Insurance Marketing That Works in the Real World


Nick Andrews on the Connected Insurance Podcast presented by Agency Revolution

Nick Andrews – Channel Partner Marketing Manager at Liberty Mutual

If you have time to listen to one conversation about real-world, street-smart insurance marketing, look no further. Our guest, Nick Andrews, dives deep into actual agencies doing actual marketing and getting actual results. In his role as Channel Partner Marketing Manager at Liberty Mutual, Nick plans, executes, and scales high profile national marketing campaigns that get put to work at the local level. Nick shares:

  • Seven easy-as-pie proven-to-work marketing disciplines that generate leads, boost retention, inspire loyalty, and increase policies-per-customer.
  • How you can ‘out-local’ big national competitors (and win!) even though you can’t possibly outspend their ad budgets!
  • A simple way agents are getting up to four times more referrals without expensive marketing campaigns. 

Please don’t miss this conversation with one of the industry’s most respected marketers and trainers. 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 our hosts discuss the biggest issues affecting the independent insurance agent & broker with the industry’s leading figures.

Transcript

Michael: Nick Andrews, how are you?

Nick Andrews: I’m good, Michael. How about yourself?

Michael: Well, marvelous and excited about this call in part because you and I share a passion for marketing, and I would say both have dedicated a career to marketing. The other thing that makes me excited about this conversation is that I know that you and I are going to talk about real things in the real world, the street-level business of growing an insurance agency. We’re not just going to be talking about the big trends and forces that are sweeping across the industry from time to time, obviously.

Love that stuff. I’m excited about the conversation.

Nick: Yes, absolutely, Michael. Every idea I share today will be fully tethered to reality.

Michael: [laughs] Okay, I’m thrilled to hear that. [laughs] So you’re going to bring me back to earth every now and then? All right. You have been– When I think of you, Nick, I think Liberty but I know that there also is some Safeco connection. Tell us a little bit about your career.

Nick: Sure. I spent my entire 13-year professional career in digital marketing. The last seven years has been spent at Liberty Mutual. I’ve worked in a wide range of industries, but the last seven at Liberty or the insurance industry. I just love the industry. I’ve seen so many changes.

When I first graduated college, I had an internship at Oracle. That was the first time I ever saw a cloud-based application. That just didn’t exist. Everything was based on the actual computer. Now, everything is cloud-based. It really is amazing, the technology change, from just 13 years and in the grand scheme of things that’s not that long. Just so many dramatic changes from a technology and marketing perspective.

Michael: I suspect 13 years of digital marketing doesn’t take it back to the beginning but it does take it back to earlier days. I suspect you’d probably be filled with stories about what people were doing 13 years ago that they’re no longer doing and what they’re doing now that they were not able to do 13 years ago.

Nick: Absolutely. The first thing that tops my mind is Facebook, social media, that wasn’t there. Facebook didn’t exist, Twitter didn’t exist. Can you even imagine a world without social media now?

Michael: I do like to from time to time but that will be a subject for a different conversation. In my pleasantest dreams that– [laughs]

Nick: Yes, I hear you.

Michael: Moving right along, they were not available as media and, of course, a lot of other things weren’t available and all of the insure techs that have swept into the industry were not available. Agency revolution didn’t start until roughly 10 years ago, should be celebrating its 10-year anniversary as a technology right about now. Indeed, in the last 13 years, things have changed a lot.

Before we dive into some of the– because you know I’m going to be asking you what’s working and what do you see- what’s actually happening out there in the field that you see that you’re impressed with or that’s getting measurable results. Tell us a little bit about your position there at Liberty.

Nick: I exclusively help our channel partners grow their business. A Liberty Mutual channel partner is an independent insurance agency. You can almost think of them as a reseller. My job is to help them grow and retain business through marketing. It’s taking a look at what they’re doing. I’m offering them some consulting. We have a whole suite of tools, programs that they can take advantage of to help them grow their business.

