7 Tricks to Create Unlimited Content

Agent Jack has been looking for ways to increase market share and reach people beyond his traditional advertising and networking. Recently he stumbled onto the concept of Content Marketing.

He got it!

photo credit: Clayton Cottingham | Photography 28/366 via photopin (license)

Last week he needed help with a plumbing task and googled “how do I stop my toilet from running”.  Google sent him to a Youtube video where a local plumber was walking him through the process of fixing his toilet.  A week later an outside spigot froze up and he knew it was beyond his abilities, but remembered the guy on the video that had helped him.  He picked up the phone and called Mr Youtube Plumber.  By the next day all was working again, and Agent Jack had a plumber for life.

He has seen content marketing at work, and wants to use in his agency.

He contacts his tech guy and makes sure that he is able to generate “blog” content through his current website.  Within days everything is setup and Jack is ready to start writing.  He blocks off time in his schedule, closes the door, and puts his phone on “do not disturb”.  His wordprocessor launches and suddenly a blank screen begins mocking him.  His mind full of ideas begins to mirror the screen in front of him, and everything disappears.

An hour later, he manages to type a paragraph or two, but nothing that will satisfy this content machine he is trying to launch.

How will he ever feed this content monster that he just created?

Brainstorming–but not how you think.

Here are 7 ways to use brainstorming to create unlimited content:

1.  Do It Alone.  When you hear brainstorming, you probably imagine yourself trapped in a room with friends or worse–strangers.  A white board is staring at your face.  A grumpy facilitor with a red marker in hand is waiting for brilliant ideas to jump out at him so he can paint the board with ideas.  Nothing happens.  Crickets are chirpiring.  Finally one brave soul chimes in and the crowd groans.  Eventually momentum builds, but at the end of the session you wonder if anything creative really happened.

Guess what, science has proved your intuition correct.

Keith Sawyer, a psychologist at Washington University, summarizes the science: “Decades of research have consistently shown that brainstorming groups think of far fewer ideas than the same number of people who work alone.”  

Brainstorming works, but not like conventional wisdom has schooled us.  Do it alone.

2.  Use Your People.  This sounds like I am totally backtracking on what I just said.  I didn’t say brainstorm with people.  I said use your people.  Make them do it alone as well.  Give them cues and questions to help spur thought, and ask them to spend twenty minutes one morning cranking out as many ideas as possible for potential posts.

The quote above from our eminent scientist had a portion deleted from the end of the sentence.  Here it is:

“brainstorming groups think of far fewer ideas than the same number of people who work alone and later pool their ideas.”

Here’s the key.  Let everyone brainstorm alone, but then bring your talent together to share their ideas.  This will create robust lists of content and spur more thinking and further ideas.  The reason this works is that the shy ones in the group are not bullied into silence by the more aggressive personality.  All people generate ideas, and come to the table on some equal footing.

3.  Give Rules.  I have hinted at this, but here are the rules that I am suggesting.  Ask yourself questions, but whatever you do don’t censor yourself.  Write or type as fast as you can so your internal editor can’t grab your hand and stop you.  Don’t worry if stupid or silly ideas start flowing from your pen.  Don’t stop from chasing those rabbits and any weird thought that might come out of your head.  You never know that it might spark something equally creative down the trail.

If you stop coming up with ideas, just keep writing.  Start writing “I can’t think of anymore ideas, help, help, help.”  Start repeating what you previously wrote but do it fast.  I promise ideas will come.  Give yourself a timer and one that ticks and the pressure will make things happen.  This forces you to make things happen.  Also have a list of topics or questions to help spur activity.  The best rule is to do it fast, avoid censoring yourself, and editing what you say.

4.  Use Your Customers.  Questions are a way to use your customers.  Have everyone think through the most recent and most common questions they get from customers and friends about insurance.

Think by product & niches: auto, home, umbrella, bops, etc.  This is how you search in Google.  You type in a questions you want solved.

This method won’t just give you great content ideas, but will provide you with the title for your posts.  For example:  “Should I get the insurance waiver from my rental car company?”  “Why do I need flood if I don’t live near water?”  “Why does credit affect my insurance price?”  “Why is my neighbor’s insurance cheaper than mine when we have similar cars?”

This is almost limitless.  Have staff begin recording all the questions, so you can begin answering in posts.

5.  Solve Misunderstanding.  Misunderstanding are really a subset of questions, but phrased slightly different. This difference can be incredibly effective.  It allows you to pick up a topic, spin it, and come at a different angle.

