marketing your business

Monday, 7 December 2020

Auto & General

Using an online presence to increase word-of-mouth referrals


Word of mouth is by far the best type of marketing any brokerage can hope for.   It’s really the holy grail of all marketing.   It’s not only one of the cheapest options, but it’s also the most trusted type of marketing any business can look forward to and it has proven to have a very high success rate with regards to new business sales.


If a client refers you to any of their inner circle, it means that they believe you are reliable, trusted, consistent in your servicing and that your financial advice has left them in good stead. None of us will refer a service or product to a friend or family member if we have had a bad experience with that business.  We only refer, if we know we can trust.  No one wants to end-up with egg on their face after a referral gone wrong.  This is even more true of matters as important as finance and insurance decisions.  It’s one thing buying a bland tasting cake, but buying the wrong insurance can cost one dearly.


So, how do you ensure that you keep those word of mouth referrals coming?  In this article we want to highlight two actions we believe are imperative when it comes to word of mouth marketing.


The first is the standard of both your service and advice.   You might think that this really has nothing to do with straight-forward marketing or advertising, but you would be wrong.  In a service-world, one is only as good as your last piece of advice or the manner in which you serviced a specific client during your last interaction.


In this regard we have three tips which we believe can assist:


  1. The first contact with any client is the most important.  Remember, those words our mothers always used?   “First impressions count”?  When it comes to financial matters, nothing can be truer.   You need to both look like you are able to give me the best advice and that you know what you are talking about, but you also need to deliver and quickly.   Dragging your feet after the first consultation can cause you to lose the client and not knowing what you are talking about definitely will.  So, keep attending industry talks and above all keep up your knowledge.
  2. Ensure that you listen to your client’s needs and problems and try to solve these quickly and efficiently.   If you have an assistant, get them to help you speed things up while you are attending back-to-back sales meetings.  Alternatively, some insurers, such as ourselves, are willing to assist those of you who can’t afford a full staff complement to back you up from a service perspective. It’s as simple as contacting your broker consultant.  Remember, client’s nowadays don’t just compare you against other insurance brokers, they also compare you against businesses in other industries.  Industries that have mastered the art of service, such as the Amazon’s and Google’s of this world.
  3. Communicate with your clients in a consistent manner.   This keeps you top-of-mind and is where you can showcase your role as broker – to help clients protect their livelihoods and also help them through some tough times when they run into risks. 

So, keep an open channel of communication to your clients that talks to their needs, keeps them up to date on issues that might affect them and above all open up the possibility of upsell or cross sell opportunities.  Maybe you want to start a regular newsletter or blog;  or perhaps you are familiar enough with the digital world to start your own webinar series.  These are all surprisingly affordable and easy options to help keep you in touch with your clients.  If you prefer a more personal approach then schedule some one-on-one Teams or Zoom meetings with clients and remember, sometimes it’s the small things that count, like a quick Whattsapp on a birthday.


The second action we want to highlight is digital marketing.  We know the word digital conjures up a scary world in the minds of some.   However, we currently find ourselves in unprecedented times which have highlighted the use and collaboration with digital systems in order to carry out business.   We don’t have to remind you of how our operating methods have had to change over these past six-months and experts are now confirming that social media use in South Africa have escalated beyond the usage in most of the other countries in the world.


According to data for April by Hootsuite, an international and social media management platform, our usage is up by 50%, which is above the global average increase of 47%  Unsurprisingly, the biggest increase was among those aged 16-24, whose usage went up 58%.  But even the older generations showed a significant jump with usage going up by 34% among 45-54-year-olds and by 32% among those aged 55-64.The biggest increase in social media usage is among women. In every age category measured, their usage was higher than that of men.


These figures might not be sustainable after lockdown, but it certainly emphasises the need to have an online presence, especially if you want to attract new business sales under the younger generations.

 There are a couple of ways to do this:


  1. You need an online presence or base, so to speak. This is a space that contains information about your business and/or yourself and to which you can refer prospective clients to.  This can be in the form of a website, a simple splash page or a blog.  Remember to add a referral pop-up to these, so your existing clients can refer or even provide testimonials on your site.

An alternative to these more “static” sites is opening a presence for your business on a social media platform, with the aim of sharing business related information; thought leadership articles or comments; and where you can engage with other industry professionals, your clients or prospective clients.  The idea being to build up a following. 

The decision on which of these platforms to be active on, depends on the age demographic of your target clients and in this case the old adage of keeping your personal and business lives separate, rings true.  Rather open separate social media pages for your business and personal life and keep it professional.  Examples of these are Linked-in, Facebook and Instagram.  

  1. When a prospective customer searches on the internet for financial advisers in my area, for example, what is called organic search results appear as lists, based on the relevance to the search items. An example is Google search. This is how potential clients can find information on your business that appeared on the internet previously, such as your website, splash page, linked-in profile or blog, we spoke about in point one.  Organic search can also lead a customer to a webinar-series you have done or an article you wrote or were mentioned in.  A cost-effective way to ensure a wider presence online, is to make use of professional listings – there are a number of these on the net and many are free of charge. 
  2. Non-organic search or advertising, also known as pay-per-click is an internet advertising model used to drive traffic to websites, in which you pay a publisher when the ad is clicked. Google has Google ads, where you pay to display brief advertisements, service offerings, product listings and video content to specific audiences on the internet.  You can also utilise small advertising banners on pages you believe your target clients are visiting regularly.  An example can be to advertise on industry specific sites, on online shopping websites, or even the local school site.


To summarise, yes you need word-of-mouth referrals and besides upping your game with regards to servicing, your quickest avenue to these is to explore creating a presence for your company online.  Position yourself as a thought leader on a specific section of insurance or on a specific target market and you should see referrals picking-up. 


Auto & General Insurance Company Limited is an authorised insurer and financial services provider. Ts & Cs online.

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