Are you blogging? If not, you’re missing out on a great opportunity to reach new clients and prospects.
It’s never too late to learn something new, including blogging. We’ll walk you through the 8 things you need to start a great advisor blog. We won’t cover the nitty-gritty tech stuff, like buying a domain name or installing WordPress. Instead, we’re going to talk about the content and scope of your blog – things it’s not as easy to find an online tutorial for.
Why Blog? Why Now?
To answer these questions, let’s think about how and when people shop for life insurance:
- They Google it after the kids go to bed
- They click a link in their inbox while waiting for the subway
- They browse the web in the waiting room of a doctor’s office...you get the drift
What they’re not doing is waiting for you to approach them.
Let’s say you call one of these very busy prospects. What are the odds you’ll catch them at a good time? You’re more likely to get traction if you can say, “If this isn’t a good time, I’m happy to send you a link to my blog with more information about life insurance and the policy types you can choose from.” It’s all about making it easy for a prospect to say yes – and a blog can open that door for you. It’s an essential part of Marketing 2.0.
Successful blogging is not about one time hits. It’s about building a loyal following over time.
Think of your blog as a billboard.
It’s there to attract the attention of people driving by – except all the driving happens on the internet. Before you say, “But I don’t have time to blog,” think about the things a blog can do for you, both now and in the future:
- It creates a virtual billboard on the internet
- It gives clients and prospects a sense of who you are and what you stand for
- It provides you with things to share on social media
- It drives traffic to your online quoter through organic search engine traffic
- It serves as a destination for future marketing efforts, including pay-per-click or Facebook ads
We’re not saying a blog doesn’t take work. You have to commit to it, schedule time for it, and give yourself a head start by doing some planning beforehand.
It sounds hard, we know.
When you do it right, it can really pay off.
A great example is Barry Ritholtz, who writes about finance and asset management for the general public – but he does it so well that advisors read his blog, too. He started in 2003 and now gets 1.5 million page views monthly.
Need more proof? The second most popular personal finance blog on the web isn’t a big news conglomerate or a corporate blog – it’s one woman’s blog about saving money for her family. It’s called Money Saving Mom and it got more than 438,000 unique visitors in May of 2015.
So...are you ready to give it a shot? If so, let’s talk about 8 key components of a successful advisor blog.
#1: A Unique Voice
You should write your blog posts as if you’re talking to a client, right there in the room with you. One of the main benefits of a blog is the chance to connect with shoppers on their time. This might be their first introduction to you – and as the saying goes, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. There’s no one like you, and no one could write a blog post the way you do. That’s the best way to stand out in a crowded field, both among insurance agents and bloggers in general.
Maybe you have a unique sense of humor, or you make funny analogies, or you’re fantastic at creating hypothetical examples. Whatever you do in real life, do it in print. Your readers have already seen hundreds of blog posts explaining basic financial concepts with zero personality. They’ve also already seen hundreds of ads trying to sell them life insurance. If they’re still looking for life insurance, none of the previous articles they’ve seen have been effective.
Take note of why people compliment you. Get multiple compliments for the same thing? Aim to put that quality on display in your blog.
#2: A Targeted Audience
There’s a reason you need to collect certain pieces of information from a prospect before giving them a quote. You can’t provide an accurate quote without knowing how old they are, what the purpose of the coverage is, what kind of budget they have, and so forth.
Writing blog posts works the same way.
Who are you writing for? Are you writing for millennials or Baby Boomers? Are you writing for new parents or near-retirees? Are you writing for women or men?
What you say will change based on who you’re talking to. It’s not enough to say you’re writing for anyone who needs life insurance. That could be a newlywed couple or it could be an elderly man who doesn't want his widow to have to pay for his funeral. Pick a narrower focus by answering some of the questions listed above. You’ll be able to write targeted content that really answers your audience’s questions instead of writing generic content that doesn’t really help anyone.
Scan your book of business to find out which niches or demographics you already serve.
#3: A Lot to Say
Blogging experts (including Neil Patel of Quick Sprout) will tell you that longer blog posts perform better. Why? Because they give more information to your audience, which is the whole point of a blog. Especially with a subject as complicated as insurance and finance, 500 words isn’t going to get you very far. You can provide a basic definition, an example, and that’s about it. But why would you do that? Your clients can get basic definitions anywhere on the web. The trick is to give them what they can’t get anywhere else – and that’s going to take time and some major word count.
Social media company Buffer shared data-backed conclusions about the ideal lengths for everything from social media posts to blog articles. Their conclusion? The ideal blog post length is about 1,600 words (a 7-minute read). This takes into account both a reader’s attention span and search engine optimization – after all, you want your content to be found by the search engines so new readers can discover it. Combining both of these factors led to the 7-minute and 1,600-word conclusion. That word count translates into about 6.5 old-school handwritten pages.
