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Business & Marketing Strategies for the Future

Highlights from the February 27-28, 2013 ACT Meeting

Effective Social Media Strategies (Terry Golesworthy, Customer Respect Group)
·       Terry Golesworthy spoke about the need to be engaged on social media and provided strategies for agencies and carriers to do it effectively. Decide the communities you want to reach first, then determine the platform where they are most prominent.
·       It is not just the number of fans; it is amount of engagement you can achieve from them. To determine engagement, add shares, likes & comments and divide by average fan count.
·       You need to have something interesting to say. People like stories.
·       There needs to be a senior-level commitment, because it’s about you, your personality and your staff—the personality of the agency. You can use social media to enhance relationships. You need to invest time and energy. And you need to listen to customers. It’s about differentiation.
·       Social media is a stream-of-life event. Do people have a new home, a new car, a pregnancy? For insurance, that’s a gold mine. Understand what people need.
·       Google study: To purchase insurance, consumers use an average of 11.2 sources of information over three months in advance of their purchase.
·       25% of Coca Cola’s marketing budget is dedicated to social media; 20% is normal with retail.
·       Nielsen says consumers trust their peers far more than they trust brand marketing.  USAA members can write reviews about their policies. They had a bounce of 6-8% on policy starts because of reviews. People trust people.
·       We can manufacture communities. The Hartford created one for people who are over 50. They have a blog. They want those who are over 50 to share information. Zurich has one for Real Estate Managers. California Casualty has communities for school teachers and for nurses. Acuity has a Facebook page for long-distance truckers. 
·       Pinterest is all about pictures. Petplan Insurance is there, because it wanted to reach pet owners and knew pet owners love to post pictures of their pets.
·       Carriers can use social media most effectively by supporting their agencies, because their agencies are the ones who have the real connections to the community: (1) give them content, concepts and ideas—hints, tips, advice content, news; (2) then give them support. Offer help and guidance. Provide training; (3) help with or offer promotions. One company has done an iPad contest, but you can only enter if you give the name of the agency that referred you.
·       Make Google+ a part of your strategy to maximize your search engine positioning.
Participants: Jason Cass (JDC Insurance Group), Chris Paradiso (Paradiso Financial Services & Insurance), Chad Davis (Indemnus Insurance), Chuck Blondino (Safeco) & Delanea Davis (Travelers); moderators, Peter van Aartrijk & Rick Morgan (Aartrijk).
“If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.”
Chad Davis
·       Chad has a personal lines focus and now operates nationally. He got interested in workflows & streamlining and digital marketing. He watches Google ad words and can change things quickly. Sales people are independent contractors across the country. He checks the sales pipeline and what his sales people are closing. Chad takes advantage of  digital marketing tools to constantly analyze the metrics.  
·       Indemnus prides itself on contacting clients 18 times a year. We use e-mail blasts. One-off e-mails. Renewal surveys. We’ve started to make phone calls. We use CallFire, which is a web-based auto dialer, to call all of our customers on auto renewals, etc. Based on this, we saw a two-point lift in retention. “It’s a courtship. We’re working on building relationships.”
·       Chad’s next steps are to move the agency to the cloud and make it more virtual; and to enhance Indemnus’s mobile presence.

Jason Cass
·       Jason runs a virtual agency in Illinois, with an assistant located in Colorado.
·       “I had no idea of the power of social media.”
·       “My goals were get leads online. I said I would be happy to write $20,000 in premium the first year. I almost tripled that. I spend $30-50 a month on Facebook. I get three or four calls a month through it. One thing I’ve learned is the value of longevity. It’s just like if you move into a new town. Your ROI is in getting involved in the community. If you’re the new guy on the block, you need to get involved and be patient. If the same five or six people post comments on my post each month, guess whom I will instant-message first for a sale? I get 90 percent of those I do reach out to that way.”
·       My communities are on Facebook. I run Facebook ads, targeting people I want to go after. We also pay for ads on Facebook for people on their birthday, so they get a birthday greeting everywhere they go on the site.
·       I started a Facebook page for St. Louis Cardinals fans. The last post I put up had 120 shares and 90 likes. 
·       We had better get used to clients communicating with us by Faceback or text; and figure out a streamlined way to get those communications documented in the agency management system.
·       Looking to the future, Jason, a young agent, to learn more about old-school tactics—finding clients, getting referrals, and dialing for dollars— to grow his commercial lines book. Jason’s focus provides a powerful example as to how the different generations can work together within agencies – marrying those expert in new marketing methods with those successful in traditional methods.

