Why Digital Marketing is Still a Mystery to the Insurance Industry (and how to fix it)

insurance industry digital marketing

I get frustrated by insurance industry digital marketing strategies.

It’s 2013, we’ve had widespread public access to the Internet for almost two decades now and digital marketing is still a mystery to most insurance industry professionals. 

Why do I get frustrated?

Well… for those of you that don’t know, in real life I’m the Director of Marketing for The Murray Group Insurance Services, Inc. A local, family-owned independent insurance and financial services firm located in Albany, NY.

What I talk about here, on this blog, is battle tested strategies I’ve put into use marketing my insurance agency online. When I write about a content marketing strategy or social media network, it’s not some opinion I pulled out of thin air to gain traffic or sound smart. It’s because I’ve implemented the strategy or tactic inside a real, local small business with either success or failure.

…and being that my small business is an insurance agency, I’m in the unique position to have a qualified opinion on the level of effort and understanding put forward by my industry in marketing insurance products online.

Insurance Industry Digital Marketing

So here we are, more than halfway through the year 2013, and the vast majority of independent insurance agents, carriers and industry professionals still don’t have a grip on the ridiculously profitable opportunity that exists in the digital world.

The problem lies in where the pain is located. 

Right now the pain is located with the boots-on-the-ground agents, not the insurance carriers and not the agency owners (often referred to as agency principals). Agents are baring the brunt of the digital storm.

The seeds of a decade of GEICO commercials commoditizing insurance products has taken root deep within the brains of American insurance consumers.  Families (think home and auto insurance) are shopping their insurance more frequently, often based solely on price, with little to no regard for the value an independent insurance agent delivers.

The battle isn’t coming…

…the battle has already begun.

And we’re losing.

But luckily there are agents willing to stand up and fight back, Brent KellyJason CassChris ParadisoJoey GiangolaClaudia McClainDavid BerryCarrie Reynolds and Keith Laskey to name just a few. Put on that list all the insurance professionals who frequent the Inbound Insurance Marketing community on Google Plus.

These agents are doing what most insurance industry professionals have neglected to do so far…

…they view selling insurance online the way an Internet Marketer would. Because that’s we are!

As an industry we’re so worried that by embracing digital marketing, using the tactics, strategies and tools of classic Internet Marketers, that somehow we’re giving away our value.


The Connected Generation consumer expects business to be done using the tools of 2013. Yet insurance carriers (and many agents) are still forcing their clients to use tools and methodologies from the 20th century.

We must stop looking at each other for the answer to marketing insurance online and study industries who’ve already been successful.

What makes the information product or course an Internet Marketer sells so much different from an insurance policy?

Both are intangible products promising returned value at a later date.

How I Would Change Insurance Carrier Digital Marketing

Sometimes I dream of what it would be like to work for a Travelers Insurance, Chubb or The Hartford. The things we could achieve with the budget and infrastructure of one of these behemoths…

…we could change the course of an industry.

I don’t work for a large insurance carrier, but if I did, here are three initiatives I’d put into place day one:

#1 Focus on Education

I would become a Wiki for every insurance product I sell. Not boring corporate insurance barf speak information… but real life, human beings talking about insurance products the way real people talk about things. I would pick apart every single concept no matter how big or small and explain its impacts on customers. I would do this in every content medium possible, video, text, podcasts and images.

IMPACT: By educating insurance consumers on their terms and in their language we’d be helping them become more comfortable with the products they’re buying. Making us a resource and not a transaction.

#2 Build Tools to Help Target Markets

I would then begin building resources around the target markets we served. If say, restaurant insurance, were a focus of our business, I would create products, services and resources beyond insurance. We want our clients to be successful, let’s help them become successful. Why not build the most robust Restaurant Safety course available online and offer it free… to everyone, client or not?

IMPACT: By providing resources in addition to insurance within target markets we become more than an insurance supplier. We become a trusted partner.

#3 Tell Client Stories

Finally, I would transform my field marketing reps from brochures delivers into content creation machines. With nothing more than an iPhone we can bring our insureds, agents and partners stories front and center. An insurance carrier brand should be about the clients and agents we serve NOT the products we offer. We’ll create our own news telling positive stories of insurance and addressing the negative head on.

