I pretty much remember it like it was yesterday. I picked up the phone to make a call that I had no business making. The call was random, unexpected, and he would probably think I was crazy.
Before we get to that phone call, let me back up and tell you I was 30. At 30, I somehow had this burst of “why not me” that seemed to be invading every piece of my life””from chopping my hair off to deciding that I wanted a tattoo after being terrified to get one for the majority of my life (side note, I never actually got said tattoo). The point is, at 30 I felt like I could do anything I wanted and wasn’t interested in hearing anyone tell me no. I had a giant shift in my life.
After a year in agency ownership and surviving what I so lovingly call “the ramen times”, I felt like I had something to share. Now friends, I had nothing to share except hilarious stories about how my kids owned my life, my agency ran me, and that if I showered that day it was a decent day. (Side note: if you know me well enough, you know I actually hate showering. Yup. Not even sorry about it.)
But I had the itch.
I wanted to write. I hadn’t a clue about what, but I knew I wanted to. I just knew I wanted to make an IMPACT.
Fast forward back to the phone call in March 2015.
Hey there, my name is Erin Nutting and I think I want to start a blog.
O.K., do you have a website?
Do I need a website to blog?
So turns out… you do in fact need a website to blog, and how I started my website journey is an entirely different blog for a different day. Back to my conversation about starting my blog…on the other end of that phone call sat a very patient man who had no idea that he was about to create a blog website, teach a completely green insurance agency owner how to start a blog, or start a three-year journey of watching me incorrectly use punctuation and grammar.
Either way, I had no business making that call.
Within about a 30-day window, the owner of now one of the most successful website development companies for insurance agents, Chris Langille, had built a personal branding website that gave this 30-year old a platform to make all the grammatical errors she wanted.
I was doing it.
I was going to make an impact.
I was going to change the world, one blog at a time.
One problem… I didn’t know what to write about. In fact I had no idea where to even start. I didn’t have a demographic, I didn’t have a plan, and I was completely overwhelmed and ready to throw in the highlighter (when I am frustrated, sometimes I throw office supplies) before I even started.
Blogging theoretically sounds cool but once the work needed to start it was basically like watching me try to diagnose a non-functioning car. It wasn’t happening.
I started realizing that by not having a plan or a clear way to begin that not only could I not make an impact, but that my writing/blogging served no purpose.
Blogging in the insurance space can’t just be about throwing some words on a piece of paper (proverbial paper) to have people tell you how great you are. That is not making an impact. Creating content… spending the time to put fingers to keys... has to serve a purpose.
What was my purpose?
Writing policies. That had to start being my purpose. That had to be why I was blogging.
Why? Remember those “ramen times”?
It was imperative that my writing started driving business to my agency to make money. So, I shifted my mindset and made a million mistakes. Some of which I am going to so boldly share with you today so you don’t make them also (or maybe make them and just do them better for the next generation to learn from, right?).
My goal here is to not quite give you the end-all, be-all to everything you need to know about insurance blogging. I am not qualified to even sit on the side of that arena. My goal is to share with you the very real mistakes I made and hurdles I battled so you can get the confidence you need to stop with the excuses you have created on why you haven’t started blogging.
This is your guide to start.
Everything you need to know about writing for your first insurance agency blog
Do away with the excuses on why you can’t and will not succeed at blogging
I wish I had the time to blog… but I am just so busy.
If I wasn’t trying to maintain my reputation of only cursing in face-to-face situations, I would have used a different word to describe how I feel about an agency owner/producer not having the time to blog. I could easily say the clichÃ© quote, “If you care about something, you will make the time” but I am better than that and so are you.
Blogging is not something you just sit down and instantly be amazing at (if so, let me know where I can sit down to achieve said amazingness), blogging is a slow churn. By breaking it down into small chunks, it helps me obtain my goals of developing a story, giving the reader some Skittles (I refuse to say meat and potatoes), and then telling them what to do next.
How I time manage my blog writing with four kids, an agency, being a taxi driver (#momlife), and so much more:
- I don’t blog during agency hours. Don’t be a Silly Sour Patch Kid like me (or how I used to be anyway and still sometimes revert to eye roll myself). I have enough happening in my agency that whenever I tried to blog during valuable business time I found myself getting upset that I was getting interrupted by people calling in to get quotes. The Nerve.
