What Independent Agents Need to Do…And Do It Now!

by Pat Alexander on July 19, 2010 · 24 comments

Cindy DonaldsonThis is a guest post by Cindy Donaldson, Director of Marketing  & Personal Lines Sales, Founders Insurance Group, Inc.  Cindy Posted this several weeks ago at the Founders Insurance Group, Inc. blog.  I  thought is was so appropriate I requested permission to post at Insurance Ecosystem.  A big thanks to Cindy and The Founders Forum.

I surely don’t consider myself an expert on insurance (yet) – but I do consider myself an expert when it comes to marketing and that includes marketing an independent insurance agency.  What I have discovered in my “rookie insurance year” is that the majority of independent insurance agencies don’t understand the true concept of marketing. A good marketing team learns to think outside the box, and then think outside that box. They also need to have a plan, and be flexible with that plan.

Historically, independent insurance agencies such as Founders Insurance Group have relied upon the community to support them.  They had a brick and mortar spot and surrounding businesses and individuals bought insurance from them.  They grew their business through referrals and the competition across town was ok.  Everyone had their place, the industry was respected and people made money…a lot of money.

June & Ward Cleaver

Throw in a couple yellow page advertisements, maybe a radio spot, support the local charities and all was peachy  keen.

Then came the invention of the internet  – oh boy, stop the presses, what’s happening to our “June and Ward Cleaver kinda world” said independent agents across the country.

What happened June and Ward is that your world changed and you didn’t opt to change with it.  Sales dropped, agencies that didn’t attempt to keep up were bought.  Survival of the fittest.

If you are one of those agencies still in the “it worked in 1951 it will work now” mode – you better get on the hip train and embrace the following:

  • Social Media. Email, although still great, is becoming passé with the younger generation.  You better learn how to Tweet, have a Facebook Fan Page, Instant Message, Text, Blog and show your true colors on LinkedIn.  This is the short list.
  • Become transparent If you want to have a step up on the 1-800 people, the internet insurance machines you better become transparent to your prospects and your clients. Let them know who you really are, who your staff is, and why they need to do business with you.  Know your value!
  • Keep in touch.  If you don’t keep in touch with your clients and let them know they are loved – they will leave you. They might say they leave for price – but they leave because they aren’t feelin’ the love.
  • Sales culture.  Your team needs to understand sales process, learn to overcome objection, and know how to ask for the sale.  From principal to receptionist , and everyone in between.  It’s a different world out there now.  No sitting back and waiting for the phone to ring.
  • Don’t sell on price.  If you sell on price – you lose on price.  Every time.  It takes more to get a new client than to keep an existent one.  Sell on value and consistently reinforce that value.
  • Have a plan.  You need a plan and a goal if you are going to move forward.  Have a marketing plan and sales goals.  Monitor them monthly – make adjustments when you need to.  You need to know your sales numbers – daily.  No exceptions.
  • Be well rounded.  Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.  Marketing is very cumulative and people get their information from a myriad of sources 24/7.  Use print, radio, internet, social media, traditional networking, outbound and inbound marketing, viral marketing….the list goes on.  Have a game plan, track what is working and what is not.  Monitor and adjust when needed.

Just my two cents!

Now put away your June and Ward Cleaver mindsets and get hip!  The new way of doing business is here to stay.

Cindy Donaldson
Director of Marketing & Personal Lines Sales
Founders Insurance Group, Inc.

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  • http://www.iiabny.org Jamie Deapo

    You are sooooooo right! I hope every independent agent reads this post and truly takes it to heart. As a collective group, utilizing the suggestions listed above, independent agents can move forward with taking back a good share of the markets they have lost to the competition. I have noted a trend with the direct response companies and the direct writers – they both realize that they must have a personal presence with consumers and it shows in their marketing efforts and advertising. Independent agents are already setup to operate in this manner and should exploit this advantage by following the suggestions outlined in this article.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/patalexander PatAlexander

      Jamie, you are so correct. It just seems so many independent agents say they have personal relationships with their clients, but I find it is not so true in many cases.

  • Nick

    Well said Cindy. It's a complete paradigm shift that's happening in real time, there's really no wait-and-see approach with the Internet, waiting means failing.

    One last thing I would add that could fit into the "Have a Plan" bullet, would be to connect with the local community. Social media and the Internet provide more options than ever to build connections and network with locals, without ever leaving the agency. Whether it's getting the word out about a food drive via FB and Twitter, blogging about a local charity your agency supports or just contributing to the social media efforts of other small businesses in the area; all have the potential to strengthen relationships and contribute to marketing efforts.
    My recent post “Changing Faces of the Insurance Industry” Episode Two

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/patalexander PatAlexander

      Nick, you are so correct. I really emphasize this when working with a client on their social media plan.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/patalexander PatAlexander

    Just so no one thinks Cindy is ignoring them, she is somewhere in Europe today on vacation. Lucky girl. I am sure she will chime in when she is back.
    My recent post Where Has Pat Been

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  • http://www.prostarinsuranceagency.com Chris

    Surely, that's more than 2 cents. I love this.. "okay so the first thing you need to do is think outside the box… then [really] think outside the box."

    Really, these key points hit the nail on the head for any independent agency. You should have these posted on a sticky note attached to your computer monitor so you read it every day. However these key points need creativity and individuality to properly implement. You actually have to come up with strategies to become more transparent, utilize an efficient form of managing social media, and develop a healthy sales culture; All of which must meet the needs and not overextend the goals of your agency in the short term. I'd suggest coming up with 5 or 10 strong ideas under each of her 7 key points in this blog to reinforce how it will work for you…

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  • foundersgrp

    thanks for all the comments! I was in Europe for 3 glorious weeks but am back in the swing of things! Nick – all about the community involvement, you are so right! Thanks again Pat for posting :-)
    Cindy

    • http://www.patalexander.com PatAlexander

      Cindy, The pleasure of post this blog was all mine. We are all just really jealous about your 3 glorious weeks in Europe. Glad it was wonderful. Feel free to share a post with the Ecosystem anytime.
      My recent post Managing Change

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