Wayne Ezekiel, President of AA Munro Insurance
How did a social campaign to honor firefighters inspire a winning social marketing strategy? Wayne Ezekiel, President of AA Munro Insurance, shares how he discovered the power of social. In this podcast, you’ll learn how to:
- Showcase community involvement with social content
- Launch a social marketing campaign in less than 30 days
- Revive social profiles that have become stagnant
Social media marketing is an incredibly powerful tool for growing your agency’s following on social media. Listen to this fascinating discussion on how the average advisor can make that dream a reality.
Presented by Agency Revolution, the Connected Insurance Podcast provides weekly opportunities for listeners to dive deep into the trends affecting insurance agents and brokers today and to gain proven strategies and tactics for agency growth. Our hosts facilitate thoughtful panels and 1:1 conversations with a variety of prominent thought leaders, with a focus on how to streamline and drive operational efficiency for your independent agency through the intelligent use of technology.
Joel: Wayne, thank you for making some time for us today. I’ve been excited about this conversation for some time. I know you’re a busy guy, thanks for being here.
Wayne: Thank you, Joel, for the invite I love talking about marketing and about this fire hall campaign is very close, dear to my heart. Not because of giving away money or for Facebook, it’s more for the firefighters themselves. They’re the silent partners in our business. They’re out there volunteers in Nova Scotia mostly. They’re out there day and night protecting the things that we– for us for the insurance business and fighting fires and minimizing claims so they’re partners of ours. I want to honor that.
Joel: I love this program. I’m excited to get into a little bit of the details. Obviously, we’re here to talk about social media and here at Agency Revolution on our podcasts and on our webinars, we’ve been talking for seems like an eternity about best practices and strategies, and everybody had a theory. I wanted you on here because I know and I’ve watched this program and your Facebook page grow and if anybody gets it, it’s you guys. Let’s rewind, I know you’re in year nine of this program. Let’s rewind back. I think I have a pretty good understanding of where this all came about, but just maybe tell us where this whole thing started with the firefighters?
Wayne: Around nine years ago, Joel, I think you were still with us at the time with AA Munro insurance and doing some marketing through waves of evolution. We have a local guy here James Feed who does most of our– was working on most of our social media stuff at the time. We were really looking at a way to honor the firefighters. I thought we were looking for something some kind of a campaign we could run and we chose the firefighters to be that group, to solicit and came up with the idea to his Fire Hall Campaign.
That’s nine years ago, and it was more of a– we’ve only had 72 likes on our Facebook page at a time. We’re looking for a way to boost that a little bit. The house came up with the idea of firefighters, honoring them and then we had a brainstorm session and it just came into this great campaign.
Joel: I can remember those conversations well, and I think if you rewind it even further than that, why firefighters and I think it goes a little deeper than maybe what people would see at the surface. I think firefighters in general really mean something to not just yourself, but AA Munro as a company then also the communities that you do business in.
Wayne: Absolutely. We are in small rural communities in Nova Scotia, for the most part. We are represented in the metro area but where this came from is really in Smalltown. We have friends who are volunteer firefighters, I have a cousin that’s involved. I have friends that are involved in the business and I think they’re just the silent partners, the Forgotten crew in our insurance structure. We have the companies, we have the adjusters, we have the repair shops, we have the brokers and customers but we don’t have anywhere in the room where we talk about firefighters and being in small communities we know that these guys, they’re 24 hours a day, seven days a week always there for us, not paid.
They have been struggling to get to new recruits. I think that’s why we picked firefighters because we know who they are. We know that they’re the unsung heroes in our industry and I just wanted to bring some attention to that and help put some exposure plus try to get them to increase their ranks with new recruits.
Joel: I think myself, I obviously live in the same area that you guys are still doing business, had the pleasure of working with you guys for some time. I think the reality is as I pause quickly the conversation about this particular campaign and understand that there’s lots of people listening to this podcast. I think it’s important to note that while this particular Facebook contest was a huge win and continues to be a huge win for the brokerage, it’s not necessarily the silver bullet.
I don’t think everybody needs to run out and do a fire hall campaign. I think the beauty of it here in my opinion, Wayne, is that you looked into your heart of hearts as a brokerage of your communities. You work in rural communities, rural communities at least here in Nova Scotia rely on the volunteer and at the heart of all those volunteers is the fire department. That’s just how I see it.
