Are you just getting started in Insurance Content Creation? Do you secretly worry you may be doing it wrong and it might come back to bite you? Enlisting a Digital Mentor can go a long way in helping you learn the ropes — which is why I am posting 7 Interviews with "Insurance Leaders in the Digital Space" each Monday (Jun 16 - July 28).
We continue our series with an Insurance Thought Leader who:
- An Agency Owner
- Serves as a consultant to several other local agents
- Recently won the PIA National 2013 Execellence in Social Media Award
- And has a wealth of experience with all things Social Media Marketing
Insurance Thought Leader, Chris Paradiso
It’s not every day you get to interview someone is both widely recognized and you have learned a ton from. In this conversation with Chris, I got to do just that. I had 7 Questions, we talked about his strong belief in the agency model, why Agents should hire a social media director, and his love of the NY Yankees.
It was a lot of fun.
Insurance and the Emerging Digital Space
I have looked forward to picking the brain of Chris Paradiso for quite some time. I wanted to post Chris’ Interview on the week of the 4th of July because I don’t know of any agent who is more passionate about American; our heritage and our dream.
Chris’ recent recognition as the PIA Social Media award winner further confirms what I have known for a long time….that Chris Paradiso is an invaluable guide to local agents who are attempting to maximize social in the everchanging digital landscape.
Chris Paradiso is an Agency Owner who gets it. He travels around speaking to other Insurance Agents on the importance of; managing your Social Media Strategy to both reach a wide audience while maintaining a vibrant local presence.
In my interview with Chris Paradiso, he mentions people like his grandfather, who served our country and believed in the American Dream. He mentions his children, the Connecticut Children’s Medical Hospital, and of course his involvement with flag day. With each example, Chris models a beautiful dance between local offline engagement and robust digital marketing in the insurance space. I also took this opportunity to ask Chris some things I’ve really been wanting to ask. I hope you enjoy our conversation and that it gives you some new ideas as you continue to maximize the digital space with your Insurance Agency.
We talk about:
- The Human-to-Cow Ratio in Stafford Spring, CT
- Personal “Happy Birthday Videos” to clients and other creative ideas
- Being consistent with posting in Social Media Channels and why it’s so important
- How to punch back when the Geico/Walmart/Overstock’s of the World nose into insurance
- The best advice he has for turning on ROI with your Social Media efforts
- An emerging technology that Chris doesn’t think your agency can live without
- “Before you’ve even gotten to work, Geico has already gotten their message to you three times.”
- “Or agency creates a minimal of four videos per week, we write in excess of 25 blogs per week, we average 14 posts to Instagram, we average 50 posts on Pinterest, we average in excess of 80 tweets a week, our agency fan page on Facebook we average 30 posts per week, and LinkedIn we average 28 posts per week.”
- “This tool is going to allow you to service your clients 24 hours a day seven days a week and let me give you an example.”
Duke Revard: Some of our readers aren’t as familiar with your background. So perhaps you could share some shaping experiences that have contributed to you unique perspective in the Insurance Space?
Chris Paradiso: The Paradiso Insurance Agency was founded June 19, 2006, meanwhile I was placing business with another agency on the property and casualty side but I was still running a separate location which handled investments long-term care and life insurance. I really got focused that June 2006 on the property and casualty side because I saw there was a lot of upside potential and the property and casualty areas. For about two years we grew at a very nice and steady rate but was in 2008 I realized that I needed to take my agency twin large or level when it came to marketing. I come from a small New England Mill-town which has less than 12,000 people in a very large area of land. Most people tease us and say there is twice as many cows as there are people which is not really a joke it's most likely a fact. So 2008 I invested quite a bit of money into Internet marketing and creating a website that would be a lead generator. In 2009 we continue to invest into the Internet because we were seeing positive results along with results that were proving what the myths are about online leads wrong. During that time I have heard that there are just shoppers online along with people were simply shopping for rate. These were myths, not facts and our statistics were showing us on how we were proving these wrong. We were finding leads that were coming in were people who were looking for a new agent because they were either unhappy with the response and or in most cases their agents were not getting back to them in a timely manner. So our online presence really started in 2008.
