I’ve found myself on the frontlines of the battle between small business and it’s Big Box competitors.
Other the last three years I’ve developed some battle-derived actionable ideas on the role blogging and social media will play in the small business organizations that desire victory.
See, I’m an independent insurance agent for family-owned agency in Upstate, NY. I live and breathe the commoditization of small business every day.
Every day of my work life I must compete against the misconception that personal insurance policies are 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.
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 it price versus perceived competition… 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.
But that is what small business deals with every day.
I know there is so much more to the insurance industry than just price.
But what I know doesn’t matter.
See, the only thing that matters when it comes to the success of my small business is the consumers understanding of my product (This is the case no matter what industry you work in).
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.
So what is a small business to do?
Define Your Niche, Own It, and Deliver Value First
Primarily, I make money selling insurance 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 = X 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 BLOGGER… 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). So 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.
You cannot be a general agent in blogging and social media. 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.
For my insurance business I market Professional Liability, Restaurant Insurance, and Local Personal Lines. I blog enough, tweet enough, and comment enough in my geographic social media universe that I have very good results in those three areas.
Would I love to have an enormous manufacturing risk call me and produce a $100,000 in revenue? Yes. But that is not my market and I don’t know squat about insuring manufacturing operations. I want to be Eastern New York State’s go-to expert for the three niches I listed above.
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 know every single caveat of a Professional Liability policy but I OWN why you should have one.
I 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 inject little ditties that make prospects realize two things before I communicate with them in person:
- 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
Blogging and social media are not about the number of fans and followers you have.
Blogging and social media 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 social community to take action.
(I discuss 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 social media community.
Value is information or action that means something to the consumer. Very few people care what insurance awards I won this year (doesn’t mean awards aren’t important just means your community doesn’t need to hear about it twenty times).
Consumers do care about:
- 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.
Second, 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 community.
I give you permission to post 100 times a day if each post is value-filled.
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.
Third, and most importantly, your consistently valuable social media posts must compel your social community to take action.
This is the “Give to Get” principle, only in social media if you don’t ask there is going to be NO get.
It’s ok to think about yourself too… 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 social community, 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.
I always finish my blog posts with a section called The Rub. If you read no other portion of each blog post The Rub would be the section you want to read because it’s where I summarize all the BS I laid out in the previous 200… 500… 1,000 words.
In this manifesto I want you to leave with these two thoughts that I hope will haunt you:
“We as small business professionals, (no matter if you’re a main street business or Internet Marketer), hold the key to our own success by utilizing social media and blogging to sell Value.”
“Own your niche and deliver value relentlessly. Cash will rain from the sky… Figuratively.”
Want to hear more?
You can learn more about my Speaking Services or Download my Free eBook on Social Tools.How To Make Money Selling Value through Blogging and Social Media by Ryan Hanley