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.

Managing and Marketing to Millennials: Why It’s Worth Getting to Know Your Younger Customers and Employees

Managing and Marketing to Millennials: Why It’s Worth Getting to Know Your Younger Customers and Employees

By: Michael Miller, State Director Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa

Lazy. Narcissistic. Entitled. The way they’re often portrayed in the media, it’s no wonder that Millennials sometimes get a bad rap. And while there are of course individual exceptions, these broad generalizations about Millennials simply aren’t true. There’s a lot to like about the Millennial generation as customers and employees. Which is good, because they’re quickly dominating the marketplace and the workplace.

A Look at Millennials

A Millennial is one of 71 million individuals born between 1981 and 1996. Most Millennials are the children of Baby Boomers, and the Pew Research Center estimates Millennials will surpass Baby Boomers in population by 2019.

Millennials grew up using technology. The older ones remember a time when the internet didn’t exist; the younger ones don’t. Millennials came of age during the Great Recession and either experienced financial challenges themselves or watched their parents struggle (or both). Most who earned college degrees have student loan debt. All of these factors contribute to the way Millennials buy insurance and how they approach employment.

Selling to Millennials

Experts project Millennials will increase spending by 15 percent annually over the next few years, while Baby Boomers will increase spending by just 5 percent. This is a great opportunity for your agency if you know how to sell to the younger generation.

Make It Easy

Amazon invented one-click ordering for a reason, and it had nothing to do with Baby Boomers. Millennials value an efficient, streamlined buying process. That’s why your agency must have an online quoting system that makes it easy to shop for insurance without providing pages of information. It also pays to provide policy documents electronically. Make sure your carriers offer automatic withdrawal for payments, too.

Expand Communication Options

Millennials prefer to communicate via email, text, and social media and consider talking with people on the phone the nuclear option. So how do you build customer relationships with Millennials? Reach out over email or by text to set up in-person appointments. Have a presence on social media and interact with your customers there regularly.

Show Your Value

You know you face lots of competition online from the Geicos of our industry. Take a look through their websites and you’ll see how easy these companies make it to quote a policy and how little information they provide to buyers so they can make informed purchasing decisions. Millennials may buy online, but they also tend to do their research and read reviews. Make your website a resource for potential customers and ask your current customers to review your agency online. A few positive reviews can turn shopping Millennials into buyers.

Hiring Millennials

Yes, it’s possible to work with Millennials without them driving you crazy (at least most of the time). And with 10,000 Baby Boomers turning 65 every day, you’ll need to work with Millennials to continue to grow your agency.

Take Advantage of Their Tech Skills

Does the idea of incorporating social media, texting, email, and online quoting into your agency fill you with dread? Then hire a Millennial! Millennials are digital natives, and communicating online comes naturally to most of them. Millennial producers and CSRs will be comfortable communicating over email and text. They may also be able to help you add valuable content to your website and interact with customers on social media platforms for you.

Understand What Motivates Them

Having grown up during the Great Recession, many Millennials are simultaneously seeking to make more money and wary of traditional retirement benefits. They saw these products fail their parents and are cautious about experiencing similar financial pain. Working at an insurance agency on commission may be the perfect set-up for self-motivated Millennials. But don’t rely on your 401(k) plan to attract and keep Millennial employees. Instead, show them how selling insurance helps them protect families and businesses (Millennials generally want to feel like their work is making a difference). Then, give them some flexibility in where and when they work. Many agency tasks can be performed remotely.

Remember That Everyone Wants to Hire Them

Millennials may work a little differently from Gen X and the Baby Boomers, but they still work hard, have expert tech skills, and bring energy and new ideas to their workplaces. This makes them highly attractive to employers. If your agency doesn’t hire the Millennial who walks through your door, your competitor might.

Soon, the Millennials will outnumber Baby Boomers. You fail to market to and hire the younger generation at our agency’s peril. With a little knowledge and some flexibility, you’ll find that marketing to and working with Millennials is easier than you think.

Smart Choice® Resources for Attracting Millennials

Smart Choice® offers several resources to help your agency attract Millennial buyers and employees, including:

  • Affordable, professionally designed websites with the Smart Choice® Web Builder
  • Deals on three online rating and agency management systems to streamline agency processes
  • Online CE training through CEAuthority for internet-savvy and time-conscious agents
  • Smart Start™ internal brokerages to help new producers learn the ropes
  • Express Markets™ to help your new agents earn 100 percent commissions with low or no production requirements

Increase your book of business using existing clientele

One of the best ways to increase the size of your book quickly is by tapping into your existing base of customers. There’s almost always more business to be had with your existing clients. Start by doing a review of coverage with each client. Then sit down with them and ask the right questions to elicit and uncover coverage gaps you can offer to fill. Use that opportunity to make them more loyal to you when you offer to shop their coverage and find them better coverage at a better price.
Start with your top premium clients and work your way down – selling personal lines to commercial-only accounts, and ascertaining if your personal lines clients have businesses you could potentially write for them. You already have a number of P&C clients on your book. What better place to look to increase revenue, than the people you already do business with? Not only does this increase retention and loyalty, it makes less likely your client will want to shop and move their business elsewhere down the road.

Marketing At Its Core…

Marketing At Its Core…
By: Katie Wilmoth, Director, Marketing and Communications

This past summer, my husband and I took our kids to the beach – our kids (at the time) were 6 years old, 4 years old, and 9 months old, so we had our hands full! I find that at their current ages, they’re like a mini case study in the ways of the world. I never cease to marvel at how perceptive and astute they are for their ages.

