Inbound marketing for B2B insurance: How it can grow broker distribution
Insurance is one of the most people centric industries there is. Long standing personal relationships and lots of face-to-face networking have driven business development, literally for centuries. So why should B2B insurance businesses now consider inbound marketing for business development? Can it really compete with the status quo? But first, a more fundamental question, what is inbound marketing and how does it work in a B2B insurance context?
What is inbound marketing and how would a B2B insurance business use it?
The days of insurance marketing meaning branded golf umbrellas are long gone in any modern business with ambitions for growth. In those businesses marketing has become a sophisticated data led function that uses a range of tools to build a pipeline of prospects. In order to define what inbound marketing is, it’s useful to think of it in relation to traditional, or outbound marketing. Outbound marketing is where a business puts its offer in front of potential customers or clients at a time the business chooses. It includes things like sales calls and advertising. Inbound marketing is where the potential customer or client finds the business at a time when they have a need for the kind of products of services the business offers. Inbound revolves around creating website content, such as blogs, that addresses what people are searching for.
Outbound works like an on-off switch
Let’s say you’re a London market insurance business with a new product for drones. Using the traditional outbound marketing approach, you email your existing broker network to tell them all about the new product. You also put out a press release announcing the launch. There is very little immediate interest, which surprises you because you know that commercial use of drones is growing. You surmise that there must be brokers out there who have drone operators as clients. So, you decide to advertise in the trade press and on social media but still not much happens. Eventually, after spending your budget, you stop promoting it and decide that marketing doesn’t work.
With inbound marketing once it’s on it stays on (sort of*)
In a parallel universe another version of you tries the inbound approach. Using the expertise you’ve gained in drones, you write a number of blogs. You give them titles like: “The risks you need to consider if you work with drones”, “10 things every commercial broker needs to know about drones” and “Commercial drone risks and how to insure against them”. You publish them on your website, and spend a bit of time optimising them for the search engines. In addition, you support your content with social media posts. But instead of promoting your product, you promote your blog. The idea is to give your audience something that will be interesting and helpful rather than just a sales message.
Because you have a number of blogs on the subject you keep offering a different angle on the subject. According to HubSpot, 55% of marketers say creating blog content is their top inbound marketing priority. By continually having something to say on the topic, search engines begin to rank you as an authority on it. Over time you begin to appear higher up on the search results page. The real benefit of inbound marketing is that the content is always there, ready for brokers to discover when they need to find out about drones. Inbound also focuses on turning website visitors into known contacts by asking them to subscribe to your newsletter or blog updates, and nurturing them through email, but that’s a story for a different blog.
*Useful, well-written content stays evergreen, delivering leads month after month, year after year. That said, it may need freshening up from time to time.
With outbound marketing, when you stop, the leads stop. If, the day after you stop advertising a broker wins a client that works with drones your marketing investment won’t pick them up. With inbound, your marketing investment is not lost because the content turns up at the moment brokers search for commercial drone insurance. In this way, inbound marketing enables you to deliver the right message, to the right people, at the right time.
Why B2B insurance companies should consider inbound marketing
After 15 years specialising in the insurance sector, we haven’t yet met an MGA or insurer that doesn’t want to grow their distribution. The problem they face is that there are only so many conversations their people can have in a day. Only so many relationships each person can maintain. Only so much of the country they can cover. And only so many people the business can employ. And when people move on, they often take their relationships with them. All this makes organic growth hard to achieve, making acquisitions of teams and businesses the default growth strategy.
Inbound marketing gives B2B insurance businesses the opportunity to grow their distribution digitally. It enables them to efficiently reach and start a conversation with “good fit” brokers all over the country, and indeed, all over the world. What’s more, by establishing that relationship directly – brand to broker – it is more likely to deliver long term value, regardless of which team is handling the business.
Can inbound marketing really compete with face-to-face insurance marketing?
The short answer is it depends on your ambition. If you’re only focused on deal flow this month or next month nothing will deliver faster than your existing relationships. But that approach will only take you to next quarter where the same short-term scramble awaits. If you’re thinking further ahead, about how the business will deliver long term shareholder value, then building an inbound marketing function that continually drives leads towards you is worth serious consideration.
It’s not a matter of which is better, but how together they’re better. With inbound marketing drawing brokers to you that you would likely never have reached, and with your people developing those leads into TOBAs and new revenue, long term organic growth can be delivered, and sustained.
Inbound marketing for B2B insurance isn’t something you switch on overnight and expect immediate results from. However with the right strategy and technology in place you will be able to set and achieve revenue goals, and prove a concrete return on investment. Over time, as you produce more content and follow best practice you will create a natural thought leadership position in the industry which will further amplify the effect of your investment.