On this episode of The Ridiculously Amazing Insurance Podcast, Kelly is joined by her business partner and SEO extraordinaire Eddy Demelo. Kelly and Eddy are co-founders of Agency Appeal, a brand and marketing consultant for insurance agencies. Agency Appeal prides itself in providing an avenue for their clients to determine and define their agency’s strengths and passions through a brand survey, which allows them to develop standard colors and styles in addition to the voice and tone to be used in their communications. Agency Appeal helps their clients articulate what makes them unique and fresh in the industry and then produces a brand guide that is completely tailored to that specific agency and can be used to ensure the brand alignment of every aspect of their communications.
Understanding the importance of web presence, Agency Appeal also focuses a significant amount of time and energy on SEO (search engine optimization) for their clients’ websites by crafting every word of content from scratch based on the brand tone and voice. Consequently, they believe strongly that their clients should own their websites, rather than leasing them (as some other vendors recommend). This allows their clients to quickly and easily make changes to their website or request that Agency Appeal do this maintenance.
In short, if you are looking for some help with the branding for your insurance agency, you should consider Agency Appeal for these 3 fantastic reasons:
- Their assistance in bringing you clarity on your agency’s brand identity through the development of a custom brand guide (See examples)
- The ease of creating all future marketing materials that stand out and align with your brand
- The opportunity to own your website outright
Be sure to join us for next month’s episode to hear Kelly and Dave’s discussion of the sales process!
Check out our brand new Agency Appeal website (https://www.agencyappeal.com/) as well as the main Agency Performance Partners website (https://www.agencyperformancepartners.com/) for more information about our exciting endeavors!
Kelly: Well hello everyone. It’s Kelly Donahue-Piro here with a ridiculously late agent podcast, and I have an incredibly special guest and long term friend, business partner on today with me. The one, the only, SEO Eddy Demalo.
Eddy: I’m not even gonna start over.
Kelly: Eddy, how are you doing today?
Eddy: I am so good.
Kelly: That is excellent. So for those of you out there that don’t know, Eddy and I own a company together called Agency Appeal. That focuses on branding websites and marketing strategy for insurance agencies. Eddy, do you want to tell our viewers, listeners, a little about yourself.
Eddy: Sure. I met Kelly many, many moons ago when we both worked at a marketing agency that focused on insurance agencies. From there, for a while we both went our separate ways. We both started up our own consulting gigs and realized there was a lot of overlap in the services we offer. She had a lot of skills that would benefit my clients, and I had some skills that would benefit hers. So instead of just referring work back and forth we decided to form a partnership together so we could better combine our forces and help our customers more effectively.
Kelly: It’s been a crazy ride over the past couple of years on this, huh?
Eddy: So far so good.
Kelly: So far so good! I think some of the cool things are that some of our clients that we worked on for branding purposes. You know Chris Paradisio obviously a long term client. So Agency Appeal does that magazine, the websites and his calendars as well as all of his other marketing materials that he puts out. Which has been super fun to work on, such a great insurance brand. I don’t know about you, but that’s kind of been one of my favorite projects.
Eddy: Yeah, I mean the great thing about working with Chris is that he’s open to pretty much everything. So any sort of wacky, crazy idea we have he doesn’t turn anything down. He lets us sort of have fun, and yeah, he’s fun to work for.
Kelly: He is. We’ve worked with Mike Stromso, we’ve got Huff Insurance that we’re working on now. So it’s been exciting to see some of the big progressive names in the independent insurance agency world contract with us to get our brands done. For those of you out there that are like, who is agency appeal and why have I never heard about it? That’s sort of been an intentional strategy that Eddy and I put forward. When we first started we just wanted to keep it under control and be able a little bit more (2:29 Unable to identify word) so we can manage client demand, but over time that’s grown. I think we’re so excited now to be able to market it and really get the name out there because we are in a position where we can really do some great work and have the capacity to serve more clients at this point.
Kelly: So that’s super, super exciting. So Eddy, why don’t you tell everyone a little bit about what we do on Agency Appeal cause it’s very different than some of the other website providers, branding providers out in the insurance space. We sort of have a different approach. We sort of stick to our guns on this approach because we know that it works.
