Insurance for Identity Theft

The Federal Trade Commission reports that identity theft tops its list of complaints by consumers nationwide. Policies to protect from this rapidly growing crime include internet technology, security analysis, and customer profile monitoring to identify and prevent identity theft and privacy breeches.

Statistics show that Americans are the most highly targeted for identity fraud, and in 2016, over 791 million identities were stolen. It is important to note that in 2018, identity fraud rates fell for the first time ever, thanks in large part to chip based debit/credit cards, and other insurance measures put in place by financial institutions.*

It’s important for agents to begin considering offering this vital protection to clients as more and more of our personal data moves to online formats.

A solid identity theft policy should provide the following services to ensure clients are safe from this time-consuming and costly experience:

  • Constant monitoring of personal information such as:
    • Bank accounts
    • Social Security Numbers
    • Credit Card Accounts
    • Driver’s Licenses
    • Email Addresses
    • Telephone Numbers
  • Vigilant monitoring of Internet and websites trolling for information
  • Assistance in documenting and reporting crime
  • Aid in recovery of funds/identity
  • Follow-up

How can clients obtain it?

You can offer clients several options if they wish to purchase identity theft protection. Some companies offer it as part of a homeowners policy, others offer it as a rider that can be purchased and added to the homeowners policy, or you can offer it through a standalone policy.

However it’s offered, this coverage can be an invaluable part of protecting your clients most valuable asset – their very identity.

https://www.comparitech.com/identity-theft-protection/identity-theft-statistics/

The Networking Web Works

As you go about your daily tasks of running your agency, is reaching out to clients who don’t have an immediate need on your list? It should be. Insurance Journal recently published its 101 Sales and Marketing Ideas for Agencies*, and our president and CMO offered the following tips:

  1. Don’t Pitch, Connect. If people don’t like you, they aren’t going to do business with you. Build relationships, be present and available, and follow through on commitments and promises. Show your value by being knowledgeable in your field and maintain your connection with clients well after the deal is closed. — Andrew Caldwell, President, Smart Choice
  2. W.O.M. Marketing Works. Customers buy based on recommendations from trusted sources. Ask your clients to recommend you to their friends and family or post a review online or on social media. The added bonus is that not only is Word of Mouth Marketing proven to be effective, but also it is free. — Jef Morgan, Chief Marketing Officer, Smart Choice

There is a common theme in these gentlemen’s advice about networking. Because you build great rapport with your clients, they then tell their friends about you. It’s no secret that the key to success in this business (in most businesses, really) is relationships. When you become a trusted partner for your clients, they become your best advertisements. It’s so easy to get stuck behind a computer screen or to be so busy that time gets away from you; however, make it a priority to make a client connection each day. You’ll be amazed at how the networking web works its magic on your behalf if you just put in a little effort. Reach out to one of your clients right now!

 

*https://www.insurancejournal.com/magazines/mag-coverstory/2019/08/19/536545.htm

Agency Marketing Best Practices

Agency Marketing Best Practices
[From the 2019 Smart Choice Magazine, Issue IV]

By: Roger Gill, Virginia State Director

 

1 – Partner with an experienced insurance agency marketing firm.

Although larger insurance agencies may have the resources to hire a marketing director and to assign some marketing activities to staff members, the cost is usually much more and the results much less than engaging the services of a professional marketing agency with a team of experts and automated marketing software. The professional insurance agency marketing firm should also be able to utilize the marketing functions of the Agency’s Management System. EZLynx AMS has many built-in marketing functions that automates cross sells and prospecting with multiple auto-response communication channels–emails, SMS, phone messages, and hard mail.

To hire a quality marketing director with the education and experience to accomplish this feat would cost between $50,000 and $75,000 in salary. Additional staff marketing activities may add another $20,000 per year. This in-house route equates to $4,000-$6,000 per month and will not give you access to the multiple marketing professionals with specialized education and training in the many different marketing areas nor the high-tech marketing automation software that outsourcing does.

Therefore, the more technical and time-consuming Marketing Services should be out-sourced to the MARKETING PROs. Doing so will save lots of money and provide a more effective marketing plan and greater sales and profit results–with a higher ROI (return on investment).

