by Brian Lindamood, Manta Content Director
Networking with other business owners used to be straightforward: You could join fraternal clubs, trade or social groups, get involved in community causes or local events, and build lasting relationships with others in your community. When a potential client needed to discuss their coverage needs, they already had your number.
While these connections are still important, they are no longer enough. Today, “networking” for insurance brokers just as often means digital networking, and it starts with a robust presence on search engines and social media platforms.
Don’t be intimidated. Many of these tactics are new — and sometimes it seems that they’re constantly changing — but it’s not hard to get started. By following these tips, you can build your digital network and learn how to connect with other business owners online.
Make Sure Clients Can Find You With Local Search
Imagine, 10 or 15 years ago, a business owner saying they didn’t have time to list their telephone number in the phone book. Crazy, right? They’d certainly have plenty of time on their hands when their phone stopped ringing. Yet that’s the attitude many now have about online listings.
A recent Manta poll found that 48% of small business owners are not interested in boosting their business’ visibility on Google, with nearly half saying they don’t have the time or money to devote to search engine listings.
If you don’t have a website, you might think you don’t need to worry about search engines. You just want phone calls. But the solution is the same: Many phone calls start with an internet search to find a number, either with a smartphone or desktop computer.
Simply put, search engines like Google are how clients find you—your website, your business address, or your phone number. If you don’t spend the small amount of time it takes to claim and update your online listings, you can expect your phone to stop ringing eventually.
Fortunately, it’s easy to fix. The most important first step is to search for and claim your Google My Business listing. If you don’t have a Google listing for your business, you can create a new one. Once you’ve claimed your listing, you should correct any errors, add important information like your business hours and a description of your business, and, if you have a storefront, add photos of your location.
Best of all, once updated your business listing info will be populated throughout Google’s many platforms: Google search, Google’s local listings, smartphone searches and Google Maps. It’s the best way to ensure that potential clients in your community can find you whenever they’re searching for a nearby insurance broker.
Connect With Business Owners On Social Media
The benefits of social media may be clear for consumer-oriented businesses. You expect to see restaurants and retailers on Facebook and Instagram. The opportunity for business-to-business service providers like insurance brokers may be less obvious, but social media can be an effective way to meet new clients.
Starting with LinkedIn will typically yield the most success. The professional-oriented network is a great place to promote your expertise and connect with other business owners.
When you create a LinkedIn profile, use relevant keywords like “disability insurance,” “ancillary benefits” and “group life insurance” to describe your skills and experience. This will help local decision-makers find you when they’re searching for the services you provide.
You can search for and connect with your current clients, friends and associates, or import contacts from your address book. Once connected, you’ll be able to see their connections—friends of friends and your clients’ associates. Ask them for an introduction! This is one of the easiest ways to get a referral directly from a current client to another business owner.
Finally, promote your expertise on LinkedIn by posting links to articles, commenting on industry trends, or writing your own posts with your advice and observations on insurance-related issues. This is a great opportunity to demonstrate your expertise, share advice with current connections and get the attention of new clients.
Digital marketing tactics like Google listings and LinkedIn profiles may be new, but the goal of marketing remains the same: Like the networking you’ve always done face-to-face in your community, digital networking allows you to connect with other business owners, demonstrate your expertise and get found by potential new clients.
Bio Brian Lindamood is director of content for Manta, one of the largest online resources dedicated to small business. Manta educates, coaches and empowers small business owners to succeed on their own terms by helping them compete, connect with customers, and grow their businesses. You can reach him on Twitter at @BrianLindamood.
by Michael Cohen