Eddy: Sure. So, most vendors you go to for a specific piece of collateral, right? You go to a vendor for your website, you might go to somebody else for a brochure or to create your proposal or something like that and they sort of create pieces that are one off for you. They take a little bit of direction from you, they’ll slap your logo on it, maybe tweak the colors a little bit and then they’ll give you whatever the product was that you contracted with them for. The downside when you work that way is that ultimately your marketing ends up sort of looking like a hodgepodge sort of patchwork quilt. Because so many different hands have touched it and there weren’t any real standards put in place. There was nothing that was really followed. Everybody was just kind of going off of their own interpretation of what they thought your brand should be. So at Agency Appeal, what we do is we start from the very beginning. All of our clients sort of go through an exhaustive and extensive branding process with us where we help them define exactly who they are and who their agency is and what they stand for. Along with developing all of the standards from a design, from a voice and tone standpoint, so that you’ll never question whether or not the types of imagery you’re using or the colors you’re using or if you’re using your logo correctly. You’ll always know because at the end of our engagement together you’ll have a brand guide that will walk you through all of those steps. Anything else that we create for you whether it’s the website or a print piece is going to be based off of those brand standards. So now everything that we do from there on out becomes a little bit easier because everybody is already on the same page. Everybody already knows what to expect, everybody knows the types of imagery and the types of visuals that are going to be used. Our content writers know which voice and tone to use that accurately represents your agency and one of the biggest differentiating factors between us and a lot of the website vendors in the insurance space are that we very strongly believe that our clients should own their websites. They shouldn’t be leasing them. Most vendors work off a leased model. It might be a relatively low cost rental fee but at the end of that engagement, so you spent maybe three, four or five years with a specific vendor and you want something new or maybe a feature that, that vendor doesn’t offer at the end of that engagement you have nothing to show for it. So you spent all this time marketing and building and developing a website only to have to start completely over from scratch with the next vendor because you don’t actually own it. Sort of like leasing a car, at the end of it you’ve made all these memories with your beloved car and then at the end of it you just give the keys back and you’ve got nothing to show for everything that you’ve put into it. So we really strongly believe that our clients should own their websites.
Kelly: I think we, the other challenge when you lease your website is that when you want changes you want to change it up completely, you sort of have to go into a queue. It’s not part of your package, you have to pay more. So as the web changes, and as SEO changes, your website can easily become stale because you’re not in control of being able to find vendors that can help you quickly. I know we face that in some of the companies we’ve worked at together where there would be a whole new way of doing things that would get announced, but if there’s 200 or 300 clients they all have to be updated. You could be a year or two years out before you’re getting those kinds of updates.
Eddy: Right, and the other thing is outside of having to pay a standard monthly hosting fee, which doesn’t go to us, it goes directly to a company that specializes in hosting WordPress websites. There is no ongoing monthly commitment unless we’re actively doing something with you. So if you want ongoing content creation or you want ongoing marketing help or, you know, if your site has been live for a year and you’ve got a great idea for expanding it in some way. Certainly then we could put together a proposal for you and we can work through that and develop it for you, but if we’re not actively working on developing something for you you’re not paying us just to keep it “turned on.”
Kelly: Absolutely, and I think the other thing that we see is for that a lot of agents that are actively loving marketing and doing a lot of marketing, unfortunately when you’re with a vendor where there’s multiple insurance agencies that they maintain, you don’t have full access to editing your website or adding plug-ins in. So you’re sort of limited as well, right? So if you want to integrate with EventBright or you want integrate with SurveyMonkey or do all of these fun things they’ve locked down what you can do because you’re on some super platform with everybody else and they can’t allow that much editing access. So you’re sort of in a bucket that makes it easy, but you’re dependent on someone else and you don’t have the full capabilities of if you were independently owning your website.
Eddy: Exactly, we like to tell people that we’ll give them as much or as little control as they want. So we have some customers who like that security, right? So they still want to work with us, they know that they own their website, but they like knowing that they have a trusted resource where they’re not actually ever going to have to get their hands dirty if they don’t want to. We have others who want us to develop the site for them, and then they just want us to hand them the keys to the castle because they’re savvy enough, or they have somebody on their team that is, that knows their way around this stuff once it’s built. They have the confidence and the desire to get their hands dirty and to really do it themselves. Which is fine, we can do that too. Again, you own it, so we’re more than happy to work with you and make sure that your team has whatever level of access that you’re comfortable with giving them. The good news is the hosting provider that we typically use will take, at a minimum, they typically take nightly backups and then you can always do an ondemand restore point. So if you do have somebody within your agency that has a great idea and they want to try something, but they’re afraid of breaking it, all they have to do is back the site up by clicking one quick button. The whole site is backed up, that way if they do make a mistake and something unintended happens, all they have to do is click restore and it puts it right back to the way it was before.