Chris Paradiso
·       Chris’s agency’s best close rate for Internet leads is within the first 5 minutes. Interestingly, he has the next highest close rate 6 days later, because of having a process of continuing to make calls to those prospects during those 6 days.
·       He has a customer cam on his website that customers can use to see inside his office.  He does a lot of business with the deaf community who want to see with whom they are doing business, while we instant message back and forth with them. The website cam costs about $20 a month.
·       “I don’t believe in service. I believe every service opportunity is a sales opportunity.”
·       “I want people who will change someone’s day. There is no “average” in my agency anymore.”
·       Our agency sets weekly goals for our employees. This week, our goal is to get one referral from one person each day. Next week, the goal could be upsell, adding earthquake insurance, etc.
·       We have a Partners Program, where we ask our commercial clients to offer coupons or produce some kind of ad, which we put on our website for our personal lines customers to see. We also create videos for our commercial clients to help them market their business. We want to drive business to our clients, thereby deepening the relationship.
·       We create 180-200 videos a year and put them on YouTube. It’s the second- or third-leading revenue generator for us.
·       Another tool we use is geo-tracking. If you drive by the agency’s location, you get a text. Yesterday, we put out a text to 32,000 cars, telling them to prepare for winter road conditions because of the storm that was forecast. I got 11 calls this morning.
·       We also created a website called “” The town comes to Paradiso Insurance for information on what is going on in the town.
·       “If you don’t add value, you’re just a commodity.”

