Ryan Hanley

author, speaker, marketing geek

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.

Drop Some Knowledge.

About Ryan Hanley

I help make sales easy through content marketing. My work as a marketing strategist, keynote speaker, and Amazon bestseller author will help your business establish authority, attract an audience and grow revenue. Hire me to speak at your next event or grab a copy of my new book, Content Warfare.

  • Lucian Snow

    Ryan, I completely agree with you on the client engagement front. To your “building tools to help target markets” point, the intriguing opportunity is that you don’t need to be one of these super tanker insurance companies to provide these sort of education and safety course resources for an insurer’s customer base (the Restaurant segment or any other). The obvious problem is that from scratch these tools carry costly development work as they increasingly employ sophisticated teaching approaches and new virtual reality technology. I can tell you that insurers whatever their size drag their feet before taking on this sort of cost.

    But why develop these resources yourself when you can get them of the shelf. We have partnered with one of the large online educational companies that provide these highly sophisticated and increasingly powerful tools to bring these value added resources to our insurer clients. When an insurer or broker provides this to their customers, they not only create a powerful marketing tool and lock in the customer, but the insurance provider makes their commercial customer more productive and efficient! It takes leadership and innovative thinking but we have been able to come up with powerful solutions that build loyalty and proof of insurer value. This translates into customer retention and product differentiation.

  • 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.


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