It’s self-defeating to believe that the independent agency universe is a legacy sales system that’s floundering in the age of mobile media. As a reaction to this unwarranted fear of obsolescence, some agents seek remedies from outside of their environs and experience — and overlook more local cures.
Viable solutions often reside within the agency itself. Successful selling requires knowledge and self-assurance — primed by effective marketing. Combine these three core elements to strengthen your resolve and your competitiveness.
Below are six basic boosts to distinguish your agency.
Tout Savings. You, too, can offer desirable discounts. But, don’t just search for policy credits at the point of sale and then forget about them forever. Demonstrate to your insured that you value their account as much at renewal time as you did when you first wrote it. Continuously look for additional discounts to engender goodwill and to reinforce your worth.
Provide Periodic Reviews. Face-to-face (or voice-to-voice) insurance needs reviews distinguish your office from faceless Internet marketers. You can also employ tailored questionnaires for your insureds to complete. Most consumers and businesses initially buy from you for your expertise, so offer clients the opportunity to take advantage of your skills as their renewal date approaches. Don’t rely on automatic increases and carrier-only communications to fulfill this need.
Add Agency Services.Online shoppers must manipulate their own coverages and limits to arrive at what they consider to be a palatable premium. You can enhance the insurance shopping experience by offering intelligent options — plus a variety of free or discounted agency services. These extras can add value to your proposal and differentiate you from online rivals. Ask your carriers and managing general agents for viable suggestions. Just make sure that whatever you offer aligns well with your insurance regulator and errors and omissions advisor.
Assign a Service Agent. Make sure that each personal lines insured has one primary agency contact (with a pre-established backup). Forgo the touted efficiency of the first-available representative approach employed by Internet marketers and cable companies. Instead, follow the loyalty-enhancing path of alphabetically assigned reps — or a similar approach — that engenders continuity of service.
Use Your Local Office. As noted in my Jan. 28, 2013 column, “How Independent Agents Can Use ‘Being Local’ to Their Advantage,” use your place of business for more than a workspace; employ it to your agency’s advantage. “It’s something that most national marketers don’t have … Wield it aggressively to demonstrate your connection to the community and to sell in ways that only a locally based operation can.” Host special events to drive office visits from insureds and prospects. Possibilities include policy savings classes, teen driver and retirement seminars, visiting appraisers, and policy organization sessions where people bring in their new and old policies, including those written elsewhere.
Develop Your Own Brand. Build an image for your agency that’s entirely distinct from Internet marketers and your carriers. Trying to mirror either one puts you at a competitive disadvantage, as you’ll have no distinct image of your own. Ditto if you promote your office as a generalist operation that quotes any human or commercial entity. Instead, select your target markets and build your image within each group — using both online and offline media. Targeted branding is more focused and more affordable. Don’t overlook the value of these classic image-building tools: a memorable agency name (not always yours) and an attractive logo. Every successful brand demands both.
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