Internet Sales Superstar

It should be clear to everyone by now that this Internet thing is not a passing fad. In fact, Internet marketing is not a matter of achieving greater success, but of survival.

The question is no longer “should you be marketing on the Internet?” but rather, “how will you do it?” The problem is, it can be a daunting universe out there if you are late to the online game. Let’s break it down for you here, piece by piece.

The first step is really buying into Internet marketing.  That was No.1 for my own company. In 2010, our monthly, submitted application count averaged 800. In February of this year, we started broadcasting a daily, half-hour Internet talk show and educational videos over the Internet.

The next month, the application count soared to 1,300 and sustained an average monthly application count of 1,100 monthly applications through the end of August. At the end of August, the Internet video year-to-date clicks exceeded 210,000 and 320,000 for website visits. The bottom line: more than $20 million in paid target premium through August of this year,
compared to total paid tar-get premium of $23 million in all of 2010.

Erik Qualman, author of Socialnomics , said, “We don’t have a choice on whether we do social media, the question is how well we do it.”  Just consider these stats gleaned from his book:

• Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber and Britney Spears have more Twitter followers than the entire population of Sweden, Israel, Greece, Chile, North Korea and Australia.

• In February, 37 million watched the Darth Vader Volkswagen ad on YouTube. YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world. Every minute, 24 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube.

• 95 percent, of companies use LinkedIn for recruitment.

Facebook tops Google for weekly traffic in the U.S. One in five divorces is blamed on Facebook. Half of the mobile Internet traffic in the UK is for Facebook. What happens in Vegas stays on Facebook, Twitter, etc. The Ford Explorer launch on Facebook generated more traffic than a Super Bowl ad.  If Facebook were a nation it would be the world’s third largest. Yet Twitter,
Facebook, YouTube and Google are not in China. Babies in Egypt have been named Facebook.

• Groupon reached 1 billion in sales faster than any company in history. Social gamers will buy 6 billion in virtual goods by 2013. Contrast that to moviegoers buying only 2.5 billion in real goods. A third of bloggers post opinions about products and brands. Ninety percent trust peer recommendations.

Only 14 percent trust advertisement. Ninety-three percent of marketers use social media for business. (Think about it: Social media has overtaken pornography as the No.1 activity on the web.) Delve into Internet marketing and you will find similar success.

Internet Distribution

There are four significant Internet silo strategies for video distribution including your website home page, YouTube, Vimeo and social media sites.

1. Your Home Page: Most websites feature media widgets for displaying video, pictures or PowerPoint presentations. If your home page doesn’t have a media widget, you may only need to access the website administration section and turn the media widget on. Some websites will allow you to upgrade your existing website plat-form to accommodate a media widget
for little to no cost.

2. YouTube: No other website platform delivers that audience. (But Facebook is taking a run at them.) The demographic information YouTube pro-vides is priceless: gender, age, audience location as well as clicks per video episode. First-time up loaders to You-Tube will be restricted
to 15 minutes of video play time. However, YouTube awards popular content, measured again in clicks with premier status, so there’s no editing for videos over 15 minutes.

3. Vimeo: It’s for the serious video artisan or professional industrial video producer. The audience isn’t as large as YouTube, but it is a higher-end audience that watches documentaries, short films and personal interest videos on subjects such as money.

4. Social Media: Networking with social media is huge and distributing video universal resource locators (URLs) with a small description of the video content is increasingly showing up the
walls of Face-book, Twitter and LinkedIn. If visitors to your website or social media page like the description, they can simple click on the URL and view your video immediately. Remember that word “immediately.” The path to social media success is he who clicks the least to arrive at a destination. We, personally, use a talk show format in the Business Insurance Zone that uses “edutainment,” a fast-moving conversation style with “verbal volleyball” exchange.

Social Media Websites

Facebook: The most critical component in using Facebook as a marketing tactic is discerning the difference between “transactional” and “relational.” Face-book is relational. Transactional marketing that focuses on sales, company public relations or shameless self-promotion will never receive traction on Facebook.

