Should You Have Different Strategies for Marketing and Sales?

The best agencies I work with understand something others don’t.  They know the difference between marketing and sales, approaching both very differently, which creates a huge impact to growth and revenue. 

What is that difference?

strategies for marketing and sales

Marketing is what your agency does to get customers to call you.  Sales is what you do once they call.

Marketing is Social Media, Networking, Content Marketing, Referral Generation, Beating the Bushes, Attending Clubs and Chambers, Setting up a booth at a local festival.

Marketing is the bull horn. Sales is the whisper.

Marketing is the lure.  Sales is the hook.

Why do these distinctions matter?

Listen to these example.  I have worked with agencies that have incredible sales people.  I have seen them sell.  When a customer is in front of them or on the phone, it is like magic.

They are likeable; they ask the right questions; they put the customer in a place of comfort and acceptance.  They demonstrate value and ask for the sale. The customer feels like the agent is buying the policy for them.  It’s amazing.

But they can’t get the phone to ring.  They don’t have enough leads.  Their close rates are really high, but can’t seem to talk to enough people.  The pipeline is always sparse.

On the other hand, I have seen some shops with incredible marketing.  Their internet presence is amazing.  Google loves them.  They have great storefront exposure.  The phone is always ringing, but their sales are not great.  They are not all warm and fuzzy, likeability is limited, closing a sale is awkward and difficult.

Both are separate skill sets, and both must be attended to with equal force.

So, what changes can you make to mimic the best agencies approach to marketing and sales?

1.  Create separate strategies & goals. 

Marketing:  Ask: Who is my ideal customer?  What can I do to  reach that person? Then begin molding your current marketing around that target.

Identify what marketing activities you are doing today, then match to your customer target.  For example: Social Media:  Is it hitting that target?  Content marketing: Are you answering the questions your target customer has?  Networking events:  Are you going place where you will find your customer?  Lead Generation: Are the leads you are buying bringing you your target?  Referral Marketing:  Are your referral sources sending you your target customer?

Sales:  Evaluate and Improve.  These examples should help you prime the pump.  What is my close rate?  Have someone evaluate your salespeople.  Work on areas that are weak.  Do role-playing.  If you are a sales manager, have friends do mystery shopping on your people.  Have your best producers, model good sales behavior.  Let customers evaluate you.  What did you do right and wrong in the sales process.

2.  Assign Marketing to a Specific Person.  One secret of larger businesses is that they will separate out these functions to different departments, because the skill set is different.  You can do the same in your agency.

Most agencies have sales people and service people, but very few have at least one marketing person.  The ones I know that do, write a lot more business.

This person is responsible for driving leads, developing referral relationships, social media, customer contests, outside events, etc. 

It works.

3.  Measure.  This is the only way you will know it is working.  This could be a complex spreadsheet of close rates, contacts, marketing projects.  Or it could be a whiteboard with a number of weekly sales and marketing efforts.  You must measure so you know where to improve and possibly where to spend money.

No matter what approach you take, see these two tasks as separate with differing strategies. It will allow you to create separate successful systems, and you will see constant improvement in your bottom line.

Be Productive,

Theron Mathis

Questions:  Does your business have different strategies for marketing and sales?  What are ways your approach differently that has helped drive growth?

photo credit: moriza via photopin cc

My Biggest Sales Mistakes I Want You To Avoid

sales mistakes to avoidI have been in sales most of my adult life, and have made every rookie mistake.  Unfortunately, I still find myself falling into bad patterns, and often have to slap myself back to reality. 

The great thing about recognizing mistakes is that once you see them, you can avoid them, and work to correct them.

Here is a list of frequent mistakes all salespeople, newbies and seasoned vets, make.

Now this list isn’t comprehensive, just my big bugaboos, tripping me up especially when I started, and hopefully these admissions of failure can help you along the sales journey.

  1. Not asking for the sale

This one is just tragic.  You spend money and time generating leads.  You spend hours cold-calling and finally find someone who will talk with you.  You do all the right things, building rapport, asking questions, finding solutions, having a competitive price, but you never ask to buy.

I’ve done it.  I guess fear causes it.  It seems silly to go through all that work and never ask the person to purchase.  They gave you their time, they answered your questions, they listened to your pitch, but you never asked them to do anything.  You just through up a number, and hoped something would happen.