One really key thing is that the competition isn’t other independent insurance agencies, it’s the GEICOs of the world, it’s the direct writers of the world. This is through the independent agents, it’s who we’re competing against, I’d say it’s insurance carriers with massive, massive marketing budgets. How can a guy down the street compete with that? So it’s helping to infuse these local independent insurance agents with the tools, tactics, and techniques to win into this marketplace.

Michael: Got it. Do you see other competitors, obviously, you identified the direct writers, like the emerging digital channels, is that something you’re keeping your eyes on?

Nick: Yes, companies like Lemonade that are emerging. They are a company that we’re seeing, we’re watching and we’re seeing how the consumers respond to that. It’s certainly a different swarm of competition. One thing is interesting is, they are bringing a whole new level of technology to the game, not only from a policy perspective but from a customer support perspective. They’re able to answer questions almost instantly and they have a huge AI in Chatbox and all these new customer support technology that’s used across their tech staff.

Michael: All right. Let me play in this little pool for a little bit before we start diving into like, “What can I do by Tuesday?” Because, I do want to look at some of the strategic issues. How much do you think it is a matter of focus from your perspective on the target market, that question of, “Where are we going to play?” Because clearly, GEICO, it’s a very successful company. It’s grown like crazy and it seems that strategically, they have a clear sense of where they’re going to play, in other words, who their optimal consumer jar. Do you think that, in working with agents, do you see them trying to get the same consumers or do you see them focusing on a slightly different demographic and psychographic?

Nick: Every agent I talk to has a slightly different target customer. The good thing is that, from a technology perspective, all the tools are in place for an independent agent to win verse a GEICO. GEICO seems to be all in on certain channels like auto insurance. From a technology perspective and a marketing perspective, you might never outrank a GEICO in a Google paid search ad for the term “auto insurance” in your local community, but there are certainly things you can do to beat them in other areas.

Michael: Nick, I seem to recall that once upon a time when I communicated with you, you had a Safeco email address. Am I dreaming that up?

Nick: I still have it. I have- [crosstalk]

Michael: You still there? Okay.

Nick: Nick.andrews and nicholas.andrews I have a Safeco and a Liberty one.

Michael: Okay. So, you have Safeco and Liberty. In your role, do you provide service to what I would call Safeco agents and Liberty agents? In other words, personal lines and commercial lines agencies?

Nick: Yes. Every service and program that we have is available to both personal line Safeco agents and commercial line Liberty Mutual agents.

Michael: Boom, you just answered my question. I thought that was the answer and essentially what that means is everybody listening should continue listening until the end.

Nick: Absolutely.

Michael: All right. Let’s begin to break it down here a little bit. Marketing is confusing, right?

Nick: Very commonly

Michael: To some extent, I suppose. I’ve been a professional marketer for more than 25 years so it’s not confusing to me. I think that to an outsider looking in, just like if I was going to look at a surgery, I would say, “Oh, my goodness. That’s confusing. There’s no way I can do surgery.” Which is probably a pretty fair assessment. I think when non-marketers, armatures, people who maybe have a passion for it, want to be able to do it but haven’t been trained in it, they look at it and it seems like it’s so many things, is it social media, is it direct mail? They’re all legitimate questions. Is it getting customers? Is it keeping–

There are so many questions that it’s I think difficult for a lot of agents to really know where to start and know precisely what to do next in order to achieve their goal, which is usually growth and higher valuation of their agency. I’m curious because I know you work with- individually, you work with agents, you know agencies, you know what they’re thinking. How do you deal with that sense of bewilderment or confusion, particularly now when the pace of change in the profession as marketing is so fast?

Nick: Michael, I agree with you one hundred percent. What makes marketing so complex in 2019 and beyond is that they’re so many moving pieces. Now, if you were to look at each one individually, Facebook might not be that hard to understand on its own but the fact that you have to do Facebook along with so many other platforms, you need to give constant attention to all these marketing platforms is what makes marketing so complex.

In order to figure out where to start, which platform do you begin with, you really have to take a deep dive into what the agent is doing right now today. If they were starting with absolutely nothing, some of the core basics include a professional website. I get to see a lot of insurance agency websites and I can’t tell you how many times I still see a website that looks like it was put together by the agency principal’s 12-year-old nephew. With stack photos and nothing about the team. Some of these core basics are: your website, a Facebook business page, and even having like a professional email address. I still see some @yahoo.com, @AOL.com.

