Monthly Archives: March 2013

The Magic of Marketing Group Personal Lines Insurance

Group Personal Lines?  Is that possible?  Yes, but you have to be creative.

One of the best ways to cross-sell to your commercial and benefit accounts is through group personal line sales.

Why?

As we move into the uncertainty around the new healthcare arrangements  I have spoken with many agents nervous about their benefits departments.  They are not nervous because their products will suddenly vanish.  They are nervous because everything may become individual products, which could drop revenue through decreasing return on investment.

On the commercial side, agencies have just come out of a time when rates got soft and businesses contracted leading to dramatic drops in commercial commission income.

Group Personal Lines is a way of diversifying your revenue sources with leads you already have within your agency.

The trouble with marketing in Personal Lines is that you tend to market to one customer at a time.  Ultimately the sale comes down to person to person, but marketing one to one inhibits growth.  It does not scale.  You only have the capacity for so many marketing pitches.

Group Personal Lines allows you to market to a mass of people rather than one at a time.

youngpeople_megaphone

What are the options?

Many carriers especially within the IA channel have special PL program for small businesses, associations, credit unions, banks, etc.

Once you start asking you will find multiple variations.  Some companies will discount every line of business for the groups, some will only discount auto, some offer payroll deduct, others give discounts on billing fees.  You will also find a multitude of different marketing options such as brochures, posters, payslips, letters, email templates.

The beauty of this as an Independent Agent is that you are not necessarily tied to the Insurance Carrier that provides the program.  Not all customers will fit, and pricing may not be competitive even with discounts, but don’t worry, you have a portfolio of company options.

It’s not about the discounts and special features.  It’s about lead generation.  It’s about getting your foot into the door to talk to 25, 50, 100 people about their personal insurance in one fell swoop.

Even if you don’t have carriers with special “group” programs, you can still do this.  Create your own special group program, because remember it’s not about the price or the features.  It’s about you and the value you create for customers.

You can design your own marketing toward that group.  You can create your own special features: annual reviews, email updates, dedicated claims people.

How do you do it?

1.  Think through groups where you already have current relationships.  These could be commercial or benefit customers, associations, or businesses you know.

2.  Make sure they are big enough.  I would always shoot for 50+ people.  If you go smaller, the numbers in the beginning will be frustrating, and you will be tempted to quit.

3.  Think through the demographics of the employees or members.  Do they match up with your ideal customer?  Are they people you have had good risk experience writing?

4.  You have your list.  Approach your carriers, and see if you can find any special deals.  Don’t get hung up here.  If there is nothing or little available, it is not a big deal, you can create your own.  Pricing is not the issue.

5.  Create a sales sheet to use to pitch to the group.  This is a one-pager that will be the start of your marketing efforts.  Don’t go further than this.  If they don’t buy, you haven’t spent too much time developing adwork.  Again ask your companies.  They may not have exactly what you need, but it can be a launching pad to developing your own.  They may have templates to use.

6.  Present to the group.

7.  If they are ready to go, get them to commit up front to the types of marketing you can do with them.  Create a checklist of options, and have them choose what fits in their group.  For example, access to employee email addresses, ability to call at work, regular meetings, promotions, break room or lunch room access, payslip stuffers, employee newsletters, etc.  Also get them to commit to how often you can visit.  Personally I don’t think you need to physically be there monthly, but you do need to have some type of monthly communication touch points

8.  Launch.  Make sure this is as big as you can make it.  Bring in food, have your marketing ready to hand out, have them bring dec pages and insurance questions.  If you leave with commitments, make sure you follow up quickly.

9.  Follow up.  Be consistent with your communication plan.  Schedule it on the calendar, and make sure you review consistently, and be patient.

10.  Repeat with another group.  Remember this is not magic and requires work, but the payoff can be big in time.

Theron Mathis

Bonus: Depending on how tech savvy you are you can make yourself look much bigger than you really are, and make them feel incredibly special by developing an internet landing page that captures customer emails and quote details.  This is much easier than you could imagine.  Your teenager can figure this out for you.  You can do the same with Facebook as well.  Email newsletters work as well.

Have you had experience selling PL to groups?  Any other thoughts or tips?

 

Best Business Podcasts for Agency Success

Do you listen to podcast further your business skills & success? Podcast

If not, podcasts are a great way to digest new content and enroll in automobile university (in the words of the late, great Zig Ziglar), and below you will find the best of business podcasts to help grow your insurance agency.

If you are new to the technology, podcasting is best explained as internet radio, but in the live streaming car radio variety.  They are episodic ranging in length from 10 minutes to an hour.  Anyone with a simple piece of software can record a show, save it to a file, then upload it to the net.

