Features Your Next Insurance Agency Website Should Have

by Safeer Hassan - Chairman/CEO - Impowersoft on May 19, 2010 · 9 comments

Ever wish your insurance agency’s website could offer your visitors and customers more than just some text to read and perhaps a form to initiate contact?  If this describes your website, don’t feel singled out… this is how most small businesses display a “web” presence on the Internet.  It’s definitely better than not having anything at all, but 2010 is here and web standards have changed quite a bit since your last update.

Providing information should not be the sole purpose of your website.  It’s time to take it to the next level and start thinking about what you can do to increase traffic, engage your visitors and, more importantly, give them reasons to come back.  Yes, it will require money and time to do it properly, but you will see results!  Below is a list of recommendations and features you should consider for your next website:

Building Website.jpg

1. Make it look good:  Use a web developer/designer who has good vision and at least some basic experience in database design.  Ask for references and take a look at their portfolio of prior work.  Try to stay away from templates altogether and build from scratch for a truly unique website the search engines will love.  Stay away from using Flash programming if possible.

2.  News/Newsletters/Blogging:  The fastest way for you to increase traffic to your website for free is simply by using one or all of these tools.  News articles, newsletters and blogging all require your time (unless you are fortunate enough to hire someone to do this for you), but search engines like websites with changing content and new pages every time they “crawl” your site. So the more new items you can post, the better it will be for you.  Content is key.  Make a list of all the different keywords/phrases by which you would want people to find you on the web, then for each one, write about it!  Use those keywords/phrases in your articles, newsletters and blogs while touching on a subject readers would want to learn about.  The articles should be concise.  The shorter they are, the easier it will be for you to write more and not get burned out. You have great knowledge that people need. Be the one to provide it to them and gain their trust before someone else does.

3.  Pictures/Videos:  Don’t be shy. Share professional-looking pictures of yourself, your staff and your business and let people put faces to the names.  Better yet, add a short professional-looking video clip to your home page welcoming them to your site.  The more videos you can make and link to, the better.  Youtube will gladly host all your videos for free and let you embed them on your site.  Just make sure your pictures are named properly and your videos are accurately tagged. Search engines will love this too.

4.  Social Media Links:  Provide links to your FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn pages via badges.  Maintain your social media pages and communicate messages (such as newly posted articles, office birthdays, etc.) through them.

5.  Quote Forms:  Your basic contact form requesting name, phone number, email address and a comment is out-dated.  It’s time to add forms which allow visitors to provide you with information to obtain a quote.  Let people do business with you on their terms and in their spare time.  Make sure your forms capture all the information needed to quote. Unless they request a phone call, it’s better to communicate with them through email.  If they wanted to physically hear from you, chances are they would have called you.  With online forms, consumers don’t have to worry about hearing a sales pitch. They want to submit their information and get a response with their quote.  I’ll discuss below how this can be taken a step further (#12 – comparative rater integration).  Keep your response to the point and don’t overwhelm them with information (bullet points work best).

6.  Provide Downloadable Materials: Provide digital copies (PDF format recommended) of your marketing materials such as flyers, brochures, tips, etc.  Be sure they are easy to read and if you’re using images, make sure they‘re clear when converting the document to PDF.  You never know, visitors may send some of these materials to other potential prospects.

7.  Opt-in Functionality:  Allow people to subscribe to your newsletter or blog and build a connection/relationship with them.  Do not spam them or abuse their inboxes.

8.  Tell-A-Friend:  Add the ability for visitors to easily tell their friends about pages on your website including the articles you post.  What you wrote may not be a fit for me, but I may know someone who can benefit from it.  Feel free to let them “Tweet This” or “Share on Facebook.”

9.  Live Chat:  Once your hits start rolling in from some of the items above, you will want to capitalize on connecting with your visitors and offering them several ways to communicate with you.  One way is to build in live-chat software.  Make sure that you or someone from your agency is logged into the chat at all times during normal business hours.   The software will run you anywhere from $99 to over $500 depending on the features you want, number of users, etc.  I use http://www.cutesoft.net in my companies and have had great luck with it.

10.  Search Function:  Once you get to a point where you have hundreds of pages on your website, you want visitors to be able to find what they are looking for quickly.  An efficient way to do this is by adding the ability for them to search your site by typing in keywords.  This search should show matching results from within your website.  You can take this a step further, with the appropriate tools/software, and see what keywords people search for within your site.  If a keyword is searched often and you don’t have much, if any, content about it, you can always add pages discussing it.

11.  PURL Marketing:  Personalized URL Marketing, also known as PURL, is a newer and highly effective method of driving visitors to your site.  This is not an inexpensive undertaking, but when you’re ready, it’s something that can dramatically increase attention to your agency.  Your web developer will build a tool where you can easily create a PURL for one or many prospects using data that you have, obtain or purchase.  For example, if John Doe is your prospect, a new page will be created within your website with a URL such as www.youragencydomain.com/JohnDoe.  On this page, you can customize a message to this prospect.  When John Doe receives your marketing material, email blast, etc., and sees his name within your website’s domain, he will be inclined to see what you have to offer, and you can take the relationship from there.  You can approach PURL in many different ways using various technologies so the potential is limitless.

12. Comparative Rater Integration:  To compete with the big boys, you are eventually going to have to offer more than quote applications for your visitors to complete to get a quote.  Although this may seem far-fetched, the technology is available today, on a limited basis, allowing you to integrate with a comparative rater on your website.  This, in turn, allows your visitors to literally run their own quotes, in real time, on your website.  Can you imagine the possibilities?  With this feature, you can shift your marketing dollars to promote your website and slowly move away from all the other advertising you’ve been doing which results in far less ROI.  Multico is one of the comparative raters in the market which offers this capability.

13.  Online Customer Portal:  The final recommendation on this list is to integrate an online customer portal on your agency website.  This portal should allow your customers (not prospects) to log into their account and make requests, view their policy, print their own ID cards/proof of insurance, report claims, etc.  Your agency management system would have to provide this facility for you.  Aspire by Impowersoft is one of the few insurance agency management systems in the market that offers this feature and does it in a pretty slick way.  The login screen is built into the agency’s website but Aspire’s engine is used in the background without your customer ever knowing it.  Aside from the functionality described above, it also allows customers to upload images and videos (home inventory, for example), request documents and much more.

These are the kinds of functions your website will need to have if you want to set yourself apart from the hundreds of agents competing with you.  If you can’t do it all at once due to cost or time constraints, that’s okay.  Work with a web designer who will break these up into phases and implement at a pace that’s comfortable for you.  Good luck!

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  • Do Agency's have success with online Quote forms? Are the people that fill them out serious about the process or are they filling out every form they come across?

    This is one feature that I debate with. I fill that it takes a serious buyer to send you a regular email where the response is going to be personal and unique verses a Quote form which has a corporate feel. But I could be very wrong…


    Ryan H.,http://www.RyanHanley.com

    • We have had some succes with forms. We prefer not to use instant quote engines, because it does not allow us to do our job of providing advice. We use the form as a starting point, provide advice, create a relationship, add value, then close the sale.

    • Ryan, I am aware of some specialty programs run by retail agents that have really good experience with such online forms. One of these was for insuring your wine, another was for paramedics. Where I see success is where the agency had a well thought out plan for marketing and sales using these forms. Then it is important to communicate to your clients and prospects the advantages of using this format. And as corey – @ottawainsurance says, you use this as a tool and then follow your traditional values to build your relationship with your client.

      Thanks for your comments to this post.

    • We are seeing an increasing number of requests for form development for agency websites. I feel their use depends on how the client comes to your website and in what way they want to interact with you. If you are keen on implementing SEO/SEM, I feel that web forms are a must-have option. There are too many factors which lead to visitors completing the forms including content, layout, kinds of info requested, etc. keep in mind that lead generators receive thousands of leads per day using forms and them sell them to agents.

    • I think agencies would have more success with forms if the form actually did something more than just send the agency an email containing the data. Consumers online want instant gratification.. which is why they go online and "quote, print, buy" from esurance, Progressive, and Geico.

      But I think that building strong offline relationships with people and having a comprehensive form for them to fill out is a must to reduce the back and forth of gathering information.

      But… with that said… on my agent site I have a very basic contact form to try and capture contact information rather than all the data needed for a quote.

      I think the #1 problem is that 95% of agency websites are static, template-based sites from the early 90's. Here in Atlanta, there are 45million or so search results for Atlanta Insurance related terms. If your site doesn't have something compelling about it, bounce rate is through the roof. One reason I do things like take bubble baths on camera….

      Bottom line, is that today's web is all about interactivity, availability, and branding…

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