Members of the Certified Professional Insurance Agent Society attended an educational National Sales & Marketing Education Conference March 7-10 in San Diego.
With a smaller-than-anticipated turnout, attendees had the opportunity to take advantage of the intimate gathering and to come away better informed, yet more relaxed.
The event kicked off Thursday morning with keynote speaker George Nordhaus, founder and chairman of Los Angeles-based Insurance Marketing and Management Services. In addition to being a well-known speaker on industry issues, Nordhaus has written eight books on sales and marketing.
During his speech, Nordhaus shared his insights and observations regarding the state of the industry. “The Internet is disappearing…and what I mean is that it is ubiquitous…we’ll all soon have it,” he said, explaining that there are seven new people logging on to the Internet every second. Nordhaus stressed the importance of every agency having its own website. “And your website has to be dynamic or people won’t come back,” he said.
Jack McMahan, president and CEO of Boulder, Colo.-based Baetis Inc., a provider of customer relationship management systems serving the insurance and financial services industries, shared his insights on the agent/customer relationship with CPIA members. “We can all be experts, but we can miss expectations of the relationship,” he told the group. “Relationship management…that’s the role of independent agents.”
According to McMahan, successful marketing must begin with understanding the customer. He told CPIA members that the Baetis philosophy is much like that of a fisherman’s. “Fly fishermen know that success lies in building a balanced, integrated system that is based upon specific conditions and target objectives…trout fishermen select the appropriate tackle for the kind of fish they wish to catch and the current feeding conditions…this creates a balanced system which maximizes the chances of success.”
In short, independent agents need to satisfy the customer. “Understand what is important to them,” McMahan said. “Share information and take an active measure to let them know what they’re fishing for.”
In the Company Executives Panel, J. Douglas Robinson, president and CEO of Utica National; and Karlyn Ippolito, assistant vice president of marketing for Atlantic Mutual Companies; discussed the future of carrier support in the sales and marketing efforts of independent agents.
“Sales is persuading someone to do something they don’t want to do,” Robinson said. He said that today’s changing demographics have led to new consumers having new expectations. The market is beginning to demand efficiency, according to Robinson. As a result, he shared his number one success tip for agents, and that is: “to be open for business more than 23 percent of the time.”
Ippolito highlighted issues that companies are dealing with today. These issues, she said, include: the nature of the partnership, technology and channel conflict, continued consolidation, and niche players.
Friday’s program included a breakout session, “Branding Your Agency’s Value,” presented by Peter van Aartrijk Jr., founder and managing director of The van Aartrijk Group LLC, based in Alexandria, Va. His firm provides communication services that build brands for insurers, associations and technology companies. The seminar was designed to help agents and brokers build their brand.
“A brand is a relationship between customers and a product…it is a promise of quality,” van Aartrijk said, explaining that in order to be successful at branding, agents need to define their agency. According to van Aartrijk, there are three P’s of branding: personality, presence and performance. “The strongest brands have all three,” he added.
There are steps that agents can take to make their brand the best that it can be. “Your brand is the most valuable asset you have to manage,” van Aartrijk said. “Build a presence…cross-sell programs…use direct mail pieces…a good brand allows you to talk about value, not price.” With some new marketing tools and insights under their belts, attendees wrapped up a successful conference.
Founded in 1968 as the Fire Mark Society, the CPIA Society is dedicated to providing sales training, networking and marketing innovation to property/casualty insurance professionals.
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