Kelly: That’s pretty awesome. So let’s talk a little bit about what I think is the key to success, and you had kind of mentioned it a little bit. What are we doing on the branding front? I think so many insurance agents unfortunately don’t really understand branding, right? It’s sort of a cliche word that’s tossed around, but I know I have my version of what we do for branding. I’d love to hear what you have.
Eddy: Sorry, you completely broke up there. I didn’t hear a word of that. You’re going to have to say that again.
Kelly: That’s okay. So I said I know one of the things we do that makes us stick out is we really work hard on brand guides and branding for independent agents and I think the word branding just kind of goes, it’s just sort of tossed around. No one really knows what it means. So, what is your version of what we do for helping independent agents brand themselves?
Eddy: Oh, sure. So, I think the biggest differentiator, or the biggest thing we do on the branding front, is we help agents…we put into words and into visuals what agents know about themselves about themselves and about their business but they’re unable to articulate.
Kelly: I like that.
Eddy: My favorite piece of the process is the very beginning. We go through what we call our brand survey. It asks a number of pointed questions about how the agency is currently being perceived by the entire staff and how they want to be perceived going forward. Normally we get, when we’re reviewing the results as a team after all the employees at the agency have filled it out, it normally goes one of two ways. Either everything is so in line and spot on that it almost looks like they sort of cheated and did it like they’re all looking over each other’s shoulders. Like, what did you put for question 3? Or it looks like everybody is like, do these people even work at the same business because there’s just so much disconnect. So I think a lot of times that’s really telling but it gives us a really good opportunity to sort of in conjunction with the agencies leadership team to really solidify. Okay, well it seems like there’s been some…there’s some clarity needed. This is who we are, this is what we stand for, this is how we address our customers and this is the image that we’re going for. I think a lot of time the leadership within an agency will inherently know that, but they don’t know how to relay that information to their team or the other vendors that they’re working with. I think, not to jump around too much, but I think that’s another differentiating factor with us is we do have some clients who come to us just for the brand guide because they already have a trusted designer or they already have someone on staff who might want to build them a website or whatever it might be. We’re okay with that, we’re happy to work with vendors that you already know and trust. We just want to make sure that whatever you’re doing, your messaging is consistent across the board.
Eddy: That it’s not the same message that everybody else is portraying because there’s so many of these agencies they have a really hard time, to some degree, figuring out what does make them stand out, what does make them different. Often times going through our process, you see the little light bulbs going off. Like, oh, that is a differentiating factor. Oh, I didn’t realize that everybody on our team felt this way, and you just see little things clicking throughout the process and I think it really helps them articulate. Again, it helps them articulate what they’ve been feeling and what they’ve inherently known but they just didn’t know how to put pen to paper.
Kelly: I think that that’s great, and I like to say that we make insurance agents…we provide the imaging and we provide that freshness that they need to stick out from the crowd. So knowing how hard all of our clients work, we really help create that look and feel that displays that to their target market so that when someone sees them they’re like, “Oh, that’s the agent for me.” It doesn’t feel dated, stale, like there’s no miscommunications on it. It’s just, “Wow, that’s somebody I want to do business with.”
Eddy: Right. A perfect example, there’s an agency that we’re working with now who we’re about 70% complete with their branding process and they had a little photo shoot recently because they wanted some new photos taken, and my favorite response from his was so unfortunately he wasn’t happy with the results of the photo shoot. The reason he wasn’t happy wasn’t because the photos were bad or anything like that, from a technical standpoint the photos were fine. He looked at them and he went, “Oh, these aren’t in brand.” and it got him thinking that. Where as previously he would’ve said, “Yeah, okay. Everybody’s happy, they’re smiling, they’re looking at the camera. Cool, let’s run with it.” Now he’s starting to think the photos looks nice but they’re not us. This isn’t the image that we want to portray, and two months ago he never would’ve thought that way.