You will be amazed at how well produced some of these shows are and they are FREE!

If you own a smart phone of any variety, you have the ability to download and listen at your leisure. You can search iTunes and subscribe to every episode via your phone or iDevice.  For anyone with  a Droid, there are popular services such as Stitcher that you do the same.

Even the clunky Blackberry has a Podcast app built it.  It’s a little more work to subscribe.  You have to do some copy and paste of RSS feeds, but you can make it work.

If you need more help setting up your device, let me know in the comments, and I’d be glad to help.

I subscribe and listen to a wide variety of podcasts, but below are my business and insurance recommendations.  I would love to find more specific insurance related ones, so if you know please comment.

podcast 3

Here are my recommendations to you:

The Accidental Creative (iTunes / RSS):  The Accidental Creative is great for the business person looking to spur their own creativity in order to generate marketing ideas.  Full of excellent, short interviews.

The Advanced Selling Podcast (iTunes / RSS):  Two Sales Trainers and Consultants from Indianapolis provide short pithy tips for producers and managers on how to become better sales people.  Beyond the practical nature they will make you laugh.

Best Day Insurance News from AM Best (iTunes / RSS):  These are daily podcasts from AM Best, aggregating the latest in insurance news.

Beyond the To Do List (iTunes / RSS): This newer podcast interviews people across business channels around becoming more effective and productive at their daily work.

Content Warfare Podcast (iTunes / RSS):  Hosted by a fellow Insurance Agent, Ryan Hanley, Ryan rarely talks insurance, but he does gives tips on how he has applied the principles of content marketing to his business.  Along with his great tips, he secures excellent interviews with people who are successfully doing content marketing as well.  On an aside, his intro music is great.

The Entreleadership Podcast (iTunes / RSS):  Every business person should listen to this one.  This comes out of the Dave Ramsey organization and specifically from the business training he developed.  Episodes begin with a snippet from one of Dave’s business talks, then the host, Chris LoCurto takes over interviewing some of the best business minds of our day.  Recent interviews have been with people such as John Maxwell, Reid Hoffman (LinkedIn), Mark Sanborn, Michael Hyatt, Patrick Lencioni, Robin Robins, Lisa Earle McLeod, etc.  If you enjoyed the interview, Chris LoCurto does and extended interview on his personal blog, and you can subscribe to that one as well.

Duct Tape Marketing (iTunes / RSS):  John Jantsch, of Duct Tape Marketing and the Referral Engine fame, runs this podcast.  This contains very practical marketing advice, discussions of social media, and referral generation.

Office Hours  (iTunes / RSS):  Dan Pink is a social psychologist, who has done an incredible amount research on how people are motivated, why they purchase, and how we can become better persuaders.  These are inconsistent, but when he release one, you will enjoy it and find plenty of truth to apply to your work.

Insurance Marketing Blog Podcast (iTunes / RSS):  This is a relatively new podcast.  John Carroll of InsuranceSplash has wonderful discussions of online marketing specific to the Insurance Industry. 

Mixergy (iTunes / RSS):  If you like interviews with entrepreneurs, this is your show.  The host, Andrew Warner, is a wonderful interviewer, pulling out the good and bad details of the entrepreneur’s journey.  You will leave each episode with actionable items that will make your business better.

The Smart Passive Income Podcast (iTunes / RSS):  This podcast is primarily directed at Internet Marketers (an industry that we as brick and mortar agencies can learn from).  Overtime it has morphed into general business tips regarding marketing and creating successful repeatable system inside your business.  Pat Flynn, the host, is a successful online business person, and he keeps these episodes lively and entertaining. 

Social Triggers Insider (iTunes / RSS):  Derek Halpern is an internet marketer who is obsessed with the psychology of persuasion.  Each episode will make you a better marketer and salesperson.

This Is Your Life (iTunes / RSS):  If you have never discovered Michael Hyatt’s blog, you are missing out.  He is the former CEO of book publishing giant, Thomas Nelson.  While there he became an uber-blogger, and remains an expert of productivity and creator a marketing platforms.  Recently he has expanded his blog to include weekly podcasts containing practical advice for any business person.

Zig Ziglar’s Inspiring Words of Encouragment (iTunes / RSS):  These are snippets from the late, great talks of motivator Zig Ziglar.  These are always wonderful pick-me-ups. 

Good listening,

Theron Mathis

P.S. Comment below with your suggestions.  Are there some you like that didn’t make the list?  What about devices or apps, any suggestions?

Google Reader and Your Insurance Office

Google Reader can be a powerful tool in your agency’s marketing arsenal. RSS Feed

Unfortunately, last week, I logged into Google Reader, and the unthinkable occurred.  A message appeared that Google was shutting the service down effective July!  Horror of Horrors.  Suddenly the internet was filled with a buzz over Reader’s demise.

