Can advertising boost a broker's business?
Q: I’m a one-man-band health insurance intermediary and I’m keen to promote my business via advertising in the local community. Any pointers?
A: The ongoing promotion of any shape or size of business is always a sensible move but I would hasten caution with regards to just focusing on advertising.
First, as a one-man-band I would guess that your marketing budget is somewhat limited and rightly so. If carried out in isolation advertising all too often ends up being a lot of expense for little return. Second, as an intermediary, your best “advertising” must surely come free of charge in the form of word of mouth.
As per the centrepiece of my very first communications column in Health Insurance magazine, corporate reputation is the most valuable asset a company can have. Advertising alone is insufficient to create a good corporate reputation. The reputation people hold of your organisation is the net result of all its activities – PR, marketing, client and employee satisfaction etc.
Good corporate reputation should be an ongoing goal for every business. Now please don’t switch off here and simply dismiss this as big picture aspirational marketing-geek type stuff. I’m well aware that you simply want a few quick wins. What follows is a set of pointers you might find useful – let’s call them “quick wins with reputation in mind” (wouldn’t win any snappy slogan awards granted, but does what it says on the tin nevertheless).
The first thing to do – as I keep reiterating in these columns – is decide what you want to say about yourself, your product or service and your business. If you do not know, how can your clients. But knowing the message is not the end of the story. You have to decide who to send it to and how you are going to do it. If your message is not received loud and clear, your clients will not understand why they need good health insurance and protection advice or indeed what it is they are getting in the first place. If they do not know the reason for contacting you, there will be no clients; if they have the wrong reason for contacting you, there will be dissatisfaction.
If you do not manage to communicate effectively the benefits of your product or service, your business will fail. The message, and getting it across, is crucial. Broadly, marketing is all about getting your message across. But marketing can be an expensive habit if it is undirected, too ethereal and without a clear purpose. Small businesses need to market, but more and more the marketing should be focused on generating direct responses, on building communications with your target group of clients rather than broad-brush image generation
Here are some areas to look at:
Flyers and leaflets are a way you can convey information about the benefits of your product or service to your target clients.
Advertising can create attention, inform, remind, prompt new business and improve the image of your product or service. But the return from advertising is uncertain. It costs more and takes longer than you think.
Focus on direct response advertising, which encourages readers to contact you about your product or service. You can enter details in your marketing database and send offers to them – or simply keep them updated about the latest in the world of health insurance via a simple newsletter – until you convert them to clients.
Do not rely on one form of advertising to achieve your objectives. If you can afford it, use a mixture and try to organise a spread of advertising over a period of time.
Think carefully before you set up a website. You may spend as much time and effort marketing the website as you do to marketing your service.
And don’t forget social media – it’s an excellent and relatively cheap way to market your business.