6 Reasons to Keep Marketing Your Business During The Covid-19 Crisis

According to the US Chamber of Commerce, 43% of business owners believe they have less than 6 months until they have to shut down permanently and approximately 1 in 4 businesses have temporarily shut down due to this crisis we are experiencing. With all this turbulence we’re facing, as business owners and marketers we need to keep focused on riding out this storm. While we are getting our footing trying to figure out how to handle these rough seas, one expense that often gets cut out is the marketing budget. I totally understand, but without marketing, your business might not survive. I know – you have other expenses you need to pay in order to keep your head above water but, when you’re making these decisions about what to cut back on and what to spend money on, consider the following reasons why you should continue marketing:

1. Your market changes constantly. For whatever reason, some of your customers will disappear. If you sell B2C, some of your customers will move out of the area and new folks will move in. If you sell B2B, some of those businesses will close but new businesses will open. The people or businesses who are no longer available will not be a viable market for you any longer and the new residents and businesses will have no idea who to buy from. If you stop your marketing, you may not be able to replace those folks who moved away, retired or closed and you will miss out on the new opportunities.

2. Sometimes your customers and prospects have short memories. I can’t tell you how many times I received a call from someone who thinks they bought from me previously but actually didn’t. The prospect forgot who they bought from so the marketing money spent by the previous supplier to attract their now former customer has been squandered. That’s no great shock, though. As business people, we are overwhelmed by all the “work” at work. Then, when you add in all the marketing messages we are pounded by every day, it’s no wonder why folks get confused and space out on who sold them what. Keep in touch with your customers and they’ll think of you the next time they need to buy something.

3. Your competitors are still marketing. If you pare down your marketing, your customers may think you shut down for good. If they no longer to hear from you, they will move on and buy from someone else. Your competitors who have maintained their marketing will scoop up the customers you lost. Staying in touch with your customers is critical now more than ever.

4. Some of your competitors will quit marketing. I know what your thinking – didn’t I just tell you that your competitors are still marketing? Yes, some are maintaining their marketing, however, some are not. Those customers will be up for grabs. Your marketing, and their lack of marketing, is to your advantage. As your competitors reduce their presence, your marketing can cut through the rugby scrum of marketing messages and attract more attention.

5. Your marketing will continue to build your brand. When you decrease your marketing, all the time, effort and money you put into it will have less value and the branding momentum you created will eventually come to a stop. The confidence and trust you worked so hard to build with your target market and customer base will weaken. Marketing will continue building your brand so when the economy rebounds, you will not have to invest as much time and money and effort to rebuilding or maintaining your brand as those who cut their marketing budget.

6. Some of your competitors will shut their doors which leaves more of the market available to you. Did you see the movie “Forrest Gump”? During the hurricane, his boat, the “Jenny”, was out at sea and survived while the other shrimp boats were destroyed. This left Forrest and Lieutenant Dan the entire market after the storm had passed. The current storm we are experiencing will eventually end and, if you maintain your marketing efforts, your business stands a better chance of surviving and then thriving when things get back to normal because there may be fewer competitors.

Sluggish Sales? Try Marketing with Promotional Products.

State and local governments are forcing businesses to shut down due to COVID-19 virus and many businesses are feeling the pinch. Business owners and marketers are cutting budgets and trimming expenses. After being in the marketing and advertising business for 30 years, one thing I have learned is that when there’s an economic downturn, one of the first budgets to get the axe is marketing. While this may be a necessity, I’d like to offer an idea to you. Whatever marketing money you have available, put some of it to promotional products. They deliver an amazing return on marketing investment by allowing you to leverage your money and time.

Over the years, I’ve had many conversations with new customers and prospects about promotional products. If I could boil down these conversations, my customer or prospect wants to know 3 things:

  1. Why should I buy promotional products?
  2. Which promotional products should I buy?
  3. How can I use them effectively?

Promotional products are one of the oldest marketing mediums dating back to the days of George Washington and they are still a viable marketing medium today. Why have they lasted this long? The answer is simple: people love receiving promotional products and they use them in their day to day lives. Promotional products are the only marketing medium that recipients will say “thank you” as they repeatedly see your marketing message. What’s even better is that once that item is distributed to your target market, the message is seen over and over again without interruption and without any additional cost or effort on your part. After you distribute that imprinted mug, calendar, lip balm, hand sanitizer, magnet or whatever, your job is done. That item will do its job showing your marketing message without fail and you won’t have to keep paying for each marketing impression. Additionally, it’s impossible to “unsubscribe” the message on a pen, it’s impossible to click “skip ad” on the message on a chip clip or “mute” the message on an imprinted shirt. Talk about efficient marketing!

