Mergers & Acquisitions, Business model changes, Technology advancements we are in a period of disruption!
Majesco created a Disruption Model chart that if you follow history you’ll start to see the pattern. In 2008 we entered a market shift that moved us into “The Digital Age."
We are experiencing first hand in our businesses and industry what starts to change with the integration and use of data into multi areas of our lives and businesses. Creating connected multi-purpose products & devices, digital and data driven platforms. So how does any of this help you in your business planning?
The word “planning” often lands with the same thud as “let’s have a meeting.” But the purpose of an annual marketing plan isn’t to chart out each and every detail of every step you and your team will take for the next year. The plan’s purpose is to set on the right course to achieve the results needed to make your business goals a reality.
With this in mind, let's take today to look at everything you need to use your digital business plan to make your goals a reality. So let's set the foundation of your planning framework so that you get on and stay on course to achieve your business goals.
Setting the foundation with your Planning Framework
Take time before and during the implementation of your plan to create a framework to follow. This framework will allow you to build a strong foundation to follow for the weeks, months and even years to come.
With the framework you will build out what campaigns and strategies to implement and who is responsible for each task. This can be simple if just getting started, but after you do more you will want to make it more detailed to help benchmark.
Here is what you will need to lay the framework:
- Initially Laying the Framework- Have your plan written down as well as digital copy. People need to see it to know what it is and what’s expected.
- Use a Joint Calendar- Map out your plans for the year, assignments and who is responsible.
- Cyclical programs, Niches and Events- Programs should all be entered in your Calendar as cyclical, reoccurring and automatically sent with reminders to those responsible for writing, and publishing content.
- Communication and Messaging- Format and messaging should be consistent in look, style and branding. Have a coordinator that clears all communication and what digital marketing platforms are utilized for emails, posts and blogs.
Here is an example of setting up your framework in a calendar. It is the calendar we set up within our insurance agency's outlook.
This helps you implement increasingly more effective campaigns later in the year with confidence.
The complexity of any specific marketing plan should reflect your current level of marketing savvy. This is why the planned, phased approach will be so effective. You don’t need to jump into every kind of campaign at once. Instead, each step in the plan builds off the last, giving you time to evaluate the results and learn what’s working and what’s not.
Getting the Dollars for Marketing
Before we even discuss how to and where to invest dollars in to digital marketing, let’s first take a look internally first to see what resources you currently have access to or are provided by your Vendors, Carriers, State Association or other sources.
The items you will find available are everything from customizable blogs, posts for social media platforms, images, videos you can use and other downloadable resources. Check the sites for Email designed communications on coverage along with advertisements, and pre-design mailers that you can add your agency logo to.
All of these resources are free for you to use if you know where to look. While Most will allow you to use these materials as you see fit, but any changes or alterations you should verify you have permission to adjust.
*A helpful note:
Remember all communication and resources you send out should link back to you or your website. This will provide you data analytics but also send your potential prospects to you and not another agent.
Getting more money to invest into digital marketing
One major problem agencies face when investing into digital marketing or technology is that they do not have the extra money to lying around to invest. Let me show you how to get past this situation. There are 3 ways to do so:
- The first way to get around not having the money to invest is what we mentioned above. Utilizing the resources that are free for your agency.
- The next is to utilize co-op
- The third way is to restructure your budget so that there is room for digital.
We already talked about the first way, so we will skip that one and talk co-op. The best way to get money together for digital marketing is through co-op.
Find out how much co-op you have for each of your companies and how they allow you to use it. You may find that there is co-op available for things you are already doing like sponsoring community events or advertising. For special projects such as new websites or even tickets to conferences such as Elevate some companies will pay most of the bill through co-op. And in some special circumstances they may sponsor one of your marketing campaigns even if it is not normally offered.
Reach out and have a conversation with your Carrier Marketing Representative or Company Digital Marketing Analyst. Identify a specific marketing niche or program you want to focus on, outline your plan strategy, create your marketing list, the platform of communication you will use, Messaging touches from beginning to end, and how you’ll track results. Share with them your monthly results and expectations of ROI goals. JUST BECAUSE IT IS NOT OFFERED. DOES NOT MEAN IT CAN’T BE DONE.
The third way of finding money for your insurance agency's digital plans is to remove other expenses to make room for digital marketing.
This could be doing less traditional advertising(billboards, mailers, newspaper ads, etc...), moving workloads to service centers to free up employee time, or by cutting out sponsorships that really do your agency no good.
Often times there is money within our agencies for digital marketing but most agents do not know where to look for it.
