Get Smart With Your Website Design

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Does your website work for or against you? What impression does your site make when prospective long-term-care insurance (LTCI) buyers want to learn more about you online? Of course, those questions assume that you have a website. If you’re still relying solely on business cards and the Yellow Pages, it’s time to get online.

Plymouth, Mass.-based Marilee Driscoll, author, strategy consultant and owner of NoSweatSites.com, a website design and hosting service for LTCI agents, says a good website helps build credibility. Agents rely on referrals or buy leads to identify prospects, she notes. But before most prospects agree to an in-person or online meeting, they will Google the agent for additional information. That means that your website, or at least your LinkedIn profile, can help define you as an LTCI specialist. A complete lack of online visibility in any format can raise doubts in prospects’ minds about your business’s viability.

It takes a team

Driscoll says it takes four types of experts to build a website with good design and relevant content: a graphic designer, a webmaster, a content expert and a writer. It’s almost impossible to find all those skills in one or two people, she says.

One solution is for the agent to act as the general contractor who hires and manages the site-development team. That might—emphasis on the “might”—save money but it also can become an expensive nightmare that’s plagued by delays. A second option is to outsource those tasks to a webmaster who will hire the requisite talent; a third is to hire a turnkey solution that provides an all-inclusive package. At that point, the choice becomes whether to hire a turnkey operation that serves all industries or one that specializes in LTCI.

Be responsive

In web design terms, “responsive” means a site works across all the different viewing platforms, from desktops to smartphones. If your site isn’t responsive, tablet and smartphone viewers will see a scrunched-up version of the desktop site. Google penalizes sites that aren’t mobile-friendly in its search result rankings, so plan for responsiveness. (You can test your site at https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly.)

“Responsiveness is a core foundational value of any website for any industry, and most agents do not have responsive sites,” Driscoll says.

Support the user experience and what you want the user to do

Site design requires a lot of thought and psychology because someone is going to your website for a reason, Driscoll says. You want visitors to find the information they need and form a positive impression of you and your services. But at the same time, she cautions, an agent’s site isn’t the Library of Congress. The goal is for visitors to take action by contacting the agent and buying insurance; the website must support both of those key objectives.

A good design makes that process easier, she explains. For example, easy-to-use links simplify calling or emailing the agent. Another technique is to facilitate appointments. If the agent has online calendar scheduling, prospects can click through and schedule themselves on the agent’s calendar automatically at any time when they’re on the site.

Update your site regularly

A new site is only done “for now,” Driscoll emphasizes. You need a plan for updating it so the content remains current. Regularly blogging or using a social media feed can help, or you might want to outsource updates to a turnkey solution provider. No matter how you do it, you need a plan for the refreshing the post-launch content.

Budget for costs

Website costs can run up. Driscoll notes that hiring a local webmaster to design the site might cost $1,000 to $2,000. That amount doesn’t include text for the site because the webmaster probably isn’t an LTCI expert. Photos for the site need to be sourced and acquired. Then there will be monthly hosting charges, which may or may not include automatic backups. And there could be additional charges if something goes wrong with the site, such as getting hacked.

Template-based website providers like Wix.com and Squarespace.com can simplify site management and reduce costs versus a do-it-yourself project. The drawback to this approach is that these are templated sites and are not specific to LTCI, Driscoll says. “Someone has to do the heavy lifting to write what’s the right sales copy, [decide] what’s the right learning center information, [and] how do we support an LTCI sale.”

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