How the marketer fits into today’s insurance agency model
Should you hire a marketer for your agency? What should they do? How do you manage them for maximum results?
The ‘shape’ of agencies is quickly changing to meet the modern consumer. More and more agencies are hiring part to full-time marketers to help them scale their organic growth.
Michael Jans calls on his nearly 30 years of insurance marketing experience to answer this emerging problem. To help agency principals—and marketers—clarify their thinking about this important position, Michael presents a 4 stage model that builds a framework for the contemporary agency:
- What are the ‘4 Stages’ of marketing in the modern agency – and, precisely what should you expect from your marketer at each stage?
- Michael identifies 7 Principles for the modern marketer… each one will help guide you to find and lead the activities of marketing in your agency.
- How do you hire a marketer and what should you look for? Michael identifies 8 aspects of ‘marketing as a profession’ to help guide your own strategic thinking about how your agency reaches the marketplace and earns trust and business.
Please don’t miss this conversation with one of the industry’s most respected and experienced marketers. Whether you’re an agency principal or an agency marketer, this podcast will help you get answers on how to move your marketing to the next level.
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.
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Michael Jans: Hello everybody, this is Michael Jans and I’m interviewing me. [chuckles] I have no other guests to interrupt, distract, mistreat or otherwise be rude to. This is just you and me.
In this conversation, I’m attempting to solve a problem that is growing in attention. At least based on, number one, feedback that I get from you guys. First of all, thank you so much those of you who email me or reach out to me, connect with me on LinkedIn or Instagram, cool, and when you give me comments and questions, I love it. Number two, in the long ongoing and deeper and more intimate conversations I have with my clients, boom, I’m seeing this as an emerging issue, not brand-new, been around for some years, but because of the changing nature of the industry, I’m getting this question a lot.
How do I hire a marketer? What is a marketer? What does a marketer do? So on and so forth. Purpose of this podcast is to answer that question for you. Let me put in a little bit of an historical perspective. I would say, based on these conversations, I have now had well over 100 conversations with leading startup CEOs, thought-leaders, journalists, observers, analysts, successful agents, insurtechs. Did I miss anything?
Clearly, while I’m not certain I agree with one of my clients that I must be the most connected person in the insurance industry. I do have some connections, and tend to reach out to people who I think have unique and poignant insight. From that, I’ve certainly gathered an insight on what’s happening in the industry. Folks, it’s changing, that’s no big news. If you’re a fan of this podcast you know that is a core theme. Then addressing that theme, understanding the trends and forces that are changing in the industry, boom, that’s important.
Then two, having an appropriate strategic response to those changes. Well, one of those is when we recognize that the world is changing, consumers are changing, then to respond appropriately is the responsibility of the CEO or the principal of the agency. One way in which they do that is to realize, “Oh, consumers have certain expectations. We need to reach out to them. We need to touch them. We probably need to do it differently than we did in 1995 and certainly in 2005 and probably 2015.” Things are changing that rapidly.
Let me paint the framework with which I’m attempting to answer this question. Then we’re going to get into some of the weeds and give you some of the details and I will share with you some of my experience. First of all, I am answering this question from the perspective of my experience which, and for those of you don’t know much about it, I’m going to share a little bit about it because my experiences is unique and it does inform my answers. Then I also attempt to answer this question in the context of seven core principles each of which I think relate to this issue.
I have built a model which attempts to make this beautiful messy thing called life a little bit orderly and to give you a model with which to organize information, to gain some clarity of mind and then ultimately to make appropriate decisions for your agency. That model has four stages of the modern insurance marketer. To give you a little perspective, I will share with you the very exciting titles or labels for each one, marketing assistant, marketer one, marketer two and CMO or chief marketing officer.
Now that being said, again, this is a model. Of course, you can say, “There are infinite numbers of gradations on that scale. What happened to marketing manager or VP of marketing?” So on and so forth. Put them where you want to. I think you’ll see shortly that this four-stage model allows you to make sense and make decisions. For those of you who either are marketers or have marketers on your team, you may recognize, “Well, my person’s a little bit one, little bit two.” That’s good. Most people are moving. They’re not staying the same and so they have a little bit of skill that’s moving them up. We’ll talk about that. Boom, those are the four levels.
Then what I’ve attempted to do is at least to some extent in this podcast, we’ll see how much I can actually get done, is I’ve analyzed a category for each of the four stages. We’re going to cycle back, but I’m going to start at the beginning. We’re going to work our way towards these four levels or stages of the insurance marketer. We’re going to get into some of the details on it. Let’s walk through how we got to where we are. I look at this conversation that I’m having with you as part of a three-pack. Three conversations that you could wrap up and put a ribbon on it, and say, boom, that is going to solve some problems.
One of them is– It happens to be the most downloaded podcast of the year maybe because I did it early, so did it in January, February. It was a podcast I delivered on the five levels of the modern insurance agency. Now, a question that I received with some consistency after that podcast was, “How do I get to the next level?”
To some extent, one way to get to the next level is to do more marketing. In other words, the five levels really have to do with the relationship between your agency and the marketplace and the manner in which you communicate with the marketplace, influence or persuade the marketplace to move closer to you and how well you engineer that and build the systems that make that happen, and then, of course, generally, that requires some human resource, and that is this person that we’re talking about here, the insurance marketer.
