Agency hires marketer… hits 34% growth: lessons learned
If you’re seeking growth and have time for one conversation, this is exactly what you’re looking for. Christopher Cook, Owner & President of Alliance Insurance Services shares what he did to hit 34% year-over-year growth – and what he’s learned along the way.
- A recent survey by Safeco revealed that 56% of agencies surveyed had some form of ‘marketer’ on staff. This very new industry role has transformed the way agencies grow. Chris shares what he’s learned about this ‘revolutionary’ new position.
- Specifics! Chris generously reveals the projects and assignments that his marketer works on for his agency, and why.
- Video, email, social, web, marketing automation, and more… find out which technologies Chris is getting the most benefit from.
Please don’t miss this conversation with one of the insurance industry’s most respected marketers, and most successful SEO experts. Listen today and get ideas you’ll put into practice tomorrow!
What are other agents & brokers doing to thrive? What are the biggest trends affecting the retail insurance agent & broker? What are the most important strategies and tactics you need to grow faster? Find out here in the Connected Insurance Podcast, where Michael Jans discusses the biggest issues affecting the independent insurance agent and broker with the industry’s leading figures.
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Micheal: Christopher, thank you so much for joining us. How are you?
Christopher: I’m great, Michael. Thank you so much for giving me a call. Good to join you.
Micheal: Well, I’m pleased and I want to give a little heads up to the audience why we’re having this conversation right now. Number one, it started when Agency Revolution’s chief of product, chief engineer on the Agency Revolution side of the business, he had a conversation with you and frankly, he was impressed with your use of the technology and your understanding of how- what a power user can do.
Then you and I talked and it was quite obvious you had something to share. Now I also had an interview with your marketer and that was an outstanding podcast. I got a lot of great feedback on that. I thought, “This is terrific.” Now I get to talk to the agency principal, sharing your perspective. Of course, when you said, “Yes, it was a pretty good year, we had 34% top-line growth.” I thought, “Okay, this is a story that we need to share”. [laughs] Does it make sense?
Christopher: Yes, it does. It was an amazing opportunity to meet Lucas and talk with him and certainly, 2018 was an amazing year for our agency. Yes, I look forward to the conversation.
Micheal: Here is how I want to break this conversation down. Obviously, I want to get your background story and how you get to be where you are now, but then I thought it would be useful to do why and then how. In other words, why are you doing things differently perhaps than you were shown? Or then the industry is practice previously and, of course, there are some things that you’re doing the same that you’re holding onto.
Then how do you get that 34% top-line organic growth? Let’s start with Christopher and your story and the story of Alliance Insurance Services.
Christopher: I make it a little won’t long-winded. If you feel like I’m veering off of the track, grabbed me and let’s get back in the right line. My insurance story goes back to really as a young child, I grew up in an insurance family. My mother is a career life insurance agent and that’s what she did as my brother and I grew up. When I graduated from college in 2000, I went to work, had a good job. It was a very demanding job.
I was very satisfied, very well compensated, but I was probably working an average of a hundred hours a week. It was a grind, if you will. I had fallen in love with who is now my wife and my mom looked at me one day and said, “Son, there’s no way she’s going to marry you if you’re going to continue to work 100 hours a week.” We started the conversation in getting into the insurance business and my mother worked for a company.
She wasn’t an agent owner. He was a sales person, a producer. That’s what she liked to do. The years in her life that she was in management roles, she hated. She just wanted to sell [crosstalk]
Micheal: She liked to sell.
Christopher: That’s what she likes to do today even though she’s retired. She would rather sell. I joined my mother at that company, at that life insurance company. I did life insurance for a few years, had this great marketing idea that I was going to go into the local property and casualty agency in the town my wife and I were living in. Tell them that I wanted to be their life resource.
Micheal: You wanted their work to book business?
Christopher: Yes, the owner of that agency said, “Hey, young man, you need to come and join us and I’ll sell you a franchise and you can run this franchise for me and it’ll cost you.” At that point in time was $200,000 a year. Amateurism over 30 years and he’s been very successful with that model, there’s lots of folks that had done it but [crosstalk]
Micheal: Very interesting. You don’t have to name names, is that a state-based franchise model, is that in your state?
Christopher: It is based here in my state of Carolina. Like I said, they’ve had success and that they’re still agents who do very well in their model and they certainly help their folks out. If it wasn’t for me but I learned enough from him and I’m grateful to him because I learned enough from him that I thought, “Yes, you know what, I do need to own a P&C agency.”
