Business Blogging that Actually Gets You Business

Does your business have an active blog?

There are only two reasons to blog.  Create valuable content for your customers or attract more customers to your agency.

Let’s talk about attracting customers to your agency.  The way content attracts people to your agency site is primarily through SEO or Social Media marketing.

Here’s the bad news blogging about auto and home insurance info. It won’t help your SEO.  Trying to compete with Progressive and Geico online around the keywords “auto insurance” is difficult.

You can compete locally for terms like “auto” & “home” insurance and win, but you will need become an SEO expert or willing to spend money on someone to do it for you.  They exist, and surprisingly you can win this way.  The negative with SEO is that it is harder to target the demographics you want.  SEO on terms like auto and home cast a wide net having pull into fish you don’t want.  You’ll capture good customers, but there will be a lot you will throw back.

If you want to dominate your insurance market through SEO, there are topics that will help you win.

So what should you blog about that will attract attention to your business?

  1. Think Niche.  What are the items your agency has specialized in?  Boats, Motorcycles, Rental Property, Restaurants, Convenient Stores, Niche Manufacturers.  Think about the questions customers ask you.
  2. Think Local.  No matter what you write about.  Localize it.  Identify your geographic business area and include that in your content.  It might be the city you live in.  It might be the region you target for a commercial niche.

Here are some ideas:

1.Specialty Lines.  Granted you won’t make much money selling $200 cycle policies, but the customer traffic this segment can drive to your agency can be huge.  You won’t only sell a motorcycle policy, you will ask about home, auto, umbrella, etc.  Boats, Motorcycles, Classic Cars fit this niche.  Write about local clubs or festivals and share socially and you will get traffic.

2. Rental Property.  The average property investors think they know property insurance, but they don’t.  There are multiple ways they leave themselves exposed.  Think of all those conversations you’ve had with friends and relatives that have a rental property or two.  There is no way they are fully protected.  For many, property investment is their retirement, and they exposing that nest egg.  You can get very local here.  I guarantee there are parts of your city or region that are prime area for investors.  Identifying those areas and the potential risks are beneficial to all your customers.

3. Jewelry.  Save this for those special times of years, like Valentines and Christmas.  Most people don’t have enough coverage for their jewelry or other items. Partner up with a local jeweler and use them to help write the article.  The joint effort will help SEO if you link each other and both share socially.

4. Umbrellas.  No one understands this.  Talk about what it covers and why people need it.  Use humor, don’t get stuck in the insurance weeds.  Give people just enough info to understand it and need it.

5. Commercial Niches.  If one of these items has more potential than the other, this is it.  No one does this.  Try this: Google the handful of niches you insure or know a little about.  You will not find many articles out there helping those business understand their insurance needs.  If you do, they won’t be in your market.  No one does this.  Using this topic to write, creates more opportunity than just  SEO power for your site.  You can use this content with associations and trade organizations.

One agent I work with reached out to an association in a niche she writes business.  She asked if they ever needed content for their own site or newsletter.  They said yes.  She wrote a couple articles about insurance and their business.  The association published it and not only linked back to the agent’s site, but provided their phone number and email.  Instant authority.  Instant credibility.  Instant leads

So how do you do this?

Think of all the questions customers ask you in these niches.  Think about all the gaps you’ve surprised people in discovering.  Those are your topics.  

Create articles around these topics using keywords you research through Google Keyword Tool.  Look for the ways customers search on their topics and the way they ask questions.  Those phrases need to be part of your titles and peppered inside your writing.  

If you need content, your companies probably have a handful of articles they don’t mind you taking and editing.

Warning.  You will sit down to write, especially if you are new and you will doubt.   You will see yourself as an imposter.  You are.  But don’t worry about it.  You know more than your clients.  In fact, you know a lot.  If all you’ve done in this business is taken your insurance class and exam, you know more than 90% of the world about insurance.  You don’t have to be an expert, just be helpful.

Think like a customer and what will help them in their life and business.  Use that info to generate localized content.  Make it shareable, and you will start seeing more opportunities to spread your agency’s message to your market.

Be Productive,

Theron Mathis

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Should You Use Internet Sales Leads?

