An online presence is virtually essential these days, but as a broker you can do a lot better than merely be present.

Those in the know say the difference between a website hit and miss is a bit of science and a lot of perseverance. And although big bucks can easily be spent building flashy websites, the single most important thing is making sure your site works for your customers.

Mike Donnelly, from Donnelly Insurance Brokers, has recently rebuilt his website for the second time, applying all the lessons he has learned so that now the website contributes one quarter of all his firm’s leads.

“Leads from existing clients and their referrals to us are still the best source of sales, but the big advantage of website leads is that clients have already researched our business and chosen to call us,” he says. “It is a warm lead.”

The success, Donnelly says, comes down to not seeing one’s website as a static resource, but something constantly refreshed and updated.

Clients have already researched our business and chosen to call us. It is a warm lead.

“Originally, I got the job done in setting up the website, but then did nothing more about it,” he says. “Now I understand the need to constantly work on and regularly update the website content.”

Donnelly says now it’s second nature: every time he reads an article or sees a video that may be of interest to his clients he’s thinking about creating a blog around it. But the biggest spike in online lead generation came through a lesson from his Google advisors.

“They taught me not to be greedy and to be satisfied with local reach, rather than trying to go national,” he says.

“Once I changed our keyword marketing strategy to be more local, the chances of success were higher. I pick keywords that have 50% or less competition for the insurance category and continually test different keywords for Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).”

Donnelly posts links to new website content on the business Facebook page, but admits he hasn’t invested a lot of time and effort in social media so far.

“I am not a social media fan at this stage, as I have not seen any results that prove it is an effective sales strategy,” Donnelly says.

Instead, Donnelly’s latest amplification strategy centres around an enewsletter promoting new products and linking to more details on the website.

Web presence

Personal touch

MegaCapital’s Michael Gottlieb says brokers have no time to waste in updating their online presence. “While the opportunity has not passed, the digital age is here and trying to ignore it and hoping it will go away is probably not the best strategy,” he says.

Gottlieb also runs the commercial insurance price comparison website BizCover and says his approach to the site has become increasingly disciplined in recent years.

“Without a very analytical approach, we would be wasting a significant amount of money, which we simply cannot afford,” he says.

Gottlieb now sticks to a proven method: test concepts, analyse the outcomes, make changes to improve efficiency, repeat.  For other brokers starting out, Gottlieb recommends engaging a Search Engine Marketing (SEM) consultancy, then executing in-house.

“Agencies do a terrific audit upfront which is useful to set your strategy,” Gottlieb explains.

“However, they then automate your account which results in inefficiencies building over time. SEM is a significant cost for us and therefore we believe someone should be focused on it daily.”

His advice is don’t be afraid to try it yourself. “It’s easier than you think and certainly not as complex as agencies make out,” he says.

Building impact

Despite being much smaller than many of its competitors, Australian Insurance Awards Underwriting Agency of the Year, Brooklyn Underwriting, boasts one of the most eye-catching websites in Australian insurance.

Aside from a traditional toolbar running along the top, the website is mostly visually driven – with an interactive sketch of a cityscape allowing users to explore the firm’s offerings.

Rocco Pirrello, who oversees communications and marketing, says it’s something clients constantly comment on.

“Clever design can make your message much easier to digest,” he says. “Brooklyn’s design gives us an edge because it allows us to simply project our message without convoluted pages of text.”

He says one of the reasons the website works so well is because the firm worked with a designer who knew the business intimately. “I think the common mistake is that websites are simply built with no brainstorming and planning,” he notes.

Both the Brooklyn and BizCover websites allow clients to directly purchase their insurance online.

MegaCapital’s Michael Gottlieb says it’s a good way of doing business, both for the broker and the client. “It allows for the efficient sourcing of quotes, thus allowing the broker to spend more time providing advice and advocacy and still have a profitable transaction.”

But a good website won’t just increase sales, it could save you money. Donnelly Insurance Broker’s Mike Donnelly says he’s managed to reduce his marketing budget.

Clever design can make your message much easier to digest.

“We have dropped some other marketing activities that served us well in the past, but are now not performing well, so we can concentrate more on our SEO strategy,” he says.

And if it all seems too hard, Pirrello has this advice: “Your website is an extension of your staff, your office space, your promise to clients and your offering,” he says.

“If you spend considerable time on perfecting these things then your website should receive the same amount of love.”

Web presence

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