Package it with that conversation and then with the conversation that I had very recently with Chuck Blondino from Safeco. Again, thank you, Chuck, for your brilliant insight and for the work that Safeco is doing and bringing to the industry that in that conversation, the core question I asked to Chuck was, “What did you discover from the annual agency survey that you performed for Safeco and Liberty?” We had personal books of business, commercial books of business, 1400 agencies I think, 700 on each side, so a very interesting insight. Chuck and I go way back on this issue. I think we go back to 2004.
One of the observations from that conversation is three surveys ago– I’m pretty sure I got these numbers right. Three surveys ago, 51% of the top performing tier of agencies had somebody on team who was a marketer or did marketing, didn’t necessarily have to be full-time, but 51%. That was three surveys ago. Two surveys ago, the numbers had moved up to 56%, and now, the number is 63% of top Safeco Liberty performing agencies have a marketer, somebody that does marketing, that identifies as the marketer on staff. Part of what I see happening is a transformation to the industry.
Now, kind of interesting personal story is that– Turn the clock back to 2004 when I first met Chuck at one of my boot camps, an insurance profit system/quantum club boot camp. One of the things that I noticed then was that there were those who absorbed the principles in the techniques that we were teaching at the time and saw the results in organic growth, and there were those who didn’t. The difference was often that the first group just had the time to do it and the second group didn’t have the time to do it.
Then the first group I noticed broke down into two further groups. One, small agencies where the agency seemed to be running fairly well, but the agent saw the value of organic growth, saw the value of marketing and just did it themselves. Then a larger agency who in spite of the fact that they have a broader portfolio of demands, obligations and responsibilities, had systems in place that allow them some freedom to do the marketing, but it was very rare then for many agents to “hire a marketer.” Well, now we’re seeing a transformation in the industry.
Yes, indeed, over the years and the decades, we’ve developed two or three reasonably effective models on hiring and managing producers and maybe two or three or four really pretty good models on hiring and managing CSRs. So on and so forth. Now we have this new position, what do we do with it, and how do we not screw it up? Because doing it wrong is a waste of time and doing it wrong is a waste of resources and doing it right can be absolutely transformative.
First of all, let me share where am I coming from? What gives me the insights on sharing my perspective on this? First of all I have perhaps the odd distinction of being the only person in the world who has done nothing but be an insurance marketer for 25 years. Very odd profession. However, very, very satisfying and it’s been a wonderful ride to me.
During those 25 years, while I have somewhat by quirk of happenstance have been the chief executive officer for whatever organization I have been associated with for roughly 40 years, for the last 25, I have been the CEO but also functionally the CMO, the chief marketing officer of 25 years ago launched insurance profit systems and then our core program quantum club and through that, I know that we touched over 20,000 agencies with exposure to our content and thousands of agencies were clients.
In that role, to some extent, I served and to some extent still do with my clients now though the relationship tends to be much more intimate. Serve as CMO. Not only to my organization but also to my clients’ organizations, and also from within that role, I’ve had marketing people working for me. Hired a plethora of people who did various subsets of marketing for me.
I had that perspective and then, of course, a little bit of a broader perspective, 10 or so years ago started one of the early ensure tax, ensure agency revolution. Clearly in that company while I was the co-founder and the CEO, I really functioned fundamentally also as the CMO or the chief marketing officer as I did for the insurance communicator which became the largest eblast advertiser in the insurance industry and ZipDrip which was the first email marketing system that our company created.
Then also I bring a perspective of the breadth of the industry, so while I have functioned primarily as a consultant or an adviser to independent insurance agencies and frequently or occasionally other agencies, I’ve tended to reserve about 20% of my own personal book of business to largely, other insurance organizations, wholesalers insure tax, and then after the sale of agency revolution as an angel investor in insure tax and get an opportunity to see the impact that marketing can have on an organization.
Then it may be of interest that my own portfolio of clients divides into two fairly neat groups. One run by boomers and they have their own set of issues and depending on what their strategic horizon is, they’re often making decisions about organic growth now making investments in organic growth and they want this problem solved. What do we do with the marketer, how do I hire a marketer and they often come to me with the full knowledge that they are insufficiently trained as marketers themselves and don’t really know how to manage or supervise them.
They want some insight on what they do and then the other group tends to be the millennials or millennials / Gen Xers and they tend to be a little more familiar with the contemporary technologies and some of the contemporary modes of communication or modern marketing and largely what they’re looking for are a clear path and plan and shortcuts solutions to problems so they don’t have to do it all themselves. That’s the perspective that I’m bringing to this question. From that perspective I’ve identified, here’s how I approach the problem.
How I tend to approach the problem as first identify what are the principles that can guide our solution and I’ve identified seven of those. I will review them briefly with you now. Number one is the principle the modern age. What works now is different than what worked before. Obviously the principles remain the same. The principles of human psychology and anthropology and what motivates people, those remain the same, but the manner in which we communicate is different. The technologies that we communicate those are different. The opportunities are tremendous right now.
The purpose of this conversation is not to get into the details or really don’t want to have to prove to you that the world is different than it was a few years ago. You can examine almost any of my written works to identify how dramatically the insurance consumers’ behavior has changed. That’s number one, the principle the modern age. My most requested report from a an era ago is 21 ways to write a killer yellow pages ad. To some extent, it was a game changer I could travel from city to city when I was doing training and consulting and when I got to the hotel, pull out the yellow pages, look under insurance and I could see oh there’s my guy, that’s my guy here.