For a little over a year, I went home and told my wife, we’re going to open a P&C agency and she said, “Whatever you want to do, I trust you. I’ll support you in everything”. I’m thankful for that relationship. Obviously, we’ve both tried to do our best to help each other along the way. For about a year I talked to different carriers, captive carriers. I talked to independent agents, I talked to adjusters, just did a lot of research, counted it up.
It was a little over a hundred folks I’ve talked to. In June of 2014, we finally opened a P&C agency really was an auto insurance shop. Anyone that I could sell insurance to, if they could fog a mirror then they were customers. We have had some great customers and I had some, what the industry called, nonstandard clients then.
Micheal: Fair enough.
Christopher: Still have some of those folks, they put food on the table for my family for many years. Over time, we have evolved into an agency that might be a dirty word in the industry, but we’re a generalist agency, a hybrid agency, if you will. We are 50% personal lines, 25% life and health, 25% commercial, been named as the best practices agency for the last six years, which is something we are all very, very proud of.
Micheal: Very good.
Christopher: Multiple locations. We just opened our fourth office in January of this year. That’s been part of what we’ve done. This is my third scratch agency, I keep saying every time, I’m never going to do another scratch agency. [crosstalk]
Micheal: These branches that you’re opening up are not acquisitions, they are scratch?
Christopher: Right. We did one acquisition in 2011 and the main driving force time that acquisition was to get a contract with auto owners carrier that my number one carrier agency. We’ll talk a little bit more later about how I met John Jackson, but the location I and John started working with us in with a scratch agency. This newest location was a scratch agency and when I got started, it was a scratch agency.
Micheal: Got it. All right. Real quick summary, the agency itself is, how old? How many years?
Christopher: Fourteen years, being 15 in June.
Micheal: Four locations. How many people are working in the agency now?
Micheal: Fifteen, okay. Scratch agency, not Bad. Now you had said that the last year, amazing year, 34% growth and the thing I wanted to stress about that is that’s organic growth. That’s not acquisitions.
Christopher: That’s right. We did not do an acquisition last year or have an acquisition that attributed to that. That’s correct.
Micheal: I can’t help but think, Christopher, that you looked at the industry, maybe you looked at a consumer behavior, somehow you scan the environment, you decided that there was– Let’s say, you weren’t going to run it the way perhaps others were running agencies and maybe running them successfully since the ’70s, ’80s or ’90s. You decided that you were going to emphasize some differences? Yes?
Christopher: Yes, for sure. I think, I certainly wouldn’t call me a bleeding edge kind of person if anything I’m an old school, knows the grindstone kind of guy, but I firmly believe that you have to be doing the things that your clients ask you to do. The client of today is not the client of the ’70s, ’80s or ’90s. If we’re going to grow, we’ve got to be doing what the clients of today and 2020 and 2030 want us to be doing so that that certainly has contributed to our growth.
Micheal: What do you think is the difference between the clients of today and the clients of the ’80s?
Christopher: I think most of us say this over and over again, or at least have heard it over and over again. A customer, for example, going into a different industry, a customer, myself can go on my phone, pull up my Lift app and know what time the driver’s going to be there. We have an expectation of immediacy and accuracy and professionalism. Certainly, in the ’80s and ’90s, customers expected professionalism, but they were okay if it took you a day or two or more to get them an answer to their question or to provide a proposal or whatever it might be.
They were, to a degree, okay if you made a mistake. Actually, where I was raised you say, “I’m sorry. I’ll fix it. I’m a man of my word”, and you move on with your life. I don’t think those are the same expectations of today or tomorrow’s client.
Michael: Let’s talk about the how. Let’s dig into this. I’ll start with this question. A year and a half or so ago– My timing might be off slightly on this. In my last interview with SAFCO’s member of the executive team, they’d indicated according to their survey I think, at that point, 56% of agencies had marketers. Now the definition of marketers could be pretty soft and squishy, but at least they’d had somebody who’s maybe posting on social media and paying attention to it. It was their job.
It’s their responsibility. Because I interviewed John Jackson and this is how I first got to know your agency. You have a full-time marketer. John’s skill set is up the ladder. He is not just posting Happy Valentine’s Day today. He’s doing some more sophisticated things. My first question is what inspired you to have a full-time marketer? Because I suspect that if you looked around at a lot of your competitors and peers locally, that’s not the case. They don’t have that. You made a fairly considerable investment in it. What was your thinking?