Michael: AOL. [laughs] I was looking over my list the other day

[laughs]

and it was for my Facebook tech and he wanted a look-alike list and I thought maybe we ought to just get rid of those guys because [laughs] I said, I can’t build my business profile on agents with AOL, but maybe they are the neediest but so, some of the basics, web, a professional website, right?

Nick: Absolutely, yes.

Michael: A professional email address. What else? If you’re putting, “Okay, dude. Here’s your basic, these are the building blocks. This is the foundation.” We’ll do intermediate or advanced stuff later. What do you think are those foundational building blocks that are largely universal?

Nick: One of the biggest issues with marketing is coming up with content for all these different channels. One of the most foundational building blocks to a successful marketing campaign for an independent agent is community involvement. Community involvement is so important because it’s a content creation engine. Also, it’s good because it’s the right thing to do. When the agency is involved in the community, they’re out doing stuff, they’re volunteering their time, their money. This is a content creation engine, you should start taking staff photos and then you can take all these pictures and populate all these different channels. Having a content strategy would be one of the most core basic things to a successful marketing campaign skill.

Michael: You might have more on the list but I’m going to pause on that one because it’s interesting. First of all, I know that it’s true. I think it was evident from Safeco’s last survey that Chuck Blondino conducted is that sense of community involvement reveals a sense of who you are as an agency. Here’s what’s interesting about it, let’s take swimming pools. If I were a swimming pool vendor, I think that probably an awful lot of my content would be about pools; pool construction or different designs, different things that you can get. Somebody who’s about to spend several tens of thousands of dollars on a pool, a very tangible product, they want to learn about that product. Then there probably who would be some content about who I am and what I do and here I am building a pool or what have you. What you identified as certainly a primary content engine is not the fundamental product of the agency, right?

Nick: That’s exactly right.

Michael: Talk about that. Share what you think. What is your perspective on that and share the why?

Nick: Absolutely. The why really is because insurance is boring. I hate to be so blunt about it. No one is logging on to Instagram to learn about an umbrella policy, that customer journey just isn’t happening. People do log on to Facebook and Instagram to find out what their friends and family are doing. If your friends or family happen to work at an insurance agency and they just so happen to be out in the community, giving back and making their community a better place, that’s something they’re going to like. It’s going to plant that seed and it’s going to build brand awareness.

We have this situation where the product that we’re selling isn’t very sexy, it’s boring. How do we get around that? The way we get around that is by making our community a better place and showing that we care.

Michael: That does seem to respond really favorably with the market, but also really favorably with the market that is well suited for the independent insurance agency channel.

Nick: Absolutely. This is a way an independent agent can out-local a GEICO. You can be an upstanding member of the community and show people that you’re an upstanding member of the community on Facebook and Instagram. Consumers today, they want to do business with businesses that give back, that advocate for a cause. It’s almost no longer good enough to just be a business that provides a service. People want to do business with companies that are responsible and caring, and they advocate for issues, they protect the environment, they give back to causes. This is how the consumer wants to shop these days. This is so key that our independent agents are doing this.

Michael: I’m going to ask you a tough question, and I don’t know if you have the answer to it. I’ve thought about it a lot and I- Oh, gosh, in college, no surprise, I think I’m right. Let me bounce this off with you.

[laughs]

One of the questions I’m asking is why it seems that more than before perhaps more than ever, the consumer is responding or expecting the companies that they do business with whether it’s Nordstrom or ABC agency on Main Street, they’re expecting them to be a positive force. Now, here’s my question, do you think that that is one of the forces or an impact that is flowing from the influence of the millennial generation?

Nick: Absolutely. Amazon as well, Nordstrom like you just said, these are major companies that are providing almost instantaneous service of it, that they get their products with less than 24 hours available immediately.