- I use my iCloud notes for “all the things”. The best thing I ever did (I know I am a Dum Dum pop for not doing this sooner) is having iCloud notes on all my devices. This way when I think of an epic one-liner or something that is a good topic idea, I can jot it down on my notes wherever I am and have it at the ready. I am a tech girl but I imagine if you have a notebook or a planner with you that it would serve the same purpose. Notes just works for me.
- Make the promise to yourself. One of the greatest pieces of advice I have ever received was from a she-woman powerhouse that has nothing to do with the insurance space. Rachel Hollis. If you don’t know who she is, follow her and read her stuff. In her recent book, Girl Wash Your Face, she talks about how breaking promises with your self is the ultimate set up for failure. If you really think about it, it kind of makes sense, right? So what I do now is block the time out as an appointment on my calendar. Example: Tuesday – 500 words. Thursday – 500 words Saturday – edit that ish because, Lord knows, I can’t spell or format on the first few go-rounds.
If you constantly make and break promises to yourself, you’re not making promises at all. You’re talking. – Rachel Hollis
- Don’t get attached to your writing until it’s done. I would have these ideas that I thought were amazing and I would spend countless hours trying to figure out how to write the words perfectly on my computer screen to deliver the perfect message. It was exhausting. So I have about 29 blogs that have amazing headlines but no copy. The point is, not every theoretical idea is a good one, and I spent more time trying to make them into good ones than just pumping them out. A blog should not take you a week to write. Focus.
- Give yourself a deadline. I live for goals. So the fact that one of my biggest failures comes from a lack of having them cracks me up. Just like a major editor would do, give yourself a deadline. Pick a date and don’t waiver. This is it.
Where do you blog?
As mentioned above, and as I didn’t know previously, you blog on your website.
Let me be even more specific.
You want to blog on whatever platform you want your “reading demographic” to visit. *More on demographic in a moment* If you want them to get a quote from you on your car insurance, blogging on your personal blog and then asking the consumer to make a special trip to another site is bananas (and not the good kind, like chocolate covered).
I did this. I am still shaking my head for it. Write where you want the consumer to be. Think Ariel from the Little Mermaid here…
I wanna be where the people are
Aside from actually typing the words and spending the time writing, this is hands down the most important piece of blogging. To turn words into DOLLA DOLLA BILLS YA’LL you need to make sure where you are writing content that makes sense. Don’t be like me and spend countless hours writing content on a personal branding site and then basically beg readers to visit another site to get a quote. Even typing it here just sounds ridiculous.
I see it often and I’ll save my soapbox rant for another day to just leave you with this.
Blog where it counts. On your website.
I don’t know what to write about.
I feel you. No seriously. I have spent numerous blogs just blah blah blah because I had no idea what to write about. The best thing I ever could have done was write (what we so lovingly call in the Advisor Evolved Family #ae4life) Pillar Posts. These posts are the peanut butter to your jelly.
These are the beasts (beast is such an underutilized word) that you get to write and send out to customers when they want further information about something you probably are already talking about all the time.
Example… State Minimum Auto Insurance
These pillar posts are a double whammy. Think about it!
- You get to put content on your website – BOOM
- You will save time by having to explain in a tremendous amount of detail via email why you aren’t writing Jeanie’s state minimum liability limits. Just send her the link.
- You look like a BFD (Big Frickin’ Deal) because you actually wrote something and it is out there for all the world to see.
- You can incorporate said articles into an automation for even further customer amazingness (your mind just exploded… I know).
The point is, the “stuff” to write about is right under your nose. Don’t spend days agonizing over what to write about. Think of a question or two that you get all the time and write something for the other hundreds of people who are probably looking for the same answer””but online.
I believe in you.
The word count weigh in
Most people by now know when they see a blog that I write that they should probably settle in. Grab a cup of hot lemon water (this is my new jam) and put your readers on. I get it.
There once was a tale… a long long time ago.
