Marketing in today's Independent Agencies, becomes more important than ever. Direct carriers continue to pour millions of dollars into major marketing campaigns to create brand awareness and gain market share. Sometimes we might catch ourselves thinking "Can we even compete?" The answer is "Yes, we can". By using the capabilities of email marketing, social media, and text messaging we can produce effective campaigns built to retain current clients and attract new clients. Of course, content is also a major player in this marketing endeavor. Providing effective content is important when communicating with clients and potential clients in today's social media dominated world.
Ten years ago, our major marketing effort might have been an ad in the yellow pages with some local newspaper ads. Twenty years ago, if someone wanted to find an insurance agent they would probably have gone first to the yellow pages. Today with the growth of the internet, 70% of insurance prospects now use internet search engines to research insurance options before making a purchase. More people are turning to the internet and away from former traditional advertising means to find information on products and services.
A firm example of the ability to have a marketing impact using social media and other web-based tools is with "Rhett and Link". Today we find Rhett and Link two gentlemen from North Carolina, creating an internet buzz with their songs and YouTube comedy videos. Since their new
found fame, they have appeared on Conan, Jay Leno, and Last Call with Carson Daly. As of this writing, they have their own YouTube channel and are receiving millions of hits on YouTube and over 155,000 likes on Facebook. You might ask yourself, "what can we do as Independent Agents to create a buzz about our agency and our services?" Well, I am here to inform you about a product that allows your agency to create marketing campaigns with insurance specific content and have it delivered automatically at scheduled times. That product is AgencyBuzz by ITC. As you may be aware, ITC is a XXX Partner with the IIANC. Providing insurance specific websites and marketing products for agents across the country.
AgencyBuzz provides the ability to create mailers with insurance specific content that can be delivered to your clients at set times and meeting a set criteria. For instance you can create a mailing for new business customers that first thanks them for their business and also gives them information about your service. You could also create another email to go out three days later asking them to fill out an online survey. Survey responses are kept within AgencyBuzz. Survey results can be viewed as a group with graphical presentations of the results as well as giving the agency the individual results. Using AgencyBuzz will creat a persoanl touch to your clients thus helping to increase your retention and close ratios. Some of the features of AgencyBuzz are as follows:
Features of AgencyBuzz
Social Media - Adding your social media networks such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn can be done by simply clicking them from a drop down menu. Once added, you can send posts to all your social media networks by simply typing in the message or associated link and click send. If you need to schedule the post for a date in the future, you just select the schedule post button and select the date and time. The post will automatically be sent at the date and time you selected. Most importantly, content is provided based on current events, holidays, or insurance specific content. So you no longer need to worry about "What can I post today?".
Contact Section - You can take the contacts from your agency management system and export them to a comma delimited file (CSV) for import directly into AgencyBuzz. Once imported, you can create distribution list for birthdays, mono line policies, cross selling and others. In the Product section you can select the customers product interests. For each product type, you have several entries; None, Prospect, Customer, or Lost. This data can be used to create distribution lists to help your agency cross sell accounts. Another area AgencyBuzz excels is tracking the system logs. Each marketing delivery method is logged along with mail opens, bounces, and unsubscribe. All of this information is stored in the customer's notes section of the product for your review. You can also add your own note and classify the note by the type of note entered. You will see all of the notes displayed on the screen.
Texting - Providing the ability to send text messages to your clients is easy. You just set up the message you want to send and select the distribution list. The text message is delivered automatically to the recipient. This is a great way to notify customers of emergency notices, payment issues, or a simple thank you.
Ever thought about delivering a message to your clients around a Holiday or Birthday? You can record a message to be sent to your selected list of contacts directly from AgencyBuzz.
One of the best features of AgencyBuzz is the ability to create your own survey to send to your clients or prospects. You could create a claims survey that would be sent to every client that reported a claim. In this survey you could ask questions like, "How was our service?", "Did the carrier contact you in a timely manner?", or "Were you satisfied with the results?" Each question is logged and the data is aggregated to show responses over time, so you can acquire a better understanding of your claim service. Each response can be evaluated.
Events give the agency the ability to create emails, text messages, voice calls, or surveys on a one time or drip campaign. You can set up the campaign to run with different types of media over a course of time. You could create a new business campaign that is setup to provide your new customer with information about the agency and gain their feedback on their experience. First you might send out a text message thanking them for their business. Over the next two days, an email would be sent giving them information about the agency and agency staff. Maybe a week later they would receive a survey asking them about their experience with your office. (This can be valuable information for agency owner's.) Finally, you could send a voice message again thanking them for their business and reiterating your agency's service.
Content - In the mailing or social media area of AgencyBuzz, you will find insurance related content to select from. In the mailing content area, you can select from Lines of Business including, Annuities, Automobile, Commercial, Flood, General, Health, Homeowners, Life, Motorcycle, Pet, Renters, Umbrella, and Watercraft. You also have categories for Seasonal and Holiday content. In the Social Media arena you also have the availability to select from current event content as well as those mentioned previously.