Corporations that have popular Facebook accounts post employee events such as holiday parties, business sponsored team sports, newsworthy social items of the firm such as weddings and even the birth of employee babies. (Yes, the births of a baby, baby showers, baby anything.)
Facebook is relational and the rules of Facebook engagement were written by women. Facebook is the estrogen zone.

Here’s another Facebook story, and a tribute to women. A six-figure producer (who we will call Johnny) set up a website and posted Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn on his home page. Then he wrote some PR copy about his company on all three social sites. A couple months went by with no visits, no traffic and no action. It went nowhere. He dipped his toe into social media and it was cold as ice. Then we had a conversation with Johnny and his wife.

Johnny’s wife has 364 friends in her Facebook community. One day she posted this comment on her wall: “Hey everyone! Johnny and I took his clients out to the Brio (an Italian restaurant) over the weekend. Johnny and I split the shrimp pasta mega dish and his clients had the chicken primavera and alfredo fettuccine. The food was great. The atmosphere was fantastic. We
heartily recommend the Brio!”

Ninety-two of 114 responses had this inquiry insert in some form, “clients? What’s Johnny do for a living?” Her reply, “He helps people save for their retirement and their kids’ education and makes sure they don’t pay any more taxes than they need to.” Result: 14 client appointments! Facebook is relational. Soft sell, indirect marketing using social events with clients like dinner, weddings, babies and client appreciation events get traction.

To improve your Facebook impressions or views you need “Edge Rank,” “Sharibility,” and “AIDA.” Edge Rank uses phrases like today, limited-time only and exclusive. Sharibility uses the best, the most, why or how. AIDA stands for Attention, Interest, Desire, Action –all critical
components of social media, specifically Facebook. (Tweeting uses shortened URLs for space utilization, but for Face-book include the full link URL. It’s 300 percent more likely to be clicked.)

Twitter: Tweets are 140 character messages, including the punctuation and spaces. It takes a real wordsmith to pound out pithy phrases and platitudes down to 140 characters and form a meaningful message.

There are two techniques to lever-age Internet communications. The most popular is called “unbundling.” For example: Take a 1,200 word article. Inside that article are two 600-word mini-articles, four 300 word blogs and an estimated 16 to 20 tweets. The other technique is
building an article from related tweets. The idea comes from a website called “Storify.” Surprisingly, many Twitter topics have common themes, so 30-40 tweets can be made into a full story or mini article.

There are tweet launchers for Twitter that can distribute to all your social media sites at one time and allow you to schedule multiple tweets, day and night for weeks or even months in advance. Scheduling tweets ties a message to a recognized seasonal event such as a blockbuster movie as well as a sporting or historical event. For example: “Transformers Premieres
Tonight! Tomorrow, transform your business into the premiere practice via
social media marketing & HD1080p video.” Coattail tweets are messages that
shadow breaking news or headlines.

Here’s another example: “Market Melt-down! Trillions Head to the Sidelines! Stay in the game with tax advantaged & guaranteed insured products.” Remember, any Twitter campaign needs to land on your website home page, Facebook and LinkedIn.

LinkedIn:

This was originally designed to be the business alternative to Facebook. Most business LinkedIn sites are stogy, institutional and feel like a Grey Poupon commercial. The extra mustard isn’t creating marbled columns to add class to your site. It’s about tweeting and blogging bite-size,
distinctive bits of interesting information and leveraging LinkedIn with “Grouping.”

Grouping is a subculture of expertise areas related to your business that can drive real traffic to your LinkedIn and website home pages. As a national wholesale distributor of insurance products, we have several LinkedIn sites that are very product-specific. There are hundreds of sites dedicated to annuities, life insurance, long-term care, disability and annuity group pensions. However, there are ever more group sites that micro-manage a subset of a product line, such as indexing life and annuities. How narrow is the conversation? So defined that in my example an experienced registered representative attempted to espouse variable universal life over indexed universal life and was persecuted for his position and summarily drummed out of the group. But the exchange of words was 10 times more viewed than any Brainsharks or webinars with the same topic.