Christopher: Yes, definitely. I try my best to listen to what is going on in the industry. Sometimes I’m a late adopter, but I’m certainly not the last. For say three, four years ago, we were posting on social but there was a whole lot of Happy Valentine’s Day.
Michael: [laughs] Honestly, it was last fall. It’s a very short story and I’m interrupting you. I jumped back on social media after about a year and a half break after I sold the business. It was fall. It was Halloween was right around the corner. I was on my Instagram account and I thought, “Seriously, if I see one more agent just posting Happy Halloween I’m just going to go”, because it’s like, “Can’t we deliver content to people really genuinely care about?” You made that jump. I’m not saying Happy Halloween is bad. The difference between that in meaningful and delightful content is pretty significant. You were doing that stuff and then boom.
Christopher: We were doing that stuff and we were engaging with what our carriers were giving us because our carriers, to my knowledge, had studied this and they thought they had it figure it out. They were providing a whole lot of Happy Halloween and know it’s Veteran’s day, and stuff like that. Along came into out livesJohn Jackson had an opportunity to work together.
John was working in our– At that point, that was our third agency. Second scratch location. He was helping me build and agency here in the town that I work in primarily right now, which is in the county I grew up in. John and I both grew up here. It’s a rural farming type community. Nonetheless, John looked at me one day and said, “Do people really don’t want to see that crap? They want original stuff.” The worst mistake you can make is point out a problem and because then you get to be the one that solves it.
We started asking John to start solving some of those problems. As our relationship evolved, John had an opportunity to move to Philadelphia. That’s something he and his wife wanted to do. That was what’s best for his family. I don’t like to lose good people. John is a great person, a great asset for our agency. We started talking about, “Well, are we going to open an office in Philadelphia? How does that look? Do we have markets? Do we have carriers that want to be in Philadelphia? Do we know anything about it?” Or shouldn’t we just use whatever John best assets are.
That’s one of my- I think, one of the things I do well is try my best to use your talent as a staff member. [crosstalk] solve better. John’s talents are in marketing. He has a masters in Film. He is a super smart guy. He’s very creative. He gets it and he’s intelligent. Speaks intelligently. Can communicate. In an effort to keep to him, I offered John a job being our full-time marketing director. He’s taken it and ran, and improved every day. It’s been a big part of our growth.
Michael: I think important question that some people probably asking is, was John a marketer before in the professional sense that-
Christopher: No, he was a–
Michael: Got it. Boom. Off to Philadelphia, go and learn marketing, like that? [laughs]
Christopher: Pretty much. Here’s some resources. Any of our carriers that will support you. Here’s where you got to do the research. He’s done a lot of these on his own.
Michael: Well, as anybody could tell from the interview that I did with John, I’m quite impressed with him and his capability. Let’s start with that position. Christopher, honest question for you, do you consider yourself a marketer?
Christopher: I understand that an agency my size with an aspiration of growth has to market. I consider myself, personally my strengths to be in relationship and building relationships. I’m a little bit too much aw shucksor too much humble. I place myself in the camera too often and I get a little squeamish about posting things about myself because I feel like it’s bragging and while I know it’s not.
Michael: I get it.
Christopher: It’s just the feeling that enter my mind.
Michael: I get that. One of the reasons I’m asking is because I assume you supervise John.
Michael: Tell me a little bit about how that goes because you’re supervising somebody not only are they in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I think you said you may not see him this entire year except that you have a weekly meeting with him. We’ll get into that. How are you with managing a position that is one, an emerging position that’s gaining definition and maturity in the industry? Two, it’s probably you’re not trained as a marketer. What have you learned about that? I think that’s a really critical question for people.
Christopher: Sure. You have to have results to be successful in a position. I think that’s true no matter the industry or the position. To measure those results, you got to set from I guess most people call them key indicators or key performance indicators. We pick three of four things, retention being the most important one of those in our agency that we were going to measure. Those are things we talk about on a weekly basis. I would say our meetings are made up of more than those three or four KPIs. Those are the things we measure. Provided they’re growing then we’re going to have full-time marketer. I hope [crosstalk]
Michael: All right. Boom. Let’s talk about retention. What kind of activities did you or the agency or John engage in that had a positive impact on your retention?
