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Affordable Alternatives to Expensive Advertising

Insurance agents know that the money spent on advertising needs to be effective. Large corporations like Geico have billions of dollars that they use to build brand awareness. If you're a small, local insurance agency, it's easy to feel like you just can't compete. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways that you can spend a lot less while still getting comparable results.

Billboard Ads

Renting a billboard can build brand recognition by putting your company's name in front of thousands or even millions of people's eyes. However, renting one of those billboards from a company like Lamar Advertising could cost as much as hundreds of thousands of dollars a month, depending on the area. That's not exactly in the budget for the average insurance broker.

Affordable Alternative: Flyers / Door Hangers

Instead of this, consider making flyers to pass out or printing door hangers. For a fraction of the cost of billboard advertising, you can still get your message out to the local residents that matter. Flyers can sometimes be posted at the Chamber of Commerce, in grocery stores and libraries. One of the biggest benefits of this type of advertising when compared to billboards is that you'll also have the ability to include significantly more information about your business on the advertisements. Billboards only have space for a short message. With fliers and door hangers, you can more actively market your business' message.

TV Advertising

Advertising on television can definitely get your message out, but it's probably one of the most expensive methods. Not only do you have to pay for the slots on television, but you'll also need to set aside a substantial budget for a production company to create a commercial suitable for TV.

Affordable Alternative: Online Videos

Fortunately, the Internet has made it a lot easier for insurance agents to get their message across while only spending a fraction of what it would take to advertise on TV. Instead of being limited to a 30 or 60 second spot, you can create a custom advertisement about your business' services, an explainer video or just informational videos about insurance and upload them to video sites such as YouTube, Vimeo or Facebook. Potential customers might find your videos by searching the sites, but you can also embed those videos on your own insurance website. Another alternative is to use pre-roll advertising, paying to have your video play before another video is played. This is less expensive than traditional television advertising and can be done through Google AdWords or other video advertising networks.

Major Sponsorships

Big companies spend big bucks to sponsor sports teams and national or international events. This earns them the right to place banners at the stadiums or include their advertisement in the event program. Many go as far as to pay stadiums or arenas to have the stadium renamed with their own brand.

Affordable Alternative: Local Sponsorships

Smaller insurance agencies can still use this strategy but with more community oriented tactics. Plenty of smaller, local events or sports teams seek corporate sponsorship in order to stay active. Take a look at some of the events held in your community and see if there are ways to sponsor the event/team. For example, you might be able to sponsor a summer art festival, a weekly music concert, or a kids' sports team. In exchange, you might get a booth at the event to talk to residents and pass out advertising materials, a mention in the event advertisements or have your own branding associated with event / team. You will get your agency's name in front of hundreds, if not thousands of people, plus those who are looking to "shop local" and support their local community may be more likely to turn you your local insurance office rather than picking up the phone to call a national company like Progressive.

Print Advertising

The big insurance companies may be able to afford a full-page advertisement in the newspaper or glossy magazine advertisements. However, the high expense for the exposure usually isn't the best way that an insurance broker could spend their advertising dollars.

Affordable Alternative: Advertising on Local Sites/Blogs

Instead of trying to compete in print, look into targeting sites and blogs the focus on local news, events and other community topics. The audience will be mostly, if not entirely, made up people in your local area and costs will be much lower than print advertising. There may be several marketing options available including producing some simple, yet professional looking banner ads or becoming a local sponsor of the website.

Radio Advertising

When you purchase a radio advertising slot, you're not only paying a lot of money to compete with bigger businesses, you're also taking a gamble when it comes to the person listening. Today's radios make it easy to change to a different station with just the push of a button.

Affordable Alternative: Podcast

Creating your own podcasts is a cost effective alternative that can lead to better results. Podcasts are definitely gaining in popularity, and you don't have to try to condense your message into a catch 30-second sound bite. Instead, you get to talk about the things that you want to talk about. To the listeners, you're demonstrating your skill as a leader in your field of business. When they need insurance, they're going to think of you first. A podcast doesn't have to be long, either. A quick, 5-minute "tip of the week" or interview with a person of interest is often enough to keep people coming back for more. You could even record a video of the podcast to post on video sites.

Public Relations

While public relations specialists can definitely be a big asset in helping a company gain positive recognition, they can cost quite a bit and there are now more options available to get information out to the public about your business. Hiring a professional public relations specialist is not the only way you can get noticed.

Affordable Alternative: Online Press Releases, Social Media, Guest Blogging

Many small insurance agencies can take things into their own hands. Submitting press releases online helps spread your company's news to the local news outlets. Maintaining an active blog, Facebook account, Twitter feed, and other social media accounts can potentially have a ripple effect. These outlets are designed to make it easy for people to pass on interesting stories or information about your agency. Additionally, you can utilize guest blogging to get more traffic to your site, get exposure to your brand, build trust with a targeted audience and it can even help with SEO. Topics like insider secrets from an insurance agent or explaining insurance concepts have the potential to reach more people, as readers are more likely to share the content with their friends and family.

Paid Search

In traditional paid search marketing, you focus on a list of keywords that your buyers might use, then pay every time your advertisements show or are clicked on. Large insurance companies are spending millions per month and insurance related keywords are consistently among the most expensive in the industry. Instead of trying to compete against national brands with common keywords, you can be more competitive by targeting more specific terms.

Affordable Alternative: Targeted Paid Search

Instead of simply bidding on the word "auto insurance", which is broad and could include many related searches, look into bidding on phrases that may have less volume, but are more specific such as "auto insurance quotes in [your city]". If you are new to paid search, start out by bidding on exact match keywords rather than using broad match. Ensure your geographic targeting settings are setup to only target consumers in your market and display a local phone number alongside your ad. There are many other ways you can optimize your paid search campaigns, but it still is one of the best ways to advertise your agency online.

DIY Marketing

There's no doubt that marketing is expensive. Large carriers often hire a team of full-time employees to work on their advertising campaigns. They usually will also hire advertising agencies to take care of the details. The average insurance agent doesn't always have time or the expertise to manage different accounts or stay up to date with the most recent changes and trends.

Affordable Alternative: Online Leads / Pay Per Call

A solution is to look work with one or more companies that specialize in advertising and generating insurance leads. Rather than taking a blanket approach to advertising and spending money to reach a wide audience, the agent only needs to pay for the leads that have already been pre-screened by the lead company. For instance, the company might be driving traffic to a site that gathers information about a person shopping for car insurance, including some contact information and a bit of information about their car. The company can then pass that information on to you. Since you're an expert in insurance, not advertising, this method allows you to focus on what you do best. Other companies will take a similar approach buy will get the consumer on the phone and transfer them to you. These live transfers can save you the effort of attempting to get a hold of an online lead, but just be sure the company isn't auto-dialing out to consumers. These robocalls, also known as "press 1 leads", are illegal and can result in liability for your agency.

Advertising is an important part of any business. It's what brings in new customers and helps the agency to grow its book of business. However, it's also an area where businesses can spend a lot of money without getting the desired results. If you're a smaller agency or new insurance agent, you can definitely take a financially conservative approach when it comes to advertising while still getting a good return on your investment. Choose the methods that are least expensive and track which methods are most effective for your particular business. Not all methods are likely to have the same results for every agent, and you will want to focus your energy on the methods that are going to work best for you.