Building Community Connections with Digital Marketing

Alyssa Therkildson, Communications Manager, McFarlan Rowlands
Janine White, VP Digital Solutions, BrokerLink

As industry trends change, so do the products we sell, leaving opportunities to innovate and reinvent. This is where marketing comes in, getting products and brands out in front of consumers. We spoke with two brokerages on what’s worked and what hasn’t to inspire new marketing efforts and tactics.

Does your brokerage have an in-house marketing department or individual, do you outsource to an agency, does non-marketing staff market your brokerage, or is marketing a future opportunity?

AT: We have an in-house communications team that develops, oversees and executes our marketing strategy, and we work with a local agency to execute our digital marketing campaigns. Our non-marketing staff assist in providing direction on current market trends and offer insight on a lot of our content. Cohesion is the key in accomplishing our marketing efforts—our communications team, brokers and agency all work together to deliver on our marketing objectives.Does your brokerage have an in-house marketing department or individual, do you outsource to an agency, does non-marketing staff market your brokerage, or is marketing a future opportunity?

JW: Yes to all. At BrokerLink, we have an in-house marketing team that manages graphic design, internal and external communications, advertising, social media, video production and digital marketing. We also leverage the skills and resources of an agency. With over 200 branches in various communities, our brokers have a high level of local knowledge that helps us understand the insurance needs in the areas we serve, providing valuable insight for our regional marketing initiatives. And while we’ve focused on marketing over the past several years, there are future opportunities for growth.

How have your marketing efforts evolved over the past few years?

AT: We’ve strengthened our communications team, allowing us to expand our marketing efforts. We continue to market in traditional ways through community involvement, local publications, magazines and sponsorships. We’ve always seen great results from fostering meaningful local connections and engaging with the communities we serve at the ground level. In 2018, we began focusing on digital marketing in addition to our usual efforts. We increased our activity on social media and our reach with online advertising. We’ve seen great success from this—our digital presence has grown considerably in recent years.

JW: Our marketing initiatives and investments have increased in the digital space over the past few years. We’ve increased our social media presence and activity and continually look for ways to create content that insurance consumers are seeking, no matter where they are in their shopping journey. While more and more customers shop for insurance digitally, we’ve increased our efforts in local markets with more traditional, community-based initiatives including local advertising and sponsorships. We strive to serve customers the way they want, when they want, whether it’s digitally, over the phone or in person.

Let’s talk marketing strategies. What’s worked for your brokerage and what hasn’t? What new things have you adopted that have been successful?

AT: One of our greatest strengths as a brokerage is having strong connections and relationships with the communities we serve. With 18 offices spanning across Southwestern Ontario, it’s imperative we focus on local initiatives and brand awareness in addition to driving meaningful leads.

Genuine involvement in our communities is very important to what we do. We’ve found efficiencies implementing digital communication tools that integrate with our BMS, allowing us to communicate with our audiences more effectively.

We’re always adopting new tactics and trying our hand at different ways to meaningfully connect with our wide variety of audiences. Being open to change has been essential in allowing us to adapt to all the marketing trends we see year to year. That ability to pivot and adapt has yielded us very positive results.

JW: Focusing on local marketing initiatives to help build trust and brand recognition in the communities we serve has worked well for BrokerLink. We’re active on social media and experiment with different tactics to reach new audiences, like working with influencers. The strategies we undertake aren’t a one-size-fits-all model—a marketing strategy that’s successful for one branch may not be successful for another, and a strategy that worked two years ago may not work now. Different products, markets, locations and the target market’s propensity for digital fulfillment all need to be considered.

We strive to measure everything we do. If you can’t measure the impact of your marketing initiatives, you won’t know what works and what doesn’t. A do everything and hope for the best approach doesn’t work. A test and learn mentality is key.

How important is it to get staff involved in marketing initiatives and become brand ambassadors for your brokerage?

AT: Important! Can’t emphasize this enough. All the changes our industry’s faced over the years makes staff buy in and support more important than ever. Our staff is involved in our marketing efforts in a variety of ways. Our communications team works together with front-line staff to develop the content we use. We have so many talented staff members with an abundance of knowledge to draw on. They are by far one of our greatest assets and resources. Our communications team functions as a bridge between the technical insurance language our brokers speak and a language digestible by the average insurance shopper.

Along with industry related content, we share a lot of staff involvement in our communities. They’re always more than willing to participate in things like our Community Clean Up Week by getting out and cleaning up the streets, or our Small Business Facebook Contest, choosing the local businesses we support. In the end, it’s a mutually beneficial relationship. Our marketing efforts help our staff achieve their goal of connecting in meaningful ways with our customers and communities. It’s always our hope to foster a culture that creates natural brand ambassadors for our brokerage.

JW: It couldn’t be more important—our employees are our advocates and are very involved in our marketing strategies. We encourage team members to be active on our social media sites and share our blog posts, engage and post on their own.
Our employees are active in their communities, and we encourage them to share their participation in local events that support the community they live and work in. We also celebrate the successes of our employees and recognize their achievements—business and non-business—both internally and externally on social.

There’s no expectation that our employees, outside of our marketing team, need to be marketing experts and generate the next great idea. But the success of a marketing initiative is having engaged employees who enable that idea to come to life.

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