or, “You can really trust us,” or, “We’ve been a business since 1937,” and me, me, me.
Charles: The big thing you’ll see right now in any social media platform, Facebook, LinkedIn which I’m a huge user of, is that you’ll find that somebody has done the dreaded talking head video where they stare into the iPhone camera and ramble on about themselves for four or five minutes about years of experience, trust, certification, and blah, blah, blah. Things that the viewer does not care about. That is at least, I guess a step in the right direction but a lot of times I’ve told people, bad videos can be worse than no video at all.
But yes, going back to your example that’s what you’re seeing a lot of that’s not right.
Michael: Okay. In your case, let’s say we’ve got a hero’s journey, typically the hero is going to start at point A and by let’s say 90 seconds later, there are at point B. Talk to us a little bit about like, what’s point A like and then what’s point B like? Then I want to explore how do we build the journey to get them from A to B? Typically somebody shows up– I know you do a lot of work with property casually agencies as well as financial advisors.
Let’s say somebody shows up on, we’ll talk about platforms and delivery but maybe a website and boom, I see there’s a little video I click on it. All right, it wants to resonate with me, the prospective client, what is that point A?
Charles: What I developed is a very simple six-question form that my clients use and literally that’s the only work they have to do. From there, I will write that script that takes them from point A to point B, generally 250 words or less. If you ever decide to DIY this, that’s generally the best way to do it. For your listeners, I’ve given you a link and they’ll be able to access the six-question form as well as a 12 point checklist on how to use video once they create one.
The first two and the sixth one are all about the customer. The very first thing is who do you work with? I’ve discovered a lot of PNC folks don’t know. Man, they do home life autos so really anybody, the whole idea of we sell hats to anybody with a head.
Michael: Do you find their emphasis is frequently more on the product than on the people?
Charles: It can be either one, it’s about 70, 30 more on the people. What I’ll do basically, sit down and talk this person through. Let’s look at who your 10 best clients are, the 10 type of people you really want to work with even if they don’t bring you the most revenue. They’re more male or female, where are they located? How much money do they make? What’s their occupation? What are their concerns in life? It’s not just about making more money or best product at the cheapest price they have real concerns.
In most cases, you’ll generally find the policyholder that you want to reach out to already has insurance. It’s not necessarily get the newbie but somebody who already has a variety of their own policies but they don’t really understand them, they don’t know if they have the right coverage. They don’t know what questions to ask, they’re overwhelmed, maybe they have a little Johnny, little Susie, they got their own list of issues and insurance, they know it was one of them, but they don’t know who to turn to or how to fix it. That is most of the times.
Michael: Okay, got it. All right. In this case, presumably, some of the point A stuff is confusion, overwhelm, lack of understanding, right?
Charles: That is exactly right. It’s not the case for everybody. If they have a true niche, and I know you guys out there probably say niche, but man, I’m born and raised in Middle Tennessee, we say niche. Some of them have a true niche and they fully have somebody they’re already focused on, but more than that, let’s figure out who do you work with. Then the next thing is what you just pointed out, what is their problem? You identify that problem for them and you can almost always do this in the first 10, 15 seconds.
Then from there, we go into who you are. Who are you? Why would somebody want to work with you versus somebody else? Or rather, why are you any different from your competition? That’s a tough one for a lot of agents. They back to the old talking points. “I’ve been doing this for x number of years, my customers love me, five-star reviews, blah, blah, blah.” All those names very well be true, but if everyone else is saying it, you’re not saying anything.
You got to really pinpoint why would somebody work with you? Do you have a specific process you use? Are you really going to sit down with them and go through what their issues are and what the right policies they need will be? Then lastly, we will go back to the customer. What are the results of them working with you versus somebody else? You finish that up in the last 10 or 15 seconds with a strong call to action at the end of the video, and there you go.
Michael: Okay. The point B stuff is that last question, what are the results?
Charles: That’s exactly right.
Michael: Presumably now, the results are not just, “Oh gosh, I bought a policy cheaper.”
Charles: Right, which is nice, which is cool.
Michael: Damn be, but if we started at A, “I’m confused. I don’t understand insurance. I’m overwhelmed.” Then B presumably is, “Oh, I’m not confused, I’m confident. I’m not overwhelmed.”
Charles: Right. I’ve got a trusted friend looking out for me. We have the right policy at the right price. Now I can go back to my general life of all the other 50 things I have to do every hour of every day, this is one less thing I have to worry about. Since it’s important, I’m glad it’s taken care of.
