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

insurance industry digital marketing

insurance industry digital marketing

I get frustrated by insurance industry digital marketing strategies.

It’s 2015, we’ve had widespread public access to the Internet for more than two decades now and digital marketing is still a mystery to most insurance industry professionals. 

Why do I get frustrated?

Because of my ten history in the independent insurance industry.

For six I was a boots-on-the-ground insurance producer selling personal and commercial insurance in the greater Albany, NY area. I then transitioned out of that role and the Director of Marketing for The Murray Group Insurance Services, Inc,. a local, family-owned independent insurance and financial services firm,.

The strategies you read on this website are battle tested.

I built my book of business (my career), one blog post at a time. Using the basic principles of content marketing and SEO we added value to New York insurance buyers lives every day.

Over time our “value first” philosophy yielded over 85 new inbound leads a month at its peak (and hundreds of thousands of dollars in net revenue to our agency).

When I write about a content marketing strategy, it’s not some opinion I pulled out of thin air to gain traffic or sound smart. It’s because I’ve implemented that 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

A year and half ago, my work hit a natural ceiling for our small business. After an amicable split with The Murray Group, I joined TrustedChoice.com as their Vice President of Marketing.

One month later, as part of the TrustedChoice.com family, we founded Agency Nation (a digital publication focused on insurance sales, marketing and technology).

The focus of my work instantly evolved from growing one singular, local insurance agency, to a network of 23,000 agencies.

So here we are, about to begin 2016, 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 bearing 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 for digital insurance supremacy isn’t coming…

…the battle has already begun.

And independent insurance agents 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.

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 what we have to be!

The independent insurance agent must think like an internet marketer.


According to JD Power this is what the new insurance buyer wants, better digital communication and interaction.

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 2015 (and soon 2016). Yet insurance carriers (and many agents) are still forcing their clients to use tools and methodologies of 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 e-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

Educational resources aren’t the only way an insurance carrier could benefit their clients. Apps, tools, courses, and product discounts focused on high margin target markets would help our brand stand above our competition.

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 tools and 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 perseptions of our industry and brand 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 at TrustedChoice.com and Agency Nation (and what I did iat my small, local insurance agency) to outrank insurance carriers with budgets 100x larger.

We don’t need a huge budget to be successful online. We need to create value.

You don't need a huge budget to be successful online.

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.

Now read: If You Work in Insurance, This Should Be the Only Article You Read on the Future of Social Media

Thank you and good luck,

I am Ryan Hanley

P.S. If you want to learn more about digital marketing success subscribe to my free newsletter.

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