If you think your business is challenging, think about marketing in an industry no one EVER wants to have to deal with. I thought this article about a bail bonds firm that managed to put a positive spin on their services through strong marketing practices made a great case study. Enjoy!
The Most Powerful Tool for Changing the Negative Image of an Industry…The Truth
By Eric Granof
Imagine this – you’re jarred awake in the middle of the night by the phone ringing. A close friend is arrested and — lucky you — they’ve turned to you to bail them out of jail. If you are like most people, at this point, fear sets in. Your mind starts filling up with images from every movie, crime novel and reality television show you have read and watched over the years. You know to expect the worst, which most definitely includes a trip down to the seedy side of town where you will get lost in a sea of neon bail bond signs and dingy offices. Of course, your only option will be which bull-necked tattoo-covered brute with a cigar hanging out of his mouth you want to work with…right?
A bail bonds office is a place we never, ever want to visit. We don’t want to think about it. We don’t want to learn about it. We don’t even want to know it exists. The word itself leaves the same impression as some less desirable words such as “colonoscopy” or “crematorium.” So how can a small business person market him or herself in an industry with so much negativity attached to it? To attempt to convey a different impression would surely be an exercise in futility isn’t that so? Well, maybe not.
My team and I took on this challenge in 2010 when we launched the first national brand in the bail bond industry, ExpertBail. Our mission was to change the negative image of bail and in the process give our network of mom-and-pop small bail bond businesses a tool they could use to differentiate themselves in the marketplace. As the oldest and largest family of bail bond insurance companies in the nation, AIA has been partnering with our network of independent (small business) agents for over a century.
ExpertBail was designed to be a sort of “Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval” for agents across the country. The primary goal was to help the public remember the name if they should ever need the service, while also re-wiring their perception towards bail. In addition, ExpertBail’s marketing efforts have focused on telling the true story of the business – and the people behind it. Through our “Agents Making a Difference” program, we’ve highlighted the real stories and deeds of bail agents across the country. From agents serving on local volunteer fire departments to agents sponsoring youth programs to bail agents providing college scholarships, ExpertBail has spread these stories through all types of social media outlets as well as through traditional media.
In the past three years, ExpertBail has developed a comprehensive social media profile with over 20,000 likes on Facebook. In addition, the website now attracts over 100,000 visitors a month through its entertaining and informative daily bail bond blog postings and stories on the bail industry. In the short period of time since its launch, ExpertBail’s network of qualified agents has grown to over 5,000, based in all 46 states where bail insurance is written. Each agency is independently owned and operated, with women compromising more than 50% of all bail agents — a figure that surprises many people, while challenging the stereotypical image of an imposing male.
The organization has also developed key partnerships and alliances with law enforcement and victims’ rights groups, including the National Sheriffs Association and the National Center for Victims of Crime. In so doing, they are not only getting their message across to the public, they are also creating new opportunities for local businesses.
ExpertBail continues with new initiatives on a continuing basis, but our story so far offers a case study on the value and importance of marketing, no matter the type of business.
Eric Granof serves as Vice President of Corporate Communications for AIA/ExpertBail. The AIA family of companies is the nation’s largest underwriter of bail and has been partnering with agents across the country for over a century. Formed in 2003, AIA is an alliance of the industry’s leading insurance companies Allegheny Casualty, International Fidelity Insurance Company and Associated Bond.
ExpertBail is a national network of bail bonds agents, which sets professional standards of integrity and conduct for agencies throughout the country. Created by AIA, ExpertBail also serves to educate the public on how bail, properly handled, supports the criminal justice system and increases public safety.