They’d run year after year well nobody’s asking for that report right now. One principle of modern age. Two, the principle the right customer. When we talk about hiring a marketer, we want solutions to be solved. This is a message for the principle. You’re responsible for strategy and they are largely responsible for execution. As we’ll see in a bit, the more advanced the marketer, the more they participate in the strategic conversation but you are responsible for strategy and one of those is making sure that you are pointing your marketing machine in the right direction meaning that you are directing it to the targets that are going to deliver the greatest health to your organization.
Generally that means leaning towards those who are intrinsically inclined to give you maximum customer lifetime value not those who are intrinsically inclined to be price shoppers and high churners and to leave no matter what you do. Again, if you listen carefully to so many of the conversations I’ve had on this podcast, one thing that you will consistently hear is that depending on the length of your strategic horizon, hey, if you got more than a few years in the game, lean up market and be prepared to diversify appropriately upmarket.
I refer you first of all, to another podcast I had with, Tom Super, VP of insurance at JD power. In their annual insurance shopping survey, they identified three demographics. Low value, mid value, high value. Clearly in our channel, those high value– not high net worth, I’m not saying that. High value, those clients 21% of the population are best suited for this industry and will most richly reward the Independent Insurance Agency. The other report I’ll refer to you, I consider to be a classic, it is now four and a half, five-years-old from Bain and company insurance. Their study on insurance customer loyalty.
I’ve referred to it a number of times you’ll find citations and most of my written work and they’ve identified the distinction between the price shopper. Who is better served by other channels and the peace of mind shopper who is better served by our channel. Which gets to principal number three. The principle the right relationship. Once we establish the right customer, we want to point our marketer and our marketing in the right direction with those customers which is right relationship and our channel that is depth of relationship. Again referring to the Bain study, you earn the loyalty and NPR score of nine or 10, to me this information is enlightenment.
Strategically, this is the most important thing I think an agent needs to know. Earn the loyalty of that peace of mind shopper, and they will reward you with 25% more insurance, they will consolidate almost all of their insurance with one provider. They will retain at 97%, they will deliver to you 2.5 referrals per person. In the long run what that means is that every loyal high-value customer is delivering seven times the customer lifetime value of a low loyalty customer and three times the value of a neutral customer.
Pointing the ship in the right direction is of absolutely importance and then going deep in the relationship is important. How do we do that? How do we get that maximum customer lifetime value? I know many of my listeners are familiar with the marketing model I created, the four-stage marketing model ACOR attract, convert, optimize and retain. Well, obviously, we need all four, we need to attract people into our funnel. We need to convert them into customers, we need to optimize those relationships, make them as rich and deep as possible.
Then we want to retain them as long as possible in order to attain maximum customer lifetime value, we need all four. We really need to focus on optimization, retention. How do we do that? We do that again, a two-part model that I use as we deliver meaning, ongoing meaning, and ongoing delight. Ongoing meaning means that we deliver value and solutions to their problems. Ongoing delight means that we deliver a sense of humanity and community and we’ll talk more about that in a bit.
Principle number four is the principle of constant change, which to some extent means that everything I’m saying today might be obsolete tomorrow. It’s a fluid world, folks, insurance fluid, the marketing world fluid, technologies that serve it very fluid. I recall a survey that my company at that point.
Agency Revolution, conducted some years ago, we asked one question, are you worried that your agency is not keeping up with the modern consumer? 96% of the respondents said, yes, we’re worried we’re not quite keeping up. This principle of constant change means that you need to– and your marketer needs to constantly be engaged and involved in the insurance world and the marketing world and be aware of breakthroughs, technologies, and new best practices.
Principle number five, so these next three, I kind of group together. Principle of technology, the principal content and the principal of strategy because clearly, what you will see is that as we move from marketing assistant up to marketer one, marketer two and CMO, what happens is the mastery and sophistication of the use of technology content and strategy goes up. The higher up they are on that ladder, the more capabilities they have in that area and at the very bottom level, they tend to be strategic and they need really to some extent need to be told what to do and supervised at a tactical level and then the higher up, the more strategic they are.
The principle of technology simply acknowledges the fact that this capacity, the marketer of today needs to have comfort and capability and confidence with technologies. I often throw these into three buckets and try to keep things from splashing around too much, which is the way the world tends to work. Web, so in other words, your website, the content on your website, the sophistication of the website, email or email and text push notifications and then– because the web tends to be a pull, you’ve got to attract them there. Email, texting, you’re pushing a message out and then social, various social platforms.
Principle of content, again, is intended to connect with the heart and mind of the marketplace influence and persuade them to come closer so that they come to like, trust and ultimately admire you. We do that again by delivering meaning and delight. Ultimately, as the content gets better, we move up that ladder then the marketer is responsible for the creation of original content, which is a fairly major breakthrough.
It happens a little bit slowly, even a marketing assistant does some original content, but the quality of the content that you see at the higher levels is the kind of content that you look at and you say– and you read it or you hear it or you see it, you consume it somehow and you know, that is quality. The principle of strategy simply implies that the marketer must work within the framework of a strategy. We’re not just taking tactics. This is the thing that I– what’s a better word? This is the thing I abhor but I understand it. I’m sympathetic but let’s move away from this.
