An Insurance Agent’s Marketing Know-How:

BRANDING vs. CALL TO ACTION ADS…what’s what and why you want both.

Have you ever asked a prospective client whether, if all things were equal, they would prefer to work with a company they recognized or a company they’ve never heard of before? Most would say the company they recognized. Why? Because recognition is credibility.

I have heard many agents say, “I’ve run traditional ads, and they didn’t work.” This is usually an oversimplification. Any time hundreds or thousands of people see your name or your brand, the advertising medium has worked. The perception that the ad hasn’t worked more likely means that it hasn’t produced the results the agent expected.

When it comes to advertising, there are two types of approaches: ads that build a brand and ads that drive action. Many of us have made the classic mistake of running a branding ad and expecting results on par with a call-to-action ad, or vice versa. The key to advertising success is to find the balance between the two.

Branding ads

Branding is the foundation to any successful marketing campaign, and branding ads are designed to get your name or your brand in the public eye and build recognition. A branding ad should target your ideal prospect in your local market and be relatively inexpensive so that it can be run (and thus seen) multiple times.

As an example, my branding ads usually consist of my firm’s name, contact information, and a brief one or two-liner such as, “Voted best financial planner five years in a row by XYZ local newspaper.” This builds my image, presents my unique selling proposition, and positions me in the prospect’s mind as someone with whom they should do business. 

Sounds easy, right? Well, there’s a catch. Rarely do these ads produce immediate, tangible results in the form of prospects calling or coming to your office. Instead, these ads produce intangible results by building brand awareness, and are best used to complement or enhance other marketing efforts that your firm may have in place.

Call-to-action ads

On the other hand, call-to-action ads are designed to drive your prospects to action and to produce some type of immediate, measurable result. These ads typically present a life situation or general problem, and provide your services as an aid or solution. They often involve an offer to attend an event or meeting, or a request to receive more information about a product or service. All of these approaches require your prospects to take some kind of action and identify themselves as having an interest or need in what you are offering. Call-to-action ads should accomplish two objectives:

Getting a prospective client to attend an event or meeting and ultimately become a client.

Building a database of prospective clients who have expressed interest in your products or services and to whom you can market in the future.

Granted, not all of the respondents to your call-to-action ads will become clients — but some of them will.
One of the most important things to remember when adding both branding and call-to-action ads to your marketing arsenal is to use them both in equal amounts. You don’t want to waste money on call-to-action ads if your brand hasn’t been established. You also don’t want to put out more branding ads than necessary; even though your firm may be top-of-mind, there won’t be any action to which a prospective client can react. By using an equal amount of both types of ads, you will achieve your goals of creating brand awareness and potentially motivating a prospect to become a client. And this time, you — not the other well-recognized agency — will emerge the winner. 

J.R. Thacker is the president of Center Street Securities and a cofounder and founding board member of Producer’s Equity Group.

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