The Coronavirus epidemic was unlike anything most of us have experienced, especially when it comes to doing business. We hope to never see anything like this again, but the reality is that you might and you need to be prepared for economic catastrophe. It may not come in the form of a virus pandemic, but it may affect us nationally or locally in the form of tornadoes, wildfire, recessions, etc.
To help insurance agencies continue to thrive as we come out of the pandemic and to prepare for this becoming a reality once again, I wanted to share with you some marketing lessons learned and things you can do to move forward.
You Should Stop Marketing When People Stop Buying
The first lesson learned is to stop marketing and selling when people stop buying. There were two reactions when we encountered this national crisis. Some stopped everything and hunkered down while others continued driving their business forward as best they could. Those who continued selling and marketing found opportunities to take advantage of while their competition did nothing.
Marketing at this time was not without its challenges. Some agencies were struggling to adapt working from home habits while others pondered the ethical dilemma of “selling” during a pandemic.
Thanks to the government funded PPP program and monthly revenue from current clients many agencies were able to stay afloat. However, without actively selling, they may be in for trouble moving forward. Two things will happen to agencies who remain silent:
- They will miss out on the opportunities created.
- An agency who isn’t silent will take their clients.
I know it can be a challenge to attempt to adapt to a new way of doing business and attempt to market the agency. But if consumers are still buying and searching for solutions we can’t afford to stop selling and marketing.
Of course, as businesses we need to be sensitive to our market and respect those who are not in the position to look at what we have to offer right now or are frankly not in the mindset to do so.
But as someone is looking for a service you offer, and you can help them achieve their goals, why would you not help them?
As long as there are people willing to buy you should continue to sell. However, your opportunities may change.
Focus on the Opportunities Available
The second lesson learned, is that a business should focus on the opportunities available. Many opportunities were lost when the stay at home orders were enacted but this also created opportunities for those who were willing to look for them.
When hard times hit, you may need to rethink your marketing and sales opportunities. Before the coronavirus pandemic many insurance agencies established their sales plans and opportunities to focus on. But once it caused a massive stay at home order, it eliminated many of the opportunities insurance agencies originally planned for. When hard times hit eliminating your opportunities you have two choices:
- Do nothing and wait
- Find new opportunities
As I write this, amidst the coronavirus pandemic, and looking at future tough times, there are two major opportunities insurance agencies can focus in on.
The first, is Retention. Many of your clients will be scared, worried about money and looking to gain some type of control over the situation. There are very few things they can do, but search for a new insurance provider is an easy one for them.
The first thing businesses should do at the start of an economic catastrophe is to focus on retaining your current clients. Those that do communicate with their clients and keep the promises of being there for them will remain strong. Those that do not communicate well will find their worried clients finding another solution from an agency who was willing to take the time.
Your biggest opportunity and the thing that will keep you strong throughout a financial crisis is to take care of your clients and retain as many as you can.
The next place to find opportunities is within the Marketplace’s Pain Points. Think about the struggles consumers are going through and what may affect their purchase decisions. Here are examples of pain points that may come up:
- Worried about claims with online companies. Some consumers who normally prefer online solutions may look for a real agent who they can talk with, ask questions and who can be an advocate if they need to file a claim.
- Worried about money. Many consumers who have lost jobs or who are cutting costs will look for a new insurance provider who can provide cost savings.
- New threats. As outside forces make us change our business processes it also opens our doors to new threats. During the Coronavirus epidemic, the switch to digital technology nearly overnight left businesses vulnerable to cyber threats. This will lead many businesses to purchase a cyber policy or assess whether their current policy adequately covers their needs.
You may have had to throw your marketing and sales plan out the window, but there are still opportunities available for your agency. Take time to assess the marketplace and recreate your marketing and sales plan according to the opportunities that are available.
Our Personal Example of Marketing and Finding New Opportunities
When Covid-19 was in full swing we lost our major opportunities and at first wondered how we would survive. We were in the same boat as many insurance agencies and other businesses. We had to have some tough conversations and find answers if we would survive. We had to ask ourselves a few different questions:
- Is any of our target market in a position to buy?
- Is there a point in marketing right now?
- Is there opportunity for us during this time?
- Will we make it through this?
From one point of view things seemed hopeless. Who would buy marketing services in a time when so many are downsizing, and many could lose their business? We also couldn’t speak at live events which was a big deal for us. Marketing and sales wasn’t on the minds of many insurance agencies and many were cutting their marketing budget let alone buying services. Things looked bleak, but we did three things.
- We took a realistic look at our offerings and at the marketplace to see if there was an opportunity for us.
- We did some research.
- We continued creating content and offering services.
Guess what happened?
First, we realized there was an opportunity for us. While some weren’t thinking about marketing services, there was another group who would benefit financially be doing business with us.
Second, we found that there were some businesses still continuing operations and purchases as normal. There are some whose operations were not severely damaged financially and who were continuing their operational and procedural changes and could benefit from our services/insights.
