How re-branding can boost your agency in the marketplace… and just how to do it right!
Fresh on the release of his new book on branding, insurance marketing expert, Peter van Aartrijk, lays out a clear message for these times.
After you listen to this conversation, you’ll probably be thinking, ‘It’s time. Time to take a very close look at how the marketplace views us. And, it’s time for us to take complete control over it.’
Peter has a 30 year ‘love affair’ with the independent insurance channel. But, he doesn’t hold back from honest criticism. Agents who have embraced that criticism have thrived – as they benefit from marketplace clarity, differentiation and a culture of fast-growth.
- The common mistakes agents make with their brand. (Hint: branding is not just refreshing your name, colors, logo, or tagline. Dive deeper…and the rest comes easy!)
- Why most agents underestimate how powerful branding is because they only look at the surface of their brand. (A powerful brand delivers experience, stories, human connections and more. Peter shares his insights on how to make that happen.)
- Why NOW is most likely the time for you to inspect your brand. (Millennials have different expectations… and, here’s a FACT for you: millennials will be the largest generation in North America in 2019. That’s like tomorrow.)
A note from Michael Jans: Peter, of course, is one of the more recognized names in the insurance marketing landscape. It’s rare for us to find 30 year veterans who are still energized, insightful and full of energy. Peter lays it all on the table in this interview. He left me with two pages of my own notes – and, as always, made me think about my own brand and how it plays in the marketplace. Please join me in this podcast conversation. It’s an important one for this modern age.
What are other agents & brokers doing to thrive