Don’t feel bad, everyone does it.  In fact, if you master this one element of sales, you are better than 90% of you competition.

Here’s how I know, let me tell you a story.

At one time, in my career, I worked for Progressive.  If you have any experience with them, they are intensely data driven, measuring everything that moves.  In order to get a better handle on agency impressions of the company, and develop better sales training, we initiated mystery shopping.  We would call out to agencies all over the country and ask for a quote, all the while holding a checklist in our hands, looking for sales elements.

This was a big effort, and we called everyone, all 30,000 agencies, from large professional shops, mom & pop agencies, and your non-standard specialists.

Over and over again, we found one consistent feature, no one asked for the sale.  Only 10% asked.  We weren’t looking for a hard sale either.  Just a “when do you want to do this”, or “how does that sound to you”.

This is a big one, so listen to yourself, make a list of potential closes, practice them, put notes on your computer, your phone, the back of your hand, just don’t let yourself forget it, and you will be better than most.

2.  Making it all about price.

Okay, we know insurance has become a commodity right.  If the price is not there, then forget it.  When I talk and listen to friends in sales in other industries, they all say the same.  Their product has become a commodity, price wins.  No industry escapes this.

It would be foolish to believe price is not an option, but it can also be a hurdle.  Not for the customer, but for us.

I remember walking through the sales interview with a lady, entering all the information about her tI could gather, generating the quote, and almost choking when I saw the final price.

“No one would buy this!” I thought.  That is ridiculously expensive.

But because I was new and needed sales, I reasoned what the heck, let’s throw this price out there and see what happens.

Bucking up, and putting on my most enthusiastic voice, I announced the price, secretly waiting for a “Are you crazy?”, the rejecting sound of a click, or a polite, “I am sorry”, but to my surprise, she said it was good.  I scheduled a time to finish the sale, and did a secret little jig of excitement at my desk.

What did I learn?  What is a good deal to one person, may be entirely different to another.  Think about everything you purchase, do always buy the cheapest?  Even when you buy close to the bottom of price ranges, do you always have the best deal, couldn’t you spend a couple more weeks researching to find a better price?  You don’t.  Once the price hits the range you want, and the other benefits are there, you buy.

Price is important, but don’t let it sabotage you.

3.  Not knowing the game

Depending on your industry, every sales process has a game attached to it.  You just need to know it.  Usually it revolves around the customer pitting you against your competition to get a better price.

Here’s how I fell into this trap.  I was prospecting commercial customers, and got pretty excited, because unlike personal lines, I found most people were willing to give me an ear.  Most readily gave up their dec pages and xdates, hoping I had something better.

And many times, I did, but I didn’t make the sale.  I offered a product that had better coverages, and many times equal to lower price, but nothing happened.  No sale was made.  The customer wouldn’t even call me back.  I couldn’t get them on the phone anymore.

What happened?

They used me.

They took my proposal back to their current agent, and used me to get a better product and price.

This happens in every industry, but once you know the game, it is easier to combat.  It will change your approach on the front end.  You start thinking about your competition differently.  You ask better questions.  You frame your proposals better.

Knowing the game, lead me to correct this last mistake.

4.  Not developing relationships and prequalifying properly

The sales process is a lot of work.  Even in personal lines, when you have a comparative rater, and you have learned to fly through the quoting process, you still don’t want to grind out quote after to quote never to close.

That’s like the old prison torture story.  Today the guards make you dig a hole on this side of the yard.  Tomorrow you fill it in.  The next day you move to the other side to dig, then the following you fill it in.  That’s enough to drive a person mad.

Nothing is worse than useless work serving no purpose than to keep you busy.

Change your approach.  Don’t sale, don’t quote, don’t spend time on a customer, until you spend some time evaluating the situation.

Is their incumbent agent their brother or mother?  Forget it.  You aren’t going to win.  Is the customer a fraternity brother with their current agency’s owner?  Chances are bad for you.  But you won’t know this until you ask questions.

Ask as many questions as you need about their relationship with their current agent.  Look for strengths and weaknesses and find a wedge where you can create a relationship.  Perhaps, you can teach them something they never knew about their business or risk situation.  Maybe you have common friends or interests.  Listen to them, and if there is any crack in their current agent relationship, find ways you can offer value the other can not.

