Whether you’re forced into going independent, fed up with the constraints of a conglomerate, or dream of greater flexibility, it’s never a bad idea to consider running an independent insurance agency.

The road to independence can feel intimidating, especially if you’ve only worked for a big insurance company. Independent agents are responsible for their own website, marketing, sales initiatives, and more. But truthfully, local business owners have an advantage over large insurance conglomerates when it comes to local marketing. 

Did you know Google Search results favor local business owners with a physical, brick-and-mortar presence over online-only businesses? Long gone are the days when customers stroll down Main Street to discuss a new policy with their local insurance agent—now they use their smartphone to search Google for local agencies like yours. And consumers aren’t relying on word-of-mouth referrals as much as they used to. Why would they when there are thousands of reviews they can consult online that tell them about the reputation of your business? 

Google considers reviews and a variety of other dynamic factors when ranking brick-and-mortar businesses. Here’s how you can leverage your online presence to build a top-tier (and highly ranked) independent insurance agency. 

1. Get Started with Google My Business

In the same way business owners used to spruce up their storefronts to appeal to passersby, today you have to optimize your Google My Business (GMB) profile to catch the clicks and confidence of digital window shoppers. When potential customers type “insurance agents near me” into the search bar, Google returns a list of options. Some are paid ads, which consumers often skip over, and then a list of trusted local businesses that have earned Google Reviews. Your customers will see your business pinpointed on a map of the local region, most likely amongst your competitors. 

But how do you make sure your business is at the very top of this lucrative list so you can be the agent who helps them find an insurance policy? The answer is simple—optimize your Google My Business listing. 

The first step toward an all-star Google My Business listing is to enter consistent and updated contact information for your insurance business. An incomplete listing makes it challenging for search engines to pair your business with incoming local searches and can also make customers confused about how to reach you. Here are the most important elements of a powerhouse listing:

  • Complete business information: Fill out your profile with your accurate business name, contact info, a brief description of your purpose, and hours of operation. There’s nothing worse than sending an enthusiastic customer to your offices when they are closed for the day. 

Make sure you cross every T and dot every I when you enter your business address, and make sure it’s consistent everywhere you post it online. If your website spells out “123 Main Street,” make sure your Google My Business listing follows the exact same pattern. Abbreviating to “123 Main St.,” may seem like an innocuous difference, but it can negatively impact your search visibility. 

  • Verify your locations: Before Google will send sought-after customer views to your Google My Business listing, you must verify your listing. Follow Google’s instructions carefully so that customers know your listing is legit. You may even discover that there are outdated listings that appear at the same address as your current location. You can work with Google to resolve this mistake.
  • Populate your profile with high-res images: Google My Business listings that display high-resolution images receive 35% more clicks than those with a blank gallery. Showcase photos of your storefront, the inside of your office, and warm headshots of you and your staff.

2. Optimize Online Interactions

If you want to use a website to help promote your agency, start with Google’s free website builder. It uses the information from your Google My Business profile to create a beautiful website you can promote anywhere. Although a website isn’t essential to an effective online presence, it can certainly help you stand out from the competition.

There are plenty of tools out there to help you build a beautiful website, but don’t let the fear of getting it perfect stop you from getting started. The most important aspect of your website is the added functionality it should provide your potential customers.

Use your website and Google My Business listing to make sure it’s easy for customers to reach out with questions or set an appointment. 

While some businesses rely exclusively on phone calls or emails, those that focus on convenience are leading the way. Remember, customers can browse your website on their smartphone during their lunch break or while riding the train home from work. They’re not always in a place quiet enough for a phone call. 

You should implement tools that enhance the customer experience. It doesn’t matter how beautiful your website is if a customer can’t figure out how to contact you. Using a platform like Webchat, you can receive inquiries via your website and reply immediately via text message. 

Adding convenient ways to connect with customers increases the likelihood they’ll reach out for an appointment. And as a result, the chances of growing your book of business increase dramatically.

3. Stand Out with an Outstanding Customer Experience

As an independent insurance agent, you’re able to offer an unparalleled customer experience. Stringent corporate practices constrain big insurance companies. But, you have the freedom to design an authentic experience that keeps customers coming back as they move through the different stages of their life—each with unique insurance policy considerations.

Instead of offering quotes from a single insurance company, as an independent agent, you’re able to quote rates from a variety of sources to offer the best possible value. Customers will come to you for unbiased advice and your ability to tailor more personalized packages.  

Just like convenient communication technology strengthens customer relationships, using the right software to manage your business helps bolster your customer experience. Platforms like Hawksoft or Applied Innovation help your entire team stay connected by collecting client information into a convenient, cloud-based dashboard. Easily answer customer questions and make necessary policy changes from anywhere without the hassle of paper files or unwieldy legacy software. 

Providing an excellent customer experience forges not only lasting relationships but helps build your reputation for bringing in new business. How do you communicate the value of your offering to potential customers? By stockpiling a cache of excellent, five-star testimonials.

Google catapults business with GMB profiles overflowing with positive reviews to the very top of search returns. This makes your customer testimonials one of the most important elements of a powerhouse Google My Business listing. In fact, they’re so important that reviews account for 40% of ranking factors

Google offers an exclusive review link you can distribute to your customer base to compile testimonials. You can include this link on your website, include it in your email signature or email it to customers after they visit your office. Podium Reviews helps make the process even easier, by automating many of the steps for you and your team. With a solid strategy in place for collecting reviews, your Google My Business profile will skyrocket to the top of your local search returns. 

An effective Google My Business Listing, responsive website communication, and an A-Plus customer experience will quickly give you a leg up on large online-only insurance corporations. With these three easy steps, you can envision a more clear path towards agency independence.

Jeffrey Child
Jeffrey Child Director of Financial Services Named Accounts

Jeffrey Child is an insurance and tax professional at Podium, the leading messaging platform that connects financial service businesses with their members and prospects.

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