Best Agency Website Winner: Earnie Cornelius Insurance Agency
When Scott Cornelius took over his father’s agency in 2006, it didn’t have a website. Since then, ECI Insurance has used a combination of templates and unique ideas to create a site that’s engaging, practical and successful.
When I first came here, this was all swamp. Everyone said I was daft to build a castle on a swamp, but I built in all the same, just to show them. It sank into the swamp. So I built a second one. That sank into the swamp. So I built a third. That burned down, fell over, then sank into the swamp. But the fourth one stayed up. And that’s what you’re going to get, Lad, the strongest castle in all of England.”
—King of Swamp Castle, “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”
Scott Cornelius and the King have something in common. When Cornelius bought his father’s insurance agency—Earnie Cornelius Insurance Agency Inc. (ECI)—in 2006, the business had no Web presence at all. This wasn’t all that unusual for insurance agencies at the time, when “brochureware” websites were still the norm and e-marketing was for geckos and cavemen.
Cornelius, who had just come from the retail sector (he’s the former director of operations for retail golf chain Golf USA), was appalled at the insurance industry’s lack of online marketing. “I was really surprised how little the Internet was used for insurance by companies and customers alike,” he said. “In retail, consumers have been using the Internet since 2000.”
Determined to grow the agency by at least 20 percent a year, Cornelius launched a website to attract new customers, building the first version himself. But “it didn’t show up in the search engines and quite honestly, it was not anything anyone would want to look at.”
A year later, Cornelius created another website, using a template provided by Insurance Website Builders, a digital agency marketing platform built exclusively for insurance agents. This site looked much better, but was still not showing up in search engines for ECI’s small town of Piedmont, Okla.
By the beginning of 2010, Cornelius’s agency was in a financial hole. “We were expecting a large bonus in 2009 and did not receive it,” he said. “If we didn’t generate some commission income, we were not going to make it long term.” Because Insurance Website Builders had just introduced an advanced SEO service, ECI signed up for it. The cost was $3,600 for set-up and a $750 monthly support fee.
The results were immediate.
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