The Millennial Connection, Part 2: Engagement


Nearly one quarter of the U.S. population—that’s 83 million individuals—belongs to the millennial generation. This group has a staggering collective buying power of $200 billion and will soon comprise the majority of small business owners in America. 

Clearly, it’s a demographic that deserves the attention of the independent insurance channel… but marketing to Generation Y has defied conventional wisdom to a certain degree.

Our recent Live Webinar Roundtable Attracting Millennials in the Modern Insurance Landscape focused on two aspects of the millennial generation: attracting its members as customers, and as team members. This article recaps our experts’ recommendations for earning the insurance business of millennials.

NOTE: We discuss the panel’s tips for recruiting millennials as employees in a separate article, “The Millennial Connection, Part I: Recruitment

Joel Zwicker of Agency Revolution asked a panel of three industry leaders about winning the hearts of millennials, a group that’s currently between the ages of 24 and 37 years of age.

Our panelists include:

  • Tony Cañas, the Co-Founder of Insurance Nerds and Client Advisor & National Territory Manager at The Jacobson Group, the nation’s largest insurance staffing firm. Tony is a respected young thought leader in the insurance industry and one of the leading advocates for engaging the millennial generation. InsNerds delivers insight and advice to the industry.
  • Christopher Cook, the Owner & President of Alliance Insurance Services, an agency he founded in 2004. When Christopher put a young insurance professional in charge of his agency’s marketing, something happened: people engaged with the marketing, greater numbers of millennials began seeking coverage with the agency, and retention climbed steadily.
  • Matt Masiello, the CEO of SIAA and President & CEO of SAN Group, a national Alliance that consists of nearly 13% of all independent agencies in the United States. Matt’s work gives him a unique perspective of what’s impacting the independent agency, and how important it is to engage the millennial generation.

It’s Complicated

There’s a statistic from 2013 that says millennials are 247% more likely to be influenced by blogs and social media, and another from the same source that asserts they are 262% more likely than the average shopper to be influenced by smartphone apps. While these stats are a few years old, they illustrate a fundamental cultural shift that defines Generation Y.

Millennials trust that authentic content is empowering, and they prefer it over outbound, traditional marketing. This drives the content-rich marketing approach that prevails today, with millennials consuming over 25 hours of online information each week and trusting the reviews and recommendations of complete strangers with whom they have common likes and preferences. 

All of this means that the old insurance agent standby, relationship marketing, is a bit more complicated when millennials become the target market. 

Matt Masiello of SIAA and SAN Group explains: “The way we define a relationship as the traditional insurance person versus the way (millennials) define it is very different. They consider their relationships could be around social media, could be around comments on social media, recommendations on social media. They want the relationships, but it may not be a physical face-to-face meeting; it could be digital text, could be done from afar.”

“I think that from a customer standpoint, they still want to have a person to reach out to, but it’s not the same,” he continues. “I don’t think a lot of [millennials] are wanting to walk into an office and sit down to talk to somebody or have the kind of ‘glad hands’ meetings that we’ve had with clients over the years.”

What this means for independent retail insurance agents is that it’s time to adapt to a new way of doing business and advising customers that includes a strong social media presence and availability outside of traditional “banker’s hours”.

Tony Cañas of Insurance Nerds and the Jacobson Group, who is part of Gen Y himself, summarizes millennial expectations, saying, “A lot of millennials are homeowners, have significant assets that do need to be protected, and do need that advice from an [insurance] agent, but what I can definitely tell you is that it has to be the way they want it, in the medium they want it.”

Speaking from his personal experience, he continues: “I definitely don’t want to have to go in person. I try to avoid having to make a phone call. I want to be able to text or Facebook message, and at the time that I want. Basically, it needs to be seamless, regardless of whichever way I reach out. You need to be able to service me in whatever medium that I use.”

Embrace the Technology

Fortunately for today’s independent insurance agents, there are technological solutions to being available on multiple platforms, across all communications tools, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. 

“The technology is out there to do that,” assures Christopher Cook of Alliance Insurance Services. “We just need more agency owners to choose to invest in implementing that technology.”

“There are folks throughout the world that can answer calls and take service requests for your agency at a reasonable price. There are things that we can do that help meet that expectation, and still be the local voice and the local trusted adviser, giving them that service that they want at the time they want it. Maybe that’s at 11:30 at night and they’ve just remembered to add or drop a driver,” he says.

Moderator Joel Zwicker agrees, reminding the audience, “If you want to know your audience, hire your audience. If you want to leverage technology to attract a different audience, bring those people in and ask.”

Masiello echoes the recruitment recommendation, adding, “We talk about [millennials] with technology being native to them. It’s not native to some of us. These folks walk the walk, talk the talk. I think that’s important to help us advance technology.”

Brand Aid

The past two decades have seen a consolidation and a commoditization of insurance along with an accompanying emphasis on price. “We’ve done ourselves a lot of damage, with the direct carriers marketing that insurance is only about price,” states Cañas. 

The silver lining for independent insurance agents who are marketing to millennials is that this group prefers informative content to traditional outbound advertising. They look to thought leaders for guidance and they are 44% more likely to trust experts.

“As independent agencies, we can’t compete with $1.5 billion advertising spend,” notes Masiello. Where we compete is building local brands. The agency of the future will have that local brand being loud and proud.”

With these circumstances, branding and the brand relationship are something the panel agrees is crucial for marketing to the millennial generation. After all, this is the generation that’s known for valuing the experience of shopping more than the thrill of buying. 

“You have to be explicit about your brand,” says Cañas. “You have to be conscious about building it in a positive way. Branding is as important or more than ever, especially because it’s so easy to find reviews both as the consumer and as an employee.”

Summarizes Zwicker: “Your agency’s brand, the experience and the relationship all go together. It needs to be defined for your agency. You need to know what it means to be a client of your agency, and that needs to start not at the point of sale, but at that prospect, what you’re saying to the world on social, right through the entire process to that person who has been a client for 15 years. If you’re looking for the solution to help define the customer journey, Agency Revolution and our suite of solutions can absolutely be part of that.”

* * *

Part one of this blog series summarizes our panelists’ discussion about recruiting millennials into the insurance field. To listen to the entire conversation between Tony Cañas, Christopher Cook, Matt Masiello, and Joel Zwicker, check out “Attracting Millennials in the Modern Insurance Landscape” on the Agency Revolution blog page. And, for year-round insight and inspiration about insurance agency marketing, subscribe to Agency Revolution’s Connected Insurance Podcast with the form on the sidebar of this page.