It’s like an agent looks outside of the outside world and the inside world, they make a comparison, they see things they don’t like. They say that world’s moving faster than my world inside, boom and they start throwing tactics at stuff, tricks, their marketing tricks. How do I get there? What trick do I use to get this thing done? Folks, tricks are for kids. This is a real, very serious profession and as you will see, it’s a profession that grows in sophistication. This principle of strategy, you’re again responsible for it at the highest levels in the organization, but as the marketer grows in sophistication, they need to be increasingly engaged in the strategic conversations.
I will make a very quick reference to the five levels of the modern insurance agency, level four, level five they tend to be masters at strategy. Level three begins to move in that direction. Level four, level five, masters of strategy and it is transformative. One of the points I’m trying to make is the most valuable thing you can do for marketers have a great agency. You can’t hire a marketer and put lipstick on a pig. We want to move towards greatness.
Reminds me of one of my favorite strategists from Harvard Business School, Cynthia Montgomery, asks the questions– She teaches real-life entrepreneurs of fairly significant privately-owned companies. Can you answer this question, does your company matter? Boom. If you’ve built a company that genuinely matters to the marketplace, it makes your marketer’s job a whole lot easier. I could take one marketer and give him to agency A or agency B and they’re going to get better results at agency A. Why? Because it’s better agency.
Now I want to share where I start. I do start four levels. I’m not even including in this the old school hang around at the Qantas and the service clubs in the chamber and have a Yellow Pages out and put a shingle out. Those are kind of the three great things from the 1990s. That’s category zero, that’s stage zero not including that. I will, however, say that there were activities that were taking place then. There were activities that I taught in trade and they were taking place then. I still have clients that are doing what you might consider to be old school marketing methodologies and killing it with it.
Generally, they also have new schools. In other words, I’ve got clients who are killing it with direct mail getting– I’ve got a client getting over 600 leads a month from a direct mail program, but boom, boom, boom. However, those are– the clients that are doing that are also clearly– the reason they do that is because they know marketing works. They do their metrics and they are no doubt also using modern technologies. That being said, I think an important point is don’t throw out all of the old but also, a good marketer doesn’t simply look at the new and say that it’s better. We simply know that it’s newer.
Now, that said, we also knew that there are lots of technologies, communication technologies that are amazing. I think we discovered, I think this is the good news that we could go back let’s say a decade or whatever. There was a lot of hand-wringing and gnashing of teeth, wailing and gnashing of teeth about the Internet and how it’s going to destroy the independent insurance agent, because, in fact, we saw how much disruption it caused the travel agency industry. Well, we thought there’d be– a lot of people said, oh, this is the death knell for the independent insurance agency system and in fact, it’s not.
In fact, what we have discovered is that those technologies that we thought were going to crush us have now given us at the touch of a button, we do it better when we have skill and we do it better when we have the right technologies but with a touch of a button, we can deliver meaning and delight to thousands or tens of thousands of people at the same time in such a way that they get the right message at the right time.
All right, the eight. Now let’s take a look at each of these four categories. The four stages. These are the eight aspects that I’ve attempted to answer on each of these four stages. Number one, roughly what’s their influence over the market? Number two, what’s the professional level? In other words, how does the marketing profession view each of these four stages professionally? Three, generally, what’s the experience level? Four, what’s the sophistication content? Five, what’s the sophistication of technology? Six, what is the lifestyle focus? In other words, the lifestyle of marketing?
In the A core model, are they focused on attract a cool version C or optimization retention or they focus on getting customers or creating deeper relationships with customers? Number seven is the sophistication of their strategy. Number eight impact on growth. I’m going to take each one of these four levels marketing assistant, marketer one, marketer two and CMO and I’ll give my perspective on them. First thing I want to do is, I’m going to say a brief phrase. This is the influence over the market phrase for each one. The marketing assistant what do they do? They remind and inform the market of your agency’s good reputation. That’s a valuable role, not to be minimized.
What does a marketer one do? They guide the market to a deeper relationship with the agency. In other words, they’ve got access to tools that can bring that market closer and closer in a little bit of a more sophisticated manner. The marketer two leads the market through a deeply satisfying customer journey, from stranger to raving fan and the CMO transforms the market. They literally can change the industry and they certainly can change the life and the experience of the consumer who’s lucky enough to participate in their model.
Let’s start with marketing assistants, their professional level. Marketers would consider them to be a peer professional, not really a marketing professional yet. They very likely could be part-time, they often start part-time. In fact, again, I’ll refer to the conversation I had with Chuck Blandino, yhey very often are engaged in this function one day a week and the stuff that they can do in this one day week, Chuck and I talked about a lot of those things, isn’t it?
For people who’ve been clients of mine for let’s say, 20 plus years, I know you’re familiar with a lot of these concepts. Or if you’ve gone through safe coach training program, I know you’re familiar with these concepts like the welcome kit and the newsletter and the digital newsletter and the referral campaign and so on and so forth. Or my clients, you would recognize what I call the quick win program. This builds the foundation.
The marketing assistant, with guidance, can execute on these things and roughly takes about one day a week supervision. They do need to follow some cadence of execution. That needs to be worked out in advance. How often are you going to do your social posting? How often are you going to be emailing and generally, what’s the content of the communications that are going out to the marketplace?