Kelly: I think that that’s a huge point, and one of the things we can do, Eddy, is put some samples of brand guides in the show notes here so people can take a look and see what we mean. I think if you do, I really recommend you go and take a look at the show notes because it will show you some very cool things and how we’ve really been able to bring out the best in these agencies because I think everybody does such hard work but it’s kind of like the best employee that just can’t dress everyday. Like they don’t show up in their best and they do great work, but maybe they get looked over because they’re not as polished up for the next level of their career and I think that’s really what I think we want to do everyday to insurance agents.
Eddy: Yeah, yeah, exactly. We want to help these agents portray an image that shows the world that they’re as great as we know they are.
Kelly: Exactly. I like that.
Eddy: Because we have the ability of getting to know these people really well cause we work with them so closely and intimately, but unfortunately a lot of people won’t have that same pleasure. We want to make sure that at first glance it’s always very clear that these guys are rock stars.
Kelly: Absolutely. So kind of moving along, one of the things I also think we do really well is the SEO side of the websites because we’re not pumping out ten, twenty, thirty, forty websites a month, you know. We do kind of take a lot of time and spend some effort to really give them a good basis for SEO, and I know that’s kinda your specialty. So do you wanna talk a little bit about how you handle that?
Eddy: Yeah. So the biggest differentiator, or the biggest shift, between how we do things and how a lot of other website vendors do things is that all the content that we create in unique to our clients. We’re not pulling from a content library and we’re not just making minor tweaks to location references on product pages. When it comes to content, which is really the basis of any good SEO strategy, we give our writers the brand guide once it’s completed, we give them the list of products along with any notes that we have and we let them go to town. But everything that they do is based on, again, the information in that brand guide. So the voice, the tone, the way things are portrayed, the types of language they use. It’s all unique to that individual client, we’re not just pulling from some canned content that’s already on ten or fifteen other websites out there.
Kelly: Right, it’s all unique.
Eddy: It’s going to be unique to you guys. Which not only is fantastic from a branding perspective because it looks like somebody within your agency actually wrote it, so everything’s in line, but from an SEO perspective the search engines love it because now all of the content on there is being seen as a really valuable and unique resource that only your agency has.
Kelly: I think that that’s huge, right, and I think because we’re working with insurance copywriters the copy that’s going on the websites is clear, it’s reader friendly, and I think that, that really makes agencies stick out.
Eddy: Yeah, for sure.
Kelly: So Eddy, if we were to just out there and say to all these listeners out here, what are the top three reasons they should consider a brand guide and moving their website over to us…what would you say the top three reasons are?
Eddy: Oh goodness, you’re putting me on the spot. Well, reason one I think is something we already talked about. It’s getting clarity on who your agency is, what they stand for, making sure everybody is on the same page. If there is another way to do that without going through a brand guide process, I don’t know of it. The process that we’ve developed is the only one that I’ve seen, at least in the insurance space, that sort of easily gets everybody on the same page. So that’s the first one, I think. Just sort of getting everybody on the same page. The second is with all these brand guidelines and place and once you have an image that you guys know that you’re trying to portray, that makes it a lot easier to make marketing materials that really stand out from your competition. The agencies that engage with us are agencies that really want to take their business to the next level. So the great thing is, typically we don’t normally have folks that go through our process and then take their brand guide and let it sit on a shelf. These are owners and principals that are actively engaged in really growing their business and having everybody on the same page really just makes that a heck of a lot easier. The third is, at least from a technical perspective as far as the website goes, you own it. Stop leasing something that is an integral part to your business and your marketing. You want to have full control over it, even if you don’t know what full control necessarily means. You want to make sure that you have the ability to make whatever changes and whatever updates you need to when you need to make them. The only way to do that is to actually own it.
Kelly: I couldn’t agree more. Well Eddy, it’s been a pleasure having you here today.
Eddy: Well, thanks for having me.
Kelly: Well we appreciate it, and for anyone that wants to get more information on agency appeal they can reach out to APP. We love helping our clients with that, or the brandy-dandy new Agency Appeal website which we are so excited to launch.
Kelly: I think you should get one that has to record the jingle in that. Well thank you, Eddy, and Dave and I will resume our podcast next month with the entire podcast dedicated to sales process. So for those of you out there that are looking for better ways to sell insurance, you’ve got to hop on that one and if anybody has any questions, let us know. We love hearing from our listeners, but Eddy I appreciate you joining us and to all the listeners, have a great week.
Eddy: Thank you, thank you.