Chuck Blondino
·       I have agents come to me saying: “I was good at the business for thirty years and then I stalled.” We want to help agents with what is changing in the market and how they can differentiate themselves & show it in this new environment.
·       The average agency proactively communicates with clients an average of zero times a year. The growing agencies with good retention have changed that.
·       I want to help agencies define their vision, to share their direction. I want agencies’ social media presence, website and electronic and paper communications to inspire clients and communities about the agency. “This is the most noble business there is. There’s no industry that helps others more than insurance does.”
·       What connects on social media is to convey your personality, who you are. Your involvement with the community, your family. Why you live where you live or what you love or care so much about that you’d be devastated if they were gone. Show what differentiates your agency and why people will want to do business with you.
·       Knowing your numbers is a key differentiator between the growing agency and the one that is not. Key metrics to know include new business, retention and revenue per client; number of policies per client, and where the business comes from, so you know which marketing efforts are working. For more on metrics, see Grow Your Agency & Improve Your Marketing by Tracking Key Metrics.
Delanea Davis
·       Transformational vs. transactional agency leadership. The transformational leader is always looking for improvement and is more willing to shake things up. These leaders realize that the world is dynamic and see change as an opportunity.
·       We need to overcome industry inertia. “We’re not going to get the answer from the traditional way.” We should be continually looking at how technology can enhance the interactions between us within the industry, as well as between us and the buying public.
·       People are trying increasingly to get the answers on their own using the Internet before they contact you, so we are dealing with more knowledgeable consumers. But they still need the advice of a trusted advisor.
The panel summed up with some key things to think about:
·       know your vision and set your direction
·       get the right people in the right places
·       get marketing support where you need it
·       learn the new digital marketing platforms and get the right infrastructure in place to respond to the online consumer
·       have a mobile friendly website
·       be willing to gain new information and insights from any source – employees, clients, other industries and industry meetings.
Summing Up & What’s Next  (Mike Wise,Webwisedom, LLC)
·       “Social technologies” is the umbrella term that covers social networking (Facebook and LinkedIn), social media (SlideShare and YouTube), and social relevancy (socialmention and twinfluence). Agencies should drive their social media through all of their networks to establish their social relevancy, just like Google determines relevancy.
·       I often get the question: “Where is the ROI in social technologies? ” My answer is: “Well, where’s the ROI on getting the degree in your field? Do you want to stop feeding your brain?” That’s one of the big values of social. Build a river of information sources in social from informational sources you value.
·       The biggest age group on social is 35-45. The second biggest is 45-55. The fastest growing is baby boomers. Fifty percent of all new phones being sold today are smart phones. One of the first things people do when they get a new smartphone is get onto Facebook.
·       One of the things on my business card is a QR code. It goes directly to a mobile version of my business card. You can call or click from there. It’s important to integrate all of your online and offline channels.
·       “High Beam Leadership.” You need to put your “high beams” on and look out to the future. This leadership is a process and structure for predicting what is going to happen in the future, and then leveraging your resources to take advantage of these opportunities.   
·       “The Adaptive Culture.” This is critically important, because it will dictate how quickly you adopt new technology. How do we build a culture of innovation? Disney has a round organizational chart with the leaders in the middle and those closest to the customer on the outside.
·       How can we use gamification and the love of playing online games for employee training and for engaging consumers?  How can we use crowd sourcing to get work done, such as websites, video production, etc.?
·       We are moving to wearable technologies like Google glasses that can provide us with information about what we see in front of us and that easily record what we see. This will change how consumers interact with businesses and the world. Are implantable technologies next that can respond to our thoughts?
·       We are in the era of experience, where everything we do – online & offline – is delivering an experience to the client or prospect.
·       “Our customers count on us to know who they are and what they expect, and then to deliver on it. We’re not the ones who are setting their expectations. Every other transaction they have is setting their expectation for us.”
·       We have an unbelievable opportunity to identify new communities to engage in—to learn and to educate and to contribute value. Take this opportunity for easy access to the information you’ve always longed for and needed. You can get it by engaging and being partners in online communities.
Project CAP (Chip Bacciocco, CEO)
·       IIABA and six carriers established Project CAP to help independent agents and our distribution system be more visible on the Internet and to support agencies’ digital marketing efforts.
·       Chip Bacciocco, Project CAP’s new CEO, urged agencies to sign up for the consumer portal as it starts to roll out across the states this Spring. The portal will give online consumers an alternative to the direct carriers, because they will be able to generate quotes from multiple carriers and select a participating independent agent. Participating agencies will receive exclusive leads. The portal will target attractive prospects for agents, not nonstandard business. It will also include agent ratings and reviews, which can be a great tool for agencies to attract more prospects, if they rate well.
·       Agents also were encouraged to take advantage of CAP’s industry portal now to get some great digital marketing tips and to access different levels of online marketing support depending upon their needs. Project CAP’s blog provides regular tips and content ideas. Agents can also access free webinars, such as a recent one on Google+ Local.
·       Mary Agather, Chip’s colleague, said every agency should sign up for local search, such as on Google+ Local. He said he was aware of 700 agencies which are now being found on Google’s first page, because of their participation on Google+ Local.
·       Chip said CAP wants to work with multiple technology vendors, and may use different systems depending on the state. He added that thus far, CAP is working with EZLynx to provide comparative quoting capability on the consumer portal.
·       Spencer Houldin, a member of the IIABA Executive Committee and liaison to the ACT Committee, said that Project CAP is a major initiative of the IIABA in order to regain market share for the Independent Agency System and he asked carriers to support the effort by participating in the Consumer Portal and encouraging their agencies to sign up for the portal and to take advantage of the digital marketing services available from Project CAP.
·       The Consumer Portal will closely tie with the Trusted Choice® brand and an aggressive marketing plan will be pursued to raise the visibility of both on the Internet. Major elements of the marketing plan include search engine optimization, paid online advertising and aggressive public relations efforts.
·       While Project CAP can provide important support to an agency’s online marketing efforts, the agency needs to be actively engaged as well, so that the online identity that is created for the agency reflects the personality of the agency and differentiates the agency. In addition, the agency needs to gear its infrastructure so that it is ready to serve the online consumer, who will need to be contacted promptly 24/7 and will be looking for other online services and mobile capability from the agency.
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