Friday, January 26, 2007

Word of mouth may be your best advertising!

A recent study by BIGresearch found that when considering major purchases such as home stereos or cars, consumers preferred word-of-mouth opinion over television ads, magazine ads, articles, or newspaper inserts. Are you making the most of your good relations with your current customers?

A lead with a name attached to it becomes a referral. A referral is much, much more powerful than a standard lead pulled from local lists or purchased through direct mailing list providers. All of your clients have friends, neighbors, belong to groups like Rotary or attend church, and belong to trade and civic organizations. If you've developed good relationship with your clients, most would be happy to refer you to their friends.

Are you making the most of your customers' good will toward you and your company? If not, consider a sales letter asking your current clients for leads. We'd be happy to help.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Top 10 reasons to hire Insurance Writer

Top Ten Reasons to Hire Insurance Writer to Write Your Copy

  1. Stop struggling to find the right words for your advertising. Redirect your energy into money-making activities.
  2. Have you ever known a “Nancy” who wasn’t a nice person?
  3. Knowledge—I understand insurance. With over two decades of insurance experience (and as a second-generation insurance professional), I’m one of the few copywriters who understands most aspects of the property and casualty business.
  4. 2007 promotion—Every new client gets a free pair of neon fuzzy dice—Not!
  5. Low overhead means low fees (Hey, what else is there to spend money on in Missouri but ice melt?).
  6. Most advertising agencies don’t want small accounts. I do. After all, I’m only 5’ 4.”
  7. My strengths includes direct mail, white papers, sales letters, press releases, brochures, procedures and policy, most aspects of advertising, radio copy, ghostwriting, and much more. Call, because if I can’t do it, I’ll refer you to someone who can. We’ll have a nice chat, anyway.
  8. One of the world’s greatest writers, Charles Dickens, worked in a factory. I was a presser in a necktie factory before I found the glamorous world of insurance.
  9. Fast turnaround time. Many copywriters charge extra for “rush” jobs. I thrive on pressure.
  10. I work weird hours (Hey, I'm a writer!). I'll be up at 9 p.m. waiting for your call!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

White Papers

More and more, organizations such as the insurance industry are turning to "white papers" to spread their message. I recently participated in a conference on writing white papers given by some of the top white paper writers in the U.S.

What is a white paper? A white paper is usually a "thought leadership" paper of about 5 to 12 pages highlighting one or more benefits of your business. They are used to educate the public by delineating a problem or a challenge then posing a solution, usually highlighting your services. Here are some of the key elements of a white paper:

  • Cover page
  • Executive summary
  • Description of the problem or issue the paper addresses
  • A solution to the problem
  • An action step (how readers can take action, utilizing your product, hopefully, to solve their dilemma)
  • Information about your company
  • Footnotes, if needed
  • A conclusion

White papers are distributed electronically to sites visited by your potential customers and to sites that warehouse business data. White papers generate short-term "buzz" and create a long-lasting testimonial that builds your brand.

Insurance white papers abound. Some recent insurance-related white papers include topics like "Streamlining Claims Processes," "Customer Management Solutions for Health Insurers," and "New Business Excellence for P&C Commercial Lines."

To non-insurance geeks, these topics sound pretty dull. Okay, to we insurance geeks, they still sound kind of dull. That's why, if you're considering a white paper to promote your business or technology, finding a writer with knowledge of the insurance industry and enthusiasm for the project is time consuming. I can help.

Feel free to contact me at via my website at for more information.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Professional insurance proofreading

Most of us believe we spell, write and communicate better than we do. If you're relying on your spellcheck capabilities to proofread your article, or assuming that your administrative help will catch your errors, you may be sadly mistaken.

When I was the Vice-President of the Arizona chapter of Public Risk Manager's Association, the President wrote the newsletter. This woman, who we held in high esteem, had been the Attorney General for the State of Arizona and was a consummate professional. She sent out the quarterly newsletter and, as I was reading it, I was horrified to find "public" spelled without the "l."

I immediately called to warn her. There was a long silence on the phone and she said seriously, "I'm blaming you!"

This incident points to the unreliability of spell check, but wait, there's more! Grammar checks don't pick up all grammar mistakes, syntax errors, poor paragraph placement, unclear sentences or the many problems plaguing business writing.

Today's technology offers fast solutions. Utilizing e-mail, for a small fee, a proofreader will either check your work for errors, or, for a little more, edit your documents for greater clarity. Not many proofreaders know the difference between a retention and a deductible, so it pays to hire one with insurance knowledge.

