How can a small business dominate digital lead gen in the most competitive industry when it comes to online marketing?
Brian J. Greenberg
This week on The Inbound Success Podcast, entrepreneur and author Brian J. Greenberg shares the digital marketing formula he used to take on the giants of the life insurance industry and drive growth for his small insurance startup.
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Some highlights from our discussion include:
The life insurance industry is one of the top four most competitive industries to rank for in Google, but Brian has successfully grown traffic and leads to his website, often outranking major brand name competitors.
Inspired by a talk given by Will Reynolds of Seer Interactive, Brian focuses on doing "really company stuff" in his internet marketing (basically, he doesn't try and game the system).
He starts by building his website's link profile through high quality back links.
Using freelancers he finds through Upwork.com, Brian writes keyword-rich articles that he gets placed on third party websites through his online PR efforts.
He then shares those articles by linking to them on his website press page.
Brian doesn't mind paying outsourced writers or PR experts because he knows the value of a high quality backlink (which he measures using SEMRush).
He has a very thorough process for vetting outsourced writers that he uses to help with content creation.
Brian is a contributor to online publications like Entrepreneur and Forbes and those sites have given him very high quality backlinks.
He also writes long form answers on Quora and has found that these gain the attention of publications that then request to republish them.
Brian uses cash incentives to encourage his staff to solicit online reviews and testimonials as a way of establishing site authority and boosting lead conversions.
Brian measures ROI by determining the exact dollar value of a new backlink or online review.
His marketing system has resulted in True Blue Life Insurance having a lead to customer conversion rate that is 10x that of its competitors.
Brian Greenberg (Guest):Hey, thanks for having me, Kathleen.
Brian and Kathleen recording this episode
Kathleen: Yeah, my pleasure. I got a little tongue tied there around saying True Blue. I think if I said it six times fast it would be a big jumble.
Brian, I was excited to have you because I've been an agency owner for many years prior to joining Impact, and in that time I've worked with a number of insurance agencies and brokerages. I really came to appreciate that from an Inbound marketing and even just a broader digital marketing standpoint, it's one of, if not the most competitive industries. Because so much money is poured into digital marketing in insurance. There's so many 800 pound gorillas in the industry, and especially for independent brokerages, it can be very, very difficult to rank and to succeed with digital.
You're somebody whose kind of figured it out, so much so that you've now written a book about what you're doing. So, before we dive too far into that, let's start by having you tell our audience a little bit about yourself and your background and what brought you here today.
About Brian Greenberg
Brian: Sure. I started in the internet marketing business back in 2003, so I'd kind of seen a lot of the evolution.
Now I've always earned my money, been a business owner and passive income, by bringing in traffic through Google and Yahoo and MSN. I've always been able to rank real well in any of the main key words I've been able to do in the past.
I have owned an organic internet marketing agency. I've owned several e-commerce agencies, there was one point where I owned about 8 different businesses at the same time. Kind of cut down on that, Kathleen.
Kathleen: I was going to say
Brian: Right now, I went into...
Kathleen: You had eight businesses at once? I had one and that was enough to keep me up at night.
About True Blue Life Insurance
Brian: Yeah. Then I decided to go into True Blue life insurance - the life insurance industry, which is very profitable. It's one of the top four most competitive industries on the internet and it was a big challenge.
I started a website a long time ago that had success and now I focus on it 100%. I am competing against a lot of big guys with a lot of deep pockets and knock on wood, I've been able to it very successfully for a long time now.
Kathleen: That's amazing. You know, I think what's interesting to me is there are so many other business owners out there. I have a lot of listeners who are business owners. Who are naturally interested in marketing, either because they have to be, or because their businesses are a size where they can't afford not to be. There's a lot of marketing folks who are helping to grow smaller businesses.
So, for somebody who's in a competitive industry, and looking at trying to get found online and to carve out a niche in the digital world, where do you start these days? You did it in life insurance, but again if you can do it there, I feel like you can do it anywhere. So walk me through what your approach is.
Brian's Approach to Inbound Marketing
Brian: Sure. The first thing I want to say you know, it was back in 2012 when Google came out with this penguin update and it kind of wiped out so many people that were doing too much organic SEO marketing.
So Will Reynolds, he's the owner of Seer Interactive, he did this beautiful presentation, where he said from now on you have to do real company stuff. He had the abbreviation RCS. He had a profanity at the end of it, but it's RCS and what it means is that you should only be doing things that a real company would do.