This is my list, and I hope it helps you avoid my traps.

Look at your process, look at what your staff does, and see if you can find each of these elements.  Then work toward eliminating these common mistakes.

Are there other sales sins you have committed? 

Be Productive,

Theron Mathis

photo credit: ClickFlashPhotos / Nicki Varkevisser via photopin cc

Why You Need Google Plus and How to Get Started Today

medium_6714960287Why do you need a Google+ page?  I get asked by agents on a regular basis about where to start online marketing.  To be honest, I am biased toward Facebook and Content Marketing through blogging.  I really believe if you have someone in your office that can be committed to curate and create content, and your current website allows you to post content (if not, please change) do it.  Content marketing has the ability to let you compete against big marketing insurance budgets.  You can dominate search in your geography and become an expert in whichever insurance niches you write.

I love Facebook because I know it.  It was my first social network, and I have helped agents setup pages, find content, create contests, etc.  Even if your agency is not on Facebook, I guarantee the majority of the people in your office are on FB, and everyone has a basic familiarity with it.  The learning curve is small because someone you know, if not yourself, knows and understands Facebook.  All you need to do is to learn the marketing side and adapt to your business.

Over the last couple months, I have seen the power of Google Plus.  It is incredibly versatile, feels more professional, and engagement is easy.  I found creating active engagement on G+ is much easier than it is on Facebook.  

So why should you have a G+ page?

1.  It is Google.  You can’t fight city hall.  If you spend any time in online social media circles, you are bound to find people announcing and celebrating the demise of Google+, however, these voices are dying out.  

Google will not let this network die.  It continues to grow.  They have integrated a Skype-like feature called Google Hangouts that allow group video chat.  Functionality continues to increase.

Admit it, when you search on the web.  You probably go to Google, and if you don’t you call web-searching “googling”.  They own search, and being part of their system will only help you.

2.  SEO, SEO, SEO.  If you don’t know this term yet, it stands for Search Engine Optimization.  Basiclly it the practice of doing things online that will help your customer find you.  When people search for you, what you sell, and where you sell, can they find you online.

Sadly, many of agents I work with can’t even be found online even if their name is entered into the search bar.  Google+ can change that and change it quickly.

Google places G+ activity into their search results, and probably gives greater weight to this network versus posts created in other networks.

3.  Your activity will have wings, and won’t die quickly.  If you post on Facebook, you must post frequently, primarily because your post only has a shelf-life of about a day.  After that people will no longer see it.  It won’t show in their news feed anymore.

With Google+, your posts become part of search, and live longer on the web.

I have seen this for myself.  Weeks after I have posted on Google+, I can still get traffic from that post.

 How do you start?

Ok, now that you are convinced that it is worth jumping into this network, how difficult is it to setup a page.  It’s incredibly easy.  I just set one up for one of my agent’s in about five minutes.

  1.  Go to Google+ for business.  

google plu

2.  If you don’t have a Google account then you need to create one.  Basically, you are just setting up a Gmail account.  This is not hard, and the system will prompt you how to do it.

3.  Add a profile photo if you have one, but this is not necessary for the page.  

4.  Choose your category.

Google plus create a category

 5.  Add Info.  Post basic information about your business including office hours, and you are finished.  

 Google gives you the ability to share your page with contacts, and this could help jump-start your network.  

If you don’t have G+, run, don’t walk to your favorite browser and set it up!

Be Productive,

Theron Mathis

P.S. Bonus Content:  Having the G+ page will help, but ultimately if you decide to make this part of your ongoing social media marketing, you need to post.  Here are a couple extra tips:

1.  Multiply your work.  If you are using a social network today, like Twitter or Facebook, replicate those same posts on G+.

2.  Streamline your posts.  Use a scheduler to get your posts from one spot, to multiple networks.  I use and love buffer.  Buffer let’s you post something once, and then it schedules the posts for you on various networks.  With Buffer, you can use Facebook, Twitter, and now Google+.