2 – Create an Insurance Agency Marketing Plan

By definition, a marketing plan is a written document that spells out the company’s goals, objectives, strategies and tactics to grow revenue. A marketing plan is a dynamic document that defines the actions a business needs to take in order to achieve certain goals.

Proper planning is critical to the future of any business. The marketing plan is a road map that helps to ensure agency resources are used efficiently for the services needed to meet revenue goals and other objectives.

Once a custom, viable plan has been developed and implemented, it is imperative to track and collect data to measure an accurate Return On Investment (ROI); without the data, the effectiveness of each activity is nothing more than a guess. Using the data, the marketing activities can be tweaked for enhanced effectiveness.

Revisiting the marketing plan each quarter will also provide an opportunity to refine and adjust the activities. As the insurance industry evolves, so should your marketing components, tools, and processes. (See  http://www.mplans.com/)

3 – Develop Local Online Marketing Infrastructure
Building a solid online marketing infrastructure is imperative to the success of your online presence. Here we must take the time to strategically plan each level of the foundation so that the next level will be supported by the previous.

KEY COMPONENTS:

1. Marketing Website–Provides credibility, authority, trust, and for marketing content
2. Online Citation Accounts–Provides agency information on numerous websites
3. Social Media Accounts–Provides more credibility, authority, trust and for marketing content
4. Reviews/Testimonials Accounts–Most prospects read reviews and testimonials before buying.
5. Video Accounts–Provides credibility, authority, trust, and for Marketing Content
6. Facebook & LinkedIn Advertising Accounts–Provides lower cost leads
7. Marketing Data Monitoring–Provides the data to measure ROI

Online Insurance Agency Marketing

1. Create & Optimize Online Marketing Infrastructure
Ensure your website, online accounts for citations, content, and reviews are optimized and linked properly for building brand, authority, lead generation (search engine and social media marketing), top-of-mind awareness, and client centered relationships.
Resource: https://moz.com/local-search-ranking-factors

2. Design & Implement Content Marketing Campaigns
These are focused campaigns to market a specific product or service. The content is the most important component of all marketing plans and comes in several flavors: (1) Authority Insurance Product and Services Content — for Search & Social Media Marketing (2) Local Social, Non-Sales Content — to be part of and to engage with the community (3) Appropriate Personal Content to build a personal relationship with clients and community.

3. Design & Implement Direct Mail Campaigns via EDDM to complement the Online Content Campaigns.
Marketing flyers are created and distributed via bulk mail to residential mailboxes that compliment and support the online content marketing campaigns.

4. Design & Implement Social Media Marketing Campaigns
The various flavors of content are optimized and distributed to important social media channels–includes articles, videos, and audio files. The content is mostly Local Social, Non-Sales and Personal Content as mentioned in number 2 above.

5. Design and Implement Key Word Focused Communications Campaigns
Often defined as only email marketing campaigns, communications of all types may be used to cross sell and inform current clients and to sell to prospects who have opted in to a communication channel.

6. Design and Distribute Videos
Videos are a major component of the Content Marketing Campaigns–they too follow the flavors of content mentioned in number 2 above and for the same reasons.

7. Design and Implement continuous Referral Campaigns
Agency growth is heavily dependent on continuous referrals and lead generation. Referrals have a higher conversion rate than leads from non-referral sources.

8. Design and Implement Organic Search Marketing Campaigns
Organic Search Lead Generation is vitally important. Agency growth is heavily dependent on a continuous source of new leads.

9. Design and Implement Paid Ad Campaigns
Optimized Paid Ad campaigns are an important component of the Focused Key Word Campaigns. Facebook and LinkedIn ads are working now.

10. Design and Implement a monthly Agency Newsletter
A monthly newsletter is one of the best ways to communicate all of the content flavors. A main component to build relationships.

11. Join and participate in local associations (Home Builders, Realtors, etc…) and the local Chamber of Commerce.
Bring value by offering insurance and risk education.