They should report on results. Now, that being said, I’m going to keep this brief. Beware that many of the results that marketing assistants are going to be able to bring back to our vanity metrics, like, how many people liked my Instagram post or how many people engaged or commented on our Facebook post? Most marketers would say, those are largely useless metrics, so boom, I’m going to leave you with the frustration that every marketer has about that. That being said, I don’t want to minimize the impact of those activities on an agency.
Again, to refer back to Safeco’s study, their top-performing tear on the Safeco side group is every call 13 to 20% and on the Liberty side, 19 to 30%. Again, 63% of them had somebody doing this stuff and these are the things that they were doing those very basic methods, social email, maybe some video of reaching out and delivering and largely in my model, delivering delight really working on community and humanity.
How much experience does somebody have? This is usually the entry-level position into what I would call professional communications, but they usually have some innate capacity and they’ve proven that in their personal social media, life and comfort and confidence with technology. In terms of their sophistication of strategy, they do what they’re told within a framework. The agency needs to provide that framework. They need a cadence or a formula for the frequency of, let’s say, social posting. They need to be informed which social platforms are most appropriate for your agency. These are fairly easy things to do.
They might be able to because I’ve seen it with my eight or nine years in agency revolution and since that they’re often capable of managing some of the basic campaigns in a marketing automation system like agency revolution, they might be capable of blogging. Ideally, this person has fairly well-developed writing skills and there are ways I’ve got in my 19 shortcuts stick killer insurance, marketing and half the time. I think that’s what it’s called. I’ve got tools and you can help guide that writing, but ideally, they’re capable of at least some appropriate blogging.
Again, the focus of the marketing assistant tends not to be so much on what I call the meaning, the value insurance content, simply it’s more difficult to to deliver that and to create that, but at the advanced levels, it’s absolutely critical, but they’re really very good at kind of pulling the curtains back on the agency and letting them see you as real people, which gives people confidence and you participating in your community and making contributions and being good, and having a good reputation.
In terms of sophistication of strategy, they’re fairly tactical, sophistication of content, again, the messages of humanity and community, it’s really predominantly about the who and very little about the what. They’re generally not expected to create much highly original content. Clearly, and to some extent, you could see them not so much as creators of original content, but recorders of the story, recorders, curators of the real story that’s happening really in the agency. These are our people, this is what they like, this is what they love. This is how they feel. This is what they do. This is what we do as a team. This is how we participate in the community, that stuff and I don’t want to minimize it.
They’re also capable of curation, but I want to make a comment about that. Curation like taking other people’s content and then passing it on. On one hand, frequency of communication is valuable, but not every posting or not every message that’s delivered advances your cause. Some of them detract from the cause. I think you probably– One of the reasons that people hate social, is they see so much junk and so much curation of other people’s content.
Curation done well is, here’s a piece of content from somebody else and this is my unique insight on it that might be valuable for you. Without the comment it’s just here’s more content as if you don’t have enough already, as if you don’t have access to infinite amount of content where people are saying, readers are leaders and bloody blah, okay. I’ll leave that at that.
Just beware that frequency, yes, there’s value in mere exposure. I won’t get into that much, but beware of using that exposure too much. That just doesn’t either, it doesn’t add meaning or does it add delight or is it just blah? Okay? I want to get it off my screen. I don’t need another person telling me what I already know. All right. Sophistication of technology. They’re usually yes quite capable of posting on Facebook or Instagram or LinkedIn, blogging, again, functioning with basic marketing automation campaigns, and also low production video. They should be able to shoot a video of the agency giving a big check from the referral program to the local Susan G. Komen et cetera. Shoot a little video, put it on Instagram. Nice low-production video, very real, very authentic. Their lifestyle focus. Where do they focus on the lifestyle of the customer? They focus on existing relationships, getting deeper and deeper with existing relationships. This is not a lead gen position, however, if you can install an effective referral program, problem solved to some extent. We may get into that later but the focus here, look, there’s so much untapped value in existing relationships, it’s okay. Again, in terms of impact on growth, refer to the conversation that I had with Chuck.
Let’s move on to marketer I, influence over the market guides the market to a deeper relationship with the agency, so as a professional level, boom. Now, this is a beginning professional. This is somebody who may now identify themselves as a marketer. They might be part-time, they might be full time, they may have these duties mixed with some other duties, they might be a customer service rep and then do this part-time. They also might be contract employees. I have a number of clients who have marketers on their team who are contractors and in some cases, I’ve helped them fill that position.
They generally consider this is now their career and they might be starting out in it, but they are generally hopeful that they can pursue this as a career, they actively pursue professional growth. They do maintain an awareness of advances in marketing technology, strategies, and tactics. They’re usually aware enough of what’s happening in the industry that they’re paying attention. They might very well belong to some professional network, either they’re getting continuing ads somewhere, they might be getting it online, but they are actively consuming information that is appropriate to a professional.
Those of you who are principals, you have some responsibility here. This is a position that as it gets better, this is a leverage position. A dollar spent here produces X dollars in the long run and the better they get, then the bigger that leverage is. You really should be making sure they have a track for professional growth. This is a revenue position folks, so invest in the position, invest in the person. Don’t just hire the person, invest in the person. Probably they should be reporting on metrics and they should be again clearly functioning within a well-defined strategic framework, not just throwing tactics together.
