At this point in time many business owners have made the decision to go digital. With this, comes the realization that their current man power isn't enough and a the discussion of hiring a marketing person surfaces.
In my talks with other business owners and especially insurance agency owners the discussion often turns to the cost of dedicating resources to a Marketing Person. As an agency owner of 30 years I raced the same dilemma and made the transition. So I am going to ask you a few questions:
- Can you afford a Marketing Dedicated (not sales) budget
- Are you willing to change you and your organizations culture
- Are you committed to becoming a marketing and sales organization (vs. service)
Answering these questions is a precursor for digital and marketing success. This blog will help walk you through answering these questions and to help you overcome the costs of dedicating resources to a marketing person.
Can you afford Marketing?
I understand the pressures of running a business. But it takes money to make money. Maybe the decision hit us at the right time. We were located in auto country and when the economy went to crap, so did our agency’s growth and profitability. We had to change or perish.
So if things are comfortable for you now but still tight enough to keep you from the plunge it may be harder than being forced into the position we were. But if you are stuck on comfortable, beware. The way people buy is different and when you finally feel that it may be too late.
So what do you do to afford the switch to an inbound marketing and sales-centric organization? There are options.Take a hard look at your budget. I mean a real hard look! Look at your spend now on marketing. Is it strategic? Is it effective? Is it time to stop buying those yearbook business card ads? I moved a few years ago from a home that we lived in for 25 years. I found stuff in my house that I had to have, still in the box in the back of the closet. You have those boxes in your budget.
Also, we made a dramatic decision almost ten years ago. We were approached by a carrier to consolidate several books of business and move it to a service center. The incentive was there and we were willing to change our culture.
If you take a real honest look at your agency, I'm sure you will find that many options for funding your marketing efforts. I believe the real question you should be asking is can we afford NOT to have marketing.
Are you willing to change your culture?
We did. We put a good portion of our personal lines into a service center, and we fought the natural prejudices that traditional agencies use. We did not get rid of any employees, but when a CSR left us we did not replace the position instead, we created a marketing position. That seems radical but we had more than one employee worth of revenue in the service center and it was not costing us what a CSR cost so we had created the resource.
That may not be a road you are willing to travel but for us it was a game changer.
Regardless of your thoughts on what I just said you still have to look at your operations and understand that many of the day to day transactions that are swallowing up resources need to and can be changed. From service centers to customer portals to eSig, and on and on, machines and processes are replacing, more effectively I may add, many of the typical CSR duties. Look at these and embrace the change and use the efficiency to afford the extra investment in sales and marketing.
Once our marketing machine was up and running we had new opportunities to sell that we had not had. The flow was steady and it was growing.
Are you committed to being a Marketing and Sales Organization?
This is difficult and it is a shift in the dynamics of your organization. Even when you commit, your staff most likely will not share your enthusiasm.
I was teaching a class in Cleveland while we were changing our culture. I was talking about the things we are doing and what we expected our staff to do. One person in the class raised their hand and told me “I know what you say has merit, but I would never work for you!” I looked at this person for a moment and replied “I would agree with you. You would never work for me!”
I went on to tell the class that if during the day I got an email saying my marketing person and a CSR both resigned that day my first priority would be to replace the person attracting new opportunities. And if you hired a marketing person and it did not work out, replace them, just like you would a CSR that did not work out.
My final thoughts
My final thoughts are look to ways that free up resources, even the hard ones to do. Don’t look for a piece of technology to change your agency, Tech helps, but your buy in and commitment is the critical tipping point. Don’t be afraid to screw up because, well, you are going to screw up! Finally be committed to this long term, it is not a diet it is a lifestyle.
In my insurance agency's time of transition, we found that the roadblocks relating to the costs of digital marketing could be overcome with the help of our carriers and strategic thinking on our part.