E-Commerce with an emphasis on Social Technologies
Simple question: Who developed and maintains your Web site? Was/Is it YOU (or your marketing dept) or was/is it an IT geek a couple floors, stairs and halls away? (Btw, I can say geek because I am one, or at least half-one.) So You or IT?
I recently saw a billboard in Tampa. It said in big block letters, “Does your Web site suck?”
How you can tell if your Web site sucks?
An obvious related question: Whoever did your site, how much experience did they have with high-performance Web sites before they started out? Really – experience with sites like the one you wanted. Did they do 1? 2? maybe 3? Or did they do 10s and 100s, know all the in’s and out’s, can do things fast, hit the mark (or at least 80-90%) right out of the gate, etc.?
Analogy: If you were building a national account sales team where your company would live and die by the results it generated, would you hire a guy fresh out of HS who sold shoes at JC Penney parttime, or would you hire an industry veteran that is currently doing the SAME THING for someone else? Do you see the analogy? Come on, now. You get what you pay for.
Now more than ever, it’s critical to hit the mark and position yourself and your operation for the next wave of Internet marketing. Call an industry veteran and get your site fixed – content management, CSS, Blog, RSS, viral, personal, channel-of-choice, nimble, sticky, conversions. Shouldn’t take more than three to five months. Should be easy to maintain and update.
Please comment below, tweet about it, blog it, start a thread on Linkedin, or in some way join the conversation. Lurking is Lame.
Next post – PIMA Annual Meeting. Starts tonight.
I had the privilege of speaking with two executives with insurance agencies in New England at the 2009 Agents Council on Technology sponsored by the Big “I”, the IIABA – Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America. This event was more focused on the Property and Casualty side of insurance, so it was interesting to hear similar struggles as compared to Life and Health. Important to note, however, that ACT, under the leadership of Jeff Yates, is succeeding in bringing more and more Web-based technologies and standards to the agency-carrier environment. So kudo’s to Jeff and the leadership team of agent and carrier representatives, as well as the guidance offered by The van Aartrijk Group.
Steve Aronson runs Aronson Insurance, a P&C agency in the Boston area and Mike Foy, Foy Insurance, a multi-location operation dealing in personal lines in NH and Maine, my old stomping ground. After spending some time talking with Steve and Mike throughout the conference, they seemed to have some savvy ideas on leveraging the Web to stay competitive and drive business opportunity.
Listen in to hear a few astute remarks about leveraging the social Web within the current sales and marketing environment.
Steve: “Gen X and Gen Y – best way to reach them is the Web…it’s about losing opportunities…and gaining opportunities…use of the Yellow Pages is DEAD!”
Mike: Interesting analogy – “…Chamber of Commerce in the past, now can generate leads over the computer – using the same concepts….”
Steve: “…number of Web hits is up 10-fold year over year…but don’t want to sell on price…looking to develop relationships… Blogs…dozens and dozens see the response…spread our reputation…”
Mike: “blogs…use in situations like an ice storm…hurricanes… become a trusted advisor…”
Raymond Richard is a guy that really gets it. And I say that even though he builds most of his Web insurance technology in-house. So while he may not have best-in-class systems, he has the right concepts in focus.
Listen in to Raymond’s perspectives on some of the essential aspects of an Agency’s Web presence – and what’s at stake if you miss the boat.
“Without technology now you just can’t keep up.”
“Right up there with compensation… a close second… the ease of doing business…even though I [agent] don’t make as much money…able to leverage technology to make more in the long run.”
“Novice…not computer literate…need to find what they want…absorb at different rates…user-friendly…”
Focus points: “compensation, products, service, commitment… Commitments means resources that you deploy…”
“Average age of the agent is 55 years old. The trend is moving down. We are getting new blood into the market..technology-savvy, don’t want paper, direct deposit….”
“…constantly dynamic, not a static environment, have to be investing in your future, takes someone you can partner with that can steer you in the right direction, new and cutting edge technologies…platforms that are sustainable, that work…”
What’s at stake? “It’s huge. You have to have a blueprint. Go about it intelligently. You get one chance…if you fail, that’s what people remember you by.”