So, if you get offered somebody who is just going to do excessive log commenting or they're going to be spinning articles or they're going to put you in a private log network. You have to think, is that something a real company would do? So that's the first thing.
Kathleen: Its seems like an obvious one right but it's surprising how many people don't get that one.
Brian: Because people are contacted so often by SEO agencies that don't do things white hat. These days if you do things wrong you could actually end up hurting yourself, which is a terrible thing that I don't want people to do.
So what I like to do is kind of build a website's link profile. Alright, so you're kind of building a foundation. You know, obviously you have content but below that I believe you have links and I'm trying to build up an authority website.
So the first thing you should do is, you should go after all the easy links, all the directories in your markets, try to hit all the competitors. I don't know, get a listing on the better business bureau. Hit all the local directories and start getting known. And start getting those basic links and I think that's the good beginning of a link profile.
Kathleen: Yeah, you know I had the CMO of Yext, Jeff Rohrs on the podcast a few months back. They're such a great service for doing exactly what you just described, which is getting started, getting your directory links set up, doing it right, making sure they're clean and all the information is consistent across them. And it's so reasonable. So, easy way to get started.
So, let's say you've tackled that stage in the process, then what?
Building Site Authority Through Back Links
Brian: You want to start going after more authority links. High quality links. Now these days you don't need that many.
So, you want to pose yourself as an expert. I am a big fan of doing online PR these days. Now online PR, you kind of gotta put yourself out there a little bit, but what I like doing is writing articles. Articles that I basically have a PR person, or I got on to Upwork and I have them release it to all the blogs, all the media outlets, and do my best to get those published.
Now, there's a couple tricks on how to write these articles, to make them attractive to a lot of editors. Number one, you should always use a number in them if you can. It's definitely very helpful. "The Seven Ways This,"... "The Eight Ways This."
I'm writing an article right now, "The Five Life Insurance Game Changers for 2019."
I also recommend you use a catchy headline. I use a site called headlines.sharethrough.com. It is a free website, I have no idea why it's free, Kathleen. It's that good. You just kind of put your headline in there and it will give you a score, and it will also make suggestions on how to make it better. I've had great success with that.
But if you give that to a PR person who has a good Rolodex, they have a good list, and you shop the around, it's wonderful to see it get picked up. And sometimes you'll get some interviews coming in as well. That's a great basis to put yourself out there.
But you do as a business owner have to put yourself out there. It takes a little Chutzpah, to go after these types of links.
Using Online PR to Get Back Links
Kathleen: Now, you're writing these articles, do you have to already have published on your own site? Do you need to have examples of your work or are you really getting these articles published based purely on the merit of the article itself?
Brian: Primarily based on the merit of the article to start. You know, once you start getting these published, you start building up a press page.
I think that's a very important thing. I see so many people they'll get a great listing on Entrepreneur, or they'll do an interview at their local news station, but they won't put it on their website, which is a huge mistake.
Those things are worth a lot of money. Because look, people see that on your website, it builds credibility and it lasts for such a long time. Especially if you can get it in some sort of interview on video, it's nice.
I just want to stress the importance of putting up a press page and listing all the placements you've got. It is not a form of bragging, it is an absolute must, to make it easier to get more pick ups.
Kathleen: Yeah. You mentioned using either a PR firm or even going on Upwork and finding somebody who can distribute this kind of thing for you. I think for some small businesses, certainly working with PR firms can seem intimidating or it might seem too expensive.
Can you tell us a little bit about how you've done it, what has the cost been to get placements? What should someone expect to spend and are there reasonably priced ways to go about doing this?
Brian: The answer is yes. I think so many people who go to a big PR firm and people will charge you know at least $10,000.00 a month to take you on. You don't have to do that. There's so many people on free lancer websites, and that's a great way to find people. A lot of these people do have their own kind of websites that they do PR.
Although, I can do a release for about $2,000.00. But more importantly, I get the people to guarantee me a certain amount of pick ups.
So, I'll do a release, I use a company that's really good but I pay them $5,000.00, but they guarantee me at least 15 pickups, from authority websites that are real links back. Not just pickups that are a copy of a press release. They're real pickups.
So, if you do that you can value how much those links are.
Now in my book, a good link from a press release from an authority place is worth about $1,000.00 dollars to me. So I know how much I'm willing to pay for the links, and if you can get a PR firm to guarantee you a certain amount of links and they'll keep going until they get them, it's very hard to lose on that Kathleen.
