Understanding your own agency is just as important as understanding the people and businesses that you hope to engage.
The key is understanding your agency from the customer perspective. You need to understand what customers will perceive as distinctive about your agency and why it matters to anyone who might want to do business with you. Independent agencies, unlike many captives and direct writers, can craft personalized stories and control telling those stories at every point of service.
Step 1. Define who you are
This step requires careful consideration. It’s not about what you are — an independent agency operating in X town, with X years experience and X dollars in revenue. This is about the who of your story — what you stand for and how you serve the customer differently than any other agency.
It’s best to set aside some time off-site with your agency leadership to give this assignment the focus it deserves.
- Have one moderator to direct discussion.
- If you can, engage a marketing partner or outside consultant to moderate. It provides an objective perspective to challenge you and ensure that you consider how your definitions translate to the customer.
There are no wrong answers. The only misstep comes from not taking the time to know what you stand for or in failing to communicate your findings and message to everyone at your agency.
Once you’ve defined who you are, give everyone in your agency the information and tools to understand your culture, core values, vision and mission, and goals.
Ask and answer these questions, which will affect the productivity, ethics and performance of all employees. They will also help you find and hire the right kinds of employees for your firm.
- How should we approach business?ow should we approach business?
- What type of day-to-day environment do we want to create? For instance, are we buttoned-up and business-serious, or do we have a more laid-back, personal approach?
Defining your values will help you make business decisions large and small – from recruiting employees to deciding what types business you should pursue.
- What’s important to us? What do we believe in?
- Here are some values to consider. Add others to customize your list:
- Giving back to the community
- Getting to know customers on a personal level
- Work-life balance
- Continuing education
- Hard-nosed negotiations
- No-nonsense, fact-based proposals
- Market prestige
- Superior Customer Service
- Creative Online Presence
Vision and Mission
Your vision statement should declare what you want to accomplish for your customers and your community. It should be far-reaching and not limited by product descriptors or narrow parameters.
Your mission statement spells out what you need to do to deliver on the vision.
Solutions for a small planet
At IBM, we strive to lead in the invention, development and manufacture of the industry's most advanced information technologies, including computer systems, software, storage systems and microelectronics.
We translate these advanced technologies into value for our customers through our professional solutions, services and consulting businesses worldwide.
To make people happy
The Walt Disney Company's objective is to be one of the world's leading producers and providers of entertainment and information, using its portfolio of brands to differentiate its content, services and consumer products. The company's primary financial goals are to maximize earnings and cash flow, and to allocate capital profitability toward growth initiatives that will drive long-term shareholder value.
To be the worldwide leader in retail
We save people money so they can live better.
To be the food company of choice
To drive sustainable growth through the power of our people and brands by better serving the needs of our consumers, customers and communities.
To fill the earth with the light and warmth of hospitality
We will be the pre-eminent global hospitality company – the first choice of guests, team members and owners alike.
Establish two or three long-term goals, defining what you want to accomplish in the next three to five years. Setting goals will help prioritize tactics and identify where to focus agency resources.
Be sure goals are measurable. Examples below. Add others to customize for your agency:
- Number of new accounts
- Revenue growth
- Percent growth
- Retention rate
- New markets to enter
- Number of new hires in the next year
- Organic growth
- Community involvement
- Technology advancements
Step 2. Market your difference
If any part of your sales message — company logo, marketing materials, even your name — doesn’t highlight what you defined in Step 1, it may be time for change.
What to do? Find a marketing expert and collaborate to develop a plan.
A professional marketer or marketing firm can help you reach your target markets
with a clear, concise message that attracts potential clients. You’ll also learn about the best way to reach those potential clients — be it online or through advertising, public relations, trade shows or presentations.
Important: Make sure once you commit to this investment that you have sufficient staff in place to manage your marketing and to monitor consistent message delivery.
Step 3. Be consistent
You might often become bored with your message or feel you need to constantly change what you’re saying.
Fact is, your customers aren’t paying enough attention for you to say something only a few times. Ads are where they’ve always been — TV, radio, billboards — but now they also scroll across your computer screen, wrap around vehicles, play at the gas pump and project on the floor of your favorite retail store. You can even read ads imprinted on grocery receipts and even on your eggs. To get noticed, you need to repeat, repeat, repeat.
Message consistency is key. Same core message, same tone, same colors, same personality, same look, same logo. That is how you break through and develop top-of-mind awareness so that someone who is ready to hear your sales pitch will call or otherwise get in touch.
Step 4. Serve
Service is a mindset, and it’s everyone’s job.
Yes, your agency is in the insurance industry — but you should also consider it part of a service industry. When you approach every decision considering how it best serves the customer, then you will see true transformation and growth.
As an industry, we’ve got some work to do. The Ernst & Young 2012 Global Consumer Insurance Survey, Voice of the Customer, found that 39 percent of American customers agree or strongly agree that the insurance industry lags behind other industries in service, and 37 percent are neutral on the topic. Those two categories represent 76 percent of total respondents. The survey points out that even though there’s an increase in online customer research, “the majority of consumers still want personal interaction when actually making a purchase, stating that products are too complicated and they don’t know which products meet their needs.”
How can you become more service oriented? Ernst & Young concludes that insurers need to become as customer-focused as other consumer businesses and deliver a genuinely customer-centric experience.
The research recommends you:
- Provide simple and transparent products that customers can buy with confidence.
- Make it easy to access relevant products and information throughout the product life cycle, particularly online.
- Build trust by delivering a great customer experience and responding to customers’ changing needs throughout the life cycle.
- Reward customer loyalty.
This kind of service approach must be followed by everyone in your firm. Anyone can sell a policy. It’s how you service the policy and take care of the customer after the sale that matters. Take care of your customer first, and your business will benefit.