It’s hard to believe that it’s already December. Where did this past year go? I don’t know about you, but it seems like it flew by faster than any other year I can remember. I think for me it had to do with our spring being late, and summer never really showing up. Or maybe it’s just because our time is becoming more and more precious, and we’re trying to fit more into each day than ever before. Whatever the case, the days flew by, the weeks disappeared, and the months vanished before our eyes.
With that said, December is a great time to stop for a moment and reflect on the year that is quickly coming to an end; to stop and recognize successes before January 1st rolls around and the cycle starts all over again. We often get so caught-up in “what’s next”, that we don’t take the time to enjoy the spoils of our hard work.
It’s also important to stop and look at the big picture; to figure out what was the single most critical factor in your past year’s insurance marketing success. Conversely, it’s equally important to recognize what factors and activities didn’t have much impact at all. What did you or your team spend time and energy on that didn’t contribute to your success whatsoever? By doing this simple exercise, your vision of what should be at the top of your to-do list for 2014, and what should be on your “not-to-do list” should become obvious.
When I look back on 2013, my critical success factor, the one thing that stands out above everything else, the one thing that made the biggest difference, was renewing relationships. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s true for many of you as well. While we may think about our successes as things that we’ve accomplished as individuals, it’s more likely the case that they would not have happened without the help of others. Recognizing this fact makes creating my 2014 plan much easier.
In today’s fast-paced digital world it’s important to recognize that building and maintaining meaningful relationships is much more than just glad-handing or participating in social media; it’s showing up, providing value, and staying true to your promise. So while my plan will be well organized and leverage technology when appropriate, it will also include a lot of face-to-face conversations and one-to-one communications that are real. I’ll also ask the question of whether or not the task at hand is truly providing value and enhancing my relationships, or is it just going through the motions because it’s something that I’m “supposed to do”?
So with that said, I encourage you to take the time to reflect on 2013 and celebrate a successful year. I also suggest you to take the time to think about what your success factors were in 2013, and what will matter most to your personal and professional success in 2014.
To end with, remember this: while each new year brings with it higher expectations and loftier goals, it doesn’t necessarily mean you need to do more, it just means you need to do more of what matters most.
Have a great 2014
Is that the question you’re asking yourself? If you haven’t started to think about your insurance marketing plan just yet, you might want to soon as fall has arrived and 2013 will be coming to an end before you know it.
You’re probably thinking that your plan might include a new Website, a Blog, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, SEO, SEM, Mobile, or Email; the list goes on and it can become intimidating. So where do you start? Take your pick. While all of them have their strong points and drawbacks, the important thing is that you take that first step and get started.
A great place to start is to step back and take an objective look at what your target market finds when they go online and look for the products and services you provide. Go to your favorite search engine and type in “car insurance”, “business insurance”, or whatever it is that you think a consumer (hint: no industry jargon) would use to search for products or services. Assuming that you’re not showing up #1 in a particular search, who does? Do you find competing agents from across town, or maybe national carriers? Click on a few of the links and take a look at what’s out there. Are the sites you’re finding rich in content, do they look professional and provide convenient methods of contact? This might just be the wake-up call you needed. This is what you’re prospects have to pass up in order to continue their search to find your agency.
Your Agency’s Online Presence
Next, go ahead and try to find your agency with your favorite search engine. The easiest way to do this might be to just search on your agency name. Once you’ve found something (your website, Facebook page, or whatever), what do you think a prospect’s first impression is of your agency? Do they find a professional image of your agency with fresh content that answers their questions? Does it give them the confidence to pick up the phone and call? Can they find your hours of operation, location, or a phone number? More than ever before, this is the first impression most of your prospects will have of your agency. I know that it’s hard to be critical of yourself, but do your best to be objective and ask yourself the question: “Would I call this agency?”
Creating your Insurance Marketing Plan
Hopefully this gives you an idea of where your agency sits today and what you’re up against in the online world of insurance marketing. But don’t despair, recognizing where you are and where you want to be is a great first step. Additionally, the fact that you’ve read this far shows that you have an interest, and you know that it is important to your agency’s future. Now don’t wait until Monday, or the beginning of the next month, block out some time and get started on your agency’s digital marketing plan today – your insurance marketing success in 2014 depends on it.