I am wordy. Here’s why being wordy works for me. Most people will never be dazzled by my blog formatting (can I get an amen?). No one will scream Bravo at me for my tremendous grammatical skills (insert eye roll here). What I do have is the ability to take you and my demographic on a journey. I believe in the personality of a blog. It is what I like to read and what I like to deliver. It’s all I have to work with, folks! Insurance is only exciting to people who get paid to service it and sell it. So I have to tell the story in order for consumers to want to be a part of it.
For me, I have a hard time delivering a story in anything less than 1800 words. I don’t know why it takes me so long but, hey, such is life.
There have been rumors (from the blogging Gods) that the magic number for Google to recognize and want to play with your blog (like old pals on the playground) is 1200 words. 1200 words gets you a seat at the table to have a shot at ranking, if you consistently show up. Meaning you have to do it more than once… I know, shocking.
The point is, focus less on the word count and more on the ability you have to bleed through your words to who is reading your blog.
With that said… Friends don’t let friends write 500 word blogs.
To video or not to video
Up until January 2017 the idea of putting a video in my blog was terrifying to me. Not so much the idea of being on camera and throwing that in a blog but the idea of editing a video was terrifying.
So after a few lessons in how not to have a floating head on your video from none other than video main man himself, Nicholas Ayers. I decided to just go for it.
Ever since I try to incorporate as much video as my sanity will allow and I try to be purposeful with it. My largest recommendation if you choose to implement video into your blogging is that you should wait. Don’t bite off more than you can chew and if you have never written a blog, focus on that first.
If you do decide that you must have video in your first ever insurance blog, my first recommendation would be to steal this gem idea (you have my permission). Make a video and blog about where you live. I wish I could tell you why it was so successful for me and my agency, but I am still working through that myself, so I will make sure to keep you updated.
Needless to say, this video and blog combination got me over 30,000 views on You Tube (yes, 30K) and leads weekly for people who are relocating to our area from all over the country through the actual blog article.
*Pro-Tip: I filmed this with just 2 hours of sleep, after my toddler kept me up all night. I get negative comments on it all the time about my appearance… and I DON’T! Be authentic and don’t spend too much time trying to look your greatest. No one cares. *
Adding pizzaz to your blog
After publicly making the following comment from the Elevate 2018 stage,
Do not overuse GIFs as they can be distracting to the reader,
I am going to stand by my comment and encourage you, as a first-time blogger, to stick to the goods. Are GIFs fun? Sure. And if you must have them in your blog, I always use giphy.com to get creative with my GIF game.
Adding pictures to your blog will help break it up and allow you to format it a little better to help the reader make it through (see my Little Mermaid GIF above… that was to give your eyeballs a needed break). *ProTip: When using images, you want to make sure they are allowed to be used for redistribution. The last thing you want to do is steal someone’s photo by mistake and use it for your own blog. NO, I didn’t do this…. O.K., fine, yes, yes I did. Don’t do this. It’s messy and stressful.
The call to action
This piece of your blog is crucial for conversion. What do I mean by conversion? Conversion means a client reads your blog and then takes action.
In order for them to take action you have to be blatantly clear on what exactly it is that you would like them to do.
If you want them to get a quote, you need to throw a “button” in that says GET QUOTE HERE. If you want them to read something else, you need to make it painfully obvious what you want them to read.
Some agents have different styles of doing this but the end result should be the same. If you don’t have an obvious “here is where to go next” then you aren’t intentional with converting that reader into a client. Make the quick adjustment.
The Pep Talk
This is where I step out into the arena as your teammate and tell you that you’ve got this. What you have to say and what you have to share… matters. Whether you are writing about state minimum auto insurance coverage, an upcoming storm and what to do if you have a claim, or even highlighting a local business in your area, whatever you write about matters.
Your job isn’t to make sure that your words are perfect. Trust me, they won’t be. If you are lucky you might even offend someone with your excessive use of the word SAVAGE (this one is probably just going to fall on me). The point is, stop with the delay. Stop with the “I need to start doing that” or the “in 2019 my goal is to start”. Start now.
Share it. Be proud of what you will and have accomplished. Shout your blog from the rooftops. Not just on your first post, but on all of them.
What you have to say will make an impact and, who knows, along the way you might even learn a little about yourself and build confidence in your ability to share what you love to do with your consumers.
Set your deadline. Grab your lemon water. And get after it.