Kathleen: Now, how are you measuring authority of these links?
Measuring Link Authority
Brian: I'm not too strict on them. I like to use SEMrush. I have one of the toolbars that I keep open. As long as the website has basically organic traffic cost. I love this statistic.
I use SEMrush and you know what they do? They take the keywords that you rank for and they convert it to if you were to pay for it on paper click, how much it's worth. So I know if the website is getting some traffic, if they're indexed, it's a valuable link. But more importantly Kathleen, it's an organic link, okay?
So, even if it's not on that great of a website or that much of an authority of a website, it's a natural link and starts building up that link profile and it's worth actually a lot.
Even these podcasts that I'm doing, Kathleen, is a way to build links. So you know a lot of people that run podcasts, they post the article and they'll link to my websites. Those are extremely valuable links that real companies do.
Kathleen: Alright, I'm so glad you brought that up because, it's interesting, the push back that I often hear from business owners, when you say things like you need to write an article and get it published out there, a lot of times what I hear is, but I'm not a great writer. Or I don't like to write, or I can't write. And you know, I think it's great to know that there are options.
Using Outsourced Writers
Kathleen: You don't have to always write. You could go on podcasts and be a guest, if you find the right podcast with the right fit. And that's another way of doing this, so. Good point that you made there.
Brian: I also want to say this. As a business owner you maybe a great writer, you may not. You don't have to write all your own articles. You know I have to have a knowledge of how to write articles. I read some books on writing and I practiced it. I love the book by Stephen King on writing well. Great book. But I hire free lancers to write articles. I do. Alright.
You know it's very hard to keep generating these articles and run a business. I like to find freelancers. I do it on Upwork.com. You hire these people very similar to hiring normal employees.
I like to get them on the phone. I interview them. When I give them an article, I'll actually have a phone call with them, for about a half an hour or an hour, and I'll go over all the content, and they'll provide it back to me. We'll massage it and make sure it's great, and then release it, because they're writing in your voice. You have to make sure you can edit it.
But yes, you don't have to write them yourself, Kathleen. You can hire free lancers. There's a lot of firms that do so. So I definitely encourage people to do that.
Kathleen: I'm glad you brought that up as well, because I think there's different ways of outsourcing article creation, and I've certainly had my experience with most of them.
What I've seen is that where business owners outsource and they say, for example your article, Seven Insurance Game Changers for 2019. You know, if you just put something on Upwork and said I want somebody to write something on this, and you said go and write it, what you would get back would probably be, forgive my language, but total crap.
Whereas, if you're outsourcing writing and you're willing to either write an outline with your key points, you are after all the subject matter expert, or if you're willing to be interviewed and find a writer who has a journalism background, often they can tease it out of you. I think taking a completely hands off approach is a tremendous, tremendous mistake.
Brian: Yeah. You know it's about quality, not quantity. Absolutely.
And yeah, I've made those mistakes too, Kathleen. I've hired people on a lot of these platforms iwriter, I don't know a bunch of them. You can't really just give somebody a topic and let them run with it. It's just not a good practice.
What I've learned is that you want to find somebody you have a rapport with. And absolutely speak with them. If you're not going to be speaking with them verbally over the telephone, it's not really worth doing. You have to treat them almost like they're an employee.
I like to find people that are quality writers, and I stick with them. Right. All these freelancers want long term relationships, and I find a couple and I stick with them.
And absolutely keep having phone calls, get them on video, get them on zoom, and build a relationship with a writer because its so important if they write in your voice.
And again, it's not about quantity. You don't want to pump these out. They have to be quality. Not little short blog posts, either. I like to write actual pages between 800 words and 1500 words.
Kathleen: Yeah. Amen, on sticking with the writers, because it's like hiring anybody. Having that ramp up period can be painful and expensive and once you've gotten somebody to the point where they're doing the job you need them to do, hold on to them.
So, alright. You're working on your back links, you're producing these articles, you're getting somebody to help distribute them out, so that you can get published elsewhere. What comes next?
Contributing Guest Articles as a Back Linking Strategy
Brian: Once you start building up that press page, there's a few different things you can do.
I like to apply to become an editor, or a contributor. So right now I'm a contributor at Entrepeneur.com. And I am also on Forbes.com. There's a couple industry magazines that kind of come to me as well.
