Posted on 23 May 11
Neilson Marketing’s and ProgramBusiness.com’s tenth Peak Performance Insurance Ski Conference was a standout event for a number of reasons: We had great attendees; sponsors committed to program business; format changes that allowed for more business to take place; top-of-mind discussions; and of course, there was the powder at Snowmass.
But what really made the event stellar was keynote speaker Chad Meisinger, former Google executive and Internet entrepreneur, who spoke for two days and captivated the imagination of all those attending. He deconstructed what for many is new territory: Internet Marketing, SEO, Web 2.0, and Social Media. He demonstrated what does and doesn’t work and why, and how we as an industry can effectively tap into a market using the platforms now available to us.
For those of you who missed out on Peak and Chad’s sessions, I caught up with him to talk about some of the topics addressed at the conference in January, including where to begin when it comes to Internet Marketing and the benefits of blogging and Google.
Annie George (AG): Chad, there’s a lot out there about Internet Marketing and all it has to offer. Everyone is searching for advice on where to start and how much to take on. Some people have a sit-back-and-wait approach, while others are testing the water or diving right in. How would you begin in an ideal world?
Chad Meisinger (CM): “First I’d get 100% focused on what I need to do to turn my website into a powerful marketing tool. That’s a step most companies never take. They just complain that online marketing in the insurance industry doesn’t work…period. And they ignore the fact that companies like Progressive, Esurance, and others are making millions on-line right now. I’d splash some cold water on my face and concede that, hey, it’s working for some, why not for me, too?
“And if I were selling mostly business insurance, I’d stop fooling myself that what has happened on-line in selling personal lines will never happen in commercial lines. I’m telling you right now: You CAN sell business insurance online, and it would be foolish to think your competitors aren’t working on the details right now, this very minute.”
AG: So that gets you into the right mindset?
CM: “Exactly. And believe it or not, most agents and MGAs never get there. So bottom line: Do something!
“To begin with, I’d look at three critical areas: my website, how I’m going to generate traffic to it, and how I can follow up with any leads I get to ensure that I can pitch those leads over and over again so I can make multiple sales down the road.
“So it’s website, lead generation, and sales follow-up. Most agents I’ve met never get past setting up their sites.
AG: In terms of a website, what would you recommend to an agency who’s ready to redo his/her site?
CM: “Ideally, my website would be built using blog technology. Today, you can create a blog that looks like non-blog sites but that has built-in content management and search engine optimization (SEO) functions. So if you want to add a page or change a photo, you can do it yourself without needing a designer or programmer.
“And in addition to your website, you can also add an actual blog where you post all kinds of articles and where your visitors opt-in to a list where they’re automatically receiving every post you make.”
>AG: Let’s talk about that aspect of your website.
CM: “Search engines love blogs because the more pages you have, the better your site tends to rank. With a blog format, you don’t have to worry about SEO because blogging inherently creates a SEO-friendly URL as long as the page has the right keyword in the title. A blog will let you create tags, which are the keywords that the search engines are ranking you for. What’s more, the search engine will index the content better and it will look more favorable to any searcher trying to find a piece of content.
“And if you’re blogging, you can link to particular blog posts from other pages on your website. That boosts internal linking, another positive factor in ranking your site. ”
AG: Why are blogs so important?
CM: “With a blog, you are taking maximum advantage of the concept of permission marketing. I mentioned that your customers and prospects could opt in to receive a notice each time you post an article. Think about what that means. Your prospects want to hear what you’re thinking and actually respond back to you and engage with you and your articles. How powerful is that? An engaged audience that actually looks forward to hearing from you! You can’t do that with an ordinary website.
“And guess what: If you post really good articles, your audience would even get upset should you ever stop. Think about how many newsletters, blogs, or pieces of information you get that, when you stop receiving them, you actually inquire why. Go out of your way to create posts that are truly relevant, engaging, forward thinking, or even a bit controversial. Get attention! That’s the first step to getting people to know, like, and trust you.”
AG: What makes a blog relevant? Content?