[crosstalk]

Michael: This is this is crazy. My son is visiting tomorrow and we decided we’ll let them, there’re four of them, with the grandchildren, will let them have the casita. Theresa said, “Instead of the guest room in the main house.” Theresa said, “Let me get online and see if I can get a queen-sized air bed delivered by tomorrow.” Five minutes later, she said, “Air bed is showing up.” 13 years ago that was an absurd notion. It may show up this afternoon, as far as I know. There is that sense of instantaneous and we don’t necessarily deliver on that.

That sense of community involvement really, really resonates with a different value that’s strong in the marketplace. I think now, baby boomer generation, look, I’m a member of it. I think it was a great generation with all sorts of every generation, strengths and weaknesses and flaws and contributions of its own. I think we always cared about the environment and so on and so forth. Now, I think, if a company is not actively demonstrating that it’s a good citizen, then that’s a mark against it but if it can actively show that it’s contributory, that’s attractive to people.

Nick: Absolutely. One of the most common pieces of a pushback I get from insurance agencies is they’ll say, “Well, I don’t want to look like I’m patting myself on the back”

Michael: Yes. Get over it or learn it. I’ll tell you what I say to them. It’s about charity or it’s about the community. There’s an element of getting over it, right? People want to know that you’re doing something positive, boom, so don’t think of it about it. It’s not about your ego.

Nick: It’s all about helping that charity and using the platforms to amplify and get that word out there.

Michael: There is a positive business benefit from that, no doubt about it. All right. I wanted to explore that area because I just think it’s so critically important and it seems to be a major social trend that marketers absolutely have to pay attention to. In our industry, we’re maybe uniquely disadvantaged selling an invisible intangible product in some areas. That gives us an opportunity to emphasize some other things. Now that said, I don’t think that you would say that all protection-related or insurance-related content is irrelevant.

Nick: Absolutely not.

Michael: Okay. Got it, but this other stuff is critical and certainly there are- it may be- for example, I’ve got a lot of clients in the commercial niches and they deliver world-class content about that niche and a lot of it is about insurance and protection, but certainly not all of it, that makes them stand out from the crowd. A little tougher to do maybe on the personal line side. Again, so an opportunity to use these other strategies.

All right, so Nick, I’m going to circle back, website, a professional email address, community involvement as a content engine, and by the way, I’m quoting you on this one, I really like this one, that an agency can out-local GEICO.

Nick: Absolutely.

Michael: That’s a new verb, out-localing. Anything else that you think like essential building block? I’m assuming that from your perspective, some presence on social is a fundamental building block.

Nick: It is. One fundamental building block that I would put over social, before you get to social, would be having a formalized referral program at the agencies. Every year at Safeco and Liberty we survey our fastest-growing agents. This year both personal lines and business lines have said that the number one source of new business is a formalized referral program. Having that in place is another key building block.

Michael: Let’s stress the word formalized standard. Here’s a common conversation that I’ve had with agents over the years. “Where do you get your new clients?” “Most of them come from referrals.” “Tell me about your referral program.” “Well, we just take really good care of our customers,” or “I got a really great staff.” I think you’re not talking about that. I think you’re talking about something with a little more thoughtfulness.

Nick: Exactly, some thoughtfulness and structure to it.

Michael: All right. Then social and then boom. We do have a customer list, so presumably communicating with customers via email and other ways to touch them with something of value. That’s on my list.

Nick: Yes. We love emails and email newsletters, and even physical newsletters. It’s just another great channel to reach a client and tell them about your community involvement, to tell them about your referral program.

Michael: It’s funny that you mentioned that. Even after all these years, there’s a small group of marketers that I meet with two times a year, once in the casita and then once in somebody else’s town. That whole idea, these are cutting edge marketers, but the majority of them continue to have a physical newsletter. I think we could certainly argue why, but the fact of it is worthy of note.

Nick: Yes, absolutely. Having that physical newsletter is still very important for a lot of consumers. Some people will take it and throw it right away, but some people will read it. Some people will delete your email right away, some people will delete it. So communicating across every channel is really key.

