Its summer…So what kind of lawn mower are you?
A Push Start? Pull Start? Or Kick Start?
I think we can all agree on a few points of discussion. We all know the new consumer is different than they were even five years ago. We all know most of us have to adapt dramatically to facilitate the new buyers style. We all know that almost half of the insurance agencies are not growing presently. We all know there is a lot of buzz in the market about all the things that some of us are doing but most of us are still at the starting line.
So where are you in the positions shared above? Are you positioned to thrive in this modern digital economy? Are you in the process of adapting? Or are you the “deer in the headlights!”
So what are you going to do?
You can be a Push Start, where you got the nudge and are moving now towards the new inbound economy.
Or you can be a Pull Start, where you keep following the newest trends but maybe reluctantly.
Or are you a Kick Start, where you are not going to go easily into the new economy.
There is definitely a buzz in the air and in the past several years agents have begun to see the need to adapt to Digital Insurance Marketing and Sales.
There was a recent three day event put on by the folks at Agency Nation. If you have not heard of them, Agency Nation is part of the Trusted Choice services of the IIABA.
I could not attend but my two partners were there. I also saw a lot of posts on this event on social media. From all reports and everything I could see it was a home run! But my partner Zach Emly got a lot of feedback that agents still felt again left at the starting line. These sessions, as good as they are, have become somewhat like the summer music festivals. Three day bills of top notch rock stars but the audience leaves not knowing how to play the guitar and the only thing that is different is the venue and the campground.
If you feel like you're left at the starting line, then read our story. We were in decline until we learned how to move off the starting line and into the digital space.
How Our Story Began
Until the end of 2016 I was the owner of an independent insurance agency. We were located with offices in Ohio and I had enjoyed success for most of my time as the agency principal. But something happened starting around 2008. Our agency was going in the wrong direction. We were in an area of the country hard hit by the economy when the entire country was struggling.
On top of the poor economy and clients leaving because frankly, they were losing their homes and businesses, we also knew the size of the pie in our footprint was shrinking. In addition we saw a change in consumer behavior.
The buyers were, maybe smarter than they used to be. Also they seemed fatigued by traditional methods like cold calling and other traditional solicitations. They seemed to be doing a lot of the footwork we previously did and would come to us with knowledge and not seek our expertise, just our rates.
The agency had three owners and we talked, strategized, and argued about what we had to do. We looked at several “in the box” solutions. Products like Agency Revolution (Which is very good) and Astonishing Results. The cost was steep but we also thought we could do it ourselves.
We had also talked to a few digital gurus who told us we were not ready and would not entertain us as clients. This was also a new thing to me. We wanted to buy and we were being told that we were not a good sale because we were not ready!
What Came Next Changed Our Agency's Future
We finally did encounter someone who spent some time with us and told us where we were in the process. They shared some ideas on what we could do to get started and pointed us into the world of Digital Marketing and Sales for insurance agencies. This was the beginning of something more impactful then we could have imagined.
So I recommend getting someone from outside like we did and ask them to facilitate your discussion. Where are we, where do we want to go and how do we get there. Think of them as your personal trainer.
After this conversation, we took control of our marketing. At about the same time we looked at our expenses and we had the luxury of having just moved a large section of our Personal Lines to a company service center. When we lost an account manager we did not need to replace the body but had the money to invest into our marketing.
Quick mid blog question. Do you know what % of your income is devoted to marketing? And I don’t mean marketing AND sales I mean marketing.
You would be surprised at the amount some of the most successful business allocates to their marketing. But when it comes to insurance agents many we talk to cannot even say and those who do usually spend less than 10%.
So when our insurance agency was stepping into digital marketing we budgeted. After all this was not an expense it was an investment. And I want to challenge you on this. Take a look at how much you spend on things you deem necessary but do not generate profit! SO BUDGET!
Treat Digital Marketing like a Gourmet Meal
Another thing we discovered is that we took this in small bites. Many people try too many things at once and don’t see results or they get frustrated and abandon ship. If you went to a top notch restaurant and ordered seven courses you would not cram them all in your mouth at one time. Don't do this with your digital efforts either.
There is someone I know and have known most of my career. It is a family owned agency and they are really good people. But one thing I have seen from them, and they are not alone in this, is the lack of focus and commitment. If you look at them they go to all the big events, are active in all the social media groups and try just about everything. They don’t commit. They bounce from one thing to the other always chasing the next shiny thing. SO FOCUS!
It’s a Lifestyle…Not a Diet
I lost about 100 pounds ten years ago. It took me fifty years to put it on and only about seven months to take it off. I was thrilled! But I was patient, I saw results, sometimes they were small but they were consistent. This was like our marketing efforts.
We started getting our website to be more active and have more specific content. And then we moved into creating our own content,(Big shout out to Zywave) and we moved into sharing it by email and social media.
We saw new opportunities. In the first few months there were not huge results but ten or fifteen new leads. That was enough for me. I was again happy we were seeing growth.
Now after we did this a few years those numbers increased. Every month over 100 new leads. Now at this point, if I had a month with only 15 leads I would have been contemplating jumping off of a high building but we still focused on consistent steady growth. SO BE PATIENT! BE CONSISTENT! BE COMMITTED!
This is Business…Treat It That Way
We became very disciplined. We budgeted, we developed jobs with descriptions, we committed resources to the process. We met every week. We delegated and split duties. This was business not the ugly step child. TREAT MARKETING AS ONE OF THE HIGHEST PRIORITIES IN YOUR BUSINESS!
And The Story Ends.... Or does it...?
Our mission changed when we were approached and enticed into selling our agency but have continued our practices as owners of Inbuzz. But the thing is, the Story does not end. We found that you have to adapt you business and culture to deliver your product and service where the client is. Not where you or your staff is comfortable.
If you are not comfortable where you are in this new economy, the good news is you are not alone. The better news is you can get up towards the front of the pack by committing today.
So you have to decide - Are you a PUSH, PULL or KICK Start?!