I like to join organizations. If you can qualify for an organization, do it. I'm a member of the Million Dollar Roundtable of Insurance. Top 1% of financial advisors in the world. They keep coming to me and I write articles for them or they interview me for articles.
I think sponsoring people is another great thing that you can do. You can just do a Google search for sponsors and find something locally, but make sure that they give you a link.
One of the main things is I want to see if they're giving me a back link. I'll write testimonials for all the companies I do business with and I'll value them higher if they'll give me a link. I'm always after them.
Now, some people say, “Oh, don't go after no follow links.” I'm kind of from the thinking of that I'm fine with no follow links.
Do they help? I think they do. I think they build up your overall link profile. If you don't have a certain amount of no follow links, you're going to stand out in the Google algorithm as an unnatural link profile. No follow, follow, doesn't matter.
Redirects, you'll want redirects. If you hover over that link, you want it to go to your website not a redirect. But every link that you build, everything you do, all I can say is everything I do, I'm looking for those link backs.
Participating in Contributor Programs
Kathleen: So let's go back to the beginning of what you just said, which was that you apply to be a contributor. And you talked about Entrepreneur and Forbes and those are two very well known, well regarded publications. I would imagine most business owners would be really excited to be able to contribute articles there.
How hard is that to do? What's involved in that process?
Brian: You have to have a little body of work. Again, it's so much as the press page. All these places they actually have a forum you'd be so surprised that you can apply to become a contributor. They don't hide it. You can say what your expertise is if you have an expertise in a certain niche, all the better. And if you have a body of work, these people want content.
The other thing they're looking for Kathleen is what kind of following do you have? If you write an article they want people to come to the website.
So if I'm building up a social media profile or my email list, I have 30,000 Twitter followers and 4,000 Facebook followers and I have an email list of 40,000, let these guys know then in the application. Huge.
So those are the kinds of things that they're looking for to become a contributor. I do want to say, well a couple of other things, but I just want to make sure that I give you a chance in case you have questions.
Kathleen: I'm curious about this because I've looked into these contributor programs before and what has stopped me from digging further is, well number one, I'm not sure that I could generate enough articles with enough frequency on top of doing my podcast.
So I'm curious is there an expectation for how often you contribute? Is it however often you want to? How does the program work once you're in? And is it different from publication?
Brian: I think they do want to a regular contributor, I would definitely say you're willing to do it for a month to begin. Use a freelancer to get started. What I found is though they don't really hold you to it.
So if you give them a couple of articles, you can take a break for three months. Once you're in, you're in. They give you access to their admin console and you can submit articles whenever you want. So let them know that you want to do it for a month to begin. I just want to let people know that I've never had anyone holds me to it.
Kathleen: That's good to know. So you said you had a few more things you wanted to add and I kind of interrupted you there. Let's go with what you were going to say.
Other Back Linking Shortcuts
Brian: All right. There's a couple of shortcuts that I've been using lately.
One is Quora. Quora is becoming a wonderful place to submit and contribute content. If you can write a really nice answer and format it a certain way, it actually gets picked up. I've had pick ups across the board on Forbes and sometimes you get picked up on Time, you get picked up on AOL. It's amazing how many people pick up Quora articles.
You could also publish them on Medium and then you can build up a profile that way. So you don't really necessarily have to be a contributor to build up your kind of portfolio of work.
When you're going on Quora, it's worth learning and you can see the people that are getting picked up, see the format that they're using and you put a link in those and you put a link back to your website and they let you have that.
So I've gotten so many articles also published using Quora. Huge. I think it's kind of a secret that not many people talk about, but I'd like to share it with your listeners.
The other is, I know it's kind of an old thing, but Help A Reporter Out (HARO), you can get a lot of pickups from that. It's such a pain to keep up with it. Although if you outsource it to a freelancer that really speaks in your voice and at least let them run with it, you can get pickups that way.
Kathleen: Yeah, I get those HARO emails several times a day and they are gold mines and I have definitely gotten written up in some pretty big publications, but man, is it like drinking from the firehose?
So now we can't keep going without stopping for a minute and I got to ask you to go into a little bit more detail on this Quora stuff because you are actually the first person who's talked about this on my podcast and I am always a sucker for these new channels and new strategies.
So when you say you got to look at the way they format it, can you get detailed for a minute there and talk through that?
Brian: Yeah, you have to format it. It's coming from you, so it has to be I and pose yourself as the expert. Those are huge.