Michael: All right. Now let’s start diving into the what’s working out there in the real world. Obviously, you see agencies that are making it work, you see agencies that perhaps have struggled through an initiative to try to, “Hey, let’s get our growth going,” and then agencies that are, “Maybe.” There’s an element to this.

I’m not being derogatory. This is just a fact, that there’s an element of the industry where perhaps it’s because of the age of the principals that they’re okay riding it out, they’re waiting for the acquisition, they’re going to move on, and unfortunately, they’re not doing anything to support the increase in their valuation. There is a percentage of the industry that’s like that.

For the listeners, what do you think that they need to do to be in the good group, to be in the group where they actually are making organic growth happen in their agency, and they’re not just going along with the industry average of 4% or 5% growth?

Nick: You have to have the buy-in from the agency principal. The agency principal and agency leadership have to believe in marketing. We have so many success stories on why marketing works. You can seriously grow your agency using these marketing techniques, but without that buy-in from the agency principal, they’re going to sit and they’re going to coast, or probably shrink a little bit over time.

Michael: My listeners probably would know by now, they could get walloped at some point, strategically down the road, if they’re not prepared for changes in the industry. What does that buy-in look like, feel like? It’s not just, “Hey, I think it’s a great idea, somebody go for it.” There needs to be some resource, time and attention, understanding at the principal level, but some investment in marketing to get a return. I don’t mean to answer your question, you’ll answer it better than I do.

Nick: Yes, no problem. I want to talk a little bit about an agency principal out in Vista, California. His name is Seth Arruda. He’s a principal at Alta Vista Insurance. Now, they had an interesting approach to their marketing. Now, Seth actually stepped into the marketing role full time, as the agency principal, and he decided, “This is something I need to learn.C

He assumed that role as the chief Marketing Officer, if you will, to fully understand what it’s going to take for his agency to grow organically through all these channels we’ve been discussing. He did that for about a year, and then he stepped back into the agency principal role, but during that time as the agency CMO, he really started to understand what it’s going to take, what type of content that the agency needs to create in order to survive, thrive and grow in 2019 and beyond.

That was a really interesting approach that Seth took to get his agency on the right track. If you go to Seth’s website, altavistainsurance.com, you can see a lot of the great marketing work that he’s doing. Seth’s excellent with creating the videos. They have their Yelp reviews plastered all over the website. They do such a good job, and you can point back to that time where Seth stepped into that role.

Michael: Now that’s interesting. Let’s work that one through. For a listener who’s thinking, “Gosh, I’ve got too much to do to be the CEO and the CMO.” Been there, done that, it’s a lot. Based on your experience or your observation of Seth’s successful experience being his own CMO, what can an agency principal do to begin to move into that direction?

First of all, I want to totally, 100%, agree with you that the agency principal needs to have some mastery of the principles or tenets of contemporary marketing in the modern age. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they need to be the one who executes or implements or understands all the details, but getting them to that point, what do you encourage the agency principals do to become knowledgeable enough, masterful enough, that they can then manage marketing?

Nick: Liberty Mutual offers a lot of educational coaching services, most of which are free. We have live in-person workshops, online classes, webinars, online videos. We have a lot of educational material. Even if you don’t want to use Liberty Mutual, you can go to YouTube. Like what you said, Michael, you need to have a basic high-level understanding of marketing, and there are so many free resources out there. You just need to know enough to coach the marketer, to coach a dedicated marketing resource, to set that marketing strategy for your agency.

Michael: Okay. Now you just raised an interesting word, “the marketer.” Ironically, in like two weeks from tomorrow, I have a workshop here in the casita with my clients. It’s a one full day on essentially how to manage a marketer. The first premise is first I need to demonstrate to you what marketing is and what marketing can do. Then, we can talk about this role of the marketer. You may know that I did interview Chuck Blondino from Safeco about the survey, and found it absolutely fascinating.

As I recall, three surveys ago, 51% of your top performers had some kind of marketer, and then two surveys ago, it was like 56%, and then this time, I think it was 63%. I’m pretty close on the numbers, which is really rather remarkable because I think when I first met Chuck and started working with him, the percentage was really close to zero.