Important decisions, like whether to hire you again or take critical business action, are often made based on our written presentations, so clarity is critical. When you're writing to a sophisticated audience such as insurance industry executives, why risk alienating your audience with errors or confusion?

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

A day at the capitol

I spent yesterday at our state capitol doing some promotion on behalf of a local client. It's early in the session and committees are still being formed, caucuses aligning and lobbyists are making their rounds.

I accompanied a friend of mine who is a lobbyist, and what struck me about my visit was how easy it was for her to open doors for me. Left to my own devices, I knew only a few legislators and it would have taken me days to accomplish what she helped me to do in just a few hours. In fact, without her, I clearly would not have received all the green lights I received nor even thought to ask for some of the favors that were granted on behalf of the client I was promoting.

Much of life is like that. Left to our own devices, we can do an adequate job, but with expert help, the time it takes to complete the task, and the results we achieve, often soar.

This is often true when we sit down to craft policy, advertising, procedures or any of the myriad writing tasks we encounter in our businesses. This is where a copywriter can help. We save you time, money and often, a great deal of frustration.

Rather than struggling with your next writing project, why not hire a copywriter and channel that valuable time and energy toward more strategic organizational goals?

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

A pitch letter

A "pitch" letter is a letter designed to bring in business by calling prospective customers to action. Direct mail, properly designed, works. Here is a recent agency pitch letter designed for an independent agent.

If you are happy with your current insurance agent and you are certain you are adequately protected against adverse events, read no further. But perhaps you haven’t heard from your insurance agent in a few years. Maybe that claim you filed turned into a fiasco. Perhaps your business has grown and your loss history has spiraled or you’re not sure your insurance coverage is adequate. If so, now is a good time to consider other options.

I am a professional insurance agent located in ------ and serving the ------- area. I am an independent agent, which means I work for you. I can offer you a variety of options from various carriers that offer coverage tailored to your needs, not just a “one size fits all” policy.

I specialize in small-to-mid-sized businesses and in personal insurance and would be happy to assist you now or as your policies near renewal. I have [years] of insurance experience and represent only the strongest insurance companies. I’ll make sure your coverage is tailored to you.

If you’re tired of mailing your premium check with no personal oversight as your family or business grows and changes, contact me soon! I look forward to developing a personal relationship with you and your family.

Friday, January 5, 2007

Is it working?

You've budgeted, planned, researched, created, stuffed, mailed, paid and your marketing materials are out the door. This is where the rubber meets the road. Are your efforts working?

There are a variety of ways to measure advertising success. A simple spreadsheet can track results. To track results, however, means that every member of your organization must determine what generated the respondents' inquiries.

There are various ways to track results. Suppose you sent 300 direct-mail pieces. From this piece, you generated 21 leads and 11 sales. Divide the cost of the advertising vehicle by the number of leads it generates to determine the cost per lead. To determine a cost per sale, divide the cost of the ad by the number of sales the ad generates.

Because an ad campaign isn't particularly successful, don't automatically discard it. A direct-mail piece may need tweaking, you may need to adjust your target market, or the timing of the campaign, perhaps right before a holiday, may be flawed.

There are essentially two types of advertising campaigns, "brand-building" or lead generation. Brand building increases public awareness and impression of your company and generally takes longer and more repeated efforts (usually from three to five) to accomplish. If you sent out press releases, these may not generate many leads but build your "brand," your visibility in your community. Tailor your expectations to the vehicles you used.

It is critical to track responses to your advertising efforts because both your time and budget are finite.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Roll out your marketing plan

Have you ever noticed how suddenly, when it was only April, it's September? Time vanishes without clear goals and time lines. The same is true in advertising.

Once you have developed your marketing vehicles, whether brochures, press releases, radio ads or brochures, a time line for release is critical. Moving too slowly means your message is stale and wastes money. Moving too quickly means you aren't prepared to handle incoming inquiries.

Working with your copywriter, determine her time frame for completion of your project. Then, develop your time line for distribution. Set realistic goals, but strive to hit them to keep the momentum going.

For example, you've decided to develop a brochure. Your copywriter, after factoring in work with graphics and printing, estimates six weeks to completion. Determine the date when the brochure, finished, will hit your desk. Because you've already identified your target markets, you're ready to schedule the dates for organizing the mailing, sending, then following up where necessary.