12. Design and Implement Data Reports for Marketing Analysis
The collection and analysis of marketing services data is necessary to know what is working, what needs refining, and to determine the Return on Investment of each component.
Offline Insurance Agency Marketing Infrastructure
1. Media Ads
2. Flyers
3. Network Groups
4. Community Involvement
5. Clubs and Organizations
6. Event Marketing
7. Direct Mail via EDDM

 

For more information, contact Roger at rgill@smartchoiceagents.com or follow his blog.

Writing Hard-To-Place Risks

Writing Hard-to-Place Risks Starts with a Good Relationship with Your Excess & Surplus Carrier—
and Your Underwriter
By: Michael Miller, Smart Choice® State Director

Most insurance agents can write auto and home policies in their sleep, and many understand commercial insurance like the back of their hands. But sometimes, clients throw us curve balls. They might have had multiple losses that make finding a policy difficult. Others might be in an industry so unusual or risky that standard carriers won’t cover them. In these cases, relationships with excess and surplus (E&S) lines carriers can be the difference between making the sale and turning a potential client away.

A look at what E&S lines carriers can do for you

E&S lines carriers are insurance companies that write policies for unusual or specialty businesses that standard carriers consider too risky. Sometimes, this is due to a history of loss. But more frequently, standard carriers simply do not have the experience writing these businesses to be able to offer a policy that comprehensively and appropriately covers the risk.

Many E&S lines carriers are licensed in a single state but can do business in other states. But they don’t have to be based in the United States. In fact, the largest E&S carrier in the United States is Lloyd’s of London, a British company. At Smart Choice®, we have partnerships with several E&S carriers, including Burns & Wilcox and Willis.

Your relationship with your E&S underwriter

The E&S lines market operates slightly differently from the standard commercial lines market. Usually, you must try to write the policy with one or more standard carriers before shopping the policy on the E&S market. Doing so requires a relationship with an E&S carrier.

It’s important to maintain your working relationships with the E&S carriers you have appointments with. That starts with your E&S carrier underwriter. If you invest a little time in your relationships with your underwriters, it’ll pay off in the long run.

Underwriters are in a tough position. They have to answer to their employers, the carriers, who reward them for writing high volume of policies with “good” risk. But they also need to please their agents, who bring in the business but often make requests that are riskier than their carriers prefer.

To write a good policy, your underwriter has to trust your judgment on the customer’s risk. And since most E&S policies do not have standard clauses regarding binding authority, back dating, and do not give advance notice of changes to policy, it’s important for you to understand how your E&S carrier underwriter operates and stay on top of each customer policy.

If you make it clear to your underwriter that you understand what “good” risk is, the more likely he or she will be willing to work with you on your more complicated policy requests. Give your underwriters the professional courtesy of asking thoughtful questions and submitting a clean request that has all the information they’ll need to feel comfortable writing it. Make your requests complete, clear, and timely.

If you take the time to get to know your underwriters and their carriers, you’ll learn certain carriers will never write particular policies, while others are eager to take on your riskier requests. But you’ll only know this if you invest some time and effort to understand how and why your underwriters write what they do. Take a moment to get to know them better. It’ll pay off for your agency in the long run.

Customers requiring E&S policies may not come through your door every day, but being proficient in writing this type of business can create real opportunities for your agency. You could become the resource for niche industries who can’t be insured through their current agent’s standard carriers. Imagine writing all the car dealerships or pizza delivery businesses in your metro area. What impact could that have on your agency’s profitability over the next five years?

Common Hard-to-Place Risks

  • Engineering Companies
  • General Contractors
  • Implement Dealerships
  • Motorcycle Dealerships
  • Large Habitational Risks
  • Trucking Companies
  • Used Car Lots with Inventory of 30 or Fewer Units
  • Vacant Buildings

[Sources]

Insurance Journal

Claims Journal

Property Casualty 360

 

Top 5 Sales Tips For Insurance Advisors

Top 5 Sales Tips For Insurance Advisors
By: Ashley Wingate, Vice President, Personal Lines

