Starting Your Own Independent Insurance Agency? Study Up on These 3 Key Success Factors.

Starting Your Own Independent Insurance Agency? Study Up on These 3 Key Success Factors.
By: Michael Miller, Smart Choice® State Director

Starting your own independent insurance agency is both exciting and overwhelming. In my 37 years in the business, three factors stand out as being essential for the success of any independent agency. Agents must be experts in all of the products they offer, have plans to market their agencies, and have systems in place to generate leads.

Success Factor #1: Expert-Level Insurance Product Knowledge

I always mentor new agents to sell on the value of the policies they quote, not cost. But to do so, they must have a solid understanding of every single product they offer, including differences between carriers. You should strive to become a resource for your clients as well as a risk expert. Your clients rely on you to identify and understand the products that will help them mitigate risk.

This is why it often pays to start writing just a few policies—P&C, for example. Once you have these products under your belt, it’s time to extend your offerings to umbrella policies, recreational policies, and even the commercial and health/life markets. Take the time to learn about each product in your new market.

Success Factor #2: Independent Agency Marketing Plan

Before you open your doors to clients, you need to have a plan in place for reaching out to your target market. A comprehensive marketing plan identifies your growth goals and the strategies you’ll use to achieve them.

Marketing plans should include what separates you and your agency from your local competition and how you’ll promote these differentiators to your clients and prospects. Take the time to outline the specific things you’ll do to market your agency. Will you hold homeowners insurance seminars for first-time home buyers? Send out postcards to every residence in your target area? Create a website where prospects can request a quote? There are all sorts of ways to market your agency; you need to pick a few ideas that you’ll follow through with.

Success Factor #3: Lead Generation Strategy

Your marketing plan should outline a strategy for how you’ll generate leads for your independent agency. Leads can come from outbound marketing efforts such as newspaper ads, radio and TV commercials, and email blasts. But often, agents focus on inbound marketing strategies, such as asking for referrals from existing clients, blogging, and social media marketing.

There are many factors that contribute to the success of an independent agency. But lead generation, a comprehensive marketing plan, and expert product knowledge contribute the most to your future success. That’s why Smart Choice® offers unlimited training these key success factors. Contact Smart Choice® today!

Understanding Contingency and Bonus Requirements with Your Insurance Carriers

Understanding Contingency and Bonus Requirements With Your Insurance Carriers
By: Michael Miller, Smart Choice® State Director

As an insurance agent, your business lives or dies on the amount of new and renewing policies you sign with your carriers. Years ago, how you got paid was fairly straightforward: you got paid a percentage of the premiums you signed. But carriers have changed the way they compensate their agents.

Today, agents earn a complex combination of commissions, contingencies, and bonuses, each calculated a little differently. Understanding the math can be a full-time job, not to mention figuring out how to maximize your earnings.

Contingency Commissions Reward Performance

You’ll always make a little money on each premium you sign, even if you only sign a few dozen a year. But carriers offer sizeable contingency commissions for agents who set and meet goals for production, retention, and profitability. These rewards are contingent on you meeting these goals.

What’s tricky about contingency commissions is that you never know how much more you’ll end up making as you sign on new clients. The contingency is earned after you meet your goals for the year. When you’re writing a policy in January, you won’t know whether you’ll actually meet your contingency requirements at the end of December.

Bonuses Honor Excellence

Insurance carriers often award agents who go above and beyond with bonus income. Sometimes, carriers run special sales contests for agents to compete in. Other times, they’ll allow a loyal agent to charge them interest on any new business the agent brings in for them.

Getting the Most out of Your Appointments

Contingency and bonus income were initially offered only to the largest agencies, which had the staff and book of business large enough to hit production targets. But that’s changed in the last 25 years. Today, small agencies can compete for this extra income if they’re able to meet the requirements.

Joining an agency group can be a way to increase your chances of earning contingency and bonus income. Agency aggregation pools together the resources of multiple small agencies so they can compete with the larger players. That’s why many independent agents choose to join Smart Choice®. To discover why a partnership  is the smart choice, connect with Smart Choice® today.

 Source: Property Casualty 360

Cloud-Based Insurance Applications Put Agents on Cloud Nine

Cloud-Based Insurance Applications Put Agents on Cloud Nine
By: Michael Miller, Smart Choice® State Director

Gone are the days when insurance agents had to invest in expensive hardware and software to quote, issue, and place policies. Updating software was tiresome and time-consuming. And when a computer went down, your production ground to a halt.

Cloud-Based Tools Are Cost-Effective & Efficient

Fortunately, those days are now behind us. Today, the best quoting and policy placement tools are all online. Instead of buying software, you buy monthly subscriptions to cloud-based applications. A single subscription can allow all of your agency’s producers to access the application. This saves you money in software and hardware in the long run.

It also makes your agency more efficient. You can access cloud-based tools anywhere and anytime as long as you have an internet connection. Log in from your desktop, laptop, tablet, or smart phone, whether you’re in a meeting with a client or enjoying some time at the cabin.

My Favorite Cloud-Based Insurance Agency Applications

There are many online tools out there for insurance agencies, from comparative raters to agency management systems. One of my favorite raters is Applied Rater, formerly SEMCAT. Applied Rater lets agents compare quotes from more than 500 insurance carriers. It can integrate with your agency management system and your website so you don’t waste time duplicating data.

My top two choices for agency management systems are EZLynx® QQ Catalyst®. Both of these cloud-based agency management systems allow you to access all of your agency data from a single dashboard. Manage your prospects and clients and keep tabs on how your producers and CSRs are doing.

When you become a member of Smart Choice®, you receive significant discounts on my favorite agency applications. Quote, issue, and place policies from anywhere with no additional investment in hardware. To discover why a partnership is the smart choice, connect with Smart Choice® today!