Michael: I’ve added a little bit of confidence to my life because of this relationship?
Charles: Ain’t that nice?
Michael: Yes, isn’t that nice? All right. These questions, it would seem now, clearly give guidance to the creation of a video. How do you suggest somebody would actually sit down and write it? We have to go from ideas to words, how do you do that?
Charles: Use those six questions, make the answers 25 words or less. Also, get really specific. Hand it off to somebody else. They don’t have to be a writer themselves but ask them if it sounds very specific. Does it sound different than everybody else? Take a look at other people’s websites. Don’t copy what they have, not just because of the ethical reason, but mostly because they’re doing it wrong. See, do they have a lot of the same terminology you just put in these answers or the potential script? How is that?
Think about it from your customers point of view. What’s their everyday language? In many cases, I’ve had to– Since I write the script, I always share it with my client before we finalize it. Many times, their training kicks in and I try to fill it full of jargon and use terminology that people aren’t using at cocktail parties and on the golf course. Things that insurance agents only put on their side, take all of that out. Write that, and then once you have those answers put together, you’ll be surprised at how easy the script is to write at that point.
You just spend a little bit of time identifying that customer, their issue, how you solve it, the results, and as long as you can keep it at a 250-word mark or roughly there, you got a very workable script.
Michael: Okay. Now we’ve got a, let’s say 90-second love bomb. We are demonstrating to our viewer we can talk to them. We understand them and we can take them from where they are to their happy place. Now, obviously, the video does nothing unless people see it. How do you–
Charles: Even before then– I know I interrupt you too much, but getting that video created, folks are going to do it themselves or they outsource it.
Michael: Right, okay.
Charles: I don’t do– Go ahead.
Michael: Boom, now we have a marketing asset and we want to get in front of people. How do we get the best and most traffic for this new asset?
Charles: It depends on what you’re currently using for your existing marketing. What I do not try to do is create an entirely new system for the insurance folks out there. They are, and I know this probably isn’t the best or most politically correct analogy, but they’re like the pretty girl at the bar.
Every digital marketing expert known to mankind is coming after insurance agents left and right with a 12-step plan and all you gotta do is X, Y, and Z and pay me this monthly retainer for endless leads, more times and now you already are getting some decent leads. In the biggest set of leads that folks are getting are still word of mouth referrals which is the holy grail and what you always want, but you want to convert more of them. The low hanging fruit.
I always tell people, to put it up their homepage of your website, and put it on any social media platform you’re using, not just once, but on a recurring basis. You can use the same post or the same video more than once. You don’t post it every day, but you can put it on there once or twice a month. The biggest and best ways are kind of old school but they really do work is in email follow-ups, email introduction, email marketing, email signature. Yes, I know people are hearing me say email over and over and some are just absolutely convinced that email marketing is dead-
Michael: They’re wrong.
Charles: They are wrong. I’ve even had a discussion with other places where I’ve been a podcast guest, the concept behind social media taking over every single thing known to mankind. Take a look at how many emails there are versus social media profiles, and there’s still two or three times the number of emails versus all the social media profiles put together. Not to mention social media, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, can change their algorithms at the drop of a dime. Email, on the other hand, look at it. It’s the same and has been the same for 20 years.
I dug up an old email the other day. I’ve been married 17 years. I dug up an old email that my wife or rather then-girlfriend sent me from 20 years ago when she was in college on her way to the computer lab. By the way, that email was super sweet, nothing like I get now. God bless her. It’s emails from her same email address that she has to my same email address that I have. The point being is, if you’re getting these emails or if you’re getting referrals. If somebody decides they want to use you, let’s say you have your own agency, Michael, they’re getting referrals from friends and family, correct?
Charles: Most likely, they’re not just asking one, they’re asking two or three. It’s a co-worker, somebody they go to church with, somebody they go off with. The first thing they generally do before anything else is look you up online. If the video has that more SEO juice than anything else, so you simply put in your name and the title of the video, maybe even a location, but put it on your website, and that’s probably going to be the first thing they say, which is a huge advantage because most of the other websites they go to, again, will be full of stock photos and boring text, but they’ll see that right away.
Then, after they’ve contacted you, the most common thing is either a phone call or email. That follow up needs to have a video, either that same video or maybe, hopefully, a different video, where you’re again taking them on a journey from A to B, that will make you stand out above any and all else. Literally, just having a video, if you never generated a new lead, which obviously will do, but if you just closed a few more leads, would make a world of difference on your bottom line and not anything new or extravagant that you had to do.