Selling in the insurance industry is not the same as sales in many other industries. Unlike most commodities being sold and advertised, insurance isn’t a choice in most cases, it’s a necessity. Many customers don’t view insurance as something they want to spend money on, but rather something they HAVE to spend money on. So, you’re really trying to counsel your customer into meeting their own coverage needs, even when they don’t want to spend the money. YOU have to be able to flip the conversation into a positive one so they feel like they’re walking away with something tangible, and not just spending their money on a “have to.” After many years working in this industry, here are my top 5 sales tips for insurance advisors:

  1. Listen to your clients and their needs. It’s tempting to just sit down and begin explaining all the benefits of your insurance policies and plans that your agency offers. My suggestion is let the prospect lead the discussion and they will tell you everything you need to know to close the sale. Instead of pitching your product, ask the person you are speaking with about their life and their family or their concerns for the future. They will tell you everything you need to know and then you become an insurance consultant and not just another salesperson.
  1. Don’t just be an order taker. Too many agents fall into this trap. If you follow the first tip and listen to your client and their needs, then you can develop a consultative approach for your client and offer them Insurance solutions for their needs. Also, don’t be afraid to ask them for their business.
  1. Make sure your clients know what they are buying from you. Stop to go over the carrier you have placed them with and highlight the benefits and features that their policy offers them. Most people don’t understand insurance and this is the time to help them understand what they have just bought from your agency. It’s a time for you to shine and a time for you to educate the customer on why they’re better off with proper coverage.
  1. Ask for referrals. Referrals are an awesome way to grow your business and these customers are much easier to close. Think about a referral program for your agency and reward the customers that send you new customers. Independent agents should rely heavily on referrals, because they have the ability to really shop for their clients and customize coverage. You have the chance to foster a more personal relationship with your clients, and therefore a better chance at gaining referrals.
  2. Network, network, network.  Take advantage of the opportunity to attend trade shows, work with real estate agents, work with the local PTA, and network with other insurance professionals in your field. These are all great places to make connections and learn from industry leaders and stay up to date on what’s going on in the insurance industry.

3 Things Insurance Agents Need To Know About E&O Insurance

3 Things Insurance Agents Need To Know About E&O Insurance
By: Michael Miller, Smart Choice® State Director

If you’re an insurance agent, you need errors & omissions, or E&O, insurance. This valuable coverage protects you and your agency against a loss in the event of an error or omission you or your staff make (or are accused of making). This could include something as simple as lacking a required document, such as a waiver of coverage, or miscommunication between you and a client.

Here are three things you need to know about E&O insurance for your agency.

1. You need to do your research.

Many carriers offer E&O coverage, but not all E&O policies are created equal, especially in what they cover if a claim makes it to court. Some may pay for the settlement amount but not your defense expenses, such as attorney’s fees. Others pay defense expenses but not for actual losses. Comprehensive E&O coverage will pay for all of it.

Some carriers specialize in covering a particular industry, so make sure the carrier you pick caters to the specific needs of your agency.

2. You need to buy early.

You advise your clients to buy insurance before they need it, and the same is true of your E&O coverage. The longer you go without E&O, the longer you expose yourself, your staff, and your agency to more risk. Most E&O policies use a retroactive date to determine whether or not they’ll cover a claim. Any claim made over an error or omission that occurs before that date will not be covered by your E&O policy. That’s why you need to be covered early—even before you open your doors.

When it is time to leave the insurance industry (when you retire, sell or quit) you may want to consider that your policy holders, clients, and carriers may not leave the same time that you do. You may still hold responsibility to them for a period of one year after you issued the last policy or until the anniversary or renewal date of the last policy you issued, at which time the insured is expected to contact you with corrections as to how the policy was applied for when it was first written.

Most agents maintain an active E&O policy for one year after their retirement or termination date. It protects them from potential risk from policies written during their last year in business. Almost all carrier policies state the insured is responsible for reviewing their declarations page at every renewal so they are aware of their exact coverage, effective dates, and limits. You may want to consider carrying a full and active E&O policy for one year after you write your last policy to protect yourself from any issues that could arise for a period of one year after the renewal date of the last policy you issue.

