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6 Ways to Create Valuable Opportunities Using Online Communities

Posted on May 26, 2016 by Mark Sonders

Sonders' Selling Tips

Are you interested in growing your sales network online? 

If you engage in relevant communities regularly, you'll connect with more customers and prospects while establishing yourself as an industry influencer who people will turn to for knowledge and advice. Whether you're trying to reach new leads or build rapport with existing customers, it's easy to get started. Let's take a look at how you can do both.

Reaching New Prospects

You should begin by engaging in online communities where your prospects already spend time or visit to look for information. If you can make yourself visible in these places and consistently provide high quality advice, people will look to you as an influencer. You’ll be top of mind next time they are seeking a qualified person to help them with their insurance needs.

To find out where prospects spend their time, you can start by surveying your existing customers. This can be done informally during a normal conversation to find out what sources they value in order to reach similar groups. You can also utilize free tools like Survey Monkey or Google Forms to collect survey responses. 

Serving & Retaining Customers

Think about how you can create your own communities for your customers. Not only can customers help answer questions for each other, they can create bonds with one another beyond the agent-customer bond. This community may make them feel more like a part of a family than a customer (which will also make it harder for them to leave!).

Online communities

Recommended Online Communities

1. Email

Don't overlook email.

The definition of a community is: a feeling of fellowship with others as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.

When you build a truly engaging e-newsletter, the conversation is a two-way street and facilitates a conversation between liked-minded people with a common goal. It's the one online community that you can create and own forever because even if the platform changes, say you move from Yahoo! to Gmail, or Constant Contact to Mailchimp, you'll always have your excel spreadsheet filled with your subscribers' contact information. 

An email list of engaged members that have raised their hands and said "yes, you can contact me" is one of a salesperson's most powerful tools. You don't have to ask permission to hit send, and you don't have to worry about updates to a newsfeed algorithm (this is why if you do decide to invest your time building a community on Facebook, create your own private group; don't worry about Likes on your business page). Send a newsletter with the latest industry news, along with your content, to your customers and leads. Provide useful and shareable educational material that can be consumed and forwarded by your customers to help you reach new prospects. Be sure to ask for replies, commentary, or social shares to promote mutual engagement - this isn't a one-way talk box! 

The real value comes from facilitating an on-going conversation where you are constantly providing added value. 

2. LinkedIn Pulse and SlideShare

Share your opinions and content on LinkedIn Pulse and SlideShare. On these platforms, your connections can view, comment on, and share your content to their own personal networks, extending your reach. Get creative with format, too - try video, photos, audio recordings, presentations, or written work. You may find that recording a 30-second video reaction to an industry news item will earn a great deal of traction! Don't forget to Like and Share others' posts as well.

Related: 7 Ways for Insurance Producers to Utilize Social Selling

3. Reddit

Reddit offers discussion threads on any topic under the sun. Dive in and participate in relevant conversations - just make sure that you don't come across as too self-promotional. That type of message is frowned upon on Reddit. But genuine interactions and thoughtful posts will be appreciated.

4. Quora

Quora is a well-known question and answer site. Everyone can answer questions on any topic - including celebrities, industry leaders, and average Joes. Start by both posing questions and submitting answers to help build your credibility and follower base.

5. Twitter Chats

Twitter chats are live events organized around a topic and Twitter hashtag. The organizer will usually post questions and anyone can answer and share tips. Twitter chats are a great way to connect with like-minded individuals on business, marketing, and insurance matters. Try a tool like tchat to streamline your conversations. 

Traps to Avoid

Don't put all your eggs in one basket. For example, building a LinkedIn community could be great, but what happens if LinkedIn shuts down tomorrow? Make sure to establish yourself in a few different communities - not only to protect yourself if one of them changes, but also to reach a more diverse audience. 

No matter what, if you generate high-quality, thoughtful, and authentic content, you will reach those seeking guidance while providing value for existing customers too - regardless of channel. Time to get started!

Do you already engage in online communities? Communities that we haven't listed above? Let us know what they are by posting below in the comments. 

Mark Sonders

Mr. Sonders is the Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Vertafore. With over 25 years of sales, marketing, and financial experience at companies like Thomson Reuters and Kaplan Financial, Mark’s career has focused on delivering long-term success for his clients in order to help them get the maximum value out of his organizations products and services.


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