Thirdly we just went for it. We knew people were looking at solutions we offered so we just put it out there. “Hey in case you were looking, we have a competitive solution. If you’re looking, then check it out. If not, no worries.” Surprisingly we got a very good engagement rate as people came to our website and viewed multiple pages relating to the solution.
All that to say this. Even during economic hardships, people will still look for your solution. It may not be the same group of people. It may not be the same amount of people. And you may have to position your solution a little differently, but there will still be opportunities for those who look for it.
Now, let’s get back to the lessons learned.
Be Ready to Adapt your Marketing and Sales Strategy
The next lesson learned was that businesses need to be ready to adapt a new strategy at anytime. Like we experienced and like nearly everyone else experienced during the spread of the coronavirus was that your strategy may need to turn on a dime.
One of the biggest obstacles to marketing and sales for insurance agents during the Covid-19 pandemic was the marketing and sales itself. Many who relied on traditional tactics such as networking, and only traditional tactics were unprepared and unable to compete.
For a while we have discussed the need for an omni or multi-channel presence and being everywhere that the consumer is. Little did we know how important this would be in preparing businesses for what was to come. Those businesses who had adopted omni-channel marketing were able to quickly rebound and adjust their processes to continue their sales and marketing efforts.
There are various aspects of your strategy you will need to be ready to adapt:
- Your Tactics
- The Platforms you use
- The Tools you need
- Your processes and cycles
- Your communications and rhythms (I.e. when you post content and how often)
Even who your ideal clients are and how you segment them may change.
Think about what happened early in March of 2020. Nearly overnight everyone started using video conferencing. Many people began were working from home, so Facebook Ads became an even better opportunity for businesses to reach consumers. Those who were paying attention and able to adapt could take advantage of this immediately before their competition even had a chance.
We are seeing that those who have adapted and are adapting during the Coronavirus pandemic are generating opportunities. Those who fail to adopt and who are waiting until things return to normal either won’t make it through or will have lost a lot of steam.
Refine Your Message
We also learned that it’s not just about selling differently, you also need to refine your messaging. Based on how events transpire you may need to slightly adjust your message or you might have to change your company’s message entirely.
Your messaging says a lot about your business. If you want to continue to sell during a crisis you need a message that conveys your value, or you can turn consumers away. You must also be sensitive to people and the situation. If not, you will come off as tone-deaf, insensitive or opportunistic during a crisis.
When crafting your message, you must:
- Be Authentic
- Walk the Talk
- Create a message in alignment with your business and solutions
Your new message must help build trust with consumers but it also has to align with who you are and what you do.
During the Coronavirus epidemic you’ve likely heard “We are in this together” repeated from businesses, brands you follow and even celebrities. This is the type of a simple yet powerful message that allows consumers to know that you understand the situation at hand.
Here are a couple additional messaging examples:
- We are in this together
- We understand what you’re going through
- We are here for you
- We want to help you ____ (fill in with consumer pain point)
Here’s an example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aXX2Ps_MeSM
When you refine your message, it helps to build trust with consumers. It lets consumers know you are aware of the situation and helps your business look human.
Remember, when refining your message during a catastrophe, you can’t just say it, you also have to walk the talk.
Don’t just say it, show it.
Some businesses chose not to refine their message or stayed silent and were left by consumers. There were also many businesses who crafted a new message that ended up doing more harm than good.
During the coronavirus pandemic, people quickly became irritated with those who inauthentically refined their message. People began snuffing celebrities who said “we are all in this together” because their worlds were far apart. Consumers also became extremely irritated with brands who simply repeated common messaging over and over just to sell their product.
As consumers we could tell that the messaging was shallow. Just saying they cared didn’t make us trust brands or want to do business with them. It was only those brands who walked the talk of their refined messaging that saw a positive outcome.
The two biggest messaging fails a business can make in tough times is 1) to say nothing, and 2) to say empty phrases because they need to say something.
When hard times hit, your messaging is vital. You need to convey that you understand your consumer’s needs, but you also have to walk the talk and provide value.
Are you prepared?
As business owners we need to expect the best but plan for the worst. As I write this, we are looking at the reopening of our economy which is fantastic, but it’s not a time to do nothing.
While some agencies wait for things to return to normal, others are doing everything they can with the understanding that things may not go back to normal.
Where is your business in all of this? Have you positioned yourself to continue generating opportunities during this tough time? Do you have the right tools and processes in place or are you barely keeping afloat hoping things will go back to normal soon?
What about tough times ahead? Are you prepared for a new catastrophe or natural disaster?
Now is the time to start planning. When the Coronavirus hit the U.S. and shut down traditional ways of doing business, many agencies weren’t prepared. They insisted “our clients don’t buy this way.” And now, their clients do, do business that way and they weren’t prepared to handle it.
No one can tell you with 100% certainty what will happen in the future and we hope we never see this type of disaster again. But one thing is certain, things will always change.
Will you be prepared for the next change?