3. You need to have a plan.

Even with E&O coverage, you need a plan for how your agency will prevent errors and omissions and mitigate claims if and when they occur. Always use written contracts with your clients and get signed waivers when clients opt out of coverages you’ve recommended for them. Communicate frequently with your clients about changes to their policies and possible enhancements.

Sources:
Insurance Journal
CalSurance

3 Key Considerations When Choosing a New Agency Management System

ThinkstockPhotos-466582229

3 Key Considerations When Choosing a New Agency Management System
By: Michael Miller, Smart Choice® State Director

There comes a point in the life cycle of every insurance agency when it’s time to grow or die. It sounds harsh, but without investing in the right tools, there comes a point when it’s no longer possible to keep your agency growing.

Successful insurance agencies recognize the value of a robust agency management system. There are several wonderful products on the market today that allow your entire team to stay on the same page as you sign on new clients and maintain your existing book of business. Here are three key considerations to make when you choose your agency’s new management system.

  1. Your Agency’s Current and Future Needs

Agency management systems are all a little different. Most scale with your agency as it grows. Before picking your next system, consider the needs of your team and your agency. Here are some key questions to ask:

  • How helpful would it be to have your clients’ policies, quotes, and documents accessible all from one place, and who needs access to part or all of that information?
  • Do you need your management system to double as an accounting system?
  • Should your system integrate with your current contact relationship management (CRM) system or provide its own CRM platform?
  • Is your team tech-savvy or will they require training and ongoing support?
  1. Software versus Cloud-Based Applications

Agency management software is installed on your agency’s computers or server, while you access cloud-based agency management systems using the Internet. Both have advantages and disadvantages. Software is convenient if you already have the necessary hardware at your office, have your own IT staff, and don’t need to access your system while you’re away from your office.

Cloud-based systems are great if you have a mobile office and need to access your system from the road. Cloud-based systems require minimal investment in hardware. Instead, you pay a subscription fee.

  1. Security

Your clients trust you with their most personal and sensitive information, so your agency management system needs to have strong security features. Ask vendors if their systems are built with security in mind and how they handle ongoing security concerns. Listen for buzzwords like “encryption,” “maintenance,” and “security updates.”

 

Whatever agency management system you choose, it will be an investment in the success and growth of your agency.

 

Sources:
EZLynx
Property Casualty 360
QQ Solutions

5 Ways for New Insurance Agents to Gain Customers

5 Ways for New Insurance Agents to Gain Customers

 

It can be difficult for an agent just starting out with his or her own office to know where to start finding customers – and it’ll take a lot of hard work to get to a point where you have a steady flow of customers coming in the door. Here are some tips for getting off to a great start and creating lasting practices to help you achieve success.

1) Look Professional

If your office looks shabby and so do you, you’ll lose trust of potential customers almost immediately. Dress the part of a professional by wearing a suit. Keep a clean and tidy office. Post pamphlets, education tools, posters and window labels from your carrier partners. Have a designated waiting area that’s bright, comfortable, and separate from where you speak with clients. If you want people to buy from you, you want them to feel at ease and comfortable in your presence.

2) Partner with as many carriers as possible

This can be difficult when you’re first starting out, because you are likely a smaller agency and may not yet have a relationship with your local carrier representatives. To gain recognition and trust with carriers, you can partner with an “agency cluster group” which will help you gain appointments. Don’t be afraid to reach out and network with your local reps either. Set a meeting and buy them lunch. Interact with them on LinkedIn and other social media networking sites.

3) Use your customers for referrals

Starting a book of business from scratch will require you to build on your successes, and that includes not being afraid to ask for referrals from the customers you win. When you write insurance for someone for the first time, send them a “care package” welcoming them to the agency. Provide a folder with information on their carrier, information on how to file a claim should they need to (a great idea is to have a wallet sized or glove-box sized card for them to keep with step-by-step instructions on who to call first when claims arise), a small giveaway like a key chain or pen with your agency’s information on it, and 4 or 5 business cards for them to “refer a friend.”

