It’s Time to Think and Act Like a Startup – Again

By | December 15, 2014

It’s almost the New Year and that means a fresh start for every independent agent. But it’s not just the calendar that needs to begin again; your agency needs to as well. It needs to reimagine itself as a startup business, with all of the enthusiasm, creativity, and energy that it entails.

Stay Hungry

Continuous renewal commissions are the building blocks of the agency business, but they can also mask the need for unceasing motion. Agencies must keep prospecting, selling and renewing to stay alive. Being satisfied with your current volume and your present income isn’t the pathway to growth, it’s a direct line to retirement.

Instead of passively living off renewals and referrals, stay just hungry enough to do what’s necessary to keep your business actively growing. There are many ways to accomplish this, including using an asset that every agent possesses, his or her occupational imagination.

The sales and marketing creativity of the independent agent is truly stunning.

Be Imaginative

The power of imagination has kept the agency system intact for more than a century. The sales and marketing creativity of the independent agent is truly stunning. What makes it so amazing is that there is no product to display to potential buyers, only a promise. So, other than the obvious ethical, legal, and errors and omissions (E&O) considerations, resist imposing limits on your office’s promotional activities. This limit-free attitude is how startups drive themselves forward.

Think Like a Startup – Again

Independent agencies compete against multiple rivals, every day, and for nearly every renewal. It’s why you need to think and act like an imaginative, newborn entity.

Startups are the essential drivers of change. These brand new enterprises, while mostly small, have grandiose dreams. They imagine fresh ways to solve existing problems (using technology and other tools) and frequently do so on a shoestring or crowdsourced budget. Such nascent operations are seldom satisfied until they achieve their goals, even if they are unrealistically optimistic.

These firms characteristically charge ahead, using all of the resources and personal connections at their disposal, to stand out in today’s endlessly competitive marketplace.

Get Fired Up

Sure, insurance is a conservative business. But this doesn’t mean you have to be overly conventional. Startups seldom act this way and neither should you. Start the new year thinking of new ways to add new business.

Look for undersold insurance products and offer them to new classes of prospects. Target your marketing efforts instead of being a quote-anything generalist. Cross-sell and upsell what’s needed by your current insureds to help them – and yourself.

Evaluate the vitality and drive of your staff. Inspire and train them in new techniques and technologies. Keep them fresh and motivated just like the employees of startups. Explore new compensation formulas so they can share in the growth they help to spawn.

Re-examine your carrier representation. Work with companies that financially and emotionally support your marketing and sales efforts. Reconsider representing those who actively compete against you.

Pay heed to the growth of digital communications, marketing and service. Make sure your website is contemporary and mobile-friendly. Consider the value of buying a mobile app. Kick-up your social media presence.

Don’t just limit yourself to the digital toolset. There are other effective ways to prospect, to open new doors, to build strong proposals, and to close more sales. Don’t feel archaic if you enjoy using the traditional and tangible. The tools you use to market and sell are never as important as the results. It’s how startups succeed and how grown-ups continue to grow.

About Alan L. Shulman

Alan Shulman, CPCU, is the publisher of Agency Ideas® sales and marketing newsletter (free basic subscription at He is also the author of “500 Sales Ideas for Commercial Lines Producers” among many other P&C sales resources. Email: Website: More from Alan L. Shulman

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Insurance Journal West December 15, 2014
December 15, 2014
Insurance Journal West Magazine

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