Christopher: Michael, John’s position in large part had a lot to do with our decision as an agency to go to Agency Revolution.
Michael: Fair enough.
Christopher: Certainly not trying to put you in a bad spot there. It’s been a key component of our success.
Michael: Well, it’s not put me in a bad spot. [laughs]
Christopher: Well, it’s true, a guy like me gets a little– I blush a little bit when people say something good about me. [crosstalk]
Michael: I do too, but I’m willing to suffer through that.
Christopher: Agency Revolution we wanted to be, I guess, what you would define as a power user. If I invest in something, I want to get as much out of that as I can. Oftentimes, my folks would say, “I don’t mind spending $1,000 if we’re going to get $2000 in return.” I don’t want to spend $1 and get 50 cents back.
Michael: Fair enough.
Christopher: As we chose to make the investment in Agency Revolution, I asked John to learn that and learn it wholeheartedly and build it out. We spend a lot of time doing that. That was before I officially handed this digital marketing role to him. That was a big investment. As he has been in the full-time role, he has continued to improve what we do with Agency Revolution. He’s continued to push forward with that team to say, “Hey, we’d like for it to do this or can it do that? Or can we think about this?”
Michael: [laughs] Well, I think what impress Luke washe’s figuring out how far you actually can push technologies.
Christopher: Right, yes.
Michael: John is.
Christopher: Yes, he is. I used Agency Revolution integrates with hot stuff, which is our agency management [crosstalk] Neither one of them yet can you or work with Zapier or send Zaps [crosstalk]
Christopher: Stuff I don’t really know that much about it. I just know the words exist and so that was part of mine. Luke has this conversation with, “Hey, could we create Zaps out of Agency Revolution to trigger other activities?”, that maybe AR don’t want to build out, but they could essentially call the activity that happen.
Michael: Luke said?
Christopher: Yes, we’re going to look at that.
Michael: [laughs] Okay, it’s on the road map. All right. Retention is–
Christopher: [crosstalk] Those types of thing. Agency Revolution has done a good job building our retention. [crosstalk]
Michael: Retention is up and now, are you doing anything like unusual? Because, obviously, that tool itself comes pre-loaded with a lot of content. Is John creating original content as well?
Christopher: He is as well, yes.
Christopher: Something that we’ve had a lot of success with is a video marketing campaign that goes to all our clients. John just re-purposing videos that he’s already shot and we have a monthly video, email it goes to our clients and they opened the email a lot, they watched the video a lot. We feel like those types of things help grow retention.
Michael: Off the top of your head, Christopher, do you know generally what’s your open rate is on the emails?
Christopher: Over 33%. Almost 50% of my videos.
Michael: Wow. That’s crazy. That’s very, very good. This monthly video series, who is the face on the video? Is it you or somebody else?
Christopher: More often you notice it’s John.
Michael: What’s the nature of the content that he’s communicating in the video?
Christopher: Typically informational. What does this type of policy do? What is this commonly used term actually mean? Why might you have a certain type of policy, an umbrella policy or flood policy?
Christopher: Things of that nature.
Michael: Obviously, there’s some things that are easy to measure, like open rate, some things a little more difficult to measure. Like from that video, how many sales did we make? Maybe you are able to track that. Anecdotally, what kind of comments have you noticed clients are bringing to you, bringing to the agency? Because I presume there’s a little bit of a before and after, like, “Gosh, you didn’t use to communicate with us as much. Gosh, now you’re communicating with us a lot and there’s value”. What are people saying to you?
Christopher: Back to your earlier statement, I can’t tell you which video brought me-
Michael: You are right.
Christopher: – [crosstalk] some of the policies and I don’t care. Maybe that’s the wrong opinion because I know some people measure everything, but I look at it more holistically than that. Just last night, I went to watch my nephew play high school basketball and as I was leaving a high school classmate of mine said, “Hey, I liked your most recent video.”
You don’t know the folks who are watching those things, but they are– She happens to be a customer.
I know she’s getting content. Some of our largest customers, I ask, “How do you feel about that? “Hey man, I think it’s great”.They’re honest. I don’t always open them. I don’t always watch him, but when I get a chance it provides value. You’re not sending me hokey stuff. They appreciate it from what I can tell.
Michael: John as marketer, has been in that position roughly for how long?
Christopher: Not quite two years.
Michael: At least in this past year, you’ve seen a significant uptake in your client retention?