4) Sell multiple products

Don’t limit yourself here. You should offer personal, commercial and life insurance products if you can. This will broaden your potential customer base exponentially. Not sure how to sell commercial and life? Smart Choice has programs that will enable you to submit your customers’ information and have the business written FOR you, and you’ll still reap the commissions. Click here to find out more about these programs (Commercial and Life).

5) Partner with a local real estate agent or office

Real estate agents are fantastic networkers. They also spend a lot of face time with their clients, and usually keep lists of recommended resource providers for all kinds of things for new homeowners. If you can become the preferred agent of a real estate professional, you’ll get steady stream of new customers coming in the door each month.

5 Ways to Grow Your Insurance Agency in 2016

ThinkstockPhotos-494498752

5 Ways to Grow Your Insurance Agency in 2016
By: Michael Miller, Smart Choice® State Director

‘Tis the season for resolutions, and many insurance agents are setting goals for how much they’d like to grow their agencies in 2016. Nationally, independent agents generate an average of $5 to 6 million in annual premiums, but earn less than $1 million in commission.

What’s your goal for growth in 2016? Here are five steps you can take to grow your independent insurance agency next year.

  1. Hire the Right Staff

Not only the right number of staff members, but the right people for the job. The duties of a CSR are very different than those of a producer—make sure you hire people with the appropriate strengths and skillsets.

If you’re a one-person agency and hoping to hire your first staff member in 2016, consider hiring someone whose skills complement yours. If you’re excellent at underwriting but struggle with sales, hire someone with excellent sales skills.

  1. Start Selling Commercial

Selling commercial lines takes more investment on your part—both financially and in time—but there’s a greater pay-off in the long run. Research your commercial carrier options and create a plan for how you would recruit and maintain commercial lines clients. Commercial insurance clients are often more hands-on than personal lines clients. If you’re able to meet their needs, selling commercial could be a big money-maker for you.

  1. Upgrade Your Agency Technology

There are many back-office tools that make running your agency more efficient and profitable. If you haven’t updated or upgraded your technology recently, consider doing so. Same goes for any marketing tech you haven’t adopted, such as a mobile-responsive website or email marketing tool.

  1. Take the Leap into Social Media

It’s just a fact: Your clients and prospects are online. Personal lines clients hang out on Facebook and Twitter and commercial clients are on LinkedIn. Commit to creating social media accounts for you and your agency and to being active on those accounts at least a few times a week. Social media marketing takes a little time, but it’s a powerful way to stay top-of-mind with your clients and prospects.

  1. Join a Cluster Group

Adding more carriers is difficult, especially when you’re adding a new line. Joining an insurance cluster group allows you to work with carriers and lines that you could never access otherwise. However, many cluster groups make you roll your current book to them when you sign up. They want to take control of your new policies as well as the ones you have already worked hard to build, so do your research.

Sources:
Property Casualty 360
Insurance Journal

Another Chance for Us To Get It Right: Planning for 2016

ThinkstockPhotos-479327486

Another Chance for Us To Get It Right: Planning for 2016

“Cheers to a New Year and another chance for us to get it right.” –Oprah Winfrey

It’s that time again! We all do it – reflecting on the past year and making resolutions for the next with the best of intentions. The holidays go by in a blur, yet there always seems to be time to reminisce about what we did (or didn’t do) in the past 365 days, and how to do it better in the following 365 days.  Many of us graciously welcome the opportunity for a do-over, a clean slate, and a fresh start. But that fresh start doesn’t just happen on its own.

When the clock strikes midnight on December 31st, have we thoroughly thought through what we want our agencies to look like in 2016? There is a saying that “Dreams don’t work unless you do.” We all know that success comes from much preparation and hard work. The hands on the clock don’t magically make the next year better, but planning, evolving, asking questions, and reaching out for assistance…that’s what makes the next year better, especially for our agencies!

So, what goals do you have? What does your 2016 look like? Make this New Year the one you get right – the one in which you’ll see positive change and growth. Smart Choice® is always by your side to help!

Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas, a Happy Holidays, and a wonderful New Year!

Can Smart Choice® be of assistance to you or someone you know to help your agency start out on a high note for 2016?

Click here: http://www.smartchoiceagents.com/contact-us/