Internet Leads are a valuable tool for Personal Lines Growth, but not for everyone.    Read on and learn why you should consider adding them to your marketing toolkit.

What are Internet Leads?

internet leads

By Internet leads, I mean purchased leads, not leads generated by your online marketing, whether that be through SEO, Email Marketing, Social Media, etc.

There are several companies in the market that sell Internet leads.  NetQuote is the granddaddy of them all, but over time more and more competitors have entered the field of play.

Here’s how they work.  A customer clicks on a link for a quote.  Rarely, are these quoting engines but information gathering tools.  In a sense they are click-bait, gathering data that can be distributed to multiple companies and other lead aggregators.  Those leads are then sold back out to agents and companies.

To get a sense of how they work and what kind of information they collect, you should run an experiment and try it yourself.

I did.

After seeing a ridiculous amount of commercials for the General, Mr. Shaquille Oneal convinced me to go online and get a quote with them.  I was pretty sure the General did not write in my state, so I wanted to see what would happen.

I entered all my information, and was told they couldn’t quote me.  They mentioned they had other companies who could give me a rate.  I accepted, and within minutes, I got an email from an Insurance company providing a quote.  Then within 30 minutes, I received a phone call from an agent trying to sell me a policy.  I was honest with the agent and explained what I was doing.  We talked a couple minutes about his business, and I wished him luck.

Over the next couple months, I received multiple emails and a couple more phone calls from other agents and companies soliciting my business.

Who should use them?

Buying Internet Leads are not for everyone.  However, if you’ve never used them, it might be worth a 30 day experiment.  Make sure you have the capacity to handle the activity they could generate.

If you are a new agency, without good lead flow, they a great tool to add to your marketing.  If you have new producers in your agency, and you are trying to generate activity for them, they work.  My experience with agencies that have been successful with them is that they are temporary.  Some use them to kickstart production and activity, and others use them seasonally.  When other marketing efforts are not bringing opportunities, they can prime the sales pump.  They are also good for sales training.  It’s easy to use them to help a new producer learn to communicate and sell over the phone.  Also it helps them create followup systems for future sales.

8 Tips For Using Internet Leads

1. Don’t be cheap.  Be willing to spend as much money as your budget allows.  Lead quality is in direct proportion to how much you spend.  Cheap leads are usually dead or poor quality customers.  The quickest way to find out how much to spend is to determine how much a customer is worth to you.  This will give you your maximum amount you want to spend on the lead.  For example, let’s say a customer is worth $100 to you.  Assume you will close 10% of the leads coming into the agency.  The max amount you would spend would be $10 per lead.

2. Target Leads.  Choose your demographic as specific as possible.  Most companies allow you multiple options for demographic choice, such as zip, age, income, etc.  It all depends on your market and what you are looking for.  The agent I know that uses them best will only buy home leads.  His theory is that if they have a home they have a car, and he plans on cross-selling.  This way he is paying for one lead but gets two.

3. Make someone responsible.  Someone in the agency needs to own the leads.  If not, they fall through the cracks.  They get ignored, and not pursued with enthusiasm.  Also if you have one person managing and responding to the leads it becomes much easier to track results.

4. Respond Quickly.  If there is a golden rule to internet leads, this is it.  You must respond quickly, instantaneously, lightning fast, no hesitation, drop everything else.  If you can’t do it, don’t buy them.  Remember, you aren’t the only one getting the leads.  Multiple agents and company call centers are getting the leads.  The most responsive wins over the most competitive.  If you get in first you have a huge advantage.  If you wait too long, the customer could have purchased or become disinterested.  These leads could come at anytime including evenings and weekends.  You must respond.

5. Sell It.  When you call you are not just selling your rate, you are selling yourself.  If you are an independent agent, there is a good chance one of your carriers is more competitive than the price the customer has today.  The fact they are shopping is a good indication that something is wrong.  The advantage the captive writer has is the ability quote the person on the phone and give them a rate on the spot.  Only having one company makes this easy.

With comparative raters, an independent can do this as well.  You may not be 100% accurate, but no one is in the beginning.  Don’t worry about it, do your best.  There are reports to be ran and more questions to ask.  The goal here is to sell your agency.

Again you are not the only call they are going to get.  Use this to your advantage, especially if you responded quickly and are the first to quote.