Using AgencyBuzz keeps you in touch with your clients on a regular basis and helps to improve your retention, close ratios, provide specific insurance related content for your clients and prospects and gives your agency the ability to create a useful marketing plan with voice, email, texting and surveys. It also, provides the social media tie-in to reduce the time your agency spends on posting information. So, can we compete with the direct carriers? Yes, we can!
If you would like more information on developing a marketing program or improving your social media awareness, please give me a call.
Personal Lines Rating: Is It Really Worth It?
Really, does anyone believe Personal Lines Rating and using Real Time is going to benefit our agencies? Don't you remember years ago we tried personal lines rating products and the rates were never accurate? Our customers complained about the inaccurate quotes and we were left to explain the reason. Now our staff can discern which carrier is best for our clients by asking just a few questions. Why would we ever use Personal Lines Rating or even Real Time? Well let's take a quick trip back in time to review how rating worked in the 80's and then progress forward to the way rating works today.
Rating a personal lines policy back in the 80's meant spending a few hours worth of hard labor to produce a quote. Using the tools available to us at that time a calculator and rating charts from the carriers. We produced a quote and then crossed our fingers and hoped the carrier came back with the same premium. As we moved into the 90's, vendors started to develop manufactured rates. Manufactured rates were created by gathering the rating criteria from the carrier and trying to recreate the rate to the best of the vendors ability. Most of the time these were somewhat accurate, but usually not 100% correct.
Today, technology has greatly improved providing us with the ability to rate with our management systems in real time. Also, rating vendors have produced systems that provide real time rating with most carriers. This allows the agent to enter the personal lines information into the rating system once and receive rates from multiple carriers. The big question is are the rates correct? Yes, the rates will reflect the information that the agent places into the system. Information placed into the system is transferred to the carrier site where it is used by the carrier system to calculate a rate. Once the rate is calculated, it is sent back to the vendor's system. Today, there are many reasons agencies should review Personal Lines Rating systems. Here are just a few you should consider.
Workflow Efficiency - Most systems today have the ability to pull vehicle and driver information from a data-warehouse. The time it takes to input a standard auto policy with two vehicles and three drivers is around fifteen minutes per carrier. If your staff takes the time to rate with three carriers, you will spend forty-five minutes on one single auto quote. By pulling the vehicle and driver information into the system automatically, this process is reduced to an average of eight minutes.
Also, by populating the vehicle and driver information your staff eliminates additional phone calls. Have you ever asked a client for their spouse's date of birth and they don't remember? You have to make a call to their spouse to ask them for that information because they don't want to admit they forgot. By pulling the information, both input time and the time it takes to gather correct data are reduced.
Rating systems provide one interface, so your staff does not need to learn every carrier system to request a quote. This reduces the time it takes to provide your customer with multiple accurate quotes, and eliminates the issue of remembering all the carrier passwords and login time.
Data Pre-Fill - Data pre-fill gives you the ability to pre-fill limits to help reduce the time it takes to input the data. Some systems supply a drop down menu to select the appropriate limit without having to type the information, thus reducing keystrokes and saving valuable time and improving the accuracy of the data.
Single Entry - Double entry of data is another huge consumer of time for our staff. With the continued improvement in technology and integration between rating systems and management systems, many rating systems can export quote data to the management system preventing double entry. In most cases, this also allows for the carrier downloaded policy to be automatically attached into the management system preventing the agency staff from having to manually attach the policy.
Internet Access - On-line rating systems allow your staff to quote from anywhere they have an internet connection. Meeting your client at your local coffee shop you can provide a quote on the spot and finish your cup of java. Double espresso for me please.
Multiple Accurate Quotes - You have the ability to provide your client with multiple quote scenarios at the click of a button. How many times has our client asked after we have finished the quote, "what would the price be if we changed the deductible?". Or better yet, what if they are car shopping and ask for another quote on another vehicle? Our staff might cringe and go home. Most personal lines rating systems allow for changes by just selecting a new deductible from a drop down menu and hitting the rate button. In a few seconds, you have the new quote.
In most agencies that you are not using Real Time Rating either with their management system or a rating vendor, you will hear this statement; "After speaking with our clients, we know where to place their coverage.". With the new tiering structures most carriers have migrated to, today it is even more difficult to know where someone is best placed without actually running a quote with the carriers. What better way to service our clients than to quote their policy with multiple carriers and present them with the best quote for the best coverage.
As Independent Agents, we offer freedom of choice for our customers by providing them with multiple quotes. Using the capabilities of personal lines rating and real time, we also reduce the time it takes to provide multiple accurate quotes for our clients. If your agency is not using a personal lines rating solution today, I would recommend you review the solutions that are available. Free up your staffs time so they can sell more and provide better customer service.
So to answer the question, "Is Personal Lines Rating Really Worth It? Yes, it is!