Zero budget marketing is the concept of marketing your business with no marketing budget or a very small one. This is a great concept for insurance agencies stepping into marketing with lean budgets or for operations who have the man power willingness but not the budget.
In this article we are going to break this concept down and show you a few marketing tactics and tools that can be done for free or nearly free.
Using a zero budget marketing strategy
When it comes to marketing an insurance agency, the costs are often high. On top of hiring someone, you have to buy a new website, pay for software subscriptions and tools plus the money that gets paid out to the marekting agency you hire. But with a zero budget model of marketing, your agency takes control of the marketing in house and with the use of free (or nearly free) tools.
You can utilize this strategy in its entirety, or utilize aspects of this strategy to keep your marketing costs low where possible while investing elsewhere.
Before your insurance agency jumps into a zero budget marketing plan you must realize that it may be more difficult and/or time consuming than a traditional marketing route. While there are some great resources out there, many free tools are limited and the back and forth of information can be choppy. Also, you will need to educate yourself on how to make marketing work because everything is going to fall into your or your marketing team's lap. But Don't let this hold you back!
You will be amazed at what you can do with free tools as long as you are willing to figure it out.
A few tips before we get started
I promise we are almost to the good stuff, but I want to ensure that if you decide to try a zero budget marketing model that you have what it takes to make it successful. So, I want to share some words of advice before you decide to take this project on:
- Zero budget marketing does not mean be cheap. There is a difference between zero budget marketing and not wanting to spend money. Marketing requires an investment of some type so do not go into this thinking it is the easy way to do things because it is more affordable.
- This type of marketing plan for your agency heavily relies on your agencies man power so if no one is able to handle a marketing workload in your agency it will not work.
- Don't be afraid to spend some money. Some people can get away with marketing without spending a dime but it all depends on who you are, your skill level and what you know. You may have to spend some money on a website, training, etc... depending where you are in your marketing journey.
- Above all, be consistent. This stands true for any type of marketing you do. It is impossible to market your agency without investing resources or time into it.
Now that you are aware of what zero budget marketing is and we've set some expectations, we can get into the meat of this.
Creating a free websites and blog
A necessary part of your agency's marketing (and business in general) is having a website. There are a few well known website builders for insurance agencies but you can skip the monthly fee and do it yourself for nearly free.
There are great sites such as Wordpress, Wix, Website Builder, and many many more sites are popping up which allow you to build a website for free. Even better, most of these sites have hundreds if not thousands of templates to choose from and are easy to utilize.
The downside to free website builders is that they are not totally free. You will often end up paying around $20 a month for a domain and to remove their logo from your website. But in all honesty you will need to pay for your own domain wherever you go anyways.
Another drawback is that there are often limitations. If you are trying to redirect pages or create a completely custom looking site, you will be limited in what you can do.
Overall though, $20 for a website and/or blog really is not that bad. It's enough to get you started and when the time comes you can often transfer what you have to a more intuitive platform.
Zero Budget Marketing Tactics to try
Once you've established your $20 website and blog, you can start marketing your agency "freely" (see what I did there). ;-)These tactics are not cheap alternatives to digital marketing. They are the real deal of what you want to dive into to see results. They just will not cost you anything.
One marketing tactic your agency can and should be using is social media marketing. Facebook may be trying to force businesses to spend money in order to reach their audiences but this does not have to stop you from using all the free Social Media sites to brand yourself and show your customers why you are the best at what you do.
In addition to branding yourself you can also network using Social Media and reach large audiences in groups.
Another tactic is email marketing. We used mail chimp as our free email marketing tool for some time. You can create a campaign to encourage mono-line customers to bundle or use it as a way to keep turn all the no's you got over the past year into yes's moving forward.
Keep in mind with free email marketing tools that they are only free up to a certain amount of contacts. But even emailing a few thousand contacts a month is still pretty powerful.
You do not need anything fancy to start a blog, just time. As of now, blogging is critical in SEO and attracting niche markets to your website. Our agency attracted thousands of monthly visitors to our blog which translated to a huge increase in sales over the years.
You can even find hundreds of free stock photos all over the web or create/take your own photos to use in the blog.
All the marketing experts are talking about video right now. Why? Because why read something when you can watch a video! It grabs the audience's attention and is easier to convey a message than long form text. And while most are using sophisticated cameras you do not have to.
With some creativity, a smart phone, free editing tools and a YouTube account you can make magic happen.
While some experts may strongly disagree with me, I have seen some great marketing done with just a smart phone and utilizing platforms like Instagram stories or Facebook live.