Somewhere in your call with the customer use a script like this:

“When you entered your info online, it got sent to multiple agents that will probably starting calling you, so be prepared.  Here’s what I can do for you.  I will do the shopping for you and quote you through X number of companies.  When they call, let them know you already had someone do the work for you.”

I learned this from an agent friend. This tactic immediately increased his close rate.

6. Create Loyalty.  Congrats!  You converted the lead to a customer.  Warning! Internet customers typically are a greater danger for leaving you at renewal.  You didn’t get them through a relationship.  They may not want one.  You are a just a transaction for them.  You have to change that.  These are customers you need to touch a lot during their first renewal.  Send thank you notes, birthday cards, holiday cards, etc.  Make sure they are getting emails from regularly that first year.  Make them feel a part of your agency family.  No matter how you do it, whether through calls, mail, email, social media, etc; make sure to touch them multiple times that first year.

7. Follow-Up.  You didn’t sell it, but don’t let the lead die.  Two things have probably happened.  You didn’t reach the customer or didn’t sell it.

Call them 7 times before you give up.  Send an email or postcard if you never made contact.  If you have their xdate, put them in your followup system to contact before their next renewal.

If you didn’t convert them, do the same.  Put them in your followup, and don’t give up until they buy or tell you to leave them alone.

8. Track Results.  Like your other marketing activities, you must track it.  This is the only way you will know if you are getting your money’s worth.  Are you making more than you are spending?  Are you losing money on them?  Are you breaking even?  Do you have one salesperson doing better with them than another?  Does one vendor have better quality leads than another?  It’s tedious, but you will be much more effective with your marketing time and dollars.

If you’ve used internet leads before, what’s your experience?

Be Productive,

Theron

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8 Ways to Market to Realtors & Lenders

Marketing for personal lines has become increasingly harder over the years.

Customers squashed telemarketing sales.  Fewer people have land lines, so it is harder to find a person’s number.  Many go unlisted, and this makes them hidden.  Many people will just not answer the phone if they don’t recognize the number.

Door to door is really not cost effective because of the return on investment.

Direct-mail still works, but you need to a lot of it, as well as time and money to get your copy just right.

Email marketing is amazing, but for it to work without becoming a spammer, you have to capture emails from current customers, prospects, and potential lead sources.

One method that has a low barrier to entry, but can generate almost instant returns is marketing to lenders and realtors.

When a customer buys a home, he is more likely to allow his insurance to be shopped.  To find and interact with those customers, you have to get to those involved in the transaction.

Realtors and lenders are the perfect people to insert you into that transaction.

This is not a secret anymore.  I would bet these businesses sees more insurance agents today than they did 10 years ago.

It’s not impossible to stand out among this lead-source, but it takes a little more thought and strategy than it used to.

1. Think like a glass rep.  Every week your agency gets 1 or more glass reps soliciting business from you.  I am sure there are a couple of these vendors that you really use, and encourage your customers to use.  But why?  Why are there some vendors that you use and others you don’t?  Think through this question.  It will help you develop a strategy to improve your own marketing with realtors and lenders. The good ones are consistent marketers.  Someone in your office needs to be that person.   Print out a 5 mile radius map of your agency and all the realtor and lending offices within that scope.  List them out, then make a plan to consistently visit these offices.

For example, maybe you can only spare one day a week to this type of marketing.  Grab you list, start from the top, and start visiting.  See as many as possible in the time you allotted yourself.  Check each off, and make notes.  Next week pick up where you left off and do the same.  Eventually you will get to the bottom of your list.  Maybe it will take you a month or two, but once you reach the bottom start over.

Being a consistent face and voice in their business will help you understand them, and allow them to be comfortable with you.  I guarantee that many of your competitors make one or two visits, then quit, when no business starts flowing.

2.  Leave- Behinds.  These don’t have to be complicated, but are markers of visit.  They are footprints and clues you were there.  It can be as simple as a business card.  The only problem with cards is that they are easily thrown away.  Notepads are great because they get used, and if they are sticky get posted around an office.  Pens tend to hang around as well.  Food and candy jars are always appreciated.  If it’s your first visit, take their card and then email them a followup note after you get back in the office.