Use a headset and digital recorder to talk your way through a blog post – just pretend you’re explaining a planning concept to a client. If you’re short on time, you can always hire an intern or virtual assistant to type out your recordings.
#4: An Editorial Calendar
An “editorial calendar” is just marketing-speak for a list of things you’re going to blog about. Yes, you could wing it and write about whatever comes to mind, but you’re going to have better luck if you sit down with a calendar and actually make a plan.
For example, you can take advantage of the free publicity generated by holidays and industry awareness events. September is Life Insurance Awareness Month - why not tie a blog post to the life story of that year’s spokesperson? What about that person's story resonates with you?
Similarly, you might want to talk about tax-related issues in December or April. You might want to talk about back-to-school issues in July or August. If you specialize in insuring people with particular health conditions, look for awareness months or related community events. You can rack up quite a bit of relevance and free publicity just by checking a few online calendars. (Bonus points for attending those awareness events and blogging about them – with photos, of course.)
Create/print a PDF calendar here and plan out blog post topics based on Life Insurance Awareness Month, holidays, and health condition awareness months relevant to your niche. Find a list of health awareness dates here.
#5: A Consistent Posting Schedule
It’s no accident that your favorite TV shows air at the same time every week. If you want readers to tune into your blog, it’s a good idea to have a consistent posting schedule so they know when to expect new content. They can always visit to consume old content they missed, but if you strike a chord with your readers, they’ll start looking forward to the day you post to see what you'll say next.
Posting consistently will also exercise your blogging muscles, making it more likely you'll stick with it. If you don’t set a posting schedule, it’ll be too easy to shrug it off. If your blog doesn't have new content, it won’t get as many new viewers or social shares, and you’ll think we were crazy for ever suggesting you start one in the first place. But don't take our word for it. HubSpot analyzed data from their 13,500+ customers and found that nearly all businesses, B2C and B2B, generated more leads the more they blogged.
Set a realistic posting schedule – one post every week or every other week is a good start. Set reminders on your phone or calendar to give yourself time to think and write before you need to publish a post.
#6: Visual Content
Blogging is about more than dumping words onto a page. Ideally, you want to include visual content to catch a reader’s eye. Some of us are visual learners and will grasp ideas and concepts far more quickly by looking at a picture, graph, comic, or other visual representation. Even when you’re not dealing with visual learners, you’re still up against the short attention span of today’s consumer. Marketing analytics company Chartbeat has noted that 55% of users spend less than 15 seconds looking at a web page. Ouch.
The good news?
Creating attractive visual content is a lot easier than it used to be. There are a number of online tools that can help you do this in just a few minutes, with no software at all. Your best bets include Canva, PicMonkey, Pablo by Buffer, and Skitch (for easy screen captures and annotations).
Sign up for free accounts at the image creation sites mentioned above. Bookmark royalty-free image sites like pixabay.com and morguefile.com. Images from these sites may be freely used on your blog with no attribution or licensing.
#7: Easy Social Sharing Tools
After you’ve spent time creating a post and an image to go with it, how do you get people to notice it? Sharing it on social media is a great way to start. But after you share it on your social profiles, you'll still want people who find your post later, through a search engine, to be able to share it on their social profiles.
The best way to do that is to install a social-sharing plugin on your blog. ShareThis and SumoMe’s Share app are two popular options that work on a variety of site types. If you have a webmaster or IT staff, just give them the links above and they’ll know what to do. If you don’t, these plugins are designed to be extremely user-friendly, so you can probably handle it yourself. Both of them have extensive support and tutorials to walk you through it.
Install one of the multi-platform social sharing tools listed above.
#8: A Willingness to Have Fun & Break the Rules
You didn’t think blogging was all about following the rules, did you? If it were that easy, everyone would be a successful blogger.
Don't be afraid to do something different every once in a while. A short post with a powerful image might be just as effective as a long post with several images. It depends on what you want the post to accomplish. It's also a way to make sure you can keep up with your posting schedule when life has other ideas. No time to write a long-form post this week? Post an old photo with a quick description for #ThrowbackThursday. You don't want to do this all the time, but you can definitely get creative if it means bringing value (and yes, a smile or a laugh counts as value) to your readers.
Make a list of fun post types for occasional use: memes, inspiring quotes, a few words on your favorite book or TV show, personal stories, vacation photos…anything that gives your readers a better sense of who you are and why they should want to work with you.
And there you have it - our basic 8-step plan to start blogging! See how easy it is to write a 1,900-word post when you break it up into a list form? That’s just one of the tricks up every blogger’s sleeve. There are a lot more fun things you can do with your blog, but these tips will get you started.