Wayne: I think you’re right, Joel. It doesn’t have to be a fire hall campaign. We have a strike upon something that we– again, we always go back to our marketing, always goes back to the community. Most of our money now in marketing is not spent on traditional advertising, which is newspapers and flyers, not even the flyers anymore but it’s more based around community activity. It’s having our people getting engaged in the community and in things that they want to be engaged in that they feel passionate about.
Fire hall is one of those things, but it could be anything. It’s you know, helping seniors, literacy work or could be immigration. Helping out with new immigrants in town. Could be helping your local hospital raise money to get equipment. It’s just something that you feel really passionate about. That’s what we try to– anything to do with social media it’s a social game. You’re building a network of– it’s a neighborhood, social media is a neighborhood. Take your own neighborhood, you get excited about things and that’s what you want to be involved in, the things that you really feel passionate about it.
Joel: I talked to insurance agents and brokers all day every day as our whole team does. It’s amazing the solutions out there that people have looked at. I’ve seen, agencies and brokers trying to hire third parties to run campaigns like this for them. Certainly, you want to leverage resources to help but to hire someone else to figure out what you’re about is probably not the best strategy.
Wayne: No, I agree. That’s like I said, for us now we’re building our marketing campaigns, our budgets for the year. We need somebody who owns that project or that campaign. Has to be somebody who’s involved from [unintelligible 00:07:12] insurance. We don’t give it out to anybody else. If you want the money to do something in your community, you need to be inclusive, you need to be on an organizing committee, you need to be supporting that. You need to be hands-on, right on deck, getting out to the community and that’s how it would be successful in social media is if you’re engaged with the community.
Joel: Absolutely. After that discussion, I would like to rewind because I think there’s a really good story to be told here. I was fortunate to witness it firsthand, as you were. Nine years ago, you were in a meeting and as you mentioned, there’s about 72 followers or likes on the Facebook page. I think everybody had a general belief that there was something here but how do you do with it? I certainly remember, one of my more moments wondering, “Hey, is 30 days enough to actually get this campaign up and running.”
Let’s talk a little bit back and forth. I’m sure my memories a little foggy, I know yours is so maybe between the two of us, we can come up with the whole planning around getting this thing launched. I remember an idea of taking actually printed flyers to local fire departments. What’s your recollection there?
Wayne: I remember something with that too but using our local people, I think to get out and drop flyers off in our local communities. I think was one of the things because we didn’t have a big reach at the time. We didn’t have email lists of fire departments. We didn’t have any insurance in the past. The question was, how are we going to get people to go to our Facebook page, the first place. I think we had brochures, I think we had posters up as well to give to each of the fire departments. To put up in your fire hall so I can get the local offices to go around and visit their departments and do that. That was wonderful.
Joel: As I recall, one of the major strategies was obviously, I hate to say it Wayne but I think there might even been a little bit of fax this over to your local fire department if you can’t get their strategy. A little embarrassing, but that’s what it was. I also remember the next biggest strategy and really, this is a good tip for anybody out there looking do something that– having our staff share the post. We have minimal reach on our page currently, but every time somebody that works for you or friend shares that then that provides that much more exposure.
Wayne: Things were different back then of the days of Facebook. This is pretty wide open at the time. When we put posts up, we’re really reaching 72 of our– we only had 72 likes, but most of them got to see it because we didn’t have all these filters that Facebook has in there. When our people shared it with their people, then it really did reach farther than it does right now. That’s one of the ways we certainly got the Facebook going. It was asking our own co-workers to do it.
Again, I think at the time we found some way to find a list of fire departments in Nova Scotia. We got the word out to all of them as well, some letters or something I think we sent out. We needed 16– You’re right, I think– that was when we decided that 30 days was not going to be enough to build the interest the first year because, we had to get into all these fire departments, we had to get in touch with them. We knew that for the first year, trying to build that momentum was going to take more than 30 days.
Joel: Wayne, let me just go on official record here to say that I want to take credit for one thing here. I want to take credit as the person that didn’t think 30 days would be enough. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Because as one of the people manning that and watching this with yourself and James, as you mentioned. Within five days, we were seeing a substantial inflow of people and traffic to that Facebook page.