There are approximately 800,000 promotional products available but choosing the right promo item for your business comes down to just 2 criteria:

  1. Your target market.
  2. Your distribution method.

Very often, customers get hung up on wanting the “latest and hottest” item. In my experience, this isn’t important. Choosing an item that your target market will like, enjoy and use is significant. This is why I advise my customers to choose items that are found on the recipient’s person, in their kitchen or in their workspace. Do you wear shirts or caps with logos on them? Do you keep a lip balm in your purse or pocket? Do you have magnets on your fridge or mugs in your cupboard? What about custom printed sticky notes and notepads – do you see them in your workspace? Promotional products are everywhere and distributing useful items that recipients will keep with them, use in their kitchen or use in their workspace will increase the chances that your message is seen repeatedly.

Next, you could have the latest and hottest promo item every created but if you don’t have a plan to distribute it, you’ve squandered your money. On the flip-side, you could distribute the most boring promotional product and it will do its job because it’s reaching your target market. There are 3 ways to distribute promotional products:

  1. You can mail them out.
  2. You can hand them out.
  3. You can leave them out.

If you go to your mailbox today and find that you received a box, would you open it? YES, of course, you would! Lumpy mail almost always gets opened. Mailing or shipping promotional products is the most expense form of distribution but you are almost 100% guaranteed that your message will be received.

Taking an active role in handing out your items is effective, as well. If you order imprinted pens, you could hand them to servers at restaurants or cashiers in retail businesses. Bring those pens wherever you go and hand them to whomever will take one. It’s really that easy.

Lastly, you can leave them out for recipients to take. The post office I frequent has a cup on the counter filled with pens. Also, many of my customers order calendars that they keep on the counters at their place of business and their customers take them as they come and go.

Promotional products are the only marketing medium that will continue to deliver your marketing message long after you pay for them and this can help you get through these tough times. Choose items that your target market likes and uses and have a plan to distribute them. The recipients will love receiving the free stuff and your message will be seen so many times that your cost per impression will become almost zero.

Insurance Card Holder Pricing Increase

807_04_Black_HRCustom printed vinyl insurance card holders are an inexpensive and effective marketing tool. They are, by far, our most popular category in our line. The reason is simple, they provide insureds a convenient way to keep their auto insurance card and registration organized and available quickly in the event of an accident or if they get pulled over by a law officer.

When writing an auto policy, simply insert the insurance card into the insurance card holder and hand it to your insured and tell them to put it in their glove box. Your agency name and contact info will be seen by your insured every time they go to the glove box to change out the insurance card.

Our pricing on these popular items is among the lowest in the country and we want to keep it that way. That said, after 4 years, our supplier is raising the pricing just a few pennies on April 1, 2015. If you’d like to take a look at our selection of insurance card holders, please click insurance card holder options

The most popular insurance card holders are the 807, 806, 803L and the 808. We have the 808W available with the “What to do at the scene of an auto accident” imprint. Lastly, the 807-1, 806-1, 803L-1, 808-1 and the 808W-1 are all available with free ground shipping. We do have other styles available: the 805P is a long insurance card holder with a business card pocket and the 803P is an even longer insurance card holder with a business card pocket. Both syles are available with free ground shipping when ordering 1000 units or more. Those items numbers are: 805P-1 and the 803P-1.

Please keep in mind that the products with the “-1” in the style number are IDENTICAL to the same item without that designation. The “-1” designation simply let’s our system know to deduct the shipping from your order. This way you receive the free shipping.

Promoting your insurance agency with promotional products

Did you have a radio ad in your pocket? How about a billboard? Do you have a billboard in your kitchen drawer? Research has shown that the chances are good that some of you have a promotional product in your possession right now. Do you have a logo’d pen nearby? Do you ever wear a shirt, sweater or jacket embroidered with a logo?

A promotional product is physical advertising. Unlike newspaper, radio, TV, internet advertising and other advertising mediums, promotional products are tangible goods that you can touch and see. Sometimes you can hear them and, yes, sometimes you can taste and smell them. They have a surface on them that can be imprinted with your marketing message and given directly to another human being.

What are promotional products? They’re ad specialties, giveaways, incentives and recognition, business gifts and thank you’s…any product that carries a marketing message that is distributed to a customer, prospect and even an employee. Typical promotional products used for marketing an insurance agency are magnets, pens, calendars and insurance card holders.