So right when the beginning you can say, look I've been doing this for 15 years. I've earned $50 million in revenue. Pose yourself as the expert and then organize it like a very good article.
Now, there's a limit. You never want to go over a thousand words. The sweet spot is about 800 words.
You want to give specifics, you want to organize it kind of with the headings on there and then they have kind of like internal blogs on Quora and you can submit it there as well.
So that's the secondary thing you should do. They kind of have industry specific blogs in core that you can post your stuff.
And then I just got to tell you, you'd be so surprised of how many editors and online publications are just monitoring Quora. It's so surprising, but go through some of these people that are contributing quite a bit and you can look in their profile and you can see what articles were picked up. They let you see it. And not only that Kathleen, I mean the traffic they can come from it is immense.
It is kind of a lot of people may answer a question and you may not get the top spot but sometimes you will and when you do it it's so worth it.
Yeah, go through there, find a question that you could answer, do your best. Have a freelancer help you with it and it's a great way to get those very elusive links without having to become a contributor.
Now, you're not going to get published every time, but I'd say for me it's been about 50% of the time.
Kathleen: Wow. Now, are you always creating original content for Quora or are you ever taking content you've published on your own website, for example, and repurposing it?
Brian: I like to do original content and what I'll also do is I'll edit the article a little bit and also post it on Medium and that seems to be the formula.
There's a few internet marketing firms, SEO firms that are kind of doing this under the radar and this is the ingredients to do so. Quora, then Medium, and then you also publish on your LinkedIn.
All right, that's another group I think. Connect with all the editors. It's a simple thing. Very few people turn people down on LinkedIn and then you post it on your LinkedIn and that's a good thing. Also post it on your Twitter and Facebook and boom, let it run from there.
Kathleen: Yeah, that's just so interesting. I'm going to have to test this out now because I have answered questions on Quora, but I've never really written them up like an article, so I'm curious to see what's going to happen if I try that. All right, what's the next step? We got our guest posts, we got our our back links, our press page. What comes next?
Brian: You're starting to build up an authority website and most people are not in that competitive industry like I am. So just a few of those links and you're going to be way ahead of your competitors. You put a little bit of work and then you hired some writers, maybe hired some PR people to distribute.
The next thing is working on your website and conversion rate optimization. I like building up reviews, that's my thing. I'm in the insurance industry and people stereotypically have a terrible reputation.
Using Online Reviews to Drive Conversions
Brian: I want to be the good guy in the industry. So I've always gone after reviews and the more I get the better.
I value a review that on my own website at about $100 a piece and once I get a good review on my website I give them that exact same comment and I ask them to put it on Google Business or the Better Business Bureau. Those are my two, sometimes Facebook. Same comment, just give it to them and overwhelmingly people will give me additional reviews.
Kathleen: Now you've mentioned about Better Business Bureau twice and I have to ask you, why the BBB? And I think I might know the answer, but I'm curious to see what you say.
Brian: Well people have done studies and I've actually done a study myself. I paid 1500 people to do a survey and I asked them what is the most credible source that you would go to? Which one has the most weight? And I did Yelp, then I did a Google Business, the Better Business Bureau, Facebook.
Better Business Bureau wins overwhelmingly. Not only that, it's inexpensive to get in. It's like $550 to get a membership, although they give you a seal. A beautiful seal on your website and that seal is one of the best seals you can get to increase conversion rates. So it's a double pop there.
And then if you can start getting reviews on the Better Business Bureau and an A plus rating, which you kind of get automatically at start, when people look your business up and overwhelmingly people will, they'll still look up your name followed by reviews or complaints.
I've done studies on this and they do do that and the Better Business Bureau comes up number one and two and they'll also display the stars. And usually that's the tipping point.
They'll read your website, they'll read your services, they'll look you up. And then boom, Better Business Bureau wonderful. I trust this company.
Kathleen: Yeah, it's interesting. There's been a lot of chatter in search engine optimization forums lately about whether Google is factoring in particularly Better Business Bureau reviews into its ranking algorithm. And I just read recently that they said they're not, but then there's all these SEOs who are saying, well, they might say that, but the data shows that they are. And so it's something that's been on my radar of, Oh, I kind of need to keep watching this because it's an interesting area that not a lot of companies focus, which if it is a ranking factor, it could be a major opportunity.
Brian: I don't want to speculate on that Kathleen. I do believe so. I know the Better Business Bureau gives a link back and I do believe that that link back is very valuable.