Why is this a big deal?

First, many readers of Productive Agency, subscribe to the content through Google Reader and need a replacement (recommendations below).

Second, over the past several years, Google Reader is how I have read news regarding the Insurance Industry, Sales, Marketing, Agency Management, my favorite Sports Teams (Go Cards!), etc, then sharing it with agencies, peers, and social media.

Google Reader lives off of a technology called RSS.  RSS is computer code called a feed that website designers can use to share and publicize their content.  The feed for this website is http://feeds.feedburner.com/ProductiveAgency .

Every site on the web with changing content has a feed, and rather than coming back to that site again and again to look for new material, you can subscribe to a feed through a reader, visiting the reader for updated news.

Currently I subscribe to over 400 websites.  Some never or rarely update, but this saves me a tremendous amount of time.

If you don’t currently use a Feed Reader, but want to stay current on industry news, then a you will be well served. Not convinced?

Do you need content for weekly sales meetings?

What about material for your agency newsletter?

Are you ever asked to provide insurance info for local papers?

Are you struggling for content for Facebook, blogs, or other Social Media outlets, a reader can help?

So with the demise of Google Reader, what are the alternatives?

1.  The Old Reader

2.  NewsBlur

3.  Feedly

4.  Netvibes

5. Pulse

Each one of these have their own benefits, and shortcomings.  Currently the Old Reader is having trouble processing all those trying to migrate over from Google Reader.  Eventually this should be worked out, which will be good, because it has the closest feel to Google.

Depending on how you access the web is a consideration as well.  Are you always at a desktop?  Do you use a Mac or PC?  What about an iPhone, iPad, Droid, or Kindle?  Some readers have special apps and their readability may vary on each device.

So far, I like Feedly the best!  It was easy to move over my current subscriptions, the look is great, and there are a lot of features that make it easy to share information among other platforms such as Email, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.

The power all these bring to your Agency is that they can help you become a content expert among peers and customers.  To get a sense of how I use Feeds to share information, check out my LinkedIn page.  I post at least two pieces of Insurance/Sales information daily, and I don’t spend a lot of time scouring the web for the info. I let my reader do the work.

To Your Agency Success,

Theron Mathis

P.S.  What are your favorite sites and sources for Insurance Content?

 

 

 

Picking a New Pope and Your Insurance Agency

smoke signalsYesterday the world witnessed the election of a new pope. 

It’s not often that announcements are made with smoke signals in today’s wired age.

We like tweets, Facebook posts, emails, or the old-school newspaper ad, but not a smoke signal!

Smoke is intangible.  You can’t catch it and it dissipates quickly if you are not looking.  But don’t think your employees aren’t looking for your smoke signals.

Ask your staff in a moment of unfiltered honesty and see what they say.

Every day the office staff waits for your arrival looking for the white or black smoke trailing in your wake.

I see it all the time.

The staff is laughing, happy, positive, enjoying their work and communicating that joy to the agency customers.  Then the boss arrives, and a black cloud settles over ever desk.  Mouths turn down, shoulders slump, and everyone settles into the grind.

But it’s not always so dark.

I have seen the opposite.  The staff is gossiping, looking at each other bitterly, complaining about the person two cubes over, and griping over stupid customers.  The owner walks in with full fanfare, almost skipping into the office, smiling so hard you could swear the corners of his mouth are touching his ears.  He greets everyone with such joy, that you immediately feel the room lift.  The dark clouds part and the sun shines.

Within seconds, the tone of the whole office changes and work becomes a destination not a dungeon.

As a leader, you will never imagine how your attitude affects your office.  Yet, it is more powerful than any word you can say.

Not only will it impact your office, but it will trickle down to your customers.

Next time you make an entrance, notice the change in tone, and it might give you a good idea what smoke signals you are sending!

How to Survive A Book Transfer (And Grow)

 

Book Transfers Happen!  (see the last post)  

Here's my book of business...what can you do with it?

Here’s my book of business…what can you do with it?

 

Insurance Agencies look upon them with dread and fear.  While they will save you when a company goes bad, they feel like an unexpected E/R visit.

Thoughts of gloom race through your head:  This will overload my staff with work.  We will lose customers.  We will lose money.

Don’t get lost in the weeds of negativity.  There are kernels of truth in the fears above.  It won’t be all rainbows and unicorns, but you will survive and can grow your agency in spite of the challenges ahead.

If you think of the transfer process in three separate phases, you can attack it in smaller pieces.