CM: “Yes, and you have to be sure you can actually deliver the kind of content they’re looking for. Are you in a position to blog or create an e-newsletter? You’d better be. By letting people subscribe to your blog, you’re essentially committing to sending them good stuff and they commit to receiving it. The worst thing you can do is make a promise and not deliver on it. You have to commit, whether it’s you personally, bringing in an outside writer, or licensing the content.
“Next, it has to be relevant content. What’s your blog about? Is it just to get people to know you better while building credibility? Does it focus on a specific industry, such as, let’s say, commercial insurance for restaurants? Will you be talking about practices to decrease policy premiums or how clients can mitigate losses? If you’re writing personal lines – Home, Auto, Life – will you be including tips on the best way to approach deductibles, different ways to minimize premiums as well as provide outside home and car care information?
“There are so many different things you can write about that are related to what you do. Think about why your customers and potential customers would subscribe on a regular basis. Then decide the kind of content you want to put out there.
“So where do you get ideas for content? Here’s a tip: Set up a Google Alert for the topics you’re interested in covering. Enter keywords into Google Alert and you’ll start receiving notices from Google every so often of related content that others have put on their blogs or websites. You’ll see all the articles being published in real time on all the topics for which you have set a filter. You can scan these articles and re-purpose them, or read the articles and write your own.
“People get all caught up with the fact they aren’t a writer or can’t come up with really interesting topics. But the information is out there for you to find and base your content on. It’s a goldmine and Google gives you a virtual treasure map and shovel to go dig it up and cash it in.”
AG: Chad, in doing a blog myself, I sometimes wonder if anyone is out there? Is anyone reading, paying attention, becoming engaged?
CM: “Sometimes, when you start a blog, there is no audience. You may ask yourself why you’re even bothering. No one is subscribing to your feed or making a comment.
“But here is what is happening: Each time you do post you’re creating a couple of extra pages to your website, because that’s how Google looks at each blog post. Each tag is a new link and a new page even if you have one page. You’re basically telling Google that this site is changing regularly, so come back here and check it often.
“Again, the larger your site grows with relevant content, the better. You are making yourself and your firm more relevant and more topic-worthy for Google.
“Lastly, your content will actually show up higher in the search engines because of the links you’re creating back to your site and because of the SEO capability built into the blog. Google likes to index blog posts because it’s user-generated content and it has already being optimized.
“Even if you don’t have an audience, you’re working your way towards having one. Here is the beauty of the Internet: An article you wrote today can be accessed by someone a year from today and that’s how your audience grows. Don’t just about think about who is receiving the blog right now. Over time, you’ll have multiple audiences. You’ll have the people who will receive your blog posts in real time because they are following your content, and you’ll have the people who are searching for that type of content. Then you’ll have the people who go to your website. The blog post didn’t bring them there, but while on your website they check out your blog. They’re seeing more information, a different side of you. You’re building credibility, establishing yourself as an authority figure.
“You have many reasons to do a blog even though someone may not be listening at the moment you publish it.”
We’ll be covering more Internet Marketing-related topics with Chad in future issues, so be sure to stay tuned!
About Chad Meisinger
A former Google executive, Internet entrepreneur and business owner, Chad has been on the leading edge of Internet Marketing for almost two decades. His experience includes everything from starting businesses in one-room offices to being a key player and principal at dMarc, a high-tech communications firm that eventually sold for $1.2 billion to industry giant Google. Chad was then hired by Google to manage sales and marketing for Google’s Radio Ads program for three years, gaining unique insights into the workings of world-class search engines, their criteria for ranking success, and the opportunities they offered for driving qualified customers to all types of websites.
His latest entrepreneurial enterprise is Over The Top, a business that develops and implements strategies for diverse industries, including working with Neilson Marketing and ProgramBusiness.com to develop cutting-edge, proven Internet Marketing services designed to monetize the digital footprint of retail agents, wholesalers, MGAs, MGUs, Program Administrators and Surplus Lines Brokers.