I'd be surprised if they didn't look at the ratings and I'd be surprised if they didn't look at the report, whether it's an A, B or C company and how many complaints. It'd be smart for them to do so. I
also have the beliefs that Google actually ranks websites higher on the website statistics of how many people come to your website and stay on your website and how many page views and whether they go back and do another search for another company.
Back in the day and Google I think it was called In The Plex, where they Google would measure what is a successful search? A successful search is when people type something into Google, go to a website and don't do another search. They found what they were looking for. And I've had pages on my website that I've had great statistics on into how many pages and time and those pages for me rank the best, they just do.
Kathleen: Yeah. I always like to say that Google's in the business of delivering the best answer the fastest and that's why page load times and quality of information, which you spoke to and that they measure quality of information, exactly by what you said, which is how many people bounce, how long do they spend on the page, that sort of thing.
Those are really key metrics for them because they're in a competitive business just like we are even though they're completely killing it, but that's the reason they're killing it, is that they look at that stuff.
Brian: I agree. I think in the past so many people were thinking about technical SEO and in this one bothers me to do technical SEO, although I think Google keeps moving away from it a little bit. They're looking more at those statistics and how it serves the user.
So I like to do a link profile and then the quality content that I want to answer the user's question, I want them to stay on my website. And the more I do that, the higher rank.
I'm ranking against big companies, MetLife and State Farm and then also companies that have been getting funding, getting $180 million in funding, one of my competitors got. The other one got $50 million and I'm able to compete with them.
So it's an even playing field on the internet and you could have a lot of fun if you put a little bit of work in it.
Kathleen: Yeah, and I think time and time again, the data shows and the results show that if you solve for the user, you get better results than if you try and solve for the search engine. Because search engines change their rules all the time.
You talked about testimonials. Do you have a process for getting testimonials because I know lots of companies like the idea of getting them, but then they freeze and sort of fall into paralysis at the thought of how they're going to get them.
Brian: I touched on them a little bit. I value a review that comes into my website at $100 and these are reviews that I control. If someone gives me a bad review, I can fix it. I can contact the customer or I can choose not to display it on my website.
I think that's something that everyone should do. I think so many people are scared to go out and ask them to review on my Google Business, to the Better Business Bureau because the fear of getting a bad review.
Now, I also want to say I value a review on the Better Business Bureau or Google or any of these third party websites at $250 a piece plus maybe $50 each additional year because they stay on there.
So I like to incentivize my team, my employees. I bonus them on the reviews that they get. I do believe that if you have a business that you focus on getting reviews, you're almost kind of like required to do a great ethical, honest and transparent business focused on customer service and I love that. So I like it when the more people that focus on reviews.
I let my customers ask for the reviews. I have an automated process, but it comes from my sales team. I use ActiveCampaign. After I've delivered the service, I send them an email on the fourth, the eighth, and the twelfth day, and I make it very easy in the email.
I have little stars, and if they click a star, they go to the review page. Alright? I have them enter in a comment. I like the stars and the comment, that way on my website I can include schema, or rich snippets, that show up in the search engines.
And if they give me a five star review, I give them that exact comment in another email from the agent, automated, Kathleen. And it has the exact link for them enter in the review. Don't send them to your main Better Business Bureau page or just do a Google search.
There's particular URLs that you can give so it gives them the pop-up right then and there, so they can put the star and the comment. Don't make people click around. The easier it is, the better.
And if you deliver great service, it invokes the theory of reciprocity and people want to help you. And especially if it comes from the person that helped them, and it's a personal thing, and they built a relationship, they're worth so much, Kathleen.
I have seen my conversion rates, and I have seen so many customers call me and say they chose me, they chose our company, because of all the great reviews.
Kathleen: Now, one thing that I find really interesting is that a couple of times now, you've referenced whether it's what a review is worth to you, or what an article or a backlink is worth to you. How important is it to your process, to understand the value of those things?
Brian: It's so important. I think it's hard to measure ROI on these things, right? There's a lot of studies. Let's say you get a few five star reviews on Yelp, it'll increase the reservations of a restaurant by 10%. Look at Amazon, people are just scurrying to get reviews for their products to increase their sales.
I like putting a value in there so people know the value of it. For me, look, if I'm getting a hundred dollars for each review, and 250 dollars for another review, I measure on the increased conversion rate, but I also know how much I can bonus my employees for it.