IMPACT: By highlighting our clients and agents stories we’ll begin to change the belief that insurance carriers are the enemy and empower our clients to spread our message as they spread their own.

The Rub

How do I know these strategies would work?

This is exactly what I do every day in my small, local insurance agency to outrank insurance carriers that make 100 times in a day the revenue we create in a year. You don’t need a huge budget to be successful.

So here’s the rub, as an industry we’re primed for success. Insurance industry digital marketing success is NOT unattainable, nor do we have to wait long to achieve results.

But we need leadership…

…and belief,

…and cooperation,

…and action.

But it all starts with leadership, at every level and in every organization. The snowball is gaining momentum.

Thank you and Good luck,

I am Ryan Hanley

P.S. If you want to learn more about digital marketing success Subscribe to the Content Warfare Newsletter

Drop Some Knowledge

Tell me why I’m wrong… Tell me why digital marketing doesn’t work… Tell me why my plan can’t be successful …

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  • Emylia Liyana Anwar

    This is great Ryan! I’m still trying to figure out how can we market insurance through a ‘financial comparison site’ bearing in mind the insurer itself spending hundred of thousands on digital marketing. We might get diluted in the space, no?

    • http://www.ryanhanley.com/ Ryan Hanley

      @emylialiyanaanwar:disqus you’ll trying to figure out how to marketing through a comparison site? Which site? What is your goal?

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  • sara

    hi. please email for me this article. pleaseee

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  • Victor V. Pham

    Thanks Ryan! The way I see it from Asia perspective, digital application is getting more spotlights in Insurance industry here but all efforts have seemed to focus more on the later / operational stages after customer acquisition already happens: such as digital automation in claim process or customer database analytics for upselling and crossselling.

    On the forefront of creating awareness to new customers, helping with evaluation and trigger to purchase, I have not seen any ground-breaking digital examples, besides traditional approach such as PPC (Google Adwords) , on-page banner advertising (facebook or website). Which other digital solutions have impressed you, esp those happen before you decide to buy the insurance?

    Another aspect is bancassurance, with the growing networks of bank and their digital initiatives in Asia, this channel has gained a lot of traction driving in insurance sales, how different it is to implement digital strategy for bancassurance?

    • http://www.ryanhanley.com/ Ryan Hanley

      @victorvpham:disqus for me it’s all about content marketing. Telling the stories your potential clients will need to hear in order to make the decision to buy from you. It takes time but for sure is the best way to go in the long run.

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  • http://www.agencyrevolution.com Josh Monen

    Ryan, I agree. Many agents assume they can completely ignore reality and still succeed. But as you know, the world has changed. The consumer has changed. And power has shifted away from businesses into the hands of consumers. So I can see how it would be hard to go from the “way it was” to the way “it is.” To go from being in control, and feeling like you had all the answers, to feeling like you’re free falling and not knowing what to do.

    But like you said, “we need leadership.” And leaders take action, even if it is hard. Thank you for the thoughtful post Ryan!

    • http://www.ryanhanley.com Ryan Hanley


      Appreciate you stopping by dude. It can definitely be hard some days trying to effect change when many do not understand or even believe that change needs to happen.

      But the snowball is picking up speed.

      Thanks for fighting the good fight.


  • http://brentmkelly.com Brent kelly


    Thanks for the mention. I have written about this before and I think much of the problem exists for two reasons.
    1) Agents don’t feel that digital marketing is worth the effort due to the energy and time it takes.
    2) Fear of going public. There seems to be a great hesitation that putting their knowledge out for the general public will come back to bite them.

    I think we both agree that those two reasons are not true, but the opportunity is huge for agents and companies.

    • http://www.ryanhanley.com Ryan Hanley


      Not true and so huge. Thanks for the stopping dude.


  • http://giangolainsurance.com Joey Giangola

    Ryan thanks for the mention.

    My question to you is, since we all obviously do not work at these massively clueless companies. How can we change the course of the industry from where we are and start winning the battle?

    • http://www.ryanhanley.com Ryan Hanley


      It’s about continuing to put in the work… We blaze the trail and let others follow the path.