3.  Suggested Resources.  There’s a lot more you can do with G+ to create engagement and increase your brand presence.  The quickest way to pick up these skills is to check out Social Media expert and fellow insurance professional, Ryan Hanley.  He has written extensively about G+.



photo credit: Thomas Hawk via photopin cc

How to Run a Facebook Contest (and why)

facebook contest Many of the businesses I work with have Facebook pages, some don’t post frequently enough to get a lot of engagement, others post a lot, but haven’t seen the engagement and activity they would like. What can be done to generate more interest in their page? Successful Facebook marketing is not about blasting your fans with business information, but creating community and being useful so they share it with others.  In all likelihood, the fans you have, especially in the beginning, are already customers.  Your goal is to provide them value and information that they are willing to share with others like them, who will come to your page, engage and eventually become a customer as well. In the beginning, engagement and community can be really hard, and one way to create some excitement about your page, increasing likes, comments, and shares is a contest. Recently, I was able to pick the brain of the marketing director of successful agency, and he gave me several tips he has implemented that has made contests an important part of their Facebook strategy. Tips to Run a Facebook Contest 1.  Make the contest duration short.  Usually several days to a week.  Admit it, your attention span is short, and so is your customers, the shorter ones create more activity.

For example, you might post this on a Thursday: “You have until noontime on Monday, [Month & Day] to leave your comment, and if you’d like an additional entry, share this post!”

2.  Give away Gift Cards from $30 – $50 to restaurants, movies, gas, car wash, etc. 3.  Team up with local businesses to help you promote.  If there are any businesses you currently insure or geographically close to you that offer gift cards or certificates, give those away as part of your contest.  If that business has an Facebook page, ask them to promote. 4.  Use engaging pictures on your contest.  I am a fan of Photopin to find great royalty free pictures. 5.  Ask for comments or an answer to a crazy question.

Here’s an example:   [Insert Pizza Picture]   “We’d love to hear what your favorite pizza topping is, so be sure to let us know in the comments section! In return, you could win a $40 gift card!”


“[Agency name] would love to know what your favorite summer activity is, so be sure to let us know in the comments section! In return, YOU COULD WIN $50!!”

6.  Think Community Charity.  For a month give a donation to a local charity of a $1 for every new like. Anytime you get a new like, announce it in the Facebook feed, and gave a running total of how much money you are generating.  The key is to partner with a local charity that can help you promote it.  $1 may not be enough to generate activity, but this agency generated almost 80 likes in a month. 7.  Get employees to promote.  This is big.  Every time they do a promotion, they make sure that any employees active online will share the contest through their social networks. 8.  Include a disclaimer.  You can not run a contest that appears that it is endorsed or generated by Facebook.  If you are really concerned about all the legal disclaimers, then you can a Facebook app.

Example:  “This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook. You understand that you are providing your information to [Your Business Name] and not to Facebook. The information you provide will only be used for the [Your Business Name] and related communications.”

9.  Celebrate the Winner.  As soon as the contest is over, announce the winner immediately.  If you have them come by your business to pick up the gift, take their picture, and ask if you can post it.  Make a big deal about it, and have fun with it.

Here’s a complete example: how to run a facebook contest   So what are you waiting for!  If engagement on your Facebook page has been a problem, try out these tip, and let us what kind of response you get in comments below.  Also, what has been your experience with contests? Be Productive, Theron Mathis P.S.  A great thank you to Matthew House at Preferred Insurance Center for spending time letting me pick his brain about his agency marketing.

Why Your Insurance Agency Blog is Your New Phone Book Ad

insurance agency blog

During this month of digital marketing, I have discussed two social platforms: Facebook and Twitter.

While those have the ability to create engagement with your target market, and help you understand their needs and interest, blogging great content helps you create your own 21st Century Yellow Page Ad.

You remember the Yellow Pages?

Years ago vendors would stop in your office, and show you data on customer usage of a book with numbers by category.  A customer could look up Insurance and find you.  You could separate yourself from the competition by the size of your ad.

Then one day you realized, I don’t use the yellow pages anymore.  Neither do my friends.  Neither does anyone in my office.  If we need something, we “google” it.

If you do this, your customer does as well.  So when they look for insurance do they find you.

Your website is probably not enough to create an ad big enough for customers to find, but your insurance agency blog can be.

Step 1:  Make sure you site has the ability to “blog”, and it can be indexed by Google.

Step 2:  Find niche topics that you can create content around so that customers can find you in your local market.