Wayne: That was huge. I think our target for the first year was that we could get, I think maybe 3,000 likes. I’m not even sure if we were that high. We thought we’d be a success. We really thought that would be a great successful campaign. Instead, we end up with 16,000. We go from 72 to 16,000 in 30 days or so. It was just sick. Everybody I talked to, all the insurance companies we were deal with, they weren’t even there. They couldn’t even get that many likes.
We certainly struck upon something. Again, it was something we’re passionate about in our communities and that’s why it worked because we worked at. When we talked to our community, the firefighters, we spoke from our hearts. We spoke from firsthand. “We want to be your supporter.”
Joel: Just to be clear here, there was obviously a cash prize. At the end of the day, the fire department’s pitcher with the most likes on their pitcher, we were going to give a cash prize. For the record, you were giving away the money anyway?
Wayne: Yes. If only one Fire Department showed up, I guess they would have gotten a lot of money. Yes, absolutely.
Joel: That was something you were doing anyway. It wasn’t something where all of a sudden you found a couple of bucks in the budget and say, “Hey, let’s do it this way.” I think you always intended to support the fire department.
Wayne: Absolutely. No question. That was the intent. It wasn’t to get likes. That was a secondary thing. The first thing was we want to support our Fire Department. That was the, you know… Again putting the cart before the horse, it was our passionate about what they do for us that was important. Getting that word out was important. Not how many people reached, not how many likes we got.
Joel: I think it’s important to share the broader benefit of this. It’s all about doing the right thing and nevermind Facebook likes. They are all bonuses and it’s great things and obviously as you just rolled over 20,000 likes on your Facebook page, which you’re right. I did some research before this call and most carriers don’t have that many likes, let alone an independent insurance agency or brokerage working in rural parts of Nova Scotia, having that many likes this is unheard of.
I certainly recall some great– I’m a big believer Wayne and everything happens for a reason. Sometimes it doesn’t seem right. If you recall, AA Munroe was deep into this Facebook contest, really providing some exposure to volunteer fire departments and what they need, and the support they need in our communities. Really close to my home actually, 15 minutes from my home, one of Nova Scotia’s signature resorts happen to catch fire within the campaign.
Wayne: Yes, I remember that.
Joel: The thing that I remember most from that was after that’s all said and done, and I forget the exact number but it was north of 20 volunteer fire departments fighting that blaze. God love them for doing that. They put in the time. They put an effort. They risked their own lives to try to save a very important part of Nova Scotia and certainly our community here. After that was all said and done, I remember the fire chief of Liverpool Fire Services making the statement that they wanted to thank you and AA Monroe for bringing the knowledge in the public’s eye to them which I really thought spoke volumes.
Wayne: Yes, absolutely. I think at the time we posted a picture of the firefighters fighting that fire too, didn’t we? We had a picture somewhere of that.
Joel: Yes, absolutely multiple of course. It was all over the news.
Wayne: You’re right. Again, it all goes back to what we said earlier, that is that find a group that you really feel passionate about. I did feel passionate about them. Years ago when I was a teenager, I had a fire in my house and people who I knew in my community were there on the top roof, fighting that fire. I’ve always remembered that they came to our need when we needed them. I’ve always carried that with me. That’s why I feel passionate with the firefighters. I’ve seen first-hand knowledge of what they do.
Joel: Yes, absolutely. Now getting back to this social media in general. Are you guys active on, I know you’re super engaged on Facebook and we’ll talk about that but do you ever focus on all other social media feeds like LinkedIn or Twitter at all?
Wayne: Oh yes. We are engaged now in Twitter, in Instagram. We do all the social media platforms. We’re looking at every one of them. More engaged in some than others. We try to post, we do blogging now ourselves. We have a little blog. We’re always experimenting, always looking. You always got to keep up with social media with the way that things work. You’ve got to keep your finger and reply all the time, you got to be researching constantly on how to improve your presence and also how to use these tools properly to reach your audience.
Joel: Yes. You hit the nail on the head, how to use it properly. Unfortunately, I don’t know that there’s a textbook out there. If there was, we wouldn’t be on this podcast. I think the reality is and as I did, once again, doing some research and looking, there’s one common thread as I looked at the different feeds with respect to AA Munroe insurance, whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, I don’t see anybody selling insurance.
Wayne: No, no, no.