Talk to us a little bit about what your observation is in the field of that role of marketer, what they’re doing, and how they relate to the agency principal or the CEO?

Nick: Sure. A marketer is a full-time position. If an agency isn’t ready for a full-time marketer, you can start off with a part-time marketer. The agency principal and the marketer need to have a very close relationship. As we talked about at the start of the call, there’s so many elements of marketing in 2019 that someone really needs to be watching them at all times. A perfect example of that is Yelp. When you get a Yelp review, you need to respond to it right away. So you need to have someone dedicated to that, looking at that, waiting for those reviews to come in. Another interesting example of an agency principal working alongside the marketer is Jerry Nicolaus at Hoff insurance.

He was the president of the agency. In 2011, they hired an outside marketing agency to try to do some marketing for them. Two months into that, they ended it. Jerry quickly realized that an outside agency just doesn’t work. You need to have that marketing resource in your agency because the marketer in your agency will better understand the community, will better understand the agency, the people that work there, the producers, the CSR. Building that relationship with the principal and the marketer is just so key.

Michael: In Jerry’s case, he became the marketer.

Nick: Yes. Jerry actually became the marketer.

Michael: And presumably then, Nancy. I know those guys. They were clients of mine for years and years, and they’re terrific. They’re wonderful, tremendous people. So presumably Nancy’s providing what we would think of as the principal or the CEO role, the leadership role in the agency. Then Jerry is getting the phones to ring, keeping clients longer and getting more policies per customer.

Nick: Yes, and to dramatic effect. In fact, when Jerry started becoming the marketer in 2011, the agency never had a year over 600,000 in new business production, but from 2011 to 2012, they jumped 800,000. In 2013, they jumped to over a million, and are now averaging between 1.5 and 1.6 million in new business production each year. So such a powerful impact that having a marketer at the agency can have, and this unique situation you have an agency principal stepping into the marketer role. Even if you don’t have the agency principal acting as the marketer, that tight relationship between the agency principal and the marketer needs to exist.

Michael: By the way, thank you for sharing the numbers because I think you just answered the objection, “Gosh, where am I going to find the money for a marketer?”

Nick: Yes, it pays for itself.

Michael: Well, yes, “From the customers.”

[laughter]

Also, as you said, many agencies do start with a part-time marketer. I have clients who have pulled out eight hours with Sally CSR, who’s got some skills and trainable and understands social media, and she is right here, and she loves it when we do charitable activities. There’s always a starting place.

Nick: Absolutely. I agree with that 100%.

Michael: Always a starting place. Okay.

Nick: Yes, and if it’s eight hours a week, then that’s amazing. If you’re going from zero to eight hours, fantastic.

Michael: Got it, all right. Moving on, so besides hiring a marketer, being a marketer, having the agency principal understand or gain some mastery of marketing principles, boom, what else is– What’s working out there in terms of actual tactical stuff to do? What’s working?

Nick: We’ve talked about having that client referral program. We’ve talked a lot about getting involved in the community. Here’s one tactical real thing that’s working big time. So combining those two things. So tying your formalized referral program to a local charity, we’re seeing explosive growth. We’re seeing explosive growth with that.

Move away from the whole, “I’m going to give you a $5 Starbucks card for the referral.”Instead, pick a charity of the quarter, and for every referral that comes into the agency, you’re going to pick a donation. At the end of the quarter, you’re going to give a giant check to that charity. Think of all the amazing social media moments, all the pictures. You get the whole staff there. You’re going to be able to fill up your newsletters and your Instagram and everything else you’re doing with the great content from that event.

Michael: I’ll share an anecdotal story. It’s only one story. So it’s not science. This goes back, gosh, at least 15 years, I think more than that. I had a client, mainstream agency, personal lines, commercial lines, medium size. Had the usual referral program, which was, “We take really good care of our people”, and then formalized it. I said, “Whatever.”

I saw him at the next boot camp, and I said, “How’s it going?” He said, “Doubled the referrals.” Then added the charitable connection to it, boom. Saw him at one of our quarterly closed-door conference. “How’s it going?” “Doubled them again.” That was a 400% increase in referrals, based on two things, formalizing the program and then connecting it to a charity.