Specialty Lines are perfect for Digital Marketing.  Trying to compete with Progressive and Geico online around the keywords “auto insurance” is difficult, but you can dominate search in your market by becoming a specialist in boat insurance in [insert your city], or how about condos, or motorcycles, RVs, classic cars, jewelry insurance, etc.

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.  Because of course you won’t just sell a motorcycle policy, you will ask about home, auto, etc.

So how do you do this?

  1.  Write articles around specialty lines & other niches using keywords you research through Google Adwords.

  2. Borrow content from your company partners.  Most have a handful of articles they don’t mind you taking and editing.

  3. Find a dealer partner or other business that is willing to provide content for you, and then you both benefit.

  4. Use your niches.  When it comes to creating content to drive traffic to your agency.  Brainstorm your commercial niches, and think how you can write about their special insurance needs.

  5. Use Slideshare Think of this as online Powerpoint.  If you have created any insurance presentations dump them into Slideshare, and embed it into your site.

  6. Don’t forget video.  Video your customers, your referral sources, the customers you want and talk about their needs and how your products match their needs.  A big key with video is to make sure you add some text so Google can index it, and don’t forget to put on Youtube as well.  In fact, share it everywhere you have a presence.

  7. Create a content calendar.  Develop contenting can seem overwhelming.  It is one more item to add to your bulging to-do list.  The secret is the content calendar.  Create 12 themes, and assign them one to a month.  Announce it to your staff, and ask for them to begin giving ideas for each of the 12 months.  It will fill up quicker than you think.

You have the power to now be your own Yellow Pages.  Take advantage of it, and being scripting out ideas on a calendar, and start today filling in with your expert content.

Be Productive,
Theron Mathis

photo credit: funkeemunkeeland via photopin cc

Here’s a Method To Help You Discover If Twitter Is For Your Agency

When I think of the major social media networks, there are the big 4 that have an impact on how Insurance Twitter Helpyou do business.

Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, & Google +.

I know there are others such as Pinterest, YouTube, Instagram, Vine, SlideShare.  In fact, a few agencies are already creating great strategies around these networks as well.

They can all work for you.

The big key is knowing where your customers are.  Let’s begin with Twitter.

Twitter is a quick 140 Character micro-blogging site, where you can share content.  Usually it is used to point people to content (in a form of a link) that you have found that is useful to their lives or business.

The way you engage on Twitter is to ask questions, and respond to others tweets.  You can respond by hitting reply or simply addressing them with their @ handle.  It’s almost always better to interact specifically rather than send out general questions or comments.

If your audience provides valuable material, share and comment on that as well.

To keep from spending too much time on a site like Twitter use an scheduler, because like the rest of the internet, it’s easy to chase the rabbit down the hole only to look up and see hours have passed.

The two schedulers I use are Buffer and Hootsuite.  Buffer is nice because you can pre-set a schedule of when you want your tweets to post.  From there all you do is fill it with content as you find it, then Buffer releases it on schedule.  The other place to schedule posts is Hootsuite.  I typically don’t use Hootsuite to post but to use as my command central to monitor those I follow, and see if there is any engagement of my tweets.

Don’t let the scheduler make you lazy.  I have done this.  People will engage with your tweet, and you will never respond or enter their conversation.  In the beginning, you want to thank everyone who retweets you or comments on your tweet.

My guess is most agents that start Twitter don’t do this.  How do I know?  I have tested it.  I have replied or retweeted content from agents that I know personally, and no response happened.  Even when I saw them at their office, they didn’t mention the interaction.

I really believe Twitter allows you to become a quick expert.  This could be around a niche you service or as a community connector.

Whether you should jump into Twitter is really determined by whether your target audience already lives there.  If they are not there today, don’t write off this service.  Check it again in six months, trends change.

How do you find if your target audience lives on Twitter?  The easiest way is to run email list of your current customers through their “Find Friends” service.  This service pulls email from Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, & AOL.  If you use one of these services, then by clicking one button Twitter will scan all your contacts for Twitter uses, and from there you can follow them.

Many of us don’t use these services and rely on Outlook or a similar email client.  Don’t worry there is a back door way to get your contacts to Twitter (assuming you have your Twitter account set up).  Here’s the steps:

  1.  Export all your Outlook contacts to a *.csv file and save it to your Desktop for easy retrieval.
  2.  Open a Gmail Account at
  3. Once open click “Gmail” on the left hand side of the page so that the “Contact” option appears.