Duke Revard: What disciplines do you have in place to ensure you are customer-centric; that you have the pulse on what your potential clients and clients really believe and care about?
Chris Paradiso: Being customer centric is extremely important with the ever-changing landscape of the insurance world. I would've never guessed 10 years ago that Walmart/Google/Overstock would be selling insurance. Being customer centric allows us to be different it also allows us to help educate our prospects and clients that insurance is not a commodity. How do we become customer centric with digital marketing and social media marketing? First and foremost I would highly recommend putting together a digital marketing strategy that has specifics and is custom for your clients. I know everybody's getting emails and there's an awful lot of junk mail but with custom emails it will allow you and your agency to be different. For example within your email blasts include personal pictures of your staff because they are the front lines people and the people were dealing with the clients. The personal touch is key to your digital success. Also key to your digital success is putting together successful energetic YouTube videos that are specific in getting a message out to your clients. Social media is another aspect of creating the ultimate customer centric agency. Reason why I say this is because the way the Geico's of the world market to our prospects and our clients they touch our clients many times every single day, for example the next time you drive to work just look around I guarantee you you'll probably see a sign somewhere with an advertisement of the lizard meanwhile while you're driving you'll be hearing Geico ads over the radio. If you turn the TV on in the morning and like me watch SportsCenter you will be blasted with several Geico ads. Just think the day has just begun and you've already been touched by Geico three different ways all with which is cheap and fast. When marketing and keeping in touch with your clients through social media avenues always remember to have a clear cut message and also to remember to brand within your message. Social medial media marketing is no longer an optional thing to do for your agency is an absolute must.
Duke Revard: When and how did you find your stride in the digital insurance space? When did things start to click…where you realized “we can make money online?”
Chris Paradiso: I would say we got focused with Internet marketing in 2008 and really focused with putting together a profitable website. June 2008 we have focused and really started with the investment into the website from there we moved on to opening in dealing with several social media sites. 2009 we got focused on the digital side which was the ability to do email blasts. We integrated YouTube videos with our digital email blasts such as birthday videos so for example inside of our digital marketing system we would push out emails that were specific to people embedded was a YouTube video wishing that client and or prospect a happy birthday. We also did email blasts on Flag Day, Veterans Day and other holidays such as Thanksgiving in which we also created YouTube videos. In 2009 we focused on targeting marketing to specific industries through email blasts. How we did that was reinvested in a social media marketing person in which they would go out into the Internet world and scrub websites and scrape together emails, we also purchased emails for example we did email blasts to mechanical companies, plumbers and electricians. We still have those campaigns going on today. Another portion of our social media strategy was to put together a blogging strategy in which we executed in several different sites. So with search engine optimization back then we focused on an on-site blog for insurance specific details and content in the really focused on an off-site blog for agency to create an identity/brand. Since 2008/09 a lot has changed in the world of SEO and in the world of Google. Our strategies continue to improve and change along sides with the ever changing Panda updates.
Duke Revard: You won the PIA Social Media Award in 2013, so who better to ask about Social Media Strategy. First do you think companies need a strategy and second how do recommend agents go about managing their social media efforts?
Chris Paradiso: First I have to say getting started may be the hardest part. Once you get started and put together a social media strategy was the 1st step. The 2nd step is hiring a social media engineer. That step is and was critical to success. Hiring someone helped us create the online image and brand which led to leads. The keys to the success of social media and internet marketing is to be consistent even if people think it's not working you need to stick to your strategy. For example when we originally started blogging we blogged five days a week for the past five years we have never changed our strategy when it comes to the consistency of putting on our blogs which we feel is very important to have fresh new content posted on our website on a daily basis. As you can see with the most recent panda 4.0 update this strategy is going to continue to help us with our online lead generating opportunities. It's important to sometimes review and possibly make changes to your social media strategy but the key component is to remain consistent, change is not bad being on consistent is what really detrimental to your marketing strategy.
Duke Revard: What is the single most important component of a company’s Social Media Strategy?