Putting a Budget in Place
So what does your insurance agency spend on Digital and marketing annually?
A 2016 survey found that insurance agencies that spend more on marketing make more money.
“Velocify, which surveyed more than 1,000 insurance agencies, found that agencies spending less than 5% of their revenue on marketing are three times as likely to experience flat revenue. However, agencies spending 15% or more tend to see a revenue increase of more than 20%, year-over-year.”
So let me ask again, what does your agency spend on digital and marketing annually?
The reason many agencies do not see a positive increase from their efforts is simply because they do not invest enough. This is why budgeting and finding opportunities to invest in your agency is so important.
Here is a walkthrough to help you begin putting a budget together:
- Find out what co-op money is available
and from your vendors, carriers or other sources
- Familiarize yourself with their marketing resources
- Learn about their reimbursement procedures
- Reach out to your Marketing Representative to see if they are receptive to you supplying your own ads or what level of customization is available from the company
- Maximize your Digital Marketing budget while reducing advertising costs, adding to your agency's bottom line.
- Improve the quality of your advertising with access to professionally written and designed customizable ads and materials.
- Extend your agency's reach, expand your customer base, drive sales, and increase revenue.
Remember that the purpose of investing into your insurance agency is to see an eventual positive return. You cannot afford to think in terms of "I can't afford to do this" or that it's another payment. It is an investment into your agency. And like any investment, it is worth taking the time to strategically plan in order to get the most out of it.
Having The Right People In Position
Workforce planning ensures that an organization has the right number of people in the right positions at the right time but also that the right experience and skills sets within the organization, and that the right talent continues to be recruited, developed, and retained.
Develop the right people management strategy that’s aligned to the organizational Mission, Vision, Value and needs.
- Right Recruitment
- Identifying the right candidate and provide the right training
- Developing Right skills
- Building a coaching culture can also strengthen knowledge sharing and develop leadership skills.
Putting the right people at the right place at the right time with right skill and knowledge is rare. Maintaining a strong employer brand is also important. A visible brand that inspires confidence, will be recognized by those looking for opportunities, and more likely to attract better applicants.
Hire the right employees.
The first step in an agency’s growth process is hiring and retaining the best employees available. But where do you find them? How do you recruit the next generation into an industry that has a reputation for being staid and boring?
Well the world has changed and we need too, to stay relevant. The question is really how we talk about what we do and how we share information about the opportunities in our industry. We are one of the few industries that you can’t name a job that doesn’t tie into the insurance industry or open up a career opportunity.
We are entrepreneurs, you like controlling your own destiny this is the career for you! Positions are available in Digital Marketing and Social Media, Producer Niche Sales, Customer Account Managers, Risk Specialists, Underwriting, Quality Control, Data Analysis and everything from Augmented Realty development to Cyber Risk Assessments and more.
So what type of people should you hire?
Look for people who can do what you can’t do, if you’re good at sales, hire someone with underwriting technical and data skills. To retain knowledge while also ensuring the business has the new skills and capabilities necessary to compete, many organizations will design and implement re-skilling programs.
Ask the questions of potential candidates “What’s your experience?” and “What can you bring to the table?” Jobs of the future will be different with the influence of Data and Technology advances. We are already seeing major changes in sales, business workflows, customer service requests, and how automated features are being developed such as the process of issuing certificates and emailing or texting completed certificates. Implementation of Chat bots for navigations of agency websites, to answering customer service questions.
Here are a couple potential job roles that will be needed in 2030 that will include data engineers, data scientists, technologists, cloud computing specialists, and experience designers. Skilled professionals will still needed to focus on the important work as consultative advisor and customer analytic specialist, but manual processes are being replaced with computer coded workflows and automated functions.
“The energy employees bring to their jobs is far more important regarding the value of their work than the number of hours they work,” says Tony Schwartz in an article for the New York Times.
You should expect and even demand high-quality performance, but it is unreasonable to expect a continual level of pressure at 100 percent. Allow employees the chance to catch their breath from one assignment to the next. Getting the right people at the right place at the right time with right skill and knowledge is rare. It is important to remember that a long-term commitment requires effort in both directions.
Capturing Data- How you are going to know what you did worked?
Far too many agencies fail to see the ROI in their marketing and use the term “exposure marketing” or “costs of being relevant” as an excuse to not know whether their marketing matters. So, let’s start with the hard, cold reality. Most agencies just don’t know whether what you have done has worked or not.