Promotional products are no longer the best kept secret in marketing. The industry is a $20 billion industry – that’s billion with a “B” –  and it’s one of the fastest growing of the current marketing mediums even though it’s one of the oldest mediums.

Why is the industry growing? The answer lies in the fact that promotional products are targeted and versatile and offer a low cost per impression. Promotional products are cross between a “laser beam” and a “Swiss Army knife” when compared to other marketing mediums.

Promotional products can efficiently target every demographic and budget no matter how small or obscure the market. If you sell insurance to people in rural areas, promotional products can reach them efficiently. Could you imagine how cost inefficient it would be to run ads in traditional media to get business from this small market? For a few bucks, you could send them each a printed jar opener that would communicate your marketing message for years and years.

In addition, just about everyone hates TV and radio ads so they click mute or flip the channel. In fact, people are using On Demand and DVR’s to avoid commercials altogether. Youtube puts a clock in the corner of the ads that counts down how much time you have to spend watching an ad before you can view the content you wanted to see in the first place. Pop-up ads on the internet are just flat-out annoying. As far as billboards, how many of them do you really recall? Newspaper and magazines; they’re in the decline for their usefulness for marketing.

Promotional products offer an extremely low cost per impression because they are used in our day to day lives. Recipients welcome promotional products and they tend to hang on to them or pass them along to others. The items are used over and over again by the recipients which exposes them to your marketing message a countless number of times. When was the last time you used a radio ad? When was the last time you “lost your billboard” and someone else picked it up? Does anyone welcome more TV ads? When was the last time you sat in front of the TV and said “I wish there were more ads”? On the flip-side, you could invest about $200 on a box of pens and distribute them to your customers and they will see your marketing message over and over and over.

So, how do you market your insurance agency with promotional products?

The most important consideration is the distribution plan. You can have the coolest item ever created but if it never leaves your supply closet, you wasted your money. The plan can be very simple – you can mail the items to your customers, you can hand them out at your office when they visit, you can put them in bags and hang them on door knobs. Whatever you choose to do, make sure it gets done otherwise you will not see a return on your marketing investment.

The next decision is the choosing the product and the message. Think about your end goal. Are you looking for new business from new customers or are you looking for more business or referrals from existing customers? By the way, you’ll spend more time, money and effort prospecting for new business from new customers. Also consider the target market itself and the types of items they would find useful. Studies have found that 91% of people have a promotional product in the kitchen, 74% have at least one promotional product in the office and 55% have at least one promotional product in the bedroom. If you’re like most insurance agents, you work with the general public. Since most people have kitchens, most people work and most people go to bed at night, these types of items could be a choice to market your insurance agency.

As far as the marketing message, most promotional products have enough room for your agency name and phone number. Other items have bigger imprint areas which allows for more ad copy. If that’s the case, use that area creatively. Letting people know about other lines of business you write could help you round out the account or get more referrals.

Lastly, choose a quality product. If the imprint wears off easily or the pen stops writing after a few weeks, you wasted your money. The longer the item survives, the longer it will market your agency.

Does your insurance agency have a great logo?

I’d be willing to bet that a lot of insurance agents would say that a great logo needs to be “memorable” and “creative”. While this might be true, having a creative and memorable logo is not an indicator that it will look great when it’s reproduced when printed on an item. A logo that prints well will enhance your agency while a logo that does not print well may hurt your brand.

I started working in printing and promotional products industry in February 1990 and I’ve printed everything from business cards to whoopi cushions to insurance card holders. Most of these items were imprinted with an insurance agency logo. I’ve printed millions of items and I’ve worked with 100’s of logos – some of the logos printed well while others looked terrible.

The characteristics shown below can help you determine if you have a great insurance agency logo. If you don’t have a logo and you’re hiring a designer to create one for you, insist on the following:

