Imagine this scene:
You found a great fishing hole - one that's teeming with fish just waiting to be caught. What a great day of fishing that was. Now fast forward a few years, and you're headed back to that same spot. Yes, it's been discovered and has become more crowded and it takes longer to lure and catch fish, because your fishing rod is just a no-frills rod and a hook with a little bait. Still, you're positive you'll return home with a cooler full of fish.
When you arrive at the lake, you see it's practically lined with fishermen, all casting with the latest rods and reels, using very sophisticated lures. Some have even launched small boats, and they're scooping up fish with nets, hand-over-fist. But you're not worried. After all, you've fished this spot for years and always brought home a great catch. It's always worked that way. Why should today be any different?
Because there are fewer and fewer fish in the lake, and they have grown more savvy at ignoring and escaping those lures. Those fish are our producers.
The fishermen along the shore? They're carriers just waiting to direct-appoint those agents. And they're other wholesalers and MGAs who are luring your fish away.
The fishing buddies in the boats? They're major brokers like Marsh, Aon, Hub International - yes, and even Brown & Brown, scooping up independent agencies by the net full. That's evident on a weekly basis as they announce their new acquisitions in Insurance Journal or PropertyCasualty360.
That leaves you - us - as Arrowhead/ACM/OnPoint profit centers, clutching our basic, no-frills rod. How successful is our fishing? And how successful will it be five years from now?
Let me give you one example. In viewing the open rates of sales emails sent by one of our profit centers in 2015, we discovered they had a 16 percent churn rate. Churn is comprised of hard bounces along with unsubscribes: the email address is no longer valid, meaning the agent has jumped ship, retired, or the agency no longer exists, or they don't want to hear from us - ever.
If 16 percent doesn't seem too worrisome, think of it this way: in two years, that profit center will have lost ONE THIRD of their producers that they worked so hard to pull through our process to be appointed.
You can see it won't be long until that pond is fished out.
Our no-frills rod? The tried-and-true marketing methods that worked 5-10 years ago but, in the noise caused by all the other fishermen, they just aren't working as well. These are the string of emails sent throughout the year that say "choose us... we've changed this on our portal and it's wonderful... choose us...choose us." And these are also the occasional visits and goodies sent to producers - usually just the top tier.
Now, there's nothing wrong with these methods, and we shouldn't stop using them. The problem is this: those fish have become sophisticated. They don't want to keep hearing the same sales message from you. That message is Arrowhead/ACM/OnPoint-centric. While we think it provides value for our producers, it actually focuses on us - not them. They don't need to keep hearing how great we are. They need to know answers to issues they're facing, how to solve a particular challenge, what they can do to package this client properly, etc.
They need to know that we are experts that they can call on for help and that the information they receive is correct and up-to-date.
They want to be treated like smart, sophisticated producers (and prospective producers) who can think for themselves. In a nutshell, they want quality information at their fingertips – without a constant sales pitch.
Enter content marketing: a cutting edge fishing technique
What's content marketing versus traditional marketing? Content marketing feeds those fish, rather than just trying to catch them. Those fish have become adept at ignoring all the fancy lures, and it takes a lot more to get their attention. Content marketing helps them begin to trust you as a fisherman, so that they come to you rather than everyone else. They see you as a subject matter expert (SME) on fish. Admittedly, our fishing metaphor is beginning to break down at this point, so here's a more succinct definition:
Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable producer action. -- Content Marketing Institute
Content marketing’s purpose is to attract and retain producers by consistently creating valuable content to lead them further down the sales/engagement funnel. It is the art of communicating with our producers and prospects without blatant selling. Instead of always pitching our products or services, we are delivering information that solves some of their challenges. And when we deliver consistent, ongoing valuable information to producers, they ultimately reward us with their business and loyalty.
Content marketing is deployed by some of the greatest marketing organizations in the world, including P&G, Microsoft, Cisco Systems, and John Deere. It’s also developed and executed by small businesses and one-person shops around the globe. Why? Because it works.
Here’s what some of the industry’s thought leaders have to say on the topic:
- Adweek reports that content marketing is the most commercially important digital trend for 2015-2016, based on a recent study from Smart Insights.
- SocialMediaToday reports that content marketing is essential for ranking under Google’s algorithms. It gets better. Content marketing also bolsters your brand, drives social engagement, attracts incoming links and establishes your company as a thought leader.
- HubSpot has found that marketers who prioritize blogging are 13 times more likely to have a positive ROI.
How you can help
The Creative and Communications team has added content marketing as a key marketing strategy in 2016 to benefit each of our profit centers and expand our brand reach. Our goal is to create content that focuses on our producers, not on ourselves. We want to position ourselves as subject matter experts (SMEs) providing the latest intel, trends and strategies to our producers, but we need your help.
Eyes and ears: While the C & C team is heading up the content strategy, because we're not actually on the sales calls with clients, we can’t connect and engage them the way you do. That means we need input and collaboration from all members of your profit center teams. We need to better understand:
- What makes producers excited about working with us?
- What are their objections and pain points?
- What are their headaches, challenges and frustrations?
- At what point in the producer journey do they typically jump ship and why?
- Are there aspects of our products or portal that are confusing?
- Why do they leave?
- Are there success stories that can be shared?
You have a lot to talk about if you get the right people talking.
Getting your input on content ideas would help us create higher quality content you can send to prospects at different stages in the sales cycle and help you close more sales.