Chances are your past planning efforts have missed one, very important ingredient. It lacked the ability to track and measure data results.
OnStrategy sited, why is data important?
"Without data it’s easy to misjudge your own reality. You’ll see things that aren’t there. Data keeps your planning process grounded in reality. It’s like having concrete for a foundation. People don’t see it, but it helps hold everything together."
As you get started, you need a foundation for how you will make decisions and act upon your data. To help you must know the breakdown of the 4 different data circles. These will give you vital information you need for your planning process.
(Image source: https://onstrategyhq.com)
- Megatrends – The outside circle is filled with megatrends having big impact on most organizations, like aging baby boomers, growth of millennials, and so on.
- Market – The next smaller circle is market. This covers your geographic market and your target markets. Data sources may include economic development organizations, or Census Bureau statistics.
- Industry – Coming in a little bit closer is industry-specific. Find the top three sources of reliable data relevant to your industry. Look for quantitative data supporting industry trends, market sizing, shifts in customer demographics, or even movement with environmental, political, or economic conditions impacting your ability to fulfill your mission and achieve your vision.
- Competition – Before and during your planning process, you need to take a look at what your competitors are doing. Take a look at what they’re doing well and what you’re doing well. This is important to gain a holistic view of your external factors.
You’ve built your foundation, work through the process and have it mapped out. Let’s Review the Past Year’s Performance
Reviewing last year’s performance provides your most basic benchmark and this is foundation line of your framework. Taking a hard look backwards will identify what was working and what didn’t. A SWOT analysis for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats is helpful in identifying areas of growth opportunities or identifying potential threats, which need to be continuously monitored.
You should have your reports already done or start running these monthly and quarterly performance reports. When you get ready to do your Annual Plan review make sure to included these sections and measure results:
- Review of previous year’s performance
- Assessment of competitive landscape
- Re-assessment of internal assumptions
- Financial goals
- List of major business goals
- Department Goals
- Individual Goals- Key performance Indicators
- List of major marketing goals
- Outline of major marketing campaigns
- Digital Marketing Channels, and Platforms
- Department Goals
- Individual Goals- Key performance Indicators
With this, you will be able to identify if what you did last year work and help you gauge what can be done for the year to come.
Dig Deeper into your Reports and Checklists
Reports are the rails your company is following all year long. Take a look at what you have gathered; is the information you have in front of you showing you the results you wanted to achieve? By analyzing data you can start to review what is successful or what needs adjusted or changed.
Don't fear, this is not a process that one person should be doing alone. This is a team effort from the top down. Your Management team will have functions and roles in this process and monthly meetings which keeps everyone on track.
Staff like these processes and goals, they answer the key questions most employees want answered, What’s the Organizations goal? What’s my departments goals? Where do I fit in this plan? What’s my responsibility and How will I be measure? If you get these addressed within your company and people know their role and responsibility, it’s amazing the movement on goals when there is clarity of people, processes and procedures!
Generating useful data from past efforts
1) List all campaigns from the past year make sure you include:
- Best performing campaigns
- Worst performing campaigns
- Any campaigns where you tried something new
- Your “highest hope” campaigns -- the ones you really had high expectations for and utilized a large amount of budget
- If, after reviewing your campaigns, you notice that there’s a persona not represented, select one campaign for the missing persona (and consider why none of those campaigns fit into any of the categories above)
2) Identify the key “hypothesis” points for each -- what were the intentions of the campaign? Were the goals met? If not, why not?
3) Collect the post-metrics -only include the most relevant result metrics in your worksheet based on the stated purpose of the campaign.
4) Determine your takeaways for the future?
5) What trends or commonalities can you identify?
- What types of campaign or content are routinely generating success or not?
- If so, what major contributing factors can you pull out?
Last year’s plan serves as your guide for building the next one. You’ll also have your own in-house tools developed for conducting the research needed to put an annual plan together. Once you create your first plan, creating the plan for subsequent years will be much simpler and take far less time.
Putting it all together
There was a lot discussed in this blog today. Planning for your insurance agency's digital efforts is something that can not be done in a 30 min meeting. Take it one step at a time.
Today we talked about 4 different aspects of the planning process:
- Laying the framework
- Getting the dollars together
- Getting the right people
- Capturing and using data
My suggestion is that you start with one area and slowly begin working everything else into place. As you dive in deeper you will be able to do more and more with your digital plan.
Planning takes effort. But you’ll find the return on the time invested, both literally and figuratively, can be immense.
Let me know if you have any questions on this whole process. Leave a comment or reach out directly.