July 11, 2016
July 11, 2016
“The Missing Link! Podcast”
by Jabez Lebret and Mica Gadhia
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I have been listening to The Missing Link! Podcast for some time. I’m always looking for ideas and tips on how to maximize the value of being on the LinkedIn platform. On this episode, I had a great time talking with Jabez Lebret and Mica Gadhia about how I became a LinkedIn Influencer. We also talked about some of the lessons I have learned over the last couple years on how to maximize your influence and authority with your audience.
Social media engagement is one of the most effective ways for you and your agency to get more traffic and generate new leads.
Agency owners — for both large and small organizations — are the “face” of the organization. An effective social platform marketing strategy should contemplate using the owner’s name and face as part of the marketing program. This means that they need to leverage their personal sites to help build awareness.
A big part of the challenge is finding the time. Comments from company executives will help communicate the organization’s mission and vision to internal staff as well as prospects, clients, and insurance company personnel.
Mastering your Internet presence will help you, and your team, be more visible to the increasingly online consumer. Consumers now use smartphones and tablets to interact with businesses 24/7, from anywhere at home, at work, or on a bus. It is critical that your company define its value proposition through a mobile lens by determining exactly how your target audience wants to engage with your brand on multiple devices.
Following are some thoughts on steps you can take to manage and master your online presence. Taking just a few of these steps will help you and your organization be visible to the online consumer.
Having – and using – the right social platform management tools is essential for keeping up a presence on all the major platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.
Tools that allow you to automate status updates on various platforms enable you to promote your latest content to all of your social networks with a minimum investment of time and effort. There are many solutions that can automatically improve your website articles, as well as other content, to your social media networks. Following are a few of the most popular:
Buffer is one of the easier to use and less expensive tools to automate postings to your social platforms. This is the tool I am currently using, and I love its clean and easy-to-use interface. It will post updates to your LinkedIn agency page, LinkedIn Groups, Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ page.
Buffer allows you to create a schedule for when updates will be posted to your social platforms. For instance, on Mondays through Fridays, I post updates three times during the day. On weekends, I post two updates on Saturday and no updates on Sunday. This gives you complete control over when and how often updates post to your various accounts.
You can add updates to your Buffer account using their website, as well as their iPhone app, Android app, and Chrome, Firefox, and Safari browser extensions.
Buffer’s built-in analytics allows you to find the times of day that your post gets the most engagement and the type of topics your audience likes the most. This helps you better understand what kind of content you should include in future updates.
Buffer has a free version that allows you to post up to 10 updates per day, as well as several paid tiers depending on your particular needs.
Hootsuite is a very popular service that has similar features to Buffer. In addition to being able to schedule posts to multiple social platforms, Hootsuite excels in allowing you to view the activity on your various social channels. When it comes to social networking support, Hootsuite has a wider coverage than Buffer.
Hootsuite allows you to post automatically to a broad range of platforms. These include: Facebook groups/profiles/business pages, LinkedIn company pages/groups, Google+ pages, Twitter, Foursquare, WordPress sites, as well as YouTube, Flickr, Instagram, Tumblr, and Blogger.
Hootsuite also tracks your post analytics so you can determine how people share posts. For example, if someone shared a post on your site using Hootsuite, you’ll be able to track that they used Hootsuite to re-share your post.
Hootsuite also has a free version (that I am currently using) and a Pro version with pricing that starts at $8.99 per month (with discounts for an annual payment).
With the basic account, you’ll have message scheduling and can set up five social networks. The pro version has unlimited social networks, atom feeds, and stats history. It also allows bulk scheduling.
For personal and professional use, this auto-posting tool is worth a try.
Once you begin using one of the tools described above you will be able to create activity consistently on your social platforms without feeling like you are spending hours doing it. Here’s my strategy for engaging with people on the social platforms where I am active.
Daily: Interact with your news feed. Install the mobile apps for the various platforms where you are active. Take a few minutes between appointments to open the apps and look at the activity in the news feed. Simply clicking “like” on a comment someone has made or typing out a short comment will significantly increase your engagement with these people.
Weekly: Using one of the above tools, take 30 minutes to an hour to set up a schedule of posts for the following week. This allows you to spend concentrated time to make sure you have posts going out on a regular basis. Then, if anything particularly interesting comes up, feel free to post that one comment on multiple sites.
Monthly: Schedule time monthly to review your profiles on all of your social platforms to make sure they are current. Review and contribute to any comments on groups you are part of such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google+. In addition, reach out to any old contacts that you might want to connect with on LinkedIn.
Engaging on social platforms is becoming an essential skill for executives to use to create an engaging brand for their organization. While you may have staff who manages this for the whole organization, it is important for the executives who are the “face” of the organization to also be active.
This type of engagement and activity on your social platforms can bring new visitors to your website and help improve your overall search rankings. However, perhaps more importantly, it will help you and your team to be more visible to the new online consumer.
People buy from people they like and trust. One of the best ways to build trust with people you don’t know is to provide high-quality information. You should want to share your knowledge about insurance and about the products and services you provide.
In order to accomplish that goal, you have to make people aware that your website exists. I call this Mastering your Internet Presence. Having your cousin Lenny and the rest of the family read your agency website might be fun, but that’s probably not exactly the audience you had in mind.
One way to promote your agency is to use Squidoo.
Squidoo is a publishing platform—created by Seth Godin—that lets you create and publish “lenses” or articles, about the topic of your choice. It’s a place to express your perspective and share your knowledge about a subject. It’s also a smart way to drive traffic to your agency website. Here’s why:
Most advertising is expensive, but you can create a presence on Squidoo for free. All you have to do is provide an interesting article and publish it at the site. A variety of readers then have easy access to your lens and links to your website. You’re building your reputation as an expert on your subject and it costs you nothing—except a little brainpower.