I'll run a special for my employees that equates to about 50 dollars per review that they get from their clients. Normally, it's 25 dollars. But it's a great bonus for my team, and I track it, and I let people know who's winning.
It's definitely an initiative and a main thing in my business. And if you know the value, I think that you can encourage your team to do so and make it more of an initiative for your company.
Kathleen: Yeah. I see, very often, companies that offer customers some sort of bonus, whether it's a gift card or what have you, for leaving a review. But I really like the approach of offering that to your employees. Because ultimately if your customer is giving the review and not getting paid, it certainly is more authentic.
You're going to probably get better reviews because they'll be from people who actually really care about your business, and it's great to have your team really invested.
Brian: Absolutely. Look, I've tried the incentives, and it's a tricky path. I'll offer the incentives for an honest review, but I'll only do it for the review on my own website. But yeah, you're exactly right. I found so much more value in bonusing my team, rather than incentivizing the customer.
I don't know the logic behind it, I think has to do a lot with the reciprocity principle. But yeah, boy, it's a great way to do it.
And also, you want to bonus your team so they have the focus of giving great customer service, and that's what builds the relationship, and it builds lifetime value to the customers, and it starts building and growing your business for the longterm.
Kathleen: You've talked about so many different and really interesting ways that you've built up your website's authority, and that's really how you get the traffic to the site, and then building up your credibility through reviews and testimonials.
Can you talk a little bit about the results you've gotten from this? When did you start doing this for True Blue? How long did it take for you to start to see results in, and what do those results look like today in your very competitive industry?
Brian: Look, I've seen growth every year, right? I think a few years ago, I was doing a million dollars in revenue. Now I'm doing five, six million dollars in revenue, and it's very profitable. Every time it goes up.
Now one of the ways to keep it going up is increased conversion rates. Kathleen, my conversion rate compared to my competitor's is about 10 times more.
Brian: A lot of my competitors are lead generators, and they'll just collect someone's name, email, and phone, to run an insurance quote and those leads aren't worth very much. They'll close maybe 7% of those.
In my business, I collect application requests. I let people run a quote, I give them all the information, I let them view all the reviews. Not only from the customers, but I have people review the actual insurance companies that they buy from.
They're able to do a lot of the research, similar to how they would do it on Amazon when picking a product. So when I get somebody apply, I'm closing about 25 to 30% of them.
Kathleen: You're talking about, now, lead to customer conversion?
Brian: Lead to customer, yes. Exactly. While my competitors are closing seven, I'm closing close to 30, which means I don't have to have that many salespeople. My competitors need to have four or five times more salespeople just to handle that volume.
I got happier employees, my employees love working for us. We're dealing with customers that want to buy from us, too. We're not chasing down customers. They're happy with us, and they've chosen us. So it's a great way to do business.
Kathleen: Now, you've got this really high lead to customer conversion rate, and it sounds like a good part of what's contributing to that is the way you've built out your site and the fact that you've really turned it into a resource center for them to do their research, and you're keeping them on your site while they're doing it which is always a great thing.
How much of that conversion rate is being influenced by any sort of automated lead nurturing you're doing, and how much is being influenced by direct sales with your team?
Brian: It's a little cyclical in my company. Sometimes they have insurance products that are agent-less. Those are great, Kathleen. People go online and they'll do it. It's an easy sale. You don't really have to pay commissions to anybody, you get them all.
Most of the leads that come in, I have one of my sales team collect all the information, just because there's private information that we collect; social security number, and drivers license, and health histories, certain things we don't really want to ask online.
As far as nurturing, yeah, look, we're asking for a lot of personal information for insurance so we let people save their quotes. We'll have them enter their email but not their phone.
We want to be the good guys, and we'll send them a series of emails. We have a series of emails that goes out to everybody, even the people that applied that we couldn't contact. The more emails, the better. The more honest they are, the better. The more personable they are, the better.
I like to assign an agent to somebody, I like to give them a picture of the agent. I like to give them the agent's LinkedIn profile. I like to let them see all the reviews that that agent has gotten, and I'll also include links to the Better Business Bureau and Google.
But yeah, you have to have an automated system to chase down those customers. I'm constantly surprised at how many people respond to the tenth email or the eighth call.
Kathleen: Yeah, persistence pays off, as long as it's done in a way that's not really annoying. Well, fascinating. And you've actually written about a lot of what you're talking about now in your book, correct?