Whatever social media networks or video distribution sites you use for marketing, remember the fundamental No.1: SEO words or “Search Engine Optimization” for Google, YouTube and Facebook search engines. Words really do matter— even more so now than ever. But is your communication so distinct and idiosyncratic that your topics never show on the first two pages
of Google? Before writing a commercial article, blog or tweet, it’s important to search for your topic on Google and adopt the landing page language.

And here’s a big wake-up call. As you are all aware, FINRA-registered representatives must submit all communication with their compliance department. Social media is no exception. It’s not surprising to discover that the landing page language of the Internet is a foreign language
to compliance. And the brevity of tweeting, texting and bite-sized blogging may not have enough room for disclaimers, disclosures or conditional caveats. So it’s a challenge. Non-FINRA producers use non-security products, so the rules of engagement are not as restrictive. But a good rule of thumb is to use generic terms to avoid misinterpretation, i.e. tax-advantaged or tax-favored instead of tax-free income from life insurance. There are too many caveats to
substantiate the tax-free claim.

Video Distribution

High definition 1080p resolution video cameras are so advanced and now more economical than ever. So, you can compete, head-to-head, with the same broad-cast quality as television and production DVDs. Video and audio editing application software is user-friendly, so much so that you can cut and paste a show for additional uses as trailers, cyber ads and compilation
videos from various sources to design an entire new presentation around a collective topic.

Video distribution over the Internet delivers the highest visibility for your video at lowest cost. There is still value in distributing CDs and/or DVDs because of the tangible nature of the medium. But they can’t supplant the Internet viewing measured in “clicks.” Our first “live feed” Internet broadcast was an hour event, attended by a whopping 141 producers. That’s a blockbuster attendance number compared to the attendance of webinars, brainsharks and PowerPoint online meetings.

But the value of a video presentation broadcast over the Internet is the lever-age of the post-show clicks comprised of views, downloads and embedded forwards, which topped more than clicks in a couple of months.  That’s the real value of viewer redistribution. That’s when you know the video has taken on a life of its own and evolved from simply anecdotal PR to
quantifiable marketing magnetism.

Media metrics measure viewing activity and demographics:

The views are measured in two categories: The initial click, i.e. total plays, and total finishes, the complete viewing of a video from start to finish. Total plays are great, but it could be just a quick click, like opening an email but not really reading it. Total finishes measures content captivation, i.e. whether the video topic is hot and relevant to the viewer. And when a viewer downloads your video and especially when they forward it to another party, that’s networking nirvana!

Consider identical beta tests, measuring the open rate of email blasts with and without an embedded video. The embedded video email open rate was 40 percent versus regular email at 2 percent. That number is just too big to ignore. One final thought on clicks. Most insurance wholesale firms offer live workshop seminars. In recent years, attendance at these events has
steadily decreased. Two months ago, we sent a mailer to producers advertising the number of clicks, (12,000) on the most viewed show on the Internet.

For the first time in the history of our wholesale firm, back-to-back shows completely overbooked the workshop event. Producers received the mailer that mentioned the clicks, viewed the 27-minute video talk show and then attended the 90 minute presentation that unpacked the show in more detail. Internet clicks drove the attendance. That’s a new marketing frontier!

Steve Savant is host of the daily Internet talk show Business Insurance Zone– a BRAVO initiative of the National Insurance Clearing House, the marketing arm of Brokers Alliance.

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Comments
One Response to “Internet Sales Superstar”
  1. “But a good rule of thumb is to use generic terms to avoid misinterpretation, i.e. tax-advantaged or tax-favored instead of tax-free income from life insurance. There are too many caveats to
    substantiate the tax-free claim.”

    Thank you for stressing the difference.

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