Display ads, of course, must be timed to allow inclusion in upcoming editions. For example, perhaps you are a managing general agent placing a display ad in Rough Notes. Rough Notes requires about 30 days' lead time for its next monthly edition. Developing an ad, especially one with color, should be started at least 60 days before the magazine's deadline to ensure placement.

Most copywriters charge extra for "rush" jobs. I thrive on a deadline, so me, not so much.

In advertising as in life, timing is critical. Before rolling out your new advertising campaign, determine timing to ensure success.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Methods to hit your target markets

You've identified your target markets, so now it's time to decide how you will penetrate these markets. Budget constraints will play a role, of course, because some advertising vehicles are more costly than others, so consider your budget before you meet with your copywriter.

In the insurance industry, there are many ways to reach your customer base. For example, for an agent, penetrating the local community may best be done direct mailings. These are relatively inexpensive to develop and while mailing costs may add up, it is still a relatively inexpensive way to advertise. Direct mail can be used to target existing customers, new home buyers, new business start-ups or a myriad of target customers.

Targeting the Hispanic market may be done in several ways. Developing a web page for Spanish-speaking potential customers may pay big dividends and is not terribly expensive. (One caveat, of course, is that someone in your organization must speak Spanish fluently to avoid potential errors and omissions claims due to language barriers.)

Adjusting firms may develop ads for trade journals such as Claims Magazine. Direct mail also helps adjusting firms, but again, letters without follow-up phone calls rarely yield results in the business world.

Brochures, professionally designed, can be placed on your website for download, mailed or distributed at networking opportunities. A professionally designed brochure speaks volumes about your organization.

Radio and television advertising, while expensive, may be a great vehicle for your organization. If you're considering radio or television ads in small markets, don't rely on the station's copywriters to develop your copy. Some are good; some, in smaller markets especially, are terrible. Nothing turns off prospective buyers more than misspellings, punctuation and grammatical errors and advertising that seems insincere.

Don't forget the power of the press release, discussed in an earlier entry. Press releases are a very inexpensive way to get your message across and work well as part of your campaign when you're rolling out a new program; you've won an award or been appointed to a board; have hired new staff; expanded your operations or taken on new carriers.

Advertising doesn't have to cost a great deal to be effective. However, any money you spend should reap big rewards, so it pays to develop first-rate copy that will get your message out to an audience that is bombarded with messages just like yours.

Define target markets

In Friday's post we set some marketing objectives. Today, we're going to define our target markets. A target market is a specific demographic targeted by your advertising and marketing efforts. For example, one of your objectives in the new year may be antique dealers we spoke about on Friday. Your target market may be simple, such as "all antique dealers within a 50-mile radius." It may be more specific, however, defining key demographics such as age, sex, occupation, type of business, revenues, or other key specifics of the market segment.

If you're pushing a workers' compensation program that is accepting auto dealers, the defined target market may be "all new and used auto dealers with over five employees within these zip codes."

If you're targeting Hispanic business contractors, your target market may be all business members of a local Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

If you're an adjusting firm that wants to handle claims for managing general agents (MGAs) writing professional errors and omissions coverages, your target market may be found in various trade journals and on the Internet.

Be specific in your target market before you determine the vehicle you will use to get your message to that market. For example:
  • We will target auto dealers with over 25 employees
  • We will target MGAs who write business in the states of . . .
  • We will target Hispanic contractors who work in masonry and fencing
  • We will target mall antique dealers (those who rent space to other antique dealers)

Once you have defined your target marketing, you can then determine the best way to hit that target. Tomorrow, we'll move into the next phase of your marketing plan to discuss the best vehicles to reach your target market.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Marketing budget

How much can you spend? Your budget should be developed early in conjunction with your copywriter, because whatever the size of your budget, you must focus on the maximum use of the funds available.

A meeting with your copywriter to estimate costs and to evaluate your expectations is critical early in the planning stages of your project.

Perhaps a brochure is the best vehicle to spread your message, but the cost of a color brochure may be out of reach. A black-and-white brochure may not appeal to your sophisticated clientele, so it might pay to rethink your choice of vehicle and use a "pitch letter," a direct-mail piece that is professional and targeted to your upscale clientele.

Budgets in advertising are important because good advertising is rarely inexpensive when one considers all costs involved.

Simple advertising often pays big dividends, however, so if your budget is small, don't despair. A good copywriter can still help you spread your message to your target audience.