One of my hobbies is searching the Internet for sales and marketing ideas. In this quest I look at virtually every industry imaginable.

One thing I have found is that people in every industry like to believe that somehow their industry is unique, and what works in other industries will not apply to their own business.

As a sales coach, I have real estate agents refuse to hire me because, they say, I "just don't understand their industry." And I have had benefit professionals hire me just because I understand the benefit marketplace.

My point is simply this: There is enormous value in looking at what kind of marketing is being done outside of your own industry.

I subscribe to more than 100 e-mail newsletters and Internet business opportunity updates, not because I'm necessarily looking for a new opportunity (although one never knows where the next big thing is going to be discovered) but because of what can be learned from them and applied to the benefits business.


How to take advantage

Of all of the various industries, the one with the most to teach is that of the Internet marketer. There are a number of extraordinary marketers who willingly share an amazing amount of free marketing information that can be used by group health insurance producers.

Some of these individuals are Alex Mandossian, Mike Koenigs, Brendon Burchard and others. These guys have made millions on the Internet selling information products and their techniques can definitely be applied with great success to the business of selling benefits.

Internet marketing success is predicated on five key rules:

1) you must generate a lot of traffic to your website

2) your website must be about selling

3) build a big list and keep in touch

4) people only care about outcomes

5) you must provide real value to every one - not just customers

Let's take a closer look at these rules.


Generate a lot of traffic

At the end of the day extraordinary success is really about having a lot of people to talk to about the products or services you offer.

The single biggest obstacle to generating amazing sales results for most group health agents is simply a having too few high-quality sales appointments.

In past columns I have addressed the need to have a multi-pronged, coordinated marketing program designed to get your value proposition out to as many prospects as possible. Too many agents rely on either cold calling or waiting for a referral to call in (as opposed to asking for referrals).

The Internet marketer spends a lot of time and money on getting high-quality traffic to his website. He may use search engine optimization, pay-per-click or other paid advertising to help prospects find him. As a benefit professional, you too should be investing time and money in getting people to want to talk to you about your products and services.

Whether you use print advertising, invest in online marketing or use direct mail, without some investment it is highly unlikely that you can secure enough sales opportunities to grow your client base.


The website is about selling

It is definitely worth visiting the websites of the great Internet marketers. You will never see a landing page that talks about the company or offers a list of every service and product that this individual sells. Instead, you will find that it's essentially a sales letter about a single product or service. Even the domain name is about the specific product or service that is being offered.

Google "Alex Mandossian" and you will discover multiple websites (I am not an affiliate of his), each with a different focus. The same goes for any of the great Internet marketers, and yet most benefit professionals pay a local web designer and/or hire some social media specialist that has never earned a dime online to help with their online presence.

Before reading any further, take a moment and visit your website and ask yourself this question: "Would this site make me want to buy anything?" If you are honest with yourself the answer will be an unequivocal "No."

Not only does your website not generate sales activity, but probably it does not compel your prospects to return.


Lists - size matters

Internet marketers have recognized a critical fact of sales success: You can tell your story to a lot of people, but if you do not capture their contact information it does not matter. This is a lesson that a lot of benefit professionals need to learn. I have seen group health agents who were not adverse to making a lot of calls but if the prospect said that they were not interested or that their health plan did not renew until some late date, no attempt was made to capture contact information and get permission to periodically send information. The typical response of, "Can I contact you 90 days prior to your renewal?" is no better than doing nothing.

The smart group health agent will not only find out the renewal date but secure permission to send a monthly marketing newsletter. Even better, get permission to send a text message to the prospect's mobile phone, with a link to mobile website where more information is available.


Focus on outcomes

This is a topic that I have covered in numerous past columns. For reasons that defy logic, group health agents design their websites and their sales material with a focus on their agency. Here are two examples of great outcome-focused websites and the principles that can easily be applied to your website: and


Share free valuable information

On each of these websites you will find an offer for free information and a requirement that you provide your e-mail address to gain access. Successful Internet marketers invest a lot of energy in creating a lot of free content for their visitors, such as white papers and online videos. They make sure to provide information that actually has value so that the recipient will open future e-mails in anticipation of more good information.

This is the exact opposite of the approach that most benefit professionals take. Whenever I suggest that the benefit professional provide step-by-step instructions on a useful strategy, the inevitable response is: "What if they give it to their current agent?" My response is: "So what!" If it was your idea, yet they felt compelled to share it with their current agent, that tells you something about their relationship with that broker.

More importantly, I can guarantee that the other broker will not use that idea to market to other groups. To prove my point let me ask you this: If you are a regular reader of my column, how many times have you seen an idea that you thought was useful but never implemented it?

Next month, I'll share a great formula for creating killer content that not only will be appreciated by your clients and prospects but also will generate traffic to your website.

Schlesinger has 26-plus years of insurance sales experience. He is both a sales and marketing coach to benefit professionals and a managing general agent for ancillary benefit carriers. Visit his website at or call him at (336) 777-3938.

Under-35 crowd gets benefits savvy

The economy and health reform may have prompted the youngest workers at U.S. companies to take a deeper interest in workplace benefits, according to online research conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of Unum. For example, the percentage of workers age 18 to 32 that said they are extremely or very familiar with retirement accounts jumped from 31% in 2008 to 43% in 2010.

"Members of this generation are entering the workforce and building careers during a time of economic uncertainty and intense debate over health care reform," says Barbara Nash, vice president of corporate research for Unum. "They're clearly taking an increased interest in how they can build and protect their financial lives."

Benefits professionals should take note of the research findings, given that Generation Y workers make up about 75 million of the U.S. population, which is nearly the size of the baby boomer generation of 80 million. "This generation of workers is a large and influential group coming of age at a time when the benefits landscape is changing quickly," Nash says. "Understanding what drives their decision-making and how we can meet their benefits needs on their terms is critical."

The data reflect the results of two online surveys conducted in 2008 and 2010. The 2008 survey involved 357 Generation Y respondents (aged 18 to 32) employed full- or part-time, while the 2010 poll interviewed 387 Gen Y workers. - Lydell C. Bridgeford

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