“What are you doing this week?” “I’m going to do this.” No, this is somebody who’s starting to work on a longer-term framework and those metrics should be able to demonstrate ideally that we’re moving the needle. By the way, if you’re not aware of this, there are four numbers that I like. Four numbers that I love and I wish it were easier to get them, but that’s not an excuse. You’ve got to get them. If you’re serious about organic growth, then once a month somebody should just put these numbers on your desk, or my clients plug them into the dashboard, so now we know what the leading indicators are and we can adjust the lagging indicators like profit loss by adjusting these.
What are the numbers? ACOR. A, attract. How many leads did I get? C, what’s my conversion rate? O, how am I optimizing? What’s my policy per customer count, or if you’d like, what’s my revenue per customer account? R, what’s my retention rate? If you’re tracking those four things, now what you can do is say, “Cool, I’ve got my marketing dashboard, let’s see if we adjust to this.” Is that going to get more leads in the funnel if we adjust this, or is our conversion rate going to go up? The marketer should be part of that conversation. A marketer I can begin to adjust those numbers upwardly, should meet with management every week and it may be useful for this person to be collaborating with producers.
Let’s say you have commercialized niches. There should be ongoing conversations with the producers that are responsible for those niches and they should be in fairly constant communication with the inbound closers. Maybe those are the CSRs, but we want to know about quality of leads, that’s an ongoing conversation. I realized that most agency principals are underqualified to manage this position and so there are certain responsibilities now where you have to grow. What kind of experience do they have? There is no single track for the manner in which these people get here.
At this point, because of the changing world, they may have had academic training, maybe they got a certification or something like that from a technology vendor who focuses on marketing technology. They may have moved up, they were the assistant before but now their skill levels moved up, but somehow they’ve had exposure to contemporary marketing. I’ve seen a number of people, for example, there people who worked for agency revolution who then moved on to a different position and they’re functioning in this role, so maybe they worked for a technology company.
Let’s talk about sophistication of strategy. Well, they can do everything that the marketing assistant can do, but they also can bring a great deal of sophistication to it. They can create basic multi-step marketing campaigns with measurable conversion, usually, they should do this within a well-defined best practice format. They’re not at the level where they can break rules and create their own formats. They should follow fairly simple templates that are standard best practice in the industry. They should be able to make campaign level recommendations to agency principals, with increasing responsibility and authority.
I’ll give you an example. Let’s say, with your agency management system or agency revolution, they might be able to dig into it and say, “Hey, I’ve noticed that we have 1,311 customers who are in the seven flood-prone cities for whom we have property insurance, but no flood. Should we run a campaign on them?” That kind of stuff. A marketer I, should be able to at least identify opportunities like that and then conceivably build a campaign that attracts them into the appropriate part of that funnel. They’re beginning to work in longer time frames, so they might begin to structure a content calendar and campaign calendars for the year, with increasing level of detail for the quarter in which we are in.
They should be able to bring new ideas and technologies. Ideally, they are scanning the environment enough to say, “Hey, here’s something we might try.” More than likely, they probably should not have the authority to be jumping into the marketplace without permission first. I want to finish this up with this one point. They probably shouldn’t be creating original campaigns without some oversight or supervision, because it’s really easy to do the wrong thing. In other words, especially when it comes to lead gen, I’ve seen too many of them fail. They followed what they thought was a best practice, but they missed a critical element that simply comes about with experience and training.
Sophistication of content. Now, this is somebody who has more capacity in content creation, so they should be able to write acceptable persuasive marketing copy that follows commonly accepted best practices. They should understand the principles of a subject line in an e-mail and how to structure and format an e-mail, which words to use, which words not to use. Likewise, their blogging should be more engaging, effective use of persuasive language. They can do everything the assistant does, but they are better at it. They have an increasing awareness of SEO, Search Engine Optimization, so that the content which they do create and is placed on your website, it’s strategic and it’s designed to attract traffic.
They’re also likely responsible for key elements of design. In fact, the marketing assistant very likely uses one of the common design tools Canvas or any number which makes it easy to make something look good. In this case, the marketer I clearly has some responsibility for a congruence of the overall brand context and the daily or the messages that frequently get delivered to the marketplace. There’s a consistency of brand look and feel. In technology, yes, they should be blogging. They should be somewhat masters, at least to some extent, of social, at least again delivering that sense of delight. They should be getting progressively better at marketing automation tools like, e-mail. In many cases, the technology teaches the student. A good marketer I spend some time within the technologies and learning about the technologies and says, “Oh, it could do this?”
Then they realize that there’s a new capacity and they learn how to do it. They probably presented to the principal and say, “Hey, we should do this.” Their video production might be a little bit better. They might have low production and medium production video. They should be able to bring new technologies to the agency to test. They should be a little bit aware of what’s happening in the technology/marketing/ensure tech world. At this point, they really have some responsibility for progressively getting better, at least beginning analytics like, Google Analytics.
If one of their responsibilities is to get more traffic to your site, then they should be able to demonstrate that they’re doing it and how they’re doing it. They should be able to show you the appropriate parts of Google Analytics that communicates that to you. Impact on growth. Now, I think what we’re beginning to see is that because they have a little bit more capacity on the front end, they may be able to with help, identify target markets and again, they’re going to have to get probably get some help from a marketer II or from an outside contractor which is fine, but they may be able to assist in lead generation, it’s just that more than likely it’s going to require some supervision.