Thanks, Raymond. As always, great talking with you.
Visitors to your office? At a networking event? How do you treat clients and prospects in person? Do you run up to them, stop 1-foot from their face, and start telling them ALL about your services, your products, your latest media-mention, your senior management, your stock price, blah-ba-blah-ba-BLAH! I hope not – because if you do people probably hate you! :-( No! You probably approach them warmly and with respect, a smile on your face, a greeting, “Hi! My name is … Nice to meet you. I’m so glad you’re here. What brings you here? ….” And then they talk for a while, don’t they? Don’t you listen, ask clarifying questions, make sure they are in the right place at the right time, and make sure they feel safe and secure and can thus share information freely? Aren’t these, like, fundamentals of business etiquette? If the answer is “Yes.”…
Then why don’t Web sites, in general, do similar things? A Welcome video greeting the visitor (with a cookie so it doesn’t come up for repeat visitors), clear calls-to-action or sign-posts or an interactive tool that asks a question like “Why are you here?” and then suggests a destination – “You’ll find more information on ___ in our ___ section.” How about a tool that says, “Did you find what you were looking for?” How about an interactive chat tool with a REAL PERSON that pops up and says “Hi! My name is … I work for ____. I might be able to save you some time. What brings you here? Here if you need me…”
I might be out in left field on this, but it just seems to me that the next generation of Web sites will be more like Google – a simple landing page, a brand image, a few links, but the main thing is the MAIN THING on the page. You know your audience, right? You know why they are there? So deliver what they are looking for – quickly, simply, and easily. And oh btw, along the way, you will ENGAGE them and isn’t that the point? If you are serving too many audiences for that, then break up the Web site into more focused sub-domains or micro-sites. If you don’t want to do that because it takes too long to develop a new site, or because it’s too hard to manage multiple Web sites, well, CONTACT ME BECAUSE IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE THAT WAY if you have the right architecture in place.
What do you think? Am I out in left field on this? Please comment. Tweet this (@mikewise07). Link to your own blog and write your take. Let’s kick it around a bit.
Oh yeah, I’m taking a poll in Linkedin: http://polls.linkedin.com/p/23227/fxkrc
Based on your experience (or perhaps ask someone in your office), estimate an appropriate PER-PIECE savings in converting from a paper process to an e-process for a form with A LOT OF DATA (e.g. an insurance enrollment form, an agent contracting form, etc… obviously non-scientific, just looking for a data-point…) (See this story for background.)
For those of you new to Twitter, here are a few useful links:
Cool! Found my blog listed on an insurance industry site – Click “Blogs” on the left… Sweet! Got a few click-throughs.
My daughter is on a billboard in Cleveland!
Kelle Wise, middle, took the picture, too.
Very interesting conference. A few datapoints:
One of the concepts that seem to come up often is interactive communications. So agents interacting with customers, insureds interacting with insurance companies, agents interacting with companies, associations, each other, etc. The concept has implications for marketing, operations, certainly sales and referrals, financials, CRM, and people. Agents and agencies need to get on board with this – URGENT-, but do they have the technical expertise to do these things? In my opinion, IIABA and the ACT 2.0 Work Group could really serve the industry by hosting a (recorded) series of Webinars on how to leverage the Web to
Perhaps now more than ever is the time to do this?
I was impressed with the passion for these things within the ACT Group. Btw, if you’re an agent out there, and you want to learn more about technology, this would be a great group to get involved in. It seems to be geared to mostly P&C lines, but perhaps the L&H agents can add value as well. Very bright people with a lot of passion for keeping the business healthy.
Heard… “So Mike… taking pictures? Like being on a safari!” “Huh” “Ya..taking pictures of insurance people in their native habitat!!!”
See more pictures here.
Also might post a podcast shortly called “U Snooze U Lose – Why agents need to engage in social media.”