A friend of mine noted that since the county put lane barriers on highway 97, it changed the pattern of deer migration. He’s a hunter. So he adjusted the pattern of his annual hunting expedition. Darn. He had a good thing going. He used to go where his dad and uncle hunted. Year after year after year. But he adjusted. And he’s having venison for dinner. He’s also an insurance broker. And he’s had a tougher time adjusting his “hunting” behavior there. Even though the stakes are much, much higher.
It used to be his dad’s agency. Now it’s his. And he’s finding it increasingly hard to connect with the modern consumer. But, as the saying goes – so to speak – “it’s not your dad’s insurance agency anymore.”
But, clearly, the insurance consumer’s behavior has changed. Radically.
A few examples…
81% of consumers research online before shopping.
71% of adults use Facebook.
Of course, the buzz in insurance marketing these days is all about millennials. And, it should be.
But, lest you’re thinking that millennials are the challenging ones to connect with, don’t ignore the radically shifting behavior of Baby Boomers.
Boomers spend more time online than millennials(!).
More than half of the boomer population spends 15 or more hours online a week. That is more than their kids do.
The question no longer is, “are consumers really changing?” The question is, “are independent agents & brokers going to keep up?”
Unfortunately, as the venture capital community scans the insurance environment – and they are now more than ever – where are they placing their bets?
Not on the agency sector. Too slow to change. They’re putting their money on innovative digital start-ups
Is there hope?
Absolutely. Agency Revolution has undertaken a comprehensive field study of what the most successful agents & brokers are doing to grow today. We’ve identified 7 Principles of Success.
This is Success Principle #1: Agency-brokerage leadership must take responsibility for marketing.
No. That doesn’t mean they need to DO everything. Not anymore than the old school leader used to “do” all the production or “do” all the customer service…and so forth.
But they must look at the world as it is – eyeball to eyeball – make a serious assessment of how that world operates and how it has changed. And “own” their marketing.
Fear does strange things to people. And – as much change as there is in the wind – this is not a time for agency ownership to be afraid. They must be strategic. Ultimately, decisive. And they have to organize the resources in their agency sufficiently to be able to execute.
Here are 5 Critical Leadership Decisions that owners and other agency/brokerage leaders must make.
- Again, they have to “own” their marketing. First of all, it helps to understand that “marketing” is not the same as advertising. It’s not “doing” your Facebook or Pinterest or, for that matter, “doing” anything. It’s taking responsibility for creating the complete customer journey, that takes the customer from their usual greeting (“I want a quote.”) to their highest and deepest level of loyalty and lifetime value. In a nutshell it means that agency-brokerage ownership takes responsibility for the growth of the firm – with the complete understanding that if other firms can grow (and they are), then they can, too.
- Leadership can’t do everything. They must delegate. But they can’t passively fall back on old models of agency structure or habit. It’s insufficient and ultimately dangerous for today’s insurance leader to say, “I don’t understand the modern consumer,” or, “I don’t understand modern insurance marketing,” therefore blindly letting someone else do it. In a nutshell, agency ownership has to delegate. NOT abdicate. Delegate.
- Leadership must adjust the strategy with the times. In the age of the modern consumer, that means that they just might have to do some things differently than they did in the 1990’s. Or even the 2000’s. I sympathize with so many agents who feel that this isn’t what they signed up to do. My sympathy won’t buy you any clients, however. It won’t boost your retention. It won’t grow your agency. Times are different. You have to be different, too.
- Agency-brokerage leadership must commit to understanding a few key, fundamental basics about marketing and communicating in the modern age. They do not need to be technicians. They do need enough knowledge to manage the technicians though. It’s common for seasoned insurance brokers to be more than a little overwhelmed by the fast moving river known as “the internet.” At a minimum, they must understand that online marketing divides into three fairly distinct media, and that each one has a different purpose:
- Your website. This is the online real estate you “own.” A serious commitment to SEO will help you attract customers. A serious commitment to content will help provide valuable information for your existing customers.
- Social media. You don’t own this real estate. But, your marketplace is there, listening. A serious commitment can help you attract new customers, and it can help you engage your existing customers.
- Marketing automation. This is your communication platform. A powerful enough marketing automation system will increase your conversion ratio, boost your referrals, bump your retention and generate more revenue per customer.
- Leadership must make sure the firm executes on strategy. Once decisions are made, brokerage leadership must make sure the firm follows through. I say this because I’ve seen far too many principals fail on the most critical stage of strategy: getting things done. Sorry, but that’s pitiful. Nobody has ever argued my core point: that meaningful relationships are built on meaningful communications. But, the handful of leaders who wait, postpone or seemingly “forget” to communicate, fail their firm and their customers. When their customers go looking, they probably will find a better place to go.
The big picture. Consumers have changed their behavior. To ignore that is to ignore reality. The tools exist that will allow you to communicate with them. To add value to their lives and businesses. To earn their trust.
Use your tools!