3.  Ask for business.  Of course you are going to do this.  But most people ask for it in the future: “When you have something you are trying to close, please give us a shot at quoting it.”  Add the present.  “When you have something, we’d be happy to quote it for you.  Are you working on something now I can look at for you?  Is there something I can take back to the office, and get you an answer today?”  I worked at an agency where we did a lot of this type of marketing, and when we started asking for something now and not in the future, we often walked out with quotes in hand.  Sometimes all you need is a chance to generate future streams of business.

4.  Find the right person.  Knowing the decision maker is one of the keys to sales.  It is no different here.  Someone in the office you are visiting has enormous influence, and can usher you into that position of influence as well.  The secret is knowing them.  This can be difficult to discern on a first visit.  Once you figure it out, begin a relationship of trust.  This will allow you to create a mutually beneficial partnership going forward.

5.  Be a sponsor.  Lenders and Realtors are sales organizations.  They do regular sales meetings, sometimes weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc.  Ask to sponsor their meetings with food or giveaways.  Most will let you speak for 5 to 10 minutes if you are bringing something to the meeting.  This is something most insurance companies will comp for you as well.

6.  Find a need and meet it.  This one takes time, and you will rarely discover on the first visit.  You need to build trust and find the right people to talk with.  But every organizations has needs.  These are the gaps and struggles inside their business.  It could be anything from sales training, access to information, marketing relationships, etc.  Over time look for these needs and get creative on how to help them.  One agency I know found a smaller realty office that was trying to grow.  Their marketing wasn’t great, but they were trying hard.  The agent partnered with them for a trade show, splitting time and booth cost.  You can bet the agency got the majority of their leads.

7. Pay for it.  Agents are scared to do this, but every day they pay for radio spots, direct mail, yellow page ads, internet leads, telemarketing leads, xdate sheets, etc.  It’s the same thing.  The only thing you need to worry about is not making the payments contingent upon selling the business.  Most if not all Departments of Insurance outlaw this.

I’ve seen two effective ways agents have done this successfully.  First they pay a dollar amount per lead.  You have to run some ROI calculations to determine your maximum spend; based on close rates, average revenue, average retention, etc.  Also it needs to be attractive enough to make a difference as well.  This works.  The other is to do contests.  Within an office, give a gift card of a substantial amount to the realtor or loan officer that sends the most leads in a month.

Make sure you stress they need to be a qualified lead.  You don’t want to get a name and number, call the customer, and have them act surprised at your attempt to quote their business.  I know some agencies require a list of information to make the quote valid.

8.  Lunch & Learns.  This strategy is highly effective at getting you in front of groups.  Realtors and Lenders give misinformation about insurance to consumers all the time.  Be an expert and give them information they can use with their customers regarding insurance for their property.  You are not trying to make them an expert, but it empower them with a couple accurate talking points.   Plus if you are providing lunch, most people will give you the courtesy to listen for a while.

Before you reinvent the wheel, grab a company person’s wallet and their powerpoint library. This is an easy spend for most company folks.  They may even throw in gift cards for a drawing.  Also, they might have presentation already created about property insurance.  This saves you some time.  Gather the business cards of everyone there, and send them a followup note, if you really want to impress.

If you networked with other agents for any length of time, this strategy is one frequently mentioned as a personal lines growth driver.  It may feel like everyone is doing it, but I promise few are doing it well.  Schedule your marketing, be consistent, ask for opportunities, and repeat.

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Tales of An Insurance Startup

Have you ever thought of starting a scratch insurance agency? Maybe you are on the edge of doing something, but fearful of taking the leap. Maybe you are an established agency, but could be invigorated by new ideas.

Here’s the story of someone who did it.

Matthew Carroll, began working in the insurance industry 6 years ago as a producer inside an Independent Agency. During that time, he learned a lot about lead generation and structuring follow ups for sales success. After a couple years, a State Farm agency reached out to him to become a producer inside an agency. He jumped at the chance, because it came with the hope of actually owning his own agency one day.

His tenure there was successful, but did not lead him to ownership as quickly as he imagined. So after 3 years of grinding away at production, Matthew took the leap and opened his own shop.