  1. The logo needs to be legible at just about any size. This may seem like a simple idea but I’ve seen logos that look great at one size then almost indistinguishable when reduced by as little as 25%.
  2. The logo must first be designed in black and white. When you have something that looks good to you, then you can add the color (or colors) later. There are times when you’ll need to have the logo printed in black or a single color due to cost restrictions. If the logo works in black and white, you’ll have more options on how it’s reproduced later.
  3. If you have a multiple color design, make sure none of the colors touch one another. If the registration is off (i.e.: the alignment of the colors) when the item is printed, it will be very noticeable. Also, touching colors sometimes add to the cost of imprint. Lastly, touching colors makes it difficult to reproduce the logo in one color when necessary.
  4. The logo should be solid colors and not contain any shading or gradients (for example: black that fades into gray). This effect cannot be printed on some items while on others it can make printing cost skyrocket.
  5. The best logos have no fine details or thin lines. They are difficult to reproduce and often get blurry or washed out when the logo is printed small.
  6. Lastly, make sure you acquire the “native vector files”, the PMS colors (ie: Pantone Matching System) of the logo and the names of the fonts used in your logo and the fonts in your logo are “outlined”. Perhaps what I just said is jargon to you, but it’s a language your designer will understand. A good designer should be able to provide these files and information to you. If your designer doesn’t know these terms and cannot provide these files to you, find a new designer. By the way, when you get these files, you most likely will not be able to open them. These files require design software to open them and use them. DON’T DELETE THEM! Simply save them to a drive and email them when requested.

In conclusion, your logo is probably the first thing a prospect sees before they contact you and it’s imperative to make a great first impression. They’ll see your logo on your on all your marketing communications including your website, billboards, printed communications like newspapers, printed collateral like brochures and on promotional items. My advice is to invest some time and money into having a logo designed for your agency that is not only attractive and represents your insurance agency well but also is easily reproduced. It will pay dividends for you over the long haul.

The Elevator Pitch: Sell yourself in less than a minute

Let’s be honest: to the average person, insurance is not very interesting or exciting. Adding insult to injury, I’d be willing to bet that most folks think insurance is a necessary evil and hate paying their premiums. Writing new business in an hypercompetitve marketplace is tough enough but, when folks perceive insurance salespeople as Ned Ryerson from “Groundhog Day”, the task of growing your book is even more challenging.

So, here’s the billion dollar question: how do you go from “I sell insurance” to something that will keep the listener from running away?

I suggest a short, well-designed commercial known as an “elevator pitch.” Imagine getting on an elevator and the person standing next to you asks what you do for a living. You now have less than a minute to spark their interest and hopefully get an opportunity for a future conversation. Wouldn’t it be great to have something planned for such an occasion?

In order to craft the perfect elevator pitch, you first need an intriguing yet vague headline. I suggest something unusual and short. For example, “I have an unusual business in a not so unusual industry” or “If I told you what I did, you won’t believe me” or “I have a niche’ business.” Hitting them with something different like that will create curiosity. If you lead off with “I sell insurance” you run the risk of losing the listener before the conversation even starts.

The next step is to let them know the type of people you want to work with. In one sentence or two, convey to the listener a little bit about your ideal client. Typically, the statement begins with the words “I work with…” Here are some examples: “I work with people who own more than one home” or “I work with people who own homes and businesses in the Wilmington area”. This is your chance to let the listener know what kind of business you’re looking for.

The third step is to give the listener a short example of how you solved a client’s problem. Typically, these statements start off with “A business owner was referred to me looking for ways…” or “I recently helped a client…”. Here’s an example of what a finished statement may sound like: “I recently helped a client who’s financially successful. She purchased a multi-unit dwelling and she needed some options to reduce her liability and protect her other assets.” Be careful, the statement should be no more than 3 sentences otherwise you may sound like you’re selling.

Lastly, you’re going to let them know who you are and that you’re in the insurance business and you need to do it in a way that maintains curiosity. Perhaps it could sound like this: “I’m Bob Smith. I’m in the insurance business. My clients come to me because I have a unique skill in handling complex insurance needs.” The purpose of the statement is to create a distance between you and your competitors by letting the listener know that you specialize.

So here’s what it sounds like when you put the whole thing together:

“I have an unusual business in a not so unusual industry. I work with people who own homes and businesses in the Wilmington area. I recently helped a client who’s financially very successful. She purchased a multi-unit dwelling and she needed some options to reduce her liability and to protect her other assets. I’m Bob Smith. I’m in the insurance business. My clients come to me because I have a unique skill in handling complex insurance needs.”

Finally, here are some ideas to help you create your perfect elevator pitch:

  1. Write several statements for each of the 4 steps. Use them interchangeably depending on the situation. The more ideas you jot down, the more options you’ll have.
  2. When creating the statements, brainstorm about what makes up your perfect client and the problems you’ve solved for them. Saying that you save people money on their insurance will attract price shoppers; saying you work with responsible people may help you insure more responsible people.
  3. Once you have created several statements for each step, practice, practice, practice until you can recite your elevator pitch in your sleep!