At what point do you deliver value?
I work everyday on the frontlines of the battle between small business and it’s Big Box competitors.
As the Head of Marketing at TrustedChoice.com we work every day to help local independent insurance agents fight back against GEICO, State Farm and the other direct and captive insurance competitors would take what they have.
Other the last nine years I’ve developed battle-forged ideas, actionable ideas on the role content marketing will play in small business organizations that desire victory.
See, I used to be main street independent insurance agent, selling for a family-owned agency in Upstate, NY.
I’ve lived and breathed the commoditization of our industry every day.
Every day of my work life we fight against the misconception that personal insurance is all same. This is the belief incessantly drilled into insurance consumers’ brains by direct marketing companies… That PRICE is all that matters.
price. Price. PRICE.
This is the battle of the independent insurance agent.
Your battle is the same.
What if I told you that no matter how hard you worked on your product, (retail item, professional service, ebook, e-course, whatever), the only determining factor in purchasing that product was price.
You’d be pissed right?
All your hard work.
All the time and effort and expertise and passion and energy you poured into making your product, the best possible solution for a consumer, and all that consumer cared about was price.
I’m pretty sure that would piss you off.
This is what small business deals with every day.
I know there is so much more to the insurance industry than price.
Just as there is more to your industry than price.
But what I know doesn’t matter.
The only thing that matters to the success of your small business is the consumer’s perception of your product.
The reason small business is currently losing the battle versus Big Box competitors is not because of hard economic times or bloated marketing budgets.
The problem is us.
We, small business professionals, are falling into the commodity trap.
The easy sale…
The price sale…
The “right now” sale…
The “my price is lower” sale… (If our price is lower, and most times it’s not, with good reason).
We fall into this trap because we need to keep the lights on.
What is a small business to do?
Define Your Niche, Own It, and Deliver Value First
Primarily, independent insurance agents generate new business in four ways: Referrals, In-person networking, Cold Calling and Online.
Making money through referrals, in-person networking, and cold calls is all about grinding.
It’s a simple equation:
X amount of Time = Y amount of Dollars.
You get what you put in. Simple.
But we have technology and it seems silly that so many small businesses refuse to embrace a tool that allows us to do all the things we used to do to make money, but now leverage our time to make even more.
So for the rest of this article we’re going to focus on some core concepts that deliver results to the content marketer… Social Salesperson.
Define Your Niche
The Internet is really big and subsequently there is a ton of information that is already out there to be found.
Some of that information is crap… but much more of it is at least halfway decent.
This means that just about anything you write on your blog, post on your Facebook page or tweet out to your followers has been said before (or at least something similar).
If there is tons of information that is exactly the same as the information that you want to post, how are you supposed to get noticed and be successful?
The answer is frustratingly simple, consistently spread your message to a defined niche at nausea.
The Internet has dawned a new age, the age of the Expert.
Consumers research a topic on the Internet and social media to meet an expert.
The quickest way to NOT get noticed on social media is to try and be everything to everyone.
Take-away: Define your niche so you can stand out from the crowd.
Own Your Niche
The difference between defining your niche and owning it is that you actually have to know what you’re talking about.
I may not known every caveat of an insurance policy but I OWNED why you should buy one.
I could talk about every facet of the policy, not just generic boring rhetoric that you would hear from some talking head on the Today Show, but gritty details that startle and surprise would-be policy owners.
I constantly injected little ditties that made prospects realize two things:
- There is a legitimate possibility they are inadequately insured
- I am the agent that has the solutions
What if every client you called on had made these two mental recognitions before you spoke to them. Do you think your sales would go up?
Heck yes they would!
Take-Away: Be the expert that consumers are searching for.
Deliver Value First
Content marketing not about the number of fans and followers you have.
Content marketing are about engagement, subscriptions and conversions.
Your success in blogging and social media will be determined by the frequency in which you deliver value that compels your audience to take action.
(I discuss content marketing success in more detail in My Awesome Newsletter).
Let’s break that last statement down so it’s a little easier to digest:
First, let’s talk about value and what it means to your audience.
Valuable online content allows your audience to connect their beliefs with your own.
Valuable online content examples include:
- You philanthropic endeavors,
- New discounts available in their market,
- Simple tips to make their life easier,
- Behind the curtain understanding of products,
- Basic How-To’s,
- Additional resources and experts,
- Answers to everyday questions.
Consumers care about the things that affect their own lives, so talk about those things.
If you don’t know what those things are, ask your clients what types of information they could receive from you that would add value to their life.
Let’s address the frequency of posting on a blog or to social media because I know this is big question.
Again, the answer is very simple, post as frequently as you can, provided the post adds value to some section of your audience.
I give you permission to post 100 times a day if each post is filled with value.
If you can only come up with one valuable post a day, only post once. But you can’t post your office hours once a month on Twitter and wonder why no one follows you.
Most importantly, your consistently valuable online content must compel your audience to take action.
This is the “Give to Get” principle, only in the online world if you don’t ask there is going to be NO get.
It’s ok to think about yourself. This is how we make money, “The Ask.” Not every time you post, but often enough that potential customers know what you want them to do.
- “Connect with me on my favorite social network.”
- “Subscribe to my newsletter.”
- “Stop by my office for a free car wash coupon.”
- “Let me review your Home and Auto Insurance with our trusted carriers.”
Did you notice anything about the progression of those asks? Each “ask” was a slightly larger commitment by your audience, then we took the relationship offline, and finally we asked for the business.
(I talk more about the increasing psychological barriers consumers must hurtle to purchase Online in this short video How Blogging Turns Traffic to Leads and Leads to Revenue).
Take-away: Deliver value on a regular basis and ask for the business.
There are two thoughts from this article that should haunt you:
“We as small business professionals hold the key to our own success by harnessing content marketing to sell value.”
“Own your niche and deliver value relentlessly.”
Now get to work.
Thank you and good luck,
I am Ryan Hanley