Nick: I love that. Michael, there’s an agency out in Kansas, [unintelligible 00:35:41] Insurance. The agency principal there is Ken Hoffman. He started his journey in 2015, created the formalized referral program, tying it to a local charity at 515,000 premiums. End of 2016, jumped to 971,000 in premiums. Not a math major, but that’s a massive percentage increase. 2017, he jumped again to 1.4, and ’18, they cracked two million. Just by doing some of these small tweaks, like creating a formalized referral program and tying it to a local charity, and then letting your customers know about it in all of these various channels.

Michael: That’s marvelous. Okay. Any other examples there on charitable contributions or referral programs?

Nick: Jerry Nicolaus at Hoff Insurance, we talked about him earlier, they do a donation to a local scholarship fund for a community college, which is fantastic.

Michael: My recollection is that that fund was perhaps named after Nancy’s father. I seem to recall when he passed away.

Nick: Yes.

Michael: Okay, got it.

Nick: Yes, absolutely.

Michael: All right. Okay. What else is working out there in the real world?

Nick: There’s an agent in Portland, Maine, at Chalmers Insurance. Her name is Tia. Tia is a one-person marketing agency. She’s an in-house marketer. What’s awesome is she’s using technology. She’s using a technology you’re very familiar, Michael, called Agency Revolution.

Michael: Okay, hang on. Lost your audio a little bit. We may as well get that one really loud.

Nick: How does it sound?

Michael: Yes, okay, there we go. [laughs] She’s using what? A remarkable technology?

Nick: So, Michael, she’s using Agency Revolution.

Michael: Oh, I’ve heard of that. Okay.

Nick: Yes, ever heard of that one?

Michael: Yes. Let me back up on this one. You said she’s a one-person marketing. So within the agency, she does all the marketing.

Nick: Yes. She does all the marketing for the agency’s eight locations. ,You’re probably asking yourself, “How can one person possibly do marketing for eight locations?” Well, the answers is marketing automation. Marketing automation is such a fantastic technology. Think about all those manual laborious emails that the agency is sending out. When you sign up a new client, you’re sending them some sort of “Welcome to the agency” email series.

Well, guess what? All that can be automated using a marketing automation technology like Agency Revolution. They send out thank you emails when clients renew, account review emails, all sorts of things. It’s just amazing how much power Tia can wield with Agency Revolution and marketing automation, one person, eight locations, that’s pretty incredible.

Michael: That’s really quite remarkable. So presumably, it’s going pretty well for her.

Nick: Absolutely.

Michael: Okay. [laughs] Okay. Well, not only can you automate it so that you know that it gets done, but you can elevate it. In other words, you don’t have 40 or 50 different people sending it out on their own, and sometimes doing it, sometimes not. Their language isn’t necessarily the most effective. So you could do it. You can systematize it, and elevate the quality of it by being very thoughtful about what you want to say.

Nick: Absolutely.

Michael: Nice. Okay. Love that one. What else, out there in the real world?

Nick: Michael, one of my all-time favorite marketing tactics, and all my coworkers know this about me, is I’m a blog man. I think of blogging. The use of blog is just one of the greatest marketing tactics out there. It’s great. Liberty, we conducted in-person live marketing workshops. At the start of them, we turn it over to the agents. We say, “Why are you here today?” One agent, he raises his hand and he says, “Nick, when a customer or a potential customer searches for SR-22 insurance on Google, I do not want to come up for that search-“

Michael: [laughs]

Nick: -“How do I make sure that happens?” Well, the simple answer’s don’t create content around that. If you do want to capture specific traffic, you can use a blog. You can capture targeted, tailored, specific traffic for the exact type of insurance product that you’re trying to sell.

Michael: This is an example of how you can out-local GEICO?

Nick: Absolutely.

Michael: Right? With your blog and it’s good for search engine optimization.

Nick: Yes. Google prioritizes local over national and with a blog, you can out-local GEICO.