The Salesman Who Doesn't Sell
Brian: Absolutely. I've leveraged the book to do a lot of marketing for my businesses. My goal necessarily wasn't to make a lot of money selling the book. I just wanted to give out the information. I've been very generous and liberal in giving out all the secrets. I don't want people to say, "Oh, he was too general." So I've given away as much as I can.
I want to give your listeners a free copy of the audiobook, my website brianjgreenberg.com/inboundsuccess.
Brian: For anybody that wants to go in there, download the book, I hope they find value from it.
Kathleen: Well, I'll download it because I love audiobooks. I listen to everything on Audible at 2x speeds. I'll hear what you sound like talking very fast.
The book is The Salesman Who Doesn't Sell. So if anybody is really curious about an actionable way to do some of what Brian's doing, that's a great thing to check out, and I will put the link that you just mentioned in the show notes.
Kathleen: Before we wrap up, I've got two questions for you that I always ask everyone I interview. And I'm interested to hear what you have to say as somebody who's come from an insurance background, even though it sounds like you're a better marketer than a lot of marketers.
The first one is, a company or individual, who do you think is doing, in non-marketing, really well right now?
Brian: In my business, there's a company called NerdWallet, and they started doing commercials right now. They're giving away such customer-friendly content. I love it when people give tables, and graphs, and they give recommendations. And they've been doing such a good job with it and building up so much of a link profile, and they get picked up so often from great publications, and they're ranking so well. It's almost bothersome to me. They've got a great team of content writers, and I have a lot of respect for them.
Kathleen: So check out NerdWallet if you want to see a really good example.
And then the next question is ... And this one's going to be really interesting, for me at least. The thing that I've observed is that the world of digital marketing just changes so fast. As soon as you figure out how to do SEO, the rules of the game change, et cetera. And I'm in marketing, so it's my job to be on top of it all day every day, and I still find it challenging.
So for a guy whose business is not in marketing, although you certainly have mastered it, how do you make sure that you stay up to date and on top of all the latest thinking in the world of digital marketing?
Brian: Good question. I watch Barry Schwartz's weekly video recaps on Fridays. I think he does a great job. I like seeing everything that's coming out, and I get most of my news that way, Kathleen. What I like to do is, I like to do everything per Google's guidelines and do everything on the up and up. That way, every time Google comes out with an algorithm update ... knock on wood ... The majority of time, I'll see my website go up.
I don't want the stress of having these Google updates and having myself be penalized. I don't want it. So I play the longterm game, and I think as long as you're doing everything that real companies do, real company stuff, you're going to be alright. I don't follow too many people, I'm not on everything all the time. But I like to do a general swipe of it, and I get most of it from Barry Schwartz.
Kathleen: Yeah. I follow Barry Schwartz as well, and he is with, if I'm remembering correctly ... Is it Search Engine Roundtable?
Brian: Yeah, Search Engine Roundtable.
Kathleen: He has a phenomenal email newsletter, and I definitely follow him on Twitter. Because if you want the breaking SEO news, that guy manages to somehow be everywhere at once, and he knows everything that's going on with Google, at least it feels like.
Brian: Yeah, he knows everybody there.
Kathleen: He does, he does. He also posts some really cool pictures of different Google offices around the world, which I always think are fun to see.
Brian: I think Moz's Whiteboard Friday is really good. I've kind of stopped watching those since Rand left, a little bit.
Kathleen: I know. But do you follow him at his new website, SparkToro?
Brian: I do. Yeah, he has some great posts. I definitely am on his newsletter, and I don't miss those. He's such an honest guy.
Kathleen: Oh, he is.
Brian: Such inside info.
Kathleen: He's writing some of the best thought leadership on no-click searches right now, or what he likes to call usurp SEO. It's so good.
Kathleen: I could geek-out over this for hours, but we must wrap up.
How to Reach Brian
Kathleen: So if someone wants to talk to you, learn more about what you've done, you've shared the URL. I'm going to ask you to say it again, and then any other information you want to share about the best way for people to find you online.
Kathleen: Thank you, that's great, and this has been a lot of fun. I've definitely learned a few new things that I'm going to try out, including Quora for sure. I appreciate it, Brian.
Kathleen: If you're listening, and you found this valuable, you know what to do. Please leave the podcast a review on Apple Podcasts or the platform of your choice. And as always, if you know someone else doing kick-ass inbound marketing work, Tweet me @workmommywork, because I would love to interview them. That's it for this week. Thanks, Brian.
Brian: Thank you.
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