Joel: I see the community involvement. Tell me about that. Obviously, you said it but–
Wayne: Again, I think that what turns a lot of people off, I know myself is seeing all these ads pop up in my stream. We believe that 35% of our business is from referrals. At AA Munro Insurance we keep track of them all the time. I understand consistently for the last few years and that comes from doing work like firefighter campaign, doing stuff on our– we use our Facebook is really a community page. It’s sharing the things that are happening in our communities that are people engaged in.
I think that by building a presence in the community, building that trust in the community, people get to know our brand. When it comes time to buy insurance, they come to us. When they’re talking to their friends and family they refer us too because of the work we’re doing in the community. Not because we’re asking them to buy insurance, but because of that brand that we’ve built in a community that we’re a trusted, engaged brokerage in our communities. That’s what works.
Joel: Yes, I couldn’t agree more. That leads me to another comment that I often hear as I talked to people all across both Canada and the United States is, “Well, we’re just a little different because we’re so rural”. I just want to throw it out there. I don’t know that it gets any more rural than rural Nova Scotia.
Wayne: We have offices with one or two people in them. Yes, it’s pretty small. If you look at Whycocomagh, Nova Scotia on your map, it couldn’t get much more rural than that. It’s a small town of like maybe a thousand people or so there. I didn’t know it was that big. You don’t get much more rural than that. Yes, we can, we do a lot of online– we’re doing some online marketing and selling.
That’s grown over the years but again, it’s very small bites. We got to recognize that the internet age is here, but the uptake is not as strong in rural Nova Scotia as it is in other parts of the world. We’re out there. We’re always got a finger in the pie. We’re out there exploring and trying new things and researching. If it ever does explode up here in rural Nova Scotia like it does the rest of the world, we’re ready for it. We’re ready to take it out because we’ve learned. We’ve learned how to use the tools and learned how to find out more about them.
Joel: I guess my next question or comment take it for what it is, is even at that level of rural, there’s value in what you’re doing on social media.
Wayne: No question. It’s amazing that again, if you make it interesting, people will go to the site and we get activity on our Facebook page so dear it’s not just during campaign times, but it’s every day, every week. We’re trying to engage our community. Yes, I mean there’s value for sure. Even if you’re in a smaller community 1500 people, there’s no question that building a little Facebook page, turning it into a community page, where people can go and look and see what’s happening or what’s going on. It has some value, it has value.
Joel: Absolutely. As we just kind of put a bow tie on this, number one, if it has been stated enough, we’re talking about taking a Facebook page to the next level by simply doing what’s right, looking in your heart of hearts of your agency or your brokerage. What do you believe in, and AA Munro, and Wayne and this team there could be a better example of that. Great things come to great people and great businesses and you guys are a shining example of that Wayne.
I know this is the ninth anniversary, this particular year 2019 of the campaign, so congratulations on the success of the business but also on– I know back in 2010, the comment was made and I would venture to say there’s not too many people out there that can say. I’m going to say that you guys are likely one of if not the most liked insurance agency or brokerages on Facebook. That’s something to be hugely proud of, so congrats.
Wayne: Yes. That means we’re doing the right things. Not only on Facebook, but we’re doing the right things in each of our offices too with the people we have. We have exceptional people working for us. They are community-oriented individuals. Most of them are engaged in hockey teams, and football teams, and soccer teams, and helping out at the school and volunteering at the hospitals and so on. That’s why the Facebook is successful because we do the same things in our own communities to match that. We provide quality service to our customers when they do show up, so all that together can build a brand, right?
Joel: Absolutely. I think that that’s reflected in that next step. I know you all are also celebrating your 75th year in business, so if that’s not a true reflection, congratulations on that as well.
Wayne: Yes. Thank you very much, Joel. Really appreciate it.
Joel: All right Wayne. At the end of these calls, we always like to give, if somebody’s got a question or they want to track down Wayne at AA Munro insurance, what’s the best way for people to find you?
Wayne: The best way probably is email me to start. We’ll see go from there. It’s firstname.lastname@example.org if anybody wants to send me an email. If it ends up, we end up talking together or whatever, great. I mean, I’d love to hear any ideas I have and how we’ve been able to be successful on our social media or as a brokerage. We love to share the information.
Joel: Awesome. Thanks so much, Wayne.
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