Phase 1:  Negotiating

Phase 2:  Processing

Phase 3:  Growing

Phase 1:  Negotiating

There are more options here than you realize.  First ask yourself, what is more important to your agency at this moment: extra compensation or workload relief.  There are other factors you can negotiate, but these are the big ones.  You can probably get extra money and help in moving the book, but usually if you get more of one you will get less of the other, so decide about this up front.

Compensation:  Compensation is usually based off the profitability of the book.  The company will want to know at minimum: 3 yrs of loss performance, premium, and policy count.  Breaking this up by line of business helps your case as well.  The more data you can give your companies the better.

Compensation will usually come in the form of an override.  Some will pay this monthly, quarterly, or even the end of the transfer period.  I have seen examples of overrides growing over time based on how much business gets moved.  Also consider any commission differences that might exist between the carriers.

Workload:  Workload relief is often worth more than compensation.  Technology has been a big help here.  Gone are the days of printing mountains of apps, bundling them in boxes, then shipping them to a company far away.

Management systems allow a lot versatility.  PDFs of apps can be generated and emailed.  Some companies even have the ability to remotely access your system and extract the data.  If the company is not doing the data entry, most systems allow you to bridge data into company raters simplifying the process somewhat.

Decide up front who is going to do the quoting and who will do the issuing.  If a company does both, the most you will do is contact the customer with the new offer.

Rate:  Companies have gotten creative with rate on book transfer.  There’s very little difference between new business and renewal underwriting anymore, but depending on the regulatory environment in your states, companies can often match rates of the expiring carrier.

Rate matching has two components.  One option is the “meet”.  The new company will meet or match the expiring rate, and then over a determined period of time will move the customer to their own natural rate.  This varies from 1 year to indefinite.  Sometimes it be capped at a percentage, and other times it won’t.   These are questions to ask.

The other is the “meet” or “beat”. The new company matches the rate or beats it, if their natural rate is cheaper.  This can be attractive, but the same rules will apply and eventually the new carrier will get to its natural rate.

In my experience, the profitability of a book drives these alternatives, and in today’s market property is often avoided with a rate match, but auto can still be available.

Extras:  There are small things that can be considered that will help with workload.  New apps and forms are often waived.  No downpayments, discount verifications,  and waiving of inspections can be placed on the table as well.

Final word of advice:  Spend time on the negotiating phase, but don’t get bogged down with all the options.  If you have decided you to do a transfer, give yourself a decision date, look at the alternatives, and pull the trigger.

Phase 2:  Processing

Carrier Communication:  Regardless of how much work the carrier takes, there will still be work for the office.  You can divide it up between all staff  or you can assign the process to one person to be the book transfer specialist.  Assigning it to one person works the best.

The insurance company and the agency contact can develop a relationship and it provides one point of contact for both parties.

The most helpful thing you can do is to set up regular meetings between the company representatives and the agency contact.  A monthly meeting, even by conference call, is crucial in the beginning.  Mistakes and weird processing issues always arise, but these constant meeting eliminate small issues becoming big.

Customer Communication: Send out some kind of communication to customers to let them know what is happening.  Don’t worry about creating something, companies usually have templates for this.

Call customers informing them of the new product, so they are at ease with the changes.  This contact is where growth can begin to occur.

No matter how good your insurance agency is, everyone’s account rounding is less than they think.  Digging into a book of business during a transfer will bring this to your attention.  This is a perfect time to begin x-dating those extra lines of business, and you will be surprised how much you can generate.

Underwriting: Because one of your books is under a microscope, you can use this opportunity to shed any unprofitable or problem customers.

Look for problem generators or claim happy folks and refer them down the street.

This can be an opportunity to increase deductibles and limits as well.

Phase 3:  Growing

The transfer is over.  Everyone is relieved.  The book transfer specialist in the office can breathe again.  Yet, there is still opportunity!

Account Round:  In talking with the customers through the transfer, you uncovered opportunities in missing business.  If you gathered x-dates, now is the time to begin an account rounding marketing strategy.

You may find that the company can help you with this.  If you are on your own, turn this project over to someone in house, and begin mining that gold.

Lost Business:  No matter how good you or the carrier is, people will leave.  Put a lost business system in place, sending out letters or emails, providing quotes with your old data (asking for them to update), then following up with calls.

Many will find the grass was not greener with their new agent, but were too embarrassed to call you back and admit the mistake.

The growing phase is easily forgotten, because you are so relieved to be finished with the transfer. But it can create a lot of extra revenue and help you shine with your customers. The secret is to setup your process a month or two before the transfer ends, so you can launch the day as soon as it is over.

Conclusion:  Transfers aren’t as scary as your mind imagines them to be.  Think through the process, write it down, create a system, stay in contact with your people and company, and you can thrive.

 

Theron Mathis