What are the most common misunderstandings about insurance?  Think claim time.  This is where what someone thought might happen begins to differ from reality.  You can really shine here, because some of their misunderstanding may have come from your competitor.  This sets you as an expert in your field, and you can address not only customers, but your referral sources such as realtors and lenders.

6.  Things You Wish Customers Knew.  Here is another category that is full of possibilities.

What do you wish your customers knew about insurance before they bought?  What do you wish they knew before they turned in a claim?  What do you wish they knew that affect their insurance rate?

The other avenue to think of here is not merely your business of insurance, but you can talk about agency history, the unique background of employees and owners.

You can talk about what you wish people knew about their community.  These kinds of posts bring personality and a level of humanity to your business so you don’t always look like you are pushing insurance down everyone’s throats.

7.  Best Ofs.  I stole this one directly from the mind of Marcus Sheridan.  If you don’t follow his Sales Lion blog, you need to.

“Best ofs” are not necessarily insurance specific.  Think about the things you and the people in your agency like about your city.  What are the best restaurants in town?  How about the best body shops, or electricians, or plumbers?  This could be a time you pump up the businesses of your customers.  You could write about the best vehicles for safety.  Write on the best pieces of equipment to stop leaks in your pipes.

Once you start on the “best ofs” you will find tons of content.

8.  Use The Calendar.  Grab a calendar and begin thinking about what happens in January in our country, state or city then I write about it.  How about driving in ice or snow?  How to winterize?

What happens in February?  A lot of jewelry is purchased.  Write about how to cover expensive or non-expensive jewelry.

March?  Talk about March Madness basketball.  Go through every month, and I bet you can come up with calendar content with very little prompting.

Agent Jack finished this list of 7 and feels relief.  The monster of content creation has been tamed, now that he has lists of potential posts to write.  It may be years before the monster raises his ugly head looking to be fed.

The task of content creation can be overwhelming, but don’t let blank screens and whiteboards overwhelm you.  Begin with a couple ideas and start creating topics and titles.  You will be surprised how fast and easy the ideas come.

Lack of content will never be your excuse in your marketing journey.

If you create content today, what do you do to keep the pump primed and the ideas flowing?

(this originally appeared on the Grow website)

Why Insurance Agents Should Embrace Social Media and 5 Quick Steps to Start

Ok, you are scared, and not sure of this digital unknown. You don’t know what to do. You think it’s over your head. You are afraid it will waste your time.

 

Photo credit: ~Aphrodite via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-NDBut, your leads are slowing down, your customer base is getting older, and you are tired of fighting the marketing budgets of the Insurance giants.

Enter Social Media.

Taking your business online may feel like walking into some unknown mystical cyber-world where sales and marketing magically happen, if you know how to push the right buttons.

Taking your business online may feel like walking into some unknown mystical cyber-world where sales and marketing magically happen, if you know how to push the right buttons.

Let me de-mystify the process for you.

Today, you tell me your business comes from referrals. I believe you. You’ve spent your career networking.

You joined the Chamber of Commerce, Rotary, Jaycees. You coached baseball, basketball, soccer. You developed relationships with home-builders, mortgage brokers, realtors.

People know you and love you. That’s why you are in sales.

You gave of yourself. You created value for people. You engaged with them. They learned to trust you.

Think about this question.

How many people could you connect with at a Rotary meeting? The baseball diamond? The Chamber? The soccer field? 10, 20, maybe 30. How much time did that take? One hour. Maybe two.

Get mathematical and put this into a formula.

Networking Connections = 20 people x 1 Hour

So if do one event every work day, you would have:

20 people x 5 hours = 100 Networking Connections

Digital Marketing is nothing more than Networking online, and you already have the skill-set. People like you and trust you, because you know how to engage with people.

The digital space just magnifies it.

Rather than being able to network with 20 per hour. You can potentially engage with hundreds and maybe even thousands per hour.

Plug in the numbers with the same networking time commitment as before.

500 contacts x 5 hours = 2500 Networking Connections

How do you start?

Find a committed person in your agency (this could be you). Age doesn’t matter here. Commitment and willingness is the key. If they are already connected online, they make a great candidate. Look around and see who has a smart phone. Find someone who knows how to network physically; it is the same skill-set.

Pick a Social Network. It doesn’t really matter which one: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn are all great choices.