Marketing your insurance agency does not have to cost a fortune. Much of the marketing costs we endure are from software to help us do the job and/or hiring marketing experts. As you can see, these high marketing costs are not a requirement of successful marketing for insurance agencies.
Marketing does not just stop at having a website and actively utilizing tactics. You must know what is working and what is not, you have to have tools that help you follow up and tools that help you adjust. But don't worry, you can do this within the zero budget model as well.
You would not invest your money without data into whether your investments are worthwhile over the years so do not invest into marketing without the data to determine whether it is worthwhile.
There are a number of tools that will allow you to track this information as you progress into your marketing journey. Here are a few of the areas where you will need tools and some free tools to help you get the job done.
SEO and website tools
Where I see many agencies go wrong is that they are blogging and posting content online for what they hope people might be searching for. Without using tools, you will never know if you are discussing the right topics that online searchers are concerned about or if your site is even properly set up for you to be found.
Without getting into a list of semi-complicated topics right now such as keywords and SEO optimization, just know that there are free tools to help you look deeper into the details of your site.
There are Google websmaster tools that allow you to search for keywords and see site analytics, and other sites such as Moz that allow you to explore the SEO side of your site.
Please do not do any marketing without a way to see what is happening with the marketing. This goes for your website, social media, email marketing, etc...
Fortunately for you, you likely will not have to go out and get another tool, but I wanted to mention this so that you are aware. Just about everything has its own analytics now. Social media sites have their own analytics, web hosting sites have their own analytics, email marketing tools have their own analytics and just about everything else you do should have its own set of analytics tools but it is up to you to find them and use them.
You have an agency management system already but many are not set up to help you with marketing initiatives. I have seen them get much better in this area over the past few years so if you have never looked into the management system's data for marketing purposes yet I encourage you to do so.
If the data your agency management system provides is bulky and hard to use for marketing or sales purposes then I want to encourage you to consider a CRM.
There are free CRMs on the web including FreeCrm.com or Hubspot's free CRM. With a CRM you will be able to better manage your prospects, leads and customers.
One caution when it comes to CRMs is to make sure it is safe! Anytime you are looking to put your customer's information somewhere online make sure it is credible.
Finding the right tools will help to make your marketing strategies much more successful. There are many free tools available but make sure that they meet your needs.
Getting the most out of your money when you do have to spend it
The last thing I want to discuss is how to make marketing buys more affordable. I mentioned in the beginning of this article not to be afraid to spend money because sometimes it is unavoidable. But when you do, you need to be wise in how the money is spent.
So, let's discuss a few things that will help you get the most out of your money.
- Co-op. If you are not using your co-op you need to turn that around ASAP. Going beyond using co-op there are even times when free money is available. Some companies will offer to pay for a new website or something you want to try without the co-op split. You do the work but they foot the bill. This can save your agency so much marketing money over the year.
- Low costs vs profiting. One thing I see for agents is the belief that the lower the cost the better.However, this can hurt your profits in the long run. Here's an example of what I mean. You can pay $30 a month for blogs on your site or hire a blogger for $2000 a month. Many would go for the $30 which will bring a $0 return while our agency paid the $2000 which led to a positive return. You may argue that you cannot afford to invest but when looking at the data the $30 is a $30 loss while the big expense actually brought a profit. So which is better? A small loss or a profit? One of our main goals within our first 10 consulting hours with agencies is to pay for ourselves then help the agency see a profit. Although, sometimes it is hard for agencies to see past the initial cost.
- Try free first. Our COO would always say something like (I'm paraphrasing) "I like the cost of free" and this is how we were able to test many solutions, learn many things and get ahead. As cheap as I am about to sound, we tried a lot of 30 day free trials for software then jumped ship before the 30 days were up. Don't get me wrong, if it ended up being a fit we would purchase it, but this allowed us to get a foot hold in our marketing where we may not have been able to other wise. The point is, is that there are a lot of free tools or temporarily free items that you can use to get yourself into the position to be successful.
- At some point, the zero budget model can be detrimental to growth. It is great for getting your content marketing established and many parts of a zero budget model can be used once you've been able to establish a true marketing budget but long term, this can hinder growth. A zero budget model can become bulky and the marketing team can get bogged down with working around kinks instead of engaging in profitable activity. There comes a time when zero budget should be let go so that your marketing can explode. But it does have its place and can be valuable for quite some time.
A zero budget marketing model for your agency can be a great way to get started or to cut some of the high costs of marketing an agency but remember the end goal of your marketing is not to do it as cheaply as possible. It is ultimately to profit your agency. So when assessing your agency's marketing needs and exploring low cost options consider the balance of time, resources and expected profit.