Chris Paradiso: I'm convinced that the most important aspect of our social media marketing strategy is having social media engineers. These are three staff members that I have that specifically work on marketing to the public through the Internet and using some traditional ways of marketing. Without having a social media marketing an engineer it will be very difficult for you to see a ROI. The reason I say this is because social media is not about you it's all about others and in order to get a return on your marketing efforts it takes time. There is going to be many days where your staff members are conversant through social media avenues. Without the time in effort and strategy of your marketing people you will never turned in positive ROI within your social marketing strategy. To give you a quick example of what our strategy consists of on a daily basis. Or agency creates:
- We post a minimal of 4 YouTube videos per week
- We write 25+ blog posts per week
- We average 14 posts to Instagram
- We average 50 posts on Pinterest
- We average 80+ tweets a week
- We average 30 posts per week on our Facebook fan page
- We average 28 posts per week on LinkedIn
This is not including the interaction on all of these social sites so I can assure you this is a full-time job with a very calculated strategy on what we are planning on posting and putting out there in the Internet world.
Duke Revard: What’s the most important aspect of social media for an insurance agency to have a Return-on-Investment (ROI)?
Chris Paradiso: That is a very good question and after I answer this there probably be several people may disagree with me but I'm okay with that. You need a well-balanced social media strategy and let me explain what I mean by a well-balanced strategy. Well-balanced strategy comes with a keyword that I feel is very important to having an ROI. That keyword is social media optimization. Most people know about SEO which is search engine optimization but there's another key aspect of search engine optimization which is social media optimization. What I mean by SMO his you need to have many accounts in the social media Avenues such as it is very important for your agency to have not only a personal Facebook page but to have an agency fan page along with twitter, Blogging, Pinterest ,Instagram, Google +, Vine, YouTube and a LinkedIn page. As you can see there are many avenues within the social media world but a key component is having a balance use of all of the areas because Google says it's very important to the SEO of your agency website. If your agency is not using all of the sites there's a good chance you are not only ignoring a certain audience there's a good chance Google could be penalizing you for not using the sites. I know and realize many people are bombarded with the importance of content marketing and yes I feel it is a very important aspect to your online edge and to having a successful online strategy but I do think social media optimization is king. So please do not leave out content marketing included into your online strategy but remember it's all about a balanced attack.
Duke Revard: Where do you think the future of marketing is going and what tools do you think will be important moving forward?
Chris Paradiso: That is a great question and I feel very strongly with my answer I personally feel the future is now and today I personally feel a mobile marketing app is the most important piece of technology that your agency needs. Let me explain what a mobile marketing app is, it's an app that allows you the owner of the agency to see who is downloading your app along with was actually utilizing the tool. It also allows you the agency owner to communicate directly to your customer through push notification into the app. The reason why I say you cannot wait you need to implement a strategy is because in order to get this into the majority of your clients hands there is a on-boarding process which most likely will take six months to a year. This tool is going to allow you to service your clients 24 hours a day seven days a week and let me give you an example. Presently my agency as a mobile marketing app and we are training are present clients not to call our agency but to use our agency app with the push of one button you can pay your bill, with the push of one button you can report a claim at any time. This is allowing us independent agents the power to be put into our clients hands. Service plays a huge role within customer satisfaction and I will tell you this is not the future this is the tool of today and of the future.
Duke Revard: Well when you’re not dominating all things social media what are some of your other interests?
Chris Paradiso: My passions are my children. I love to spend time with my children whether it's that a sports field or simply outside riding bikes my off time is almost 100% spent with my children. Another passion is charity work such as raising money for Special Olympics or supporting Connecticut Children’s Medical Hospital or our local food pantry. Some of my hobbies are training for triathlons. I love the competition but most importantly I train and compete in triathlons to compete against myself and I've really come to enjoy that. Another big hobby I have is following the New York Yankees. I absolutely enjoyed listening to John Sterling announce the Yankee games I'm not a big TV guy so I really enjoy working out were being outside with my children and having a headset on listening to the New York Yankees on the radio. One of the last passions I have is I really enjoy spending time and communicating with other independent agents throughout the country. I feel we have a lot in common and I just love to learn about other independent agents throughout the country and how they're doing and what they're doing and simply just sharing stories.
Check out other Great Content from Chris Paradiso
- The Top Ten Great Reasons to Think Local, Buy Local and Be Local
- Flag Day Festivities at Paradiso Insurance