You don’t need many computer skills to use Squidoo. It’s user friendly and easy to understand. There are helpful tutorials that teach you how to optimize your lens for the best results. You’ll also find convenient, easy to use tools that make your lens painless to maintain and update.
When people visit your Squidoo lens, you should communicate with them. To start, you can use the Guestbook module to reach out and communicate with people who visit your lens. At the same time, you can use this tool to track and visit websites or the Squidoo lenses of visitors.
Squidoo is a good way to create back-links. Back-links help increase your page rank in search engines and that’s key to increasing readership. You need all the back-links you can get, and Squidoo is a great place to start building them.
Besides increasing traffic to your website, you can make a little cash along the way. Earn royalties when readers visit or make money with affiliate marketing. Google AdSense can match your lens with advertisements that complement your topic. There are other ways to earn money with Squidoo, and you can even choose to share some of those earnings with your favorite charity if you like.
The best reason to use Squidoo is that it can work. Oh, it’s not going to work quickly. Like your website, it takes time and effort from you before you begin seeing results, but it’s worth it.
Squidoo is effective, free, and easy to use. Try it. I think you’ll agree that Squidoo is a smart way to drive traffic to your website.
Article first published as Great Customer Experience: Surprising Lessons from My Contractor on LinkedIn
Contractors don’t generally have the best reputation.
When I think of contractors I tend to use the words: never on time, over budget, and not trustworthy.
As we began to get serious about remodeling our kitchen and master bathroom, the question “Who do we get to do it?” came up early in our planning. Fortunately, we had previously worked with a local contractor on several smaller projects over the last few years updating our 110-year-old house. We were pleased with his work and asked him to work with us on this much larger scale project.
From the first new project meeting, Chris Crimmins‘ approach had developed by adding new tools and processes. He talked with Karen and me about our goals, our priorities for the project, and, of course, about our budget. Based on the information we provided, he put together a detailed proposal and final budget for our review.
Because of the quality of the work Chris completed in the past and his understanding of how to preserve the unique character of a historic home, we really didn’t seek other options. The demolition began in late February. And, after five months of work, I have a beautiful new kitchen (cooking is a hobby of mine) and we have a great new master bathroom.
And – surprisingly – the project turned out to be a great experience.
Here are four ways Chris Crimmins of Crimmins Construction was able to create a great customer experience for us.
During the project we always knew what was going on. We knew who was scheduled to show up at the house each day. We knew when that schedule had to be changed. Everyone associated with our project was able to see exactly what was happening and when.
The open communication described above was made possible because Crimmins utilizes an online project management platform called Basecamp. Everyone associated with our project — plumber, electrician, cabinet maker — was included. We could see who was scheduled to be at our house and when. We could post questions and the best people to answer our question would respond (and everyone was updated simultaneously). Progress photos were taken most days so we and everyone else could see what had been accomplished.
And it all happened on laptops, iPads, and iPhones. When I was on the road, I knew what was happening and could also respond to comments or questions using the Basecamp mobile app. The biggest benefit is we did not have to make multiple phone calls to get something changed or ask a question.
Using a real time communication platform allowed everyone associated with the project to respond on the fly – in real time. Having the right tool made all the difference in making our construction project a great experience.
One quick example of the power of open communication: A progress photo was posted after the new wallboard was installed and the rough electrical was completed. Chris Barber of Barber Woodworking (our cabinet maker) posted a comment that he thought one of the outlets for the new oven was not in the right place – just from viewing the photo online. He was right. The outlet was moved before the cabinets were installed, saving time and hassle. This is just one of many examples.
Deep into the project there were questions about decisions that had been made months earlier. Because conversations were documented, there was no ambiguity about “who said what when.” Sometimes we were right, sometimes they were right, but in every case the clarity and documentation minimized hurt feelings and frustrations, making a better experience for both us and the contractor.
You can say you provide good customer service, but using the right tools can turn simply good service into a great experience.
Brian Coley was our on-site project manager. This really means he was the “relationship” manager. He managed the relationship with us as clients, Chris as business owner, and all the sub-contractors, vendors, and suppliers.
It was remarkable that everyone – almost without exception – showed up on time, completed their work and cleaned up – thanks to Brian managing the process well.
While Chris was available when we needed him, it was Brian who kept the project moving day-to-day. Brian took the progress pictures and posted them. Brian tracked down the parts we needed and made the phone calls when the wrong parts were sent.
Crimmons as the business owner works at making sure he has just the right team to create a great customer experience. He understands the difference between working on his business and working in his business.
Even with good communication, the right tools and the right team – mistakes happen. Sometimes things just don’t go right. In a project of our size, it’s bound to happen. But the mistakes were handled in a timely and responsible manner. When it was their mistake, they took responsibility and did what they could to make it right.
What can the insurance industry learn from my contractor? Seems to me the same four principles apply:
In today’s world, good customer service is expected. That’s why your agency is in business. But creating a great customer experience is what will set you apart from your competitors and keep customers coming back.
Crimmins Construction dispelled the myth of the shoddy contractor – they were on time, on budget, and trustworthy.
I’m thinking a good gourmet meal in my great new kitchen just might be a way to say thanks to the Crimmins team who helped us have a great customer experience. And I’ll probably post it on Basecamp.
Steve Anderson is a leading authority on insurance agency technology. He is a prolific writer known for his knack for translating “geek speak” into easily understood concepts. Check out his free weekly newsletter “TechTips” and other resources for the insurance industry on his website.
I was quoted in Tom Wetzel’s Insurance Journal column on Digital Dinosaurs and Insurance Competency. Where do you fall? Are you losing business because you are a digital dinosaur?