At home, we don’t keep cable or satellite and instead, stream or download things we’d like to watch. So our kids have no concept of what television was like in the old days, and therefore, they aren’t familiar with commercials.

Throughout the course of the week, our oldest daughter would run up to one of us and say something about one of the commercials, or “previews” as she called them. IN fact, our kids were more interested in the commercials than in the shows they watched. As someone who’s made a career in marketing, I marveled at just what an impact direct marketing had on my kids in that short amount of time. I even caught them singing “Nationwide is on your side!” repeatedly as they played in the waves one day – “Mom, did you know Nationwide is on our side?” my six year old asked me – proving that, whether or not they knew exactly what the product did or was, the message the marketers had intended for them to remember had indeed been successful.

One night, my daughter said “Hey Dad, we need to get some of this lotion because it will make our skin super soft and shiny.” And I listened as my husband said “Okay listen Lila…these are called commercials, and the people who make them are trying to sell you their product by making it sound like the greatest thing in the world. So they’re lying to you to make it sound better than it is…that’s what your mommy does for a living…”

I looked up at him shocked and amused that he would say such a thing to our daughter, and he was looking back at me laughing. My reply to him was “You’re a LAWYER! Why don’t you tell her what YOU do?!”

The story is funny, but it got me thinking about the definition of marketing at its core. Sure, there are plenty of infomercials that use over-exaggeration and half-truths to peddle cheap wares (though I’d say that’s closer to the definition of sales, not marketing) – but at its heart, that’s NOT what marketing is. Marketing is about highlighting what sets your product or service apart from the competition. And if you’re doing it RIGHT, it’s also about highlighting the things that you do well and at which your product or service excels. You pick out your best assets and tell people about them. Think of it as socially acceptable bragging!

If you would like to read more Marketing tips, check out Issue IV of the Smart Choice Magazine!

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!

The Key to Marketing Your Insurance Agency? Develop a Process, Follow Through, Be Accountable, & Get Help if You Need It

Key to Success - Wood

The Key to Marketing Your Insurance Agency? Develop a Process, Follow Through, Be Accountable, & Get Help if You Need It
By: Michael Miller, Smart Choice® State Director

As an independent agent, it’s easy to get so caught up in your business that you forget to work on your business. But, if we fail to continuously develop and close leads, eventually, our agencies will suffer.

That’s why I encourage insurance agents to create a formal, repeatable sales process for selling and cross-selling all lines of insurance. With proper follow up and support, such a process can keep leads and prospects coming in the door.

Develop a formal, repeatable sales process.

As the state director for Smart Choice® MN, WI & IA, I offer my agents training on a marketing system that develops formal, repeatable processes for each insurance line. We start with defining an agent’s sales goals and then create a process to meet those goals. Specific action items empower agents to generate leads and close more business.

Here are some action items that have proven effective for myself and the agents I work with:

  • sending direct mail letters
  • tapping the power of digital marketing tools, such as social media and email
  • making follow-up phone calls and call scripts
  • using fact-finder sheets to guide the conversation in initial client meetings
  • cross-line selling other insurance products
  • sending thank you cards
  • requoting old leads

Whatever action items you choose, write down your process and review your steps to make sure it’s repeatable.

Follow through with your sales process & be accountable for each step.

Even the most thoughtful and efficient process is ineffective if you don’t put it to use. Now that you have the steps in place to develop your agency’s prospects, you need to follow through. Block out time on your calendar to complete every action item. Ask a staff member to remind you to work through each step. Consider delegating tasks to staff members, too.

Get help if you need it.

Sometimes, relying on staff just isn’t enough to make your process successful. If this happens to you, consider calling in some outside help. A business coach or mentor can be a helpful partner in the sale process. So can a formal marketing system.

Three Marketing Tips for Independent Insurance Agents

Are you looking for new marketing ideas for your insurance agency in 2016? Here are three ideas you can implement TODAY to gain new business as you plan for 2016!

Be an information resource: Use a blog on your website, email newsletters, social media sites, etc. to be a resource for your customers. This is called “content marketing” and you’re essentially gaining website traffic from search engines by using keywords that consumers are already searching for. Consider that scores of customers are searching for specific insurance information every day – if they are searching for something you have posted yourself or re-posted from another site, you will gain more traffic and visibility in the community as a resource.

Run a referral contest: Run a referral contest through your social media sites! Many agents already rely heavily on referral business, but a contest that provides compensation to the customer is a great motivator to consumers. The prize you offer should be substantial enough to entice customers to make an effort. Cash gift cards are more versatile and work better than rewards like televisions or iPads because they’re more likely to entice. Post several times a week about the details of your contest, and make sure you include contingencies that will ensure the contest brings your agency more commission money than the money you’ll be spending on the prize!

Pick a niche market: What if you chose a niche market to be an expert in each quarter? This idea has the potential to earn you additional business from existing customers in ADDITION to new business throughout the year. One quarter you can advertise being an expert in writing policies for teen drivers and their parents. The next, you can advertise being an expert in small business or whichever niche with which you’re comfortable. And you don’t have to break the bank to advertise these capabilities. If you have a good online presence established, you can advertise in multiple ways for free:

  • Promote the market with a new fact about it each day on your agency’s Facebook page, Twitter account, and LinkedIn profile. Write an “announcement” – an informal press release – to post on your agency’s LinkedIn page.
  • Include a blog post on your website where you write about various options and policy types available to customers. Talk about the pros and cons of different coverages. Include stories and testimonials from customers who were saved from disaster by their insurance policies – this is especially good for coverages people don’t consider necessities, like umbrellas or life policies.

Like what you learned here? The October issue of Smart Choice Magazine will have even more tips! We’ve devoted an entire issue to marketing!