  1.  From your Contacts page, click on Import Contacts…

twitter import

  1.  Choose the file you saved from the desktop and now all your Outlook contacts are loaded into your Gmail account.
  2. Let’s go back to Twitter and the Find Friends back.  Now you can click Gmail, and your Twitter will magically search for your contacts.

This will help you find out real quick if any of your audience is present on Twitter.

From here do some search on Twitter advanced search features.  Maybe one of your niches is Engineering Firms and your agency is in Indianapolis.

Type “engineer” into “all of these words” and “Indianapolis” in “near this place”.  Then hit Search.

Insurance Twitter Advanced search


When I did this search, several individual Engineers showed up, along with 2 firms.  Granted  I waded through some junk, but I was able to find people to follow had this been my niche.

At this point, let’s assume, you found people in your niches and referral sources.  Many of your customers were online, and you followed them.

One of the nice unwritten protocols of Twitter is that when you people follow, if your profile looks legit and doesn’t feel spammy, they will follow you back.

Begin tweeting content that your audience finds valuable.  This may take some brainstorming, but shortly you will know if your content is getting traction by replies or retweets.

Make sure your profile includes a link back to your website so interested followers can find you.  This is critical if you expect your activity to create referral sources.

If you need more information on using Twitter, one of the best “Get Started” guides has been written by Michael Hyatt at his Intentional Leadership site.

Give it a try.  An hour or two should get you familiar with Twitter and whether your customers and prospects live there.

Be Productive,

Theron Mathis

Question:  Let me know if Twitter has been an effective marketing tool for your business?  If so, do you have any tips?  

P.S.  Here are other resources on Insurance Agents using Twitter:

5 Ways I Use Twitter As An Insurance Agent

How Insurance Agencies Use Twitter to Effectively Generate Leads

How Should Insurance Agencies Use Twitter?

How to Create Facebook Tabs to Drive Traffic to Your Agency Webpage

So, you have a Facebook page, you are collecting likes, and you post a couple times a week.facebook

Is it bringing you any business?  Are you getting calls?  Is your website getting hits?  If so, can you track it?

Ultimately, you want your page to generate business, but after spending a handful of minutes surveying insurance agency pages, it is very hard to find their agency website or quote engine on their page.

Make sure you have an easy way for customers to get to your website, and if you quoting features on your site, you can set up easy links to do that as well.

The best way to do this is to create Facebook tabs.

Facebook tabs are across the top of the page under your banner.

Facebook Tabs


Here’s how you can create tabs that send customers to your website.

1.  Go to your agency page, and make sure you are using Facebook as your business and not your personal page.  Click the gear.Create Facebook Tab #1

2.  In the search box on the top type “Static Iframe Tab”.  You will get a list of options. Each one is a different way to create tabs.  The one I Iike best is Static HTML Iframe Tab by Woobox.  Click “Go to App”.Static iFrame Capture Search


3.  Facebook will give you a message sending you back to your personal page. This is fine.

4.  You will see a screen asking you to install page tab.  Click “Install Page Tab”.

Install Page Tab



5.  Next, you must choose which Facebook Page to add the tab.  Choose your agency page, and click add tab.

6.  You will go straight to Tab Settings, where you will create your tab.  The first thing you will do is to change the “Page Source” to URL.  This will create a page within Facebook.  Rather than redirecting the customer out of FB to your site, your site will open up right into a FB window.  Facebook marketing experts swear that keeping people in FB is where they want to be rather than sending them out.  By having your site inside of FB, it gives a level of credibility.Create Facebook Tab

7.  In the URL field, insert your main website address or whatever address on your site you want people to go to:

8.  Make sure all the “gate” questions are marked “off”.

9.  Change the Tab Name to Website, Instant Quote, or wherever you redirect the user.Tab Name & Image

10.  From here, there’s only one more major step, Tab Image.  Click Change Tab Image.  Then choose the file containing your agency logo.  Then hit Save Settings on the bottom of the page.

11.  You will now see the tab on your main Facebook page.

Try it out, and let us know what you think.  

If you have been successful using FB or have used tabs differently, let us know.  

Be Productive,

Theron Mathis