Strong Brand Leads List of Critical Marketing Factors for Agents

June 17, 2010

Carrier marketing support matters to independent agents — and having a strong carrier brand is considered especially important. High brand recognition matters more to agents handling personal lines, but is also important to those focused on commercial lines. Agents also value the sales training that carriers provide to their producers and their customer service staff as well.

These are some of the emerging findings in the just-published survey “2010 Survey of Agent-Carrier Relationships,” which polled about 1,500 agencies in nearly every state and asked questions about various aspects of their relationships with the carriers they represent. The survey drills down into the specifics of important issues such as claims service quality, field representative performance, and underwriting appetite.

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Out of 25 overall carrier factors, personal lines agents ranked brand recognition fifth on the list, after competitive pricing, claims service, financial strength, and agency compensation. Brand recognition ranked ninth out of 25 for commercial lines agents.

“Carriers who have invested in generating high brand awareness make the sales process easier for agents,” said Kevin Jenné, research director for Channel Harvest, which conducted the survey. “Customers accept known brands more easily, and agents then can focus the conversation on policyholder needs.”

As one agent in the survey said, “As an agent I do not have to spend time explaining that the company is reliable.”

What Makes a Carrier’s Marketing Support Superior?

After brand recognition, agents appreciate carriers who provide sales training for producers and also for CSRs. This training was equally important to personal and commercial lines agents. Several agents praised sales training programs as reasons they considered particular carriers superior in marketing support.

For example, an agent said State Auto’s “Pace Setter program is the superior producer training program in the industry.”

Another high-value area for agents involved getting carrier help on using their agency Web sites to bring in more business.

One agent singled out Met Life as superior in marketing support because it “offers frequent Webinars on marketing including social networking and Web site optimization, including offering a co-op program to pay for Web site optimization.”

Safeco also received kudos for “a fantastic program they offer for their agents called Bricks and Clicks which teaches how to effectively use Internet marketing tools and social media.”

About the Survey

The survey was sponsored by Insurance Journal and conducted by Channel Harvest — a partnership between Aartrijk and Campbell Communications. Insurance Journal has reported other selected findings of the survey, such as agents’ opinions on claims service quality and field representatives, in previous articles.

The survey instrument covered more than 100 separate questions. A total of 1,498 agents responded to the survey and passed validation criteria. For most general questions in the survey, the number of responses yielded a margin of error of 3 percent at a 95 percent confidence level. Quantitative survey results are presented in a variety of formats, including importance rankings of specific carrier attributes, industry issues, and open-ended agency comments about what breaks superior carriers out from the pack.

The study “2010 Survey of Agent-Carrier Relationships,” is the third in a Channel Harvest series tracking agents’ views on issues in the insurance marketplace. For more information on purchasing the survey report, contact Peter van Aartrijk at peter@Aartrijk.com.

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