Granted this was no overnight leap in the dark. In fact, we spoke at least 6months before he pulled the trigger. He gathered all the necessary information he needed to make good decisions. He put together one of the best business plans that I had ever seen. Production targets were in place, as well as the marketing activities needed to get there. Then in Jan of 2017, he launched Kentucky Bred Insurance.

www.kybredinsurance.com

Matt came storming out of the gate, and was writing business and following his marketing plan from day one.

After 9 months, his growth has been steady and impressive. However, like any venture it has not been perfect and there have been a couple bumps along the way.

Recently, I sat down with him, and asked him about his first 9 months. Here’s what Matt has learned.

What things about starting and running the agency have been harder than you expected?

MC: The tension between looking at my goals to stay motivated, and remembering to do the day to day activities that will hit the goal. As things get hard, I have to look at the end goal to keep going, but it is really easy for me to fall into daydreaming about success, and forgetting to make my sales calls and marketing contacts. Yet, if I didn’t have those dreams the daily activities would grind on me.

Related to this is sticking to the activities I had set up in my business plan. There are times when the busy working of the agency takes over, and I don’t make time for the activities that will keep my pipeline full of leads.

Also, riding the wave of work/life balance. I’ve gone overboard in both directions.

Knowing where to spend marketing dollars had been really hard. Running quick calculations for return on investment isn’t difficult, but many of the activities I might do won’t have immediate returns. So how do I calculate for that? For example, say I run multiple Facebook ads, and I drives leads to me. That’s easy to calculate, but then 3-6 months later, a couple more leads trickle in from the campaign. I don’t mind spending money on activities that generate business, but because of the slow-acting nature of some marketing, it is really hard to make those decisions.

As I think about the future, and I realize that I need to start making hires. Planning for this has been harder than expected. Knowing which activities, I need someone to do, plus find them is becoming a challenge as I start looking.

What was much easier than you expected?

MC: Generating referrals has been much easier. In my other jobs as a producer, I would talk with family and friends and some would give me a shot at their business, but most wouldn’t. I don’t know what flipped when I started my own business, but I am getting more “yes’s” when I ask. Also I have had more people I know reach out to me to help them. I am not sure if it because they know I am the owner, and this isn’t some short-term job. Maybe my approach has changed because I have more confidence and urgency to sell as an owner.

A big surprise has been the amount of support I have gotten from other independent agents. There are several across the country that I talk with regularly, and they have been incredibly encouraging as well as very open about strategies and tactics inside the agency. My previous experience as a producer inside an agency was that everyone kept things close to the vest, and afraid of giving away their trade secrets.

What would you have done different?

MC: I would have been more aggressive at developing more and deeper relationships with influencers that are sources of business. At this point, I am doing more of that, but I relied so much on the low-hanging fruit of friends and family in the beginning, I didn’t work as hard on getting those lead sources in place.

What didn’t you know that you wish you had?

MC: I had no idea about the power of social media, especially Facebook, and its ability to generate business. Also how important content creation to drive business has surprised me. I am working on changing that and looking to outsource some of those activities.

Last question, what do you wish your companies would have done for you early on?

MC: In the captive world, companies do a much better job launching an agency. In my State Farm experience, there is a lot of marketing money given up front. Sometimes up to 50k, with other dollars trickling in to do marketing. Anything from a marketing side would have been nice. It could have been tents or banners for networking events, or even small amounts to help with lead generation.

Overall, I am happy about my decision, but not there is still a lot to do because I start realizing those daydreams.

Thanks, Matt!  To contact Matt go to his agency site, FB page, or LinkedIn account.

If you’ve done an insurance startup, do you have any advice for Matt? Leave your comments below:

The Lost Business Log: A Simple Customer Retention Tool

Don’t Let Quiters Ruin Customer Retention

The “Lost Business Log” is an easy tool you can use today that will help you get a handle on your customer retention.

not this type of log

This is a back-end tool that allows you to track customers leaving your agency.

You may be thinking, “How can counting my losses help me keep more business?”

The Lost Business Log does several things that will improve customer retention.

  1. It never lets you forget that customers are being lost and need to be replaced.  Even if you are only losing customers through death and moving, it is important to track because while there was nothing you or your companies did to send them away, they are still gone, and you need to replace them.  