Michael: Talk to us a little bit about frequency, the ritual blogging and what you like to see in regards to content.

Nick: In terms of frequency, I am a little bit on the extreme end. I think two blog posts per week is what agencies should be shooting for. At the bare minimum, you want to do one blog post a month. Keep in mind that the blog content that you write should be 100% unique content. You can’t have duplicate content. If your one monthly blog post is just a pre-published duplicate content article, you’re not going to get any benefit from Google from that.

Michael: Right. Okay. Let’s see what we can do to make it easier for people to create and deliver high-quality content, in this case. Now, it’s a little different than the social platform and it’s not necessarily just pictures of us at the annual cancer walk or whatever, right?

Where do you think agents should go to get content ideas for their blog?

Nick: If I was the marketer at an agency, I would turn to the CSRs, the producers and agency principals and I would ask them, “What are the most common questions that you’re getting from our customers and prospects?” Those are perfect blog topics. People are going to Google and they’re typing this into the search engine and if you have content there, you’re giving your agency an opportunity to appear for that keyword search. You can show your customers and prospects that you’re an authority in the field and that you’re there to help them. You can answer their questions.

Michael: This might be helpful for some people, I had a client who had a staff meeting at the beginning of the week, handed everybody a piece of paper. This is low rent, there is no expense to this one. A blank piece of paper, might have had something on the top of it or said, “On the top of it, I want everybody to write down questions I got from clients and prospects.” Boom, right?

Then said, “Want you to do me a favor, for one week, just write down the questions you get from clients and prospects and then at the end of the week, I’ll come around and pick them all up.” There’s a little bit of social accountability because everybody knew that everybody else was doing it and at the end of the week, boom, they had a year’s worth of ideas for content. People tend to… Like in the course of a week, you’re going to hit the 80-20 rule there, right, because the most frequently asked questions are probably going to show up that week and so those are the most common ones and plus a few unusual ones that people wouldn’t have thought of on their own.

Nick: Absolutely.

Michael: Blog content. Anything else on blogging? At some point, I suppose we could do a masterclass on blogging but this certainly gets started. Anything else you’d want to add?

Nick: Well, we already talked about how the content has to be unique. The other thing, you need to make the content local. If you’re an agency in Denver, you need to put the keyword Denver [crosstalk] as hyper-local as possible.

Michael: Hyper-local. Got it. Okay. One other thing, if you are a, let’s say, commercial lines and you’ve got niches and maybe the niche is less local. You might have a- let’s say, my client who, let’s say, has an arborist niche in five states. Well, clearly they’re going to be talking about arborists, right? My suggestion is when there are product offerings that are less local but are clearly nichified, then write about it and use their name.

[laughs]

Nick: Absolutely.

Michael: Yes, and find out- there are lots of tools and tricks but asking them is always maybe the best, find out what their questions are and then ask that question in the blog and answer that question in the blog. Then when the arborist or whoever they are, when they’re beginning to type it in, boom, Google’s going to find you and they might even complete the sentence for you. All right.

Nick: That’s exactly right. I think you hit on something there. You want to be as niche and as local as possible and if you’re not local, be as niche as possible because there’s less competition because it’s easier to rank.

Michael: Local and niche. All right. Nick, this has been a tremendous conversation. I kind of hate to end it but you have a full day of stuff to do and so do I. Perhaps we’ll do a follow-up on this at some point in the near future. If people want to learn more about Liberty/Safeco’s offering and the services or want to contact you, what’s best? How can they do that?

Nick: You can contact me at nicholas.andrews@libertymutual.com or-

Michael: If you want the Safeco address, I got it.

[laughter]

Nick: -or Safeco, nick.andrews@safeco. The best way to reach out to your local territory manager, tell them that you’re interested and they can help get that started,-

Michael: Marvelous.

Nick:– the conversation going.

Michael: Marvelous. All right. Nick, pleasure to talk to a fellow marketer.

Nick: Me too.

Michael: I admire what you’re doing and I appreciate your advocacy for the independent agent.

Nick: Thank you so much for having me on, I really appreciate it.

Michael: You bet.


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