In the past two months, I’ve now encountered a blizzard of ignorance and arrogance on the part of several of the top three or six insurance companies’ corporate headquarters. I am a Certified Google Agency Partner and personally hold advanced certification in AdWords as well as over 1,000 hours of experience with almost forty clients.
For the fourth time in the last two months, I’ve run up against corporate digital marketing policies that are ignorant of the reality of Google AdWords pay-per-click (PPC) marketing.
These top insurers are actually harming their own captive and non-captive agents and profits with corporate policies they believe are “helpful.”
One of my clients is getting four or five new policies per month for his very modest AdWords spend from new, never before seen customers for his company, but his corporate office wants to shut this down.
This company has no doubt been misled. This can occur either because of their own internal naiveté or their own vendors who are misleading them for their own gain.
Well meaning but totally wrong specific examples follow:
• Example: Corporate office has given you a website at ”xyzompanyagents/agentname.com” but our policy expressly forbids you from establishing a PPC campaign to direct clicks there. We will, however, allow you to send direct mail or email to anyone you want and list your website on your U.S. postal mail or distribute your business cards and other marketing collateral listing the website, but no digital marketing is allowed by you because what we are doing at corporate office is so much more effective.
Rationale of corporate office and why it’s wrong on many levels.
Corporate office: Google will recognize our domain authority for our main URL more than your corporate agency site in your Google AdWords PPC campaign.
Wrong. While this is true for organic search, pay-per-click is totally separate from organic search. The two are unrelated as far as domain authority goes. The fact is my client’s AdWords campaign follows Google best practices and is tightly defined within a six mile radius of his office. He is not directly competing with corporate office PPC.
Corporate office: You are bidding on the keyword for our company name and driving up your own cost and wasting your money.
Wrong: My client’s campaign is not bidding on the keyword for his company’s corporate name. We have organized his campaign to drive relevant “click-throughs” on one or two broad match keywords related to insurance rates that have proven highly effective for him within his six mile radius.
An additional fact: Competitors are bidding on the corporate office name in what is allowed as competitive behavior for PPC so long as the actual ad copy is truthful. Here we have a well meaning, but totally naive top insurance corporation which is shutting down their own captive agent’s highly effective digital marketing campaign with great R.O.I. As a result their competitors will gain even more success.
Corporate office: You are wasting your money because what we are doing is so much more effective for you.
Wrong: My client is not getting four or five new policies per month from the corporate office within his six mile PPC advertised radius. In fact, more than one of these top tier insurers’ corporate offices charge their agents $ 300 or $ 400 per month each for these so called better “umbrella digital marketing” programs, but they are often not effective and here’s why:
The corporate office campaigns are usually not organized by tightly defined territories around their agent’s offices, but instead may cover all the agents within a DMA (Designated Market Area) or Nielsen city and surrounding area. Of course, the top insurance companies own digital staffers may not know any better.
They may not understand the nuances and multiple settings Google AdWords allows to designate a tight geography by radius, zip, and many other options to further restrict and optimize campaigns. Instead, they pool millions of dollars from their captive agent’s pockets in a well meaning attempt to direct all inquiries through corporate office. They then ask prospects that click through corporate umbrella ads to “enter their zip code” or call the corporate office, but nobody seems to know how these “leads” are being distributed to multiple agents within a zone.
The “leads” may not be handled in their captive agent’s best interest. Even though the agents are captive, their corporate office has figured out how to avoid paying these agents as employees, and no doubt lowering their corporate overhead but still requiring performance increases from their “captives.”
• Example: Another one of my top insurance clients told me “my corporate umbrella digital marketing” program is horrible. Here’s why:
“Even though I’ve been with xyz top insurance company for over twenty years, built this territory with a great book of business, and service my clients well with two full-time support staff and an office in a great location, corporate has put six more agents in my zip code in the last ten years to compete directly with me! There’s nothing I can do about it, and because I’ve been captive for two decades, I’m trapped because if I left xyz company my ability to make a decent living and feed my four children would plummet. I feel like a slave that is at the mercy of corporate office even though I’ve been a great agent and helped them build their brand name through the decades. This is a zero sum game where there are only so many new insurance prospects to go after so we’re all trying to take clients away from other companies and each other! This is no way to run an industry and no way to treat loyal agents!”
• Example: My corporate office’s digital marketing team, in their ignorance, uploaded over 50,000 agents’ information to establish new Google Plus pages for us and get us on the map with a verified listing.
Wrong and harmful: In this example, a top tier insurance corporate office actually harmed a significant number of their agents.
In my client’s case, he had a verified Google Plus Page and map listing with many great reviews which we connect to his AdWords account. Now that his corporate office duplicated thousands of listings because they weren’t smart enough to find out which of their agents already had verified listings with good reviews, they actually diluted my client’s reputation on the Internet. What a great use of his over $ 300 per month for corporate marketing!
• Example: Another one of my insurance clients, who is not a captive agent, wanted to use the name of one his top companies in his Google AdWords campaign. It was at his own expense, and it featured a 10% minimum discount that members of “BBB” (fictitious name) company can get through his office. Again, he is not allowed to use their name in his ads within a tight mileage radius of his office because the corporate office’s legal counsel registered trademark complaints with Google, expressly prohibiting anyone (even their own agents) from using their company name in ads on the Internet.
My client, who can use direct mail, distributes printed marketing collateral and uses email advertising his company’s 10% minimum discount but is not allowed to advertise it on the Internet, even within his own zip code. He is asking his corporate office for authorization but there is no word yet from the brilliant marketing minds and legal counsel at this company.
Of course there is a much better and more effective R.O.I. way to organize and run digital marketing campaigns for multiple agents in the field.
Often old guard “legacy” industries like insurance are the last ones to come to the digital marketing party. When they arrive at the party, they are often dressed like fools who have been told by vendors or their own staffers that this is a costume party—in the same way Renee Zellweger, in Bridget Jones Diary, shows up dressed for what “she was told” was a Vickers and Tarts costume party.
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