  2. It forces you to change your marketing before it is too late.  Think about our first example.  If death and moving were the only reasons people were leaving, what does it say about your book?  Your demographics could be old or full of transitional type customers.  How does this change your marketing?  Reach out to younger customer or look for a more stable demographic.

  3. It gives you a crystal ball on at-risk customers. What are reasons people move: price, customer service, claims service, etc. The log forces you to ask these questions.  Perhaps it causes a followup call because they left without telling anyone.  You can send out an exit survey on why they left (email makes this easy). You can get them to commit to becoming a prospect again when things change. If possible find out their x-date, new company, and pricing. Then they become a prospect again.

  4. It can help you redirect referral sources.  If a particular lead source, whether outside like a realtor, mortgage lender, car deal, etc. or inside like a customer is the source of a lot of lost customer you can stop the lead sources.

  5. It can help you pre-qualify new business.  You may find in looking at your lost business that there are certain characteristics they all have in common.  They be monoline customers, multi-incident, single car, single driver, etc.  If you find these to be true, it can change how you quote and sell.

Here’s how to set it up.  You can use or paper or something like Excel, and include the following columns:

Customer name         Policy type         New company         New price         Xdate         Reason   

Don’t over-complicate the process.  Place a spreadsheet on everyone’s desk, and review as part of your month end checklist.

You will find this simple task will make a big difference, and help everyone feel the pain of losing customers, leading to conversations about how to keep them longer.

Theron Mathis

 

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?

How to Get More Money from Your Insurance Companies

Money in the Cookie Jar

Do you need more money in your agency?

Of course!

Even if you didn’t, would you admit?  No!

There is extra cash hiding in the pockets of your companies, but there are a couple tricks to finding and securing it for your business.

So where are these hiding places, and how can you access them?

1. Profit Sharing Contracts.  It’s been my experience working in and consulting with insurance agencies, that most don’t optimize their profit sharing.  The biggest reason that this happens is that most of us are sales people and not accountants, lawyers, or actuaries.

The other reason is lack of standardization.  You have too many companies to keep up with the nuances of contract language.

Make sure you get your reps to explain the details at least twice during the year: when you make stop loss selection (if offered), and mid-year so you have time to adjust focus if needed.

Stop-losses can lose you a lot of money, primarily due to their cost.  Every company is different and some charge against your loss ratio, while others deduct points from your payout factors.

2.  New Business Incentives.  Company goals are different.  Some need more auto, others want to build their specialty book, umbrellas may be a focus, and others are looking for demographic targets.  Ask companies where they are wanting to grow and if there are any incentives for specific business, you might be surprised and could end up with a couple extra points of commission.

 3.  Marketing Money.  Whether a company has a formal co-op program or not, they all have budgets to spend on marketing.  First find out what kind of programs your companies.  If there is a co-op program, max it out early.  Budgets can change throughout the year, and will disappear if results deteriorate throughout the year.

 If there is no co-op, ask what their agency budget is.  This will give you a starting point so you know how much you can get.  If their budget is $4000 for their entire territory, asking for a $2000 sign will get you a no.

Here’s the real secret for getting marketing money.  Present a plan: how much you want to spend, how you will measure it, and how much it will return.  If you bring them a plan with real numbers attached with a realistic ROI, then you will get money.

The reason this works because your company rep has to make a business case to his superiors to get money for you, and you have made the case for them.

Remember, if it’s not measurable it will be hard to secure money.

4. Company Loan Programs.  Many companies have loan money, and you can use this to leverage their money for your growth.

What is even better is that many of these loans can be forgiven, if you hit certain production targets.

5.  Staff Incentives & Contests.  Whether advertised or not, companies have money that can help you incent your staff to round out accounts, cross-sell other departments, or sell new lines.

These can come in the form of gift cards, online money, catalog points, etc.

The great thing about these programs is that they allow you to give extra compensation to your staff without having it come from your pocketbook.

This comes with one big warning.  If you want to pool the incentives for the agency, rather than  it going to individuals, most companies will balk at the offer.

Did you notice the secret found in each tip?

ASK, ASK, ASK.

Be shameless about asking, and get creative.

What are your tips?