Posted on 02 Apr 09
As part of our discussion on social media in this edition, we wanted to share with you how a business in our industry is actually implementing networking and content-sharing technologies in its insurance operation. We spoke with the marketing people at Irwin Siegel Agency, a leading insurance and risk management organization in the Social Service field, and one of our ProgramBusiness.com Storefronts. Sara Ruggiero and Kristin Rielly share with us how they are incorporating web 2.0 technologies in their marketing and communication strategies.
Rock Hill, New York-based Irwin Siegel Agency (ISA) was founded in 1960 by Irwin Siegel, and provides Social Service providers in all 50 states with custom insurance programs and risk management. As a member of the local United Cerebral Palsy Association, Irwin saw first-hand how difficult it was for these organizations to get insurance programs that address their specific needs and risks, and in 1985 introduced the first insurance package designed for non-profit providers serving individuals with disabilities. Today, with a staff of 80, ISA is a leading provider of coverage and risk management solutions for organizations in the development disabilities, behavioral/mental healthcare, additional treatment rehab, and community/social service fields. (See a list of the areas ISA covers.)
ISA markets to two distinct audiences: Independent agents/brokers and client/prospects in the Social Services field. “Our focus is to increase brand awareness out in the field,” says Sara. “Traditionally, we have done this through direct mail and cold-calling. Reaching these people is our principal challenge, so we are continuously looking for new marketing avenues to get our brand and programs into the hands of people who need them.”
ISA took a look at its marketing strategies and analyzed what was available in terms of technology to touch people in ways that old marketing techniques may not. “We decided to develop a stronger on-line presence to bring another level of connectivity between our agency and our clients,” says Sara.
“The first thing we did was to take a look at how we could optimize our website,” says Sara. They worked with an outside firm to find out how they could increase their ranking on search engines so that the ISA name appears at the top of the list when organizations are looking for insurance in the Social Service field. “This firm taught us about web optimization,” says Kristin, “and what needed to be done to increase our web ranking during a search.”
They also wanted to ensure that the ISA site was SEO (search engine optimization) compliant so that they were not losing any potential visitors. This involves optimizing keywords and phrases on the site and ensuring that the website’s URLs are search engine-friendly. Kristin used Websitegrader.com to grade the ISA website, pinpoint problem areas and make the corrections.
“Next we wanted to streamline and enhance the content on our website, along with the navigation and look,” says Kristin. “Our objective was to ensure that people have easy access to content and that we deliver content they need and want.” ISA added an RSS Feed feature so that the agency delivers fresh, new content to their clients quickly. The RSS Feed includes ISA news, such as new program launches and enhancements; industry information; and out-sourced information relevant and useful to the industry. Kristin looks through all her resources to see what content would benefit agencies/brokers, clients and potential clients. This may include, for example, a new law that affects the Social Services field, a fundraising event taking place, etc. “We are a resource for our clients – from loss prevention and training tools to industry updates and other key information,” says Kristin.
Twitter, On-Line Surveys and More
Keeping updated requires a lot of research and sifting through material to see what is going on the industry and to determine what’s relevant in terms of ISA’s audience – both to the independent agencies/brokers and the clients. “During my research, I began to notice that many non-profit volunteers were using Twitter to communicate,” says Kristin. Twitter is a free social networking and micro-blogging service to stay connected with people in real-time. “I noticed some of our non-profit clients were sharing info and organizing fundraisers on Twitter. I began to follow their messages and then use it myself to communicate with them,” says Kristin, “to build a relationship.” In turn, the organizations – potential prospects for ISA – also began to follow Kristin’s tweets. “You get to know these people on a personal level, which in turn helps you in the business environment. You can let people know about your business in a non-invasive, more personal way.”
“It’s a unique situation,” concurs Sara. “Here you have technology which is labeled ‘cold’ and ‘impersonal’ but these platforms let you ‘touch’ people in ways that direct mail and cold-calling doesn’t.”
ISA also conducts on-line client surveys to further encourage interaction and engagement. “We created a survey asking clients about claims handling and servicing, so that we can pinpoint any problems,” explains Sara. “We sent a letter with a link to the survey.” In February, ISA also conducted an on-line survey to find out if clients liked the changes made to the website and the new features added. “The response was very positive and beneficial,” says Sara.
Additionally, ISA sends out e-newsletters in order to keep communication constant with clients; this marketing approach has been one of the most successful new initiatives ISA has implemented.
The changes made to improve the website, the incorporation of Web 2.0 technologies, its e-newsletter have all resulted in an increase in traffic to the ISA site and in the amount of time visitors spend on the site. On-line communities “follow” the firm’s activities and services, and ISA has been contacted via its on-line efforts.
ISA is also looking into incorporating a blog on its site in the future. “We are presently evaluating the type of content our clients would want included and whether it will be useful. We want to make sure that the blog addresses what agents are asking for and what our clients want,” says Sara. “We want to continue to maintain a focus, provide useful information, and promote interactivity with our clients.”
ISA shared its blog-in-progress design with us…it is in the preliminary stage while the marketing department determines how it plans to use this communication platform.
MANAGEMENT’S COMMITMENT, RESOURCES
What about ISA’s management’s response to incorporating social media into the marketing mix? Sara explains that management has embraced the changes, and is open to new ideas. “We are a big agency but small enough to get things done. The key is to make sure we do our homework, look at how a specific technology is working, how we would use it, how much time it will take to incorporate into our strategy, how much it will cost, and the timeframe involved to integrate it as part of our marketing and communication,” says Sara.
Also key to successfully integrating new technologies into your marketing strategies is the allocation of human resources for implementation and management. “I do this full-time,” says Kristin. “Typically, I log-in to the social network sites (LinkedIn, Insurance Campus) I belong to on a daily basis. I monitor them so I can see conversation trends and add posts when appropriate. I read all of my feeds twice a week to update the site and our RSS feed. I keep updated on new technology, insurance and field-related information. I participate in forums, post blog comments as they relate to our business to keep abreast of everything and promote ISA wherever I can,” says Kristin. “You never know who knows who.”
Kristin is right. As editor of ProgramBusiness.com, I was researching the topic of social media as it relates to the insurance industry. I listened to Rick Morgan’s interview with Jack Burke of Sound Marketing about social networking and then read Rick’s blog. I came across Kristin’s comment on the blog about what ISA is doing in the social media arena. I contacted Rick and then Kristin. The connection was made.
To find out more about ISA’s programs, please visit http://www.programbusiness.com/3.0/sf/VisitSFDetails.aspx?sfID=331 or call: 1.800.622.8272.