Their impact on growth can be really quite significant. They’re focused on their lifestyle focus, the lifestyle of the customer. Again clearly, they’re going to be creating deeper, stronger, longer relationships with your existing customers. They may be able to attract more referrals and you might clearly trust them to have responsibility for cultivating deeper relationships with partnership referrals, industry referrals. Again with supervision, they might be able to help you generate leads.
Now the fun begins marketer II. This is a professional level position. I would say from the perspective of marketing as an industry, this is an intermediate position but highly skilled. They’re generally full time, though you might be able to acquire part-time usage of somebody because maybe they’re contractor. We’ll talk more a little bit about that at the end about how you find these people. Generally, they clearly identify marketing as their profession, as their career. They intend to continue to move up that ladder. They actively pursue professional growth. They maintain heightened awareness of advances in marketing technology, strategies, and tactics.
They almost certainly belong to some professional network. Whether it’s within the industry, maybe it’s a mastermind group. In some cases, maybe they belong to a mastermind group with the principal where the group allows the marketers to attend. By the way, the term for this person is often a mark tech, marketing technologist. Take it for what it’s worth, but clearly the technology part is a critical responsibility of this position. They really should be able to train producers and the principals of social selling. A marketer I might be able to as well but clearly, in agencies where it’s appropriate for producers to be in communication with the marketplace, LinkedIn, Instagram so on and so forth, those elements of social selling, this person should be able to train them how to do that and manage them so that they get better at it.
They very likely manage other employees or other contractors. Let me say a word or two about this position. I feel like I’ve known many of the best marketers in the world in my career by my own choice that became my network. In many cases, for example, some of the best marketers I know, they weren’t good copywriters, for example. Maybe they lack that skill or some of the best marketers I know, they’re not going to get on social if you hold a gun to their head, but they’re going to make sure that IT happens, for whatever reason. As you move up the ladder, what you’ll sometimes recognize is that the real pro doesn’t necessarily do it all but knows how to get it all done.
In many cases, this person a marketer II really is quite capable of managing other people or managing contractors or get the contract or manage the contract or get the project done. They probably in many cases can really do it better than anybody else. Maybe they manage an outside SEO expert. Maybe they manage an outside analytics consultant or maybe they manage, let’s say, content creation. They don’t have to create all their own content. I don’t. I write everything, but I don’t design it. I create the framework. I create the brand. I create the overall look feel and cosmetics and boom. Then with fairly clear communications, I delegated and manage the delegation of it. A marketer II may achieve success by approaching it that way.
What kind of supervision do they need? Again, this is a professional position. It’s not a C-level. This isn’t like a CEO, CMO, COO, CFO. Really not even a VP level but that at this point, words are words. The critical factor is they have tremendous capability. They should be in terms of supervision, in some constant cadence of communication with the agency principal, so that they are one, clear on the strategic framework and the direction that they’re moving. Two, clear on the plan that the marketer’s using to execute on that strategy. Then three, clear on the metrics that they then deliver back to the agency principal and they should have a plan.
Once a strategy is clarified at the highest levels of the agency, then this person’s responsibility for it. This person has a responsibility for creating a plan upon which they execute, and they got a report on the metrics of that plan. What kind of experience do they have? I can’t imagine somebody being a marketer II with less than five years and that is if they’ve been on a training track. In other words, if they’ve been a marketing assistant and basically never did anything else, boom, five years later, they don’t magically turn into a marketer II. They turn into a marketer II through blood, sweat, and tears.
How did they get there? Again, no single track, like any other marketing position. You have to sometimes have to cast a wide net to bring somebody in. Their sophistication of strategy is much higher than the marketing assistant or marketer I. They really have a responsibility to move the revenue needle and to generate higher customer lifetime value. They may begin to move into some “leadership position in the agency.” In other words, they are leading some transformation of the culture because once an agency begins to have this kind of sophisticated in-depth relationship with the marketplace, it is basically saying, we’re paying attention to the customer, all the way through the line.
We pay attention to what’s on the heart, mind of a lead. We pay attention to them when they call and we convert them into a customer. We pay attention to what’s on their heart and mind. When they’re a customer, we make those relationships richer and deeper. I really think this person begins to help transform the culture of the agency itself. They create pretty sophisticated multi-step marketing campaigns with measurable conversion. They do that with increasing responsibility and authority.
Sophistication of content. Original content. At this point, now we’ve got people who can create original content. High quality, original content that represents the highest values and the most poignant, well-clarified message that your agency can deliver. They do that knowing that at the top of the funnel, the middle of the funnel, the bottom of the funnel, the quality of the message, and the nature of the message is different and they understand how to create it, and how to deliver it as somebody moves through that funnel. The blogging much more persuasive. They’re increasingly aware of the impact they have on SEO, and they can sequence multiple varieties of content.
By the way, for those of you who find this topic fascinating, then you should look for my book, The 40% Growth Book: The NEW Content Marketing for Insurance Agents and Brokers. Give that to your marketer, but I really think every agency principal should at least have a fundamental awareness of how content marketing works. Not only do they create content, but really ultimately they have a responsibility for creating a content creation system, ebooks, checklist, audits, infographics, vlogs, and blogs, lead magnets, and so on and so forth.