I’m pretty sure that we all have had that day-dream of “If I Were to Do It All over Again…”. Well my version of that day-dream has never been one of being somebody different, having a different job, or even to work in a different industry. Mine have been a bit more pragmatic. Believe it or not, its actually been about creating an insurance marketing agency that is different from everything else out there. Well not so long ago that hypothetical exercise became a real one. About a month ago I learned that the company I was working for was shutting down. Beginning that very day, that very hour, they would be liquidating assets and ceasing operations. While you might think my immediate thought was one of shock, you’re right, I didn’t see this coming, at least not so soon. But shortly thereafter, my thoughts changed to ones of relief, and what a blessing this could turn out to be, for me personally, and for others as well. That very afternoon I began to create Insurance Marketing Partners. From the very beginning, there has been no doubt in my mind that there are a thousands of independent insurance agencies throughout the country that need help marketing their products and services. With captive and direct writers dominating the online space, many agencies haven’t got a chance. Not only do they need help, they need something different. They need a marketing partner that insulates them from the complexities and technical aspects of digital marketing, they need someone that understands their industry, and they need someone they can trust and can consider a partner. So with that, I give you the first installment of some thoughts on how Insurance Marketing Partners is going to be the perfect fit for many independent insurance agencies – maybe even yours.
Keep it Simple
To begin with, we need to remember that the customer is an insurance agent and his or her job is to sell insurance. It’s not to understand, or even care about the complexities of digital marketing. Keywords, anchor text, click-through rates; it’s all just jargon that would make most agent’s head spin. If we’re to be successful, we need to explain things in a way that makes sense to the average agent. We need to help them understand the concepts without getting distracted by the details. We need to help agents make smart business decisions. After all, that’s why they are hiring a professional digital marketing partner – right? Come to think about it, that’s probably good advice for insurance agents as well, as clients and prospective policyholders shouldn’t need to understand an ISO form inside and out, or one company’s endorsement vs. another’s. It’s the agents job to ask the questions, understand the risks, propose solutions, and help clients and prospects make informed decisions – right?
Listen to the Customer
If there’s one thing that I can say I’ve learned over the years, it’s that I don’t know everything, and that if I take the time to listen instead of talk, I might just learn something new. While I might have some good ideas and a solid marketing plan that would work for most any insurance agent, it’s not the right fit for every agency. By taking time to listen to what someone has to say, you learn more about their goals and objectives, successes and failures, talents and shortcomings, and a general sense of what might work best for their agency. It’s only after you’ve asked the questions and really listened to their answers, that you can confidently propose a marketing plan that is best suited for a particular agency. Does all of this sound familiar? I hope so, as that is what an independent insurance agent should be doing every day. It’s not to treat insurance policies like commodities where one-size-fits-all. Good agents ask a lot of questions, and listen even more. It’s then that they can design an insurance program that best fits the client.
Focus on Results
Actions are great, but results are better. That’s a pretty simple concept on the surface, but if one does’t understand what “results” are actually important, you may just end up winning the battle but losing the war. Too often we’re focused on what we’re doing, and not why we’re doing it. If we just took the time to stop and focus and understand the big picture, we might go about things a bit differently. For example, it’s quite common for a digital marketing agency to focus on how many visitors they can get to your website. They might call it the number of “hits” or “traffic”, or some other digital marketing term. But if they were to take a step back, they might understand that the number of “hits” doesn’t mean much if they aren’t qualified and desirable prospects. Furthermore, it’s not how many of them visit your site that’s important, it’s the number of them that eventually take some desired action – like sign-up for your newsletter, or pick-up the phone and call you. If we start each project or task with a clear understanding of how it is going to contribute to the overall objective, it gives us a much greater understanding of how to go about it effectively, it gives us the flexibility to change tactics from time-to-time when it makes sense, and greatly increases the likelihood of an overall success. It’s a lot like what some of us in the business have called “practice quoting”. As is often the case with a new agent, they are heavily focused on quoting as much business as possible and filling their funnel, and it’s probably not a bad thing to do when you’re just starting out, as you learn a lot about carriers, systems, and prospects from doing it. But over time, the number of quotes you can get out in a week isn’t the end result that you want to focus on. New business is the important result, and while there are a lot of considerations that determine how good a new piece of business is, I think we can all agree that new business is good in general and it’s a result that we should all work towards
Be a Partner
Finally, and most importantly, it’s to treat your customer as a partner. It’s looking for the right win-win solution that supports an agency’s marketing objectives while at the same time rewards those who helped make it happen. We’ve all heard this concept before, but when it comes down to practice, we often fall short. While falling short might be okay from time-to-time, it doesn’t work in the long-run. Our objective is to be your long-term Insurance Marketing Partner. We look at every agency relationship as if we were a partner in your business and we’ll take great pride in your success. Our scorecard is your agency’s success. It’s a lot like the relationship that every agency and carrier wants to have. It’s knowing that you’re working for each other and contributing to each others success. It’s trusting each other knowing that you’re in it for the long-haul. It’s recognizing that you depend on each other day-in and day-out. It’ working together knowing that your success is dependent on their success. This all might sound a bit like Pollyanna in a way, but we think it’s worth a shot – don’t you?