Then there’s still no handful of other ways the video can be used, but those are the quickest and the smartest for insurance people that I think.
Michael: I’ll log on email and then we’ll move on quickly because this is an area where I do have some expertise. The last time that the Direct Marketing Association surveyed professional marketers on the results that they were getting from various communication methodology, email ranked number one, with an average ROI, return on investment, of 43:1. In other words, for $1 invested in email, 43 was returned on average. Obviously, some got more and some got less, a critical difference, there are few. The quality of the list matters, but also the quality of the content, which is what we’re talking about right here.
Charles: That’s the biggest issue. I’ll go ahead and get on your soapbox with you. I have so many people that tell me, “Well, it just doesn’t work because my inbox is full of emails that are things I never read.” What they’re talking about and people are really bad about scraping emails off social media platforms such as LinkedIn and then adding you to a new letter without your permission and then they send you a boring jargon-filled thing you didn’t want full of links and just five steps to spruce up your house this spring that you never asked for. If you have people who have opted in to your list or customers of yours and you send them something cool, you’ll stand out immediately.
Michael: I want to get that point across because presumably you probably run into people who are saying, “Well, email doesn’t work,” which is not science. Moving on from that one, if you were going to advise, I think some people are going to look at this and say, “Well, I don’t want to make mistakes,” on one hand and, “If I’m going to do it, I want to do it right.” What do you see in your experiences like some of the common mistakes to avoid and some of the techniques or elements that are important that we don’t want to avoid?
Charles: First question I always get is, should I do a video like I have, an animated video, a whiteboard video or a talking head video or an interview video. I like the idea of you being on camera if it’s feasible and if you can do it and make it look really good. What issue people run into is that they are great in front of a customer one-on or they can stand up and teach a workshop or maybe they can even do a podcast interview but there is something about the little red light that pops on a camera that turns them into Elmer Fudd.
They are not that good or it takes a lot of practice. You can get good and if you’re going to commit to it, great, do that. Make a lot of video knowing that your first 10 might not be what you wanted them to be and are not very usable. That’s what you have to decide on if you’re going to use that. If you do the talking head video, don’t just be you speaking into a camera blindly for five minutes totally unprepared with no script saying, “Um, you know,” and like every other word.
Have a point, tell a anecdote, tell a story, go from point A to point B, make it fast and still have alternate camera angles. Change the filter, change the color, add text, add graphics, have movement going on at about every three seconds if that’s what you decide to do. Also, make sure that you have great audio which is obviously a big thing for your podcast. Yes, but we will sit through a poorly produced video, with great audio and a great message way before we’ll sit through a Hollywood-produced video that has bad audio.
If it has bad audio, we’re out. Make sure the audio is right, get a good mic. If you decide to do an animated video, the same holds true. Make sure you’re still telling a story. I often tell people to use a professional voice over artist unless you are again great with a microphone and can tell the tale in a beautiful way that does sound professional and engaging. Make sure the audio is good. Make sure the video in itself is not boring. That doesn’t mean adding every single toy and bell and whistle to it but have something going on.
Have some text, have some graphics, have some movement of the camera angles. Make sure you also have a strong call to action at the end. Let’s say a strong call to action. Now, if you ever need a policy or if you ever want it, don’t if anybody, tell them what to do and give them the steps on to do it. Don’t give them five ways to contact you. Give them one, “Here’s the phone number or here’s the email or here’s the contact form. Call us today to get the right policy for you to review your policy,” to do whatever it is you want them to do next. Tell them exactly how to do it.
Michael: Got it. All right. Well, Charles, I suppose that some people are going to listen to this conversation and want to know more about what you do and what they can learn from you. If somebody wants to either get more resources or maybe explore your professional service, how should they do that?
Charles: I made it easy on them. You go to yourcharlesalexander.com. Right there I have a very simple website that will walk you right through the steps. I’ve got, and again, you’re going to get one for your listeners. You can put in the show notes where I’m giving you a checklist on how to create your own video or even a discount for your listeners if they decide to work with me. Again, if they want to do it on their own, I’m going to give them the tools to do it. If they want to spend time running their business and making money and let the professionals do it, I’ll handle it.
Michael: Fair enough. Okay.
Charles: Exactly right. It’s the difference between shopping online blindly for insurance or working with a professional.
Michael: Once again, your URL is yourcharlesalexander.com?
Charles: That’s correct.
Michael: All right. Well, Charles, as always, it’s been a delightful time catching up with you. I appreciate you sharing time with us today.
Charles: Thanks, Michael.