Find models. You are not alone. There are already agents, agencies, and other small businesses networking successful online. Find them. Connect with them. Model what they do. This will give you a giant leap forward because you will learn from their successes and failures.

Find your customers, niches, and potential niches. Once who are online with a Network, begin building your connections by finding your current customers. Each network provides tools to do this. Then look for niches. If you already do a lot of construction business. Look for associations and prospects in those niches and reach out to them. Look for lead sources, for example in Personal Lines, you currently get a lot of leads for realtors and mortgage people. Find them and connect.

Engage & Be Useful. Once who find your people begin engaging with them. Notice what they are talking about and join the conversation. Share content that useful to your customers. Be a resource.

There are tools that can you automate and become more effective with the five steps above, but when first jumping into the social media pool don’t overcomplicate it with shiny gear, just learn to swim.

You can do this, and it will help you dominate your own local market even in the face of marketing giants.

Be Productive,

Theron

this was originally posted on the Grow Program site

 

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:

Don’t Trust the Black Box

Don’t Trust the Black box!

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You know what I mean.  The secret sauce insurance companies cook up to rate and price their products.  The secret tiers, the magic variables, the rating alchemy.  No one but the initiated traveling the path of Ivy League MBAs and Actuarial Secret Societies have gazed upon these models.
In the early 2000s, these pricing models, especially in auto, came into vogue.  No one was more successful at developing these sophisticated systems than Progressive.  And they worked.  Profits rolled in, and the rest of the industry was quick to follow.
Multivariate pricing was the name of the game.  Identify as many variables that could reliably be used to identify a customer, and price on each of these factors.  None of these would have been possible before the advent of sophisticated desktop computer power.  It could never have happened in the days of manual rating.  I remember back in my Progressive days when these models were first being launched, one particular DOI (I think VA) questioned the accuracy of the rating.  They actually asked someone from the company to come to the DOI and demonstrate the ability to manually rate several policies.  Because the rating was done through computer algorithms, and not real people, the company had to find someone with a math degree to demonstrate the problem to the DOI.  In my mind’s eye, I imagine a disheveled college professor spending hours calculating on a giant blackboard, filling it with numbers, square roots, squiggles, and Greek letters.
photo credit: nhighberg via photopin (license)
Credit was the backbone of this type of rating.  This upset and confused many agents and regulators.  Customers were mystified.  But as time went on, it proved itself a predictor of loss and behavior.
 It’s probably been 15+ years since the industry has been unprofitable in auto. Several years ago, I caught myself saying, “Auto profitability is reliable.  The only thing we really have to worry about anymore is property, and that is only because of weather.”  Then 2016 hit.  No one made money.  The big dog of insurance, State Farm, lost $30 Million in auto.
What happened?
Industry experts tell us it is multiple things: cost of repair, increased cars on the roads, distracted driving.
I’d put my money on distracted driving. Credit underwriting and multivariate pricing models struggle to identify this risk.
Unfortunately, this is not only impacting company profitable and increasing pricing for your customers, it is impacting your ability to generate profit-sharing and contingency dollars.  If it continues, it could even jeopardize contracts inside your agency.
What to do?
1.  Trust but Verify.  You remember Ronald Reagan, and his relationship with the Soviets.  In his negotations, he often said he trusted them, but verified their statements on the back end, just to be sure.  This has to be an agent’s attitude toward the pricing black box.  Trust it but verify it.  Carriers claim they can price for everything and have a price for every risk. Use it but don’t rely on it.  Don’t rely on them to DNR customers that become serial claimants.  You need to step in and ask for that non-renewal.  Resources are thinner at companies than they used to be, and humans aren’t monitoring individual accounts.  I’ve done this exercise with agents and have found examples of a customer with multiple claims (11) continuing to renew year after year, and continuing to cost everyone money.  Review your books of business with your carriers and take action.

2.  Oldschool Underwrite.  You know how to do this, but if you have staff that has come into your agency since 2005, they may not.  Even if a company advertises, “Price for every risk” or “Let the system do the underwriting”, don’t!  Have everyone ask 2 questions for every new customer:

“Will this customer make our agency and companies money long-term?” and “Will this customer attract good or bad business?”  

You might have to sit down and actually explain what good business looks like to some staff.  We’ve all become so reliant on the rating system to determine profitable customers. The mantra has become “If it takes it, we write it.”

Unprofitable books don’t help anyone, and the industry loses in the process.
It’s time to go back to basics.  Trust the tools, but don’t rely on the black box to make you money.