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What independent insurance agencies need to do…and do now!

May 13, 2010

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

I surely don’t consider myself an expert on insurance (yet) – but I do consider myself an expert on 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.

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

Then came the invent 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.

June and Ward Cleaver from the show "Leave it to Beaver". Pic from tvland.com

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 at its finest.

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 and 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 the 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

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. May 13, 2010 11:29 am

    This is an awesome post. I especially like the part about “Keep In Touch”. Too many agencies think they shouldn’t bother their clients. I would love to post this at http://insuranceecosystem.com. Let me know if you would consider.

  2. May 13, 2010 11:50 am

    Wow- you are so right. Independent agencies have to learn to adapt to how their customers want to be communicated. No longer should it be about how does it work best for us, but how it works best for them. Adapting to new technologies is a hard thing for agencies to do (especially if the agency has been around for a long time). It requires a complete shift in the culture, but once you have buy-in from everyone in the organization, you can move forward. Note: this is not an overnight process, so don’t expect the results to happen overnight.

  3. May 13, 2010 12:23 pm

    Cindy, excellent advice. I think something agencies should consider is hiring marketing people from outside of the industry. Find someone who is passionate about marketing and is a constant learner striving to try new ways of finding and staying in touch with clients. Looking outside of your own industry for inspiration is one of the things that makes a great business/marketing model. Aren’t you from outside the insurance industry?? … as an example!

    • May 13, 2010 12:31 pm

      Hi Wendy,
      Yes I am from the outside! Many independent insurance agencies are absorbed in the “insurance world” and rarely look outside it – hence the reason they are behind the times when it comes to marketing!. Founders hired me when I owned my own marketing agency on a contract basis and then made me one of those proverbial offers I couldn’t refuse to come on board full time with them.

      Independent insurance agencies also think that “insurance” is different than other industries and ergo their marketing and sales should be different. The sales process is the sales process and the marketing process is the marketing process. Sure you tweak it dependent on the industry – but the basics remain the same. Insurance is not that special – they don’t have their own set of sales rules!

      It took our team at Founders awhile to grasp onto that, and we are still working on it, but we’re getting there! It is hard to teach an old dog new tricks as the saying goes!

      Thanks for commenting, appreciate your insight!
      CD

      • May 13, 2010 11:02 pm

        Yes, you bring up a great point about agencies thinking that insurance is so different from other industries. By thinking that, it really puts artificial boundaries on the business and marketing models and limits thinking. It also opens the door for someone outside of the industry to come in and do everything differently. I make an effort to reinforce the idea that agencies aren’t just “agencies” – they’re businesses and companies, like all other for-profit businesses, regardless of industry, and they should market themselves as such.

        I’m glad to hear that it’s working for you – I love success stories that involve change!

  4. May 13, 2010 1:17 pm

    Love it, Cindy! Suddenly…working in insurance is hip!

    • May 13, 2010 1:43 pm

      We do try to be uber cool here at Founders! sorry you missed the Chamber event last night! when is Sandler doing one? hint hint 🙂

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