In terms of sophistication of technology, all the technologies we’ve talked about before, but now they may be bringing in other technologies like webinars, more sophisticated video, clearly more sophisticated analytics. I’m going to merge lifestyle focus here. I do have a piece coming out in some weeks down the road, called The Seven Truths of Scaling: The Independent Insurance Agency. One of them is that you can grow a lot simply by focusing on the existing relationships you’ve got. You get more policies per customer, you get more referrals, you get better retention, you are going to grow. If you want to scale, which by my definition, the agreement I have with my clients is if they want to be a client, and the goal is to scale and that’s minimum growth 25.89% per year, because if you do that for 10 years, you’re 10 times the size you are in 10 years.
That’s our definition of scaling. You want to scale, you need lead gen, and this person is capable of it. They may be bringing in outside help, that’s okay but they’re going to be able to use pay per click, they’re going to be able to understand how to use Facebook advertising or LinkedIn advertising or other forms of pay per click that attracts the right customers into the funnel with the right lead magnet, uses marketing engines to take them through the marketing funnel brings them to the point of conversion where they actually are begging to do business with you. Then they have a sophisticated customer journey that makes those relationships as rich and deep as possible. That’s what this person can help you do.
I’m going to move on to the CMO, Chief Marketing Officer. In most cases, so what do they do? They transform the market. They change the market. Now I’ll bring a couple of examples out of my own life. I think to some extent, at least clients who participated would say that insurance profit systems in Quantum Club, they were transformative. They changed the way a substantial part of the market thought about their relationship with their customer base. Agency revolution changed the way that a lot of agencies thought about their relationship with their book of business.
What a CMO can do is actually change the industry and then transform the lives and the businesses of the people who are again lucky enough to participate in it. In most cases, you can’t justify a full-time CMO. CMO, Chief Marketing Officer. One, they’re not a lot of them, two they’re highly desirable because they’re a leverage position. $1 into a good CMO is a bunch of dollars in the long run on the back end and they’re expensive. If you were running a whatever. Let’s say you got a nice startup going, you got to be prepared to put down the average– I think the average CMO in a Silicon Valley company startup, 250 to three, plus a piece of equity. You don’t need to bring that stuff into an insurance agency. You need to be aware of what they are and you need to be aware of the skills that they can bring.
Generally, minimum 10 years. Usually, in order to qualify as a CMO, they’ve scaled something. It’s either 5X or 10X what it was or they brought a startup from zero to the inflection point of growth, They are highly tuned in to the major trends and forces that are affecting both the marketing industry and in our case, the industry within which we operate, the insurance industry. You will often find them in insure tax, mega agencies should have them, regional carriers should have them. Clusters should have them, most of them don’t. They’re missing a huge opportunity.
What do you do from here? Where do you take this information from here? Well, I’m going to give you four really quick points and then we’re going to wind it up. Number one, it is easy to start with a marketing assistant. Listen to the conversation I had with Chuck. There a couple of ways to do it. I’ll give you three ways to do it. Number one, look around the agency and say who might have both the proclivity and eight hours a week. Two, go to the outside world and find somebody and hire them or three, go to one of the hiring platforms like Fiverr or Upwork. A lot of my clients have done this and attracted somebody as a contractor.
Number two, the agency principal needs to know how to supervise and manage this person. I’ve covered some of those elements in here. By the way, for my clients in September, I am holding a workshop on how to manage your marker for maximum results. We’re holding that here in the casita small room. You don’t need to know how to do everything they do but you have to have a basic understanding of what they should do and the results that they should get back, and the things and the activities that you need to participate in and be aware of in order to help them get the best results out of their job. That’s a matter of ongoing lifelong learning and paying attention and hopefully, continue listening to this podcast.
Number three, you should be tracking four things, ACOR. How many leads that I get? What was our conversion rate? What’s your policy per customer count? What’s our retention every single month somebody puts them on your desk and number four– Apologies in advance for those of you who have to wait, which is everybody. I am turning this content into a guide book with graphics, with pictures, so it’s easy to understand. If you’d like a copy of it, e-mail me and I’ll put you on the waiting list. My system will get it out as soon as it’s published. The subject line would be four stages. I’ll get it and then you can say, “Hey, Michael, love the podcast. Get me the book.”
When it’s ready, you’ll get it for free. It’ll be ebook format. Hopefully, it will solve the problems you’ve got. That being said, I do love it when you communicate with me. I realize again, apologies, sometimes I can’t get back to everybody. I have certain parameters on my time. My first responsibility is to my clients, and to my business, as I’m able to. I know dozens of you are aware of this, as I’m able to, I will try to get back to you. In any case, if you want my guide on The 4 Stages of ‘The Marketer’ in the Modern Insurance Agency, let me know and I’ll put you on the waiting list. You’ll get it.
If you have other questions, let me know and I will do my best to answer them. If I can answer them individually, from time to time, I’ll do a Q&A on the podcast and I’ll take questions from listeners and use the podcast as a way to get back to you. That being said, before we’re done, connect with me on LinkedIn, and Instagram. That way you’ll never miss out on anything. Alrighty, well, it’s been a great pleasure. I do hope that you got value out of this. I know that a lot of my clients have asked me to solve this problem.
Hopefully, you’re finding some value in this. A lot of people have struggled with this. I think as we move on as an industry will continue to mature, Hopefully, this model will give us a framework within which we can mature and get better. Again, hope it was a great value to you. Love talking to you. Have a wonderful day.