One of my friends mentioned the following last week, when we were meeting with another fellow insurance agent:
“Too many people are learning more and more about less and less today, that will actually be useful tomorrow.”
He was directing it at the other agent, not to criticize her but to just to try to give her some ideas to help her break some old, staid habits and to ‘push the envelope’ a little. She knows she needs to branch-out into some possibly uncomfortable and unfamiliar territories, to market herself more effectively. We all need to do it, including myself and my agent friends but she is caught-up with trying to comprehend complicated processes to help her market herself more effectively. She is really trying but expending a lot of valuable time and effort to form a social media marketing plan, that includes everything out there! However, she is not willing to break things down into their simplest terms and move forward – one step at a time. So, she is trying to learn everything before she makes even the first move. By the time she compiles and organizes her many lists, a lot of the concepts will be ‘out of style’.
No one will mistake me for an ‘expert’ in utilizing social media marketing. However I have learned some basic things – by trial & error – that might help others break through their reluctance to try to market their businesses in this manner.
The hardest part for me was trying to decide what platform was best for my needs. In the beginning most people want to know how to start but are confused with all the information that is being directed to them. It often “turns them off” and they procrastinate with getting started – time after time.
If this sounds like you, first try one platform only. Sit down with your staff and ask them this question: “Where do you think our customers ‘hang-out’? That is, at which social network are our current clients and prospects most likely to frequent? This is where you want to start your social media marketing efforts. Do not pay for placing ads on the network chosen. Just let people know what you believe you do best. Look for some local groups with which to affiliate and contribute by commenting on various of their items. Then grow from there. Simplify the initial process. After you and your staff get more familiar with regular activities, you may want to expand or just focus more intently on what makes you most comfortable, as you explore social media marketing.
There is so much there. Make it as simple as you can. it is certainly better than doing nothing at all – forever.
I had a meeting with an agency manager this week and the conversation flowed very smoothly. We both understood one another completely and business was conducted in a very effective manner. There was real substance to our discussion points. We got a lot accomplished in an hour. We understood one another, thanks to the substance.
I was reminded of how real substance in a business discussion makes for conversation that produces results. I was also reminded of another discussion I held with an agent who is an State Manager for a large, well-known National insurance carrier. The discussion was going very well and we understood one another for sure. In the middle of the discussion – over lunch – his manager walked into the restaurant and when my manager friend saw him, of course he invited his boss to sit with us. ‘The Boss’ was a very nice guy who asked me a lot of good questions about my program. One of my answers prompted ‘The Boss’ to turn to the State Manager and say a few things – presumably relevant – but in their particular form of corporate jargon – “corporate speak”, if you will. Then they both started talking and nodding at me. Their words were intended to relate to their “corporate vision”. I am all about having clear visions but they need to be expressed in an understandable way. Apparently I was supposed to see the relevance of the many phrases of visions, to my operations. I didn’t. The points that the ‘The Boss’ was attempting to make were flying over my head without stopping-by to sink in.
The next time I meet with my State Manager business acquaintance, I will try my best to make sure his ‘Boss’ – nice guy that he is – will not wander into the same restaurant. If I ever to meet with ‘The boss’ again, I will ask for their proprietary corporate dictionary.
Maybe it is just me but give me the substance any day.
My title for this blog could just as well have been “George Nordhaus – A Marketing Man for All Insurance Agencies”. Most of the agency principals with whom I interact know his name. They will tell me that they remember George’s marketing products, presentations and/or interviews – all developed and presented with the purpose of enhancing the world of insurance marketing, to the benefit of so many agency operations and the industry in general.
Always sincere, enthusiastic and with so much energy in his efforts, George is still “out there” in his marketing ideas laboratory, cooking-up solutions to fit the needs of insurance agencies of all shapes and sizes.
Specifically he employs his unending energy to produce “Monday Morning”, a series of timely interviews with various people in the insurance industry, all who want to spread their messages through the efforts of George Nordhaus. Additionally, he oversees the operations of Agencies-On-Line, LLC – www.agenciesonline.biz and Insurance Hiring System –www.insurancehiringsystem.com.
Has any one person done more in the last fifty-plus years to promote insurance industry marketing? It is doubtful.
