There’s no point denying it – we are living in a digital age. To keep up with the times, it’s crucial that your business has an online presence, and I’m not just talking about a relatively trendy website and the odd witty comment on Facebook. Brokers today need an overall digital strategy, outlining their steps for the next 12 to 24 months. Without it, you’re running the risk of being swallowed up by your digital-savvy competitors all together.

STEP ONE: GET A STRATEGY

Of course, if you’re going to leap into life on the internet, it pays to do it well, with a digital marketing agency on your side if budget allows. Jason Cross, Director at Bark Productions, Australia’s leading developer for brokers, says if your online presence isn’t a positive one, you’re undoubtedly doing more harm than good.

“Rather than seeing online presence as optional, recognise it as a mandatory component of your business’ marketing strategy. If a client or a prospect can’t find your website, or they do but it’s of a poor or mediocre standard, then it’s instantly detrimental to their perception of your business,” says Cross.

IN BUSINESS WITH BIZCOVER

Matt Hermitage, Creative Director and Founder of Thirdegree, agrees, saying that an outdated website or an inactive social media account will do damage to your reputation. And while a digital strategy is not a one-size-fits-all approach, it’s the best place to begin if  you really want to reap the rewards.

All your articles should be posted on the website, then sent out to social media so that your readers can engage with your brand.

“You shouldn’t start anywhere unless you know where you’re going. So, I would say the most important place to begin is to sit down with a digital marketing agency and plan out a 12 to 24 month digital strategy. Then action it,” explains Hermitage.

While not everyone has the budget to employ the services of a digital marketing agency, if you can at least acquire the services of a professional writer, you’ll thank yourself later when your online presence is regularly maintained and beginning to gain traction.

“If you needed a plumber in your house, you’d get a plumber in. If you can find a freelance writer or even a small agency that’s willing to do it for you for a decent rate, on a weekly, fortnightly or monthly basis, then I definitely recommend you get that done.

“Even if it’s just for the first six months. You can start to actually learn the process and get a better understanding of what’s required to maintain your digital presence. From there, if you want to take it internally or bring a part-time writer into your office, then you’re in a stronger position to do so,” says Hermitage.

STEP TWO: GET SOCIAL

Taryn Laws from Webfirm, the exclusive recommended supplier of online marketing and web development to NIBA members, has worked with a lot of insurance brokers in her time at the agency – certainly enough for her to know that the majority of them don’t perceive their industry as sexy or consumer-based enough to have an online presence.

“I think a lot of people feel they don’t need anything outside of a website, because it’s there for a phone number and most of their clients come from referrals now,” says Laws.

“But it’s not like online is going to disappear anytime soon. It’s going to become more and more important, and you’re going to get further away from where you want to be the longer you don’t take it seriously.

“Social media in particular works to give your business a human face – it’s not about selling your products, but rather heightening your brand awareness and showing prospective clients that there’s more depth to your business than just being an insurance broker.”

The techniques we’re now using today are completely different to what they were two years ago, it’s a different beast entirely.

To get moving with social media, begin by making sure your website is regularly updated. That means ensuring it’s a modern, mobile responsive design, then using it as the hub of your online content, before feeding that out to your growing audience on social media. A tactic backed by Third Degree’s Hermitage.

“All your articles should be posted on the website, then sent out to social media so that your readers can engage with your brand on Facebook, Twitter, or whatever the platform might be. From there, they’re led back to your website and have interacted with your brand without even picking up the phone,” says Hermitage.

The process underlines the importance of engaging with your audience online, as opposed to simply existing.

“Interactivity is at the core of the internet, and it requires a consistent approach to build rapport and establish a relationship with your audience, whether they be current or potential clients,” adds Bark Productions’ Cross.

What’s more, social media acts as a trust signal that Google is on the hunt for when it determines page rankings. If your business is seen to post strong, regular content and people are engaging with it, Google takes note of those likes, shares and comments.

The results can ultimately influence your whole digital marketing strategy, and it doesn’t have to be a tricky, time-consuming task to get going.

“People too often perceive social media as something they can steer clear of, but with so many of your clients already on there, why aren’t you?” says Laws.

She goes on to list Google Plus, LinkedIn and Facebook as the top three social media platforms that can be particularly beneficial for brokers. And if you’re looking to post content across a variety of platforms at once, a program such as Hootsuite will become your best friend.

STEP THREE: GET A PARTNER

To see your return on investment, there are a wealth of different online platforms and tools you can use to track the success of your campaign. And while what determines success is individual to each broker, a key place to begin is with Google Analytics.

“You can find out how many people came to your website, where they came from, what website pages they’re going to, how long they’re staying on the website and what the bounce rate is – as in, how quickly they leave your website,” explains Laws.

Of course, keeping your finger on the pulse with what’s keeping Google happy is a full-time job in itself, something digital marketing account managers like Laws travel to regular conferences for, as well as undertaking frequent internal training. With that in mind, getting a good strategy partner on board will give you the best shot of securing the kind of return on investment you were hoping for. But, beware of spammers claiming they’ll get you to the top of page one overnight and try to find someone who’s been there, done that, bought the t-shirt.

“Seek a provider knowledgeable in your industry with a track record of delivering creative, but professional solutions,” says Cross. “From there, it’s essential to begin by agreeing on objectives, especially in terms of an online presence, and how you’d like to be positioned within the industry.

“There shouldn’t be any smoke and mirrors. It’s your asset. You want to know what traffic you’re getting and you should have access to it – it should be an open and transparent relationship with your agency,” adds Hermitage.

While the insurance broking industry has been a late adopter of online technology, that doesn’t mean you can’t pick up the pace now. Even one-man bands can make small, consistent contributions to a website blog to get to the ball rolling, as long as you keep your end goal in mind.

“Having a well-rounded digital marketing strategy, and all the different elements that combine to create that, is what’s going to help you get the rankings of where you want to be,” says Laws.

“The techniques we’re now using today are completely different to what they were two years ago, it’s a different beast entirely.”

And that beast will change again tomorrow… so what are you waiting for?