Here we go again — another cycle for having marketing representatives, or not.
Let’s talk about the way it was and the way it is now. Actually, what was and what is now is basically the same as far as what a marketing person does for his/her company. We visit agents on behalf of our company to sell their wares, talk about new products, explain procedures, take complaints and try to develop lasting relationships.
Once those relationships are established, either party may or may not leave their respective employer, but it’s likely the relationship will follow wherever they go. That was one of the first things my marketing training manager taught me. Like me, he still has relationships with agents that go back over 40 years and continue to follow him from company to company.
I’m not sure new marketing people today are taught the benefits of these long-lasting relationships. But I believe such relationships are as important today as they ever have been and will remain so. After all, though we use computers for almost everything we do, insurance is basically a people business. It is important to be able to pick up a phone and speak with a real person to deliver a personal touch.
I have had the responsibility of managing people, including marketing representatives, so I’m aware of how difficult it can be to justify the importance of marketing staff when you are trying to keep the company’s bottom line on track. It is a lot easier if you understand how a marketing rep works. We are not normally 40-hour workers. While we may wish that were so, a 60- or 70-hour work week is more the norm. The hours we work are a given and we don’t mind. That’s because we can see the results of our work. That’s what actually drives a good marketing person.
A marketing person’s worth can’t be judged solely by premium numbers, because those also relate to the ups and downs of the market. You want to be able to look at the number of calls they make, the organizations they belong to, and the luncheons, conventions, dinners and meetings they attend. You can see the increase in submissions and premiums, and the increase in calls right after they visit, and other things.
When the numbers are going in the right direction — up — credit often is given to the underwriters and brokers – everyone but the marketing people. That’s when a company may decide that, in order to save the cost of a salary, they can do without a marketing rep.
But a company that takes that step also takes the chance of losing a lot of ground work that can take years to make up. And it doesn’t take long to see the change in a company that has gotten rid of its marketing staff. The number of new agents appointed falls, premiums numbers go down and perceptions of the company change. So, the company opts to send its underwriters/brokers out to make agency calls, taking them away from their busy desks. Then, complaints start to come in when the underwriter/broker can’t be as quick with a response because he/she is out of the office. The company begins to lose business because of bad service.
This may go on for several years until someone has the bright idea of hiring a marketing person to go out and advertise their name, sell their products, solve their problems, meet new agents, etc. This was true during the last cycle and is happening again in a new cycle.
If you have a marketing rep who isn’t doing their job, that’s a totally different subject. However, think seriously and do some research before you decide to save the salary of a marketing person. Maybe they just need someone to train them. In other words, don’t cut your nose off to spite your face.
This opinion was originally published in the Jan. 21, 2019 issue of Insurance Journal Magazine.
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