Under ‘Advice for Contacting George’ on his LinkedIn profile, he states: “I am totally open to just about anything that concerns marketing”. That sums it up. He is open to everyone.
You owe it to yourself to check-out his resources. Guys like him are few and far between. In an era with so many different marketing information providers, with his unique and time-tested approaches, George Nordhaus is truly one of a special breed.
Too often when I am helping an agent update an existing marketing plan, prepared by someone else, I frequently find that they contain a lot of what I refer to as “non-marketing fluff”. Simply put it is filler that is often used to make the plan look more impressive. The opposite effect is usually the result.
It is easy to fall blindly in love with statistics, charts and and demographics when preparing a marketing plan. The most important guide-point to help avoid overuse of such data is to always remember the following two major purposes of a marketing plan. They are equally important.
For one, an marketing plan is developed to provide direction for an agency’s operations, especially as relates to revenue enhancement and profitable growth. It is the agency’s map to guide them through the processes that will most probably ensure success.
Secondly, and just as important, a marketing plan is developed to show both your existing carriers and prospective carriers how you are going to attract and write the profitable business that they want from their agency partners.
No one wants to have to swim through a lot of “marketing fluff” to get to the real-life activities that will get you to achievement of your objectives.
Within your agency’s marketing plan under the ‘strategies’ section, you need to answer the following questions:
In what ways will you be attracting business? Through direct sales approaches – Internet Marketing – Referrals – Cross-selling to existing clients – Mail solicitation, etc.?
Who will conduct which of these activities? You – Designated staff members – In-house – Third-parties – a Consultant, etc.? –
Exactly what will be your promoted specialties? What markets, lines of business or special products?
How are you going to assess progress and measure it? How often will you check on progress?
What training will be needed? Who will conduct it? What forms of delivery might it take?
Consider these questions when you are developing your strategies. The time to take the efforts to think them through very clearly can pay big dividends for you. You do not want to operate without these strategies defined within your marketing plan.
The management of many insurance agencies develop their written marketing plans, share them with a few prospective carriers and ‘shelve’ them. Operations change, of course and should be reflected in an agency’s marketing plan. So, it is important to update plans to reflect a current ‘picture’ of the agency’s plans, particularly those for acquiring new business, retaining existing clients and cross-selling to them.
Depending on the format of the plan, it is usually not difficult to include new items, strategies, team members, etc. Check with the developer of your marketing plan, to see if the service for which you paid includes updates.
My marketing plan development services include free, unlimited updates for two years – maybe longer, if you provide a referral for me!
When planning to write a marketing plan for your Agency, do not get caught up in thinking that it will be a daunting task. While you need to take your time and think through the specifics of your plan, you should start by answering these basic questions first:
Who are you and what differentiates your Agency?
What do you do and where do you do it?
Who are you ideal clients?
What are your strategies to get your ideal clients to buy from you and bond with you, to stay with you?
If you start by answering these basic questions first, you will have established a strong foundation for a useful and effective marketing plan.
Last week, in a discussion with a new client independent insurance agent, I asked, as I always do…if there was a written marketing plan for the agency. I always explain to agents that if they do not have a current, written marketing, they need to prepare one. Last week the agent asked me “Why?”.
My answer was that there are several good reasons, as a solid marketing plan serves multiple purposes. There are both internal benefits and external ones.
One of the most important internal reasons is that it provides a ‘road-map’ for the activities and goals that will be needed for the agency to be successful. You have to know where your are going and you have to plan the best route or routes to get there. Instead of preparing a marketing plan and storing it on a shelf, it should be referred to regularly, to ascertain progress and direction.
Additionally, as one of the external purposes, it lends a level of professionalism to the agency, especially in the eyes of the carriers’ representatives. An agency with a well thought-out and developed plan will stand-out over other agencies that have no plan to display to the carriers.
Another very practical external purpose for a good written marketing plan is to provide a clear picture of the agency’s production plans for current carriers and those that the agency might be attempting to take-on. It is not generally important to include detailed financials – that is for the business plan – of which the marketing plan is a critical piece. The carrier Reps are not usually interested in the financials of an agency. They are more concerned with production issues. With that in mind, I always tell agents that one of the most important things with regard to a marketing plan is that it tells the carrier “how” the agency plans to acquire and write the quality business that the respective carriers are wanting from the agency. Show them your road-map!