Michael: [laughs] I’d be happy to run the numbers for you if we– That 3% over the next 10 years is worth–
Christopher: Quite valuable.
Michael: It’s very, very valuable.
Christopher: What’s that spreadsheet you’ve got? $1 million dollar–
Michael: Now, I’m going to get a lot of requests for it, which is fun and I’m happy to share it. It’s the easy million spreadsheet. Happy to share the easy million spreadsheet.
Christopher: I’ve used it and it’s insightful. I hope your inbox doesn’t get flooded [crosstalk]
Michael: I hope it does. Look, the good news is Michael is flushing his team out too, I’ve got somebody who can take care of it. It’s not that she does all the things you do, but it is valuable. If anybody wants it, fine. Everybody who asked for copies of stuff, I offered a week or two ago. It’s coming, I promise. All right. Honestly, moving forward the goal is to have landing pages for all this stuff, but I’ve got a lot on my plate. Retention up and then now, obviously that isn’t getting us the 34% growth. I’m going to assume that policy per customer count is up and revenue per customer count is up. Is that an accurate assessment?
Christopher: Very, very accurate assessment, yes.
Michael: The agency, like when you and John are meeting, are you designing like a marketing calendar? Do you have a sense like, “In this year, we’re going to cross sell these groups this many times”?
Christopher: John is very much better at that than I.
Michael: Fair enough.
Christopher: I’m going to give you some ideas, expect you to run with it kind of guy. You and I talked about how hard we work and how hard we’ve worked towards our businesses every time. Get up, get out, get after it kind of person and I expect my coworkers to be the same. I don’t review John’s calendar. John has a calendar.
Michael: He has one.
Christopher: [crosstalk] doing that.
Michael: Got it. Generally, when I look at making money in this industry, there are three ways to do it organically. Get more customers, get more revenue per customer keeper clients longer. Boom. Let’s you know about it. We can certainly break it down. It’s pretty simple. Now from that, we look for leverage points within it like, where can we go within each of those three areas to pump them up a little more or using a nice 80, 20 principle? Obviously, you’ve had some growth in new customers. What are you doing there?
Christopher: New customer acquisition, really, this may sound a little hokey, but we’re just asking for a referral.
Michael: Okay, all right. Fair enough.
Christopher: Simple, long standing, long working principle.
Michael: Asking referrals, do you have, what we would generally call, a referral program? In other words, like a gift or– Yes, okay. [laughs]
Christopher: Yes, we have a referral program. We ask for referrals at different times. We ask for referrals in different methods via Agency Revolution, via text. We actually sent few pieces of direct mail on an annual basis, to our current customers, not to folks we don’t know yet. We asked for that in a very number of ways, as part of our communication with our clients.
Michael: Outstanding. I know that you said that you’re a generalist, but within that generalist agency, are their specialties? Are there niches?
Christopher: Our producers focus more on their specialties than the agency does as a whole. We have one producer who is Vietnamese and a lot of his clientele are as well. That, I consider that to be a niche within his community. We have a young lady who focuses on individual health insurance and does a heck of a job helping our clients understand that marketplace and have quite a sizable book of business.
We have a producer who is more of a generalist but does very well in auto service space. Then we have a producer who focuses on a specific type of trade contractor and he does well on that space. [inaudible 00:28:56] obviously fell from other things, but, our agency, the producers went on our agencies do have focus points.
Michael: All right. Let me dig into that for a moment. Let’s, for example, take you got somebody in the construction trades producer?
Michael: Does John as marketer ever– Does he work with that producer? Does he segment or sub segment the book of business to communicate only with them from time to time. At this point in time, is John drilling down to that level of detail?
Christopher: The focus there has been we’ve got some work to do in that area, but where we saw some successes there were- was in getting our producers involved in the social space.[crosstalk] John worked to coach them through, “Hey, here’s how you may help build a group or here’s how you interact with them, they certainly can’t be going in theretrying to sell people you provide value and if and when they need you”. That’s really where we’ve had more success in that nature. I think sending out that book that hopefully will happen in 2019.
Michael: Got it. All right. Now I know that you’ve made some commitments to other technologies as well, right?
Christopher: Yes, we have and I’m counting this list [crosstalk]
Michael: All right. Give us a sense of some of the technologies that you’ve made a commitment to and then drill down on a couple of them.
Christopher: Obviously, you mentioned agency revolution and how we feel about that. We use Zoom to communicate in the inter office communication [crosstalk]
Michael: For people who aren’t aware of it. Zoom, it is the service that I use as well right now and there are several of them available, but that’s the one I found most reliable. It’s a video conferencing service.
Christopher: Very good, works all the time. You can do large groups. You can do two or three people. Most of my weekly meetings with my staff are– Because I’m in one spot in there [crosstalk]
Michael: Do you also use Zoom to communicate with other remote workers or people who are in distant locations?
Christopher: Yes, we have a staff member that’s in Florida. Then all the other locations we have and every person in our agency is log in to Zoom and we have a group chat. It’s not a group chat, actually. People who only do commercial insurance are in a group chat, people who do health insurance are in a group. [crosstalk]
Michael: What platform do use for the chat?
Christopher: Zoom has a chat platform.
Michael: Okay, got it. Using Zoom’s. All right. Agency Revolution, Zoom, I interrupted you there. What other technologies?
Christopher: Our website is by advisory evolved and Chris builds a beautiful website. the thing that attracts me the most and I think other users, Chris at Advisor Evolved would hone in on different points of his, but we use the quote videos feature. Every proposal we send out on the personal line side and the life and health side, most of our commercial proposals are hand delivered old fashioned way.
Almost personal line quote, we’re sending a quote video, which is us talking to our clients with a PDF pulled up in a video of us at the same time explaining to them what we are proposing. We’ve seen great success with that. We text our customers via our phone system, which is a Lightspeed Voice and texting has certainly had some improvement in our [crosstalk]
Michael: Quick question about the texting. When you text, is that one-to-one texting?
Michael: Not one to group text then?
Christopher: Yes, we don’t do mass texting.
Michael: Fair enough.
Christopher: We have that capability, but that’s not something we are using yet. Mainly because we don’t have a– We haven’t created a good acceptance form for customers to give us permission to [crosstalk] I think to figure that out.
Michael: I think a lot of marketers would say, “That’s a really intimate technology”. When somebodies phone vibrates and they have to pull it out of the pocket and there’s a message from the insurance agent, it better deliver value. [crosstalk] I remember, maybe it was five or six years ago, literally sitting around the Christmas tree opening presence with my family and the phone vibrates in my pocket. It was an insurance agent who just had me on his list. He was in a whole different state. It was like, Oh my God, don’t do that, don’t. Ironically, [crosstalk] Valentines Day, it was like, if you bought your wife a diamond ring or something, be sure to come. He’s like, don’t do that please.
Christopher: I don’t want to be doing that.
Michael: You don’t want to be that guy. All right. I just happened to still see that agent on social media, like save money, save money, save money. I’m thinking, maybe there are some upticks there, but that’s no way to scale. Texting, other communication technologies that you’re using.
Christopher: We use esign I hope all your agencies are using esignand I was pushing on Lucas about Zapiers. I like to introduce a voicemail drop which would be similar to the texting we talked about. They would be specific and they would have a purpose. They wouldn’t be a mass random message. It would be, Michael, I need to get in touch with you. Please call me back. I’ve got your quote ready or there’s a problem with your policy or whatever it might be. Hopefully, if there’s a lot of these that are common in the industry, I don’t know if they are, but we use a calendar tool. We use Calendly.
Michael: I saw that. That’s on your email.
Christopher: That’s new to me. My staff had to push me to that point, but it’s a good technology and I need to [crosstalk]
Michael: It’s the tool I use and I don’t think I’m using it on my email right now because I don’t want to make myself quite that available. In your case, that’s– Are people periodically using it and setting up appointments with you?
Christopher: Yes, we do [crosstalk] Certainly do.
Michael: Got it.
Christopher: For the most part, I think that covers what we’re doing. We’ve got some communication, automated social communication that allows John to deliver the content he wants. [crosstalk]
Michael: A social poster of some kind. There’s several of them available.
Christopher: Video is a big piece of what John is doing. You can get a little more into some of that technology yet. He posted a video of me yesterday and with my southern drawl that there’s a dictation app time to tell you what I’m saying in the video and it’s quite hilarious.
Michael: I hadn’t realized you had a southern drawl. You all have to pull it out for me sometimes. [laughs] You’re at an age where you’ve got some years where this matters to you.
Michael: The agency in the future of the agency matters to you. We’re living in a time and working at a time where there’s obviously a great deal of turbulence and for some people a lot of uncertainty about where the industry is growing, going. I think for a lot of people, some confusion about “Oh gosh, what should I do? What do I do first?” Because there’s so many shiny objects out there that are attractive and not necessarily the best choices.
Where do you see, given this unusual environment that we’re living in right now, a fast paced business environment with lots of change, change in everything from new competitors to consumer behavior, what do you think the– What does the future look like? What do you see the future of the industry looks like for people like you running insurance agencies?
Christopher: For people like myself who have of a growth mind set up, hopefully, have an abundance mindset, the future is going to lie in the data that we have and better understanding that data. I’ll give you an example. It’s a little bit far fetched, but we’ve talked about retention. We’ve talked about policy count per client growth. The technology exists in other industries and to a degree of a very, very small degree, but to a degree in our industry. To look at a client, I’m going to call the client Michael and have a staff member say, “All right, Michael has been with us three years. He has an automobile policy with us. All we know about Michael is his home phone number and his mailing address.”
That you know what, “Michael is probably not going to be with us next year.” Yes, we get Michael’s email address today and maybe even his cell phone number. His longevity in our office is going to extend six months if we get a homeowner’s policy for him. His longevity in our policies is going to extend for years. If we could find out what his Twitter handle is or what social media platform he likes, his longevity in our office extends another eight months. That data exists and there’s people using that data today. We’re not doing it very well, if hardly at all in the insurance space, but that’s the future. Because the data can tell you more about your customer than you can ever know intuitively.
Michael: I’m going to wind it up here, but that’s such an intriguing perspective. Certainly, not the first I’ve heard that Greg Williams made a very key point about that in my interview with Greg. Are you beginning to learn things because you’re looking at more data now probably than you were before. I know John is. There’s a lot of data in HawkSoft and candidly, in other way, the Agency Revolution technology was built. It does give you a micro view on a lot of data. What are you learning about your book of business and customers that maybe you didn’t know before?
Christopher: I’ve heard you mention this before, but I think a lot of agency owners do the either limitation whether that be on time or systems or whatever. Think they know what the retention is.
Michael: [laughs] Don’t get me started. Don’t get me upset.
Christopher: You need a system that accurately reports that.
Christopher: Similarly to John’s role in our agency, you think you know what videos work because your mom said that was a really good one or your boss said, “I hated that one”, or whatever. When you dig in to the information and you see how many clicks did you get, how long did they watch it, how many people came back and watched it again, did they go to another landing page, did they go to another place in your agency? The information out there, I was amazed at how much information John shows me 15 to 20 minutes worth of probably 30 screens a data he looks at every morning, once a week. It’s a ton of information out there that really tells you how you’re doing. The data is crucial.
Michael: Got it. Last question and I’ll let you answer it any way you want. It could be a billboard or maybe a short essay. You’ve got a lot of peers in the industry that are listening to this podcast, what do you want to say to them? Obviously, most agencies regardless of size would love to say, “Gosh, I’d love to have a 34% top line growth this year.” What would you say to them?
Christopher: Can I get two billboards?
Michael: You got two billboards, okay. We can do Burma shape signs.
Christopher: One billboard would definitely say, “Get up, get out and get after it.” That’s a saying they have at USLI. I’ll admit that I’m stealing that [crosstalk]
Michael: Okay, fair enough. All right.
Christopher: The other would say, “Understand the data.”
Michael: Got it. That’s all I need. You’ve been very generous, Christopher. The last thing I’m going to do is say, “Hey, let’s give everybody your email or phone number because you have an agency to ran and you’ve got a family to take care of.” If people wanted to maybe see what you were up to, visit your site or whatever, you tell me. What do you want to say?
Christopher: I’m an open book because so many people have helped me in this industry. I have no problem helping someone else. Our website address is myallianceinsurance.com. Very long. I apologize in advance. My email address is longer, it’s firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m on all the majority of the social sites out there, if you want to reach out to me that way. Whatever people are comfortable with, I’ll do my best to help you in anyway I can.
Michael: That is generous of you. I’m going to say one last thing that obviously anybody who’s listening to us now has listened to this much of the podcast. You’ve heard from Christopher, I think it might be extremely useful to dig up from the archives the interview that I did with John Jackson and you’ll get a dual perspective on how this team works together.
Again, Christopher, thank you so much for joining us today. Thank you so much for sharing your experience and your insights and your wisdom.
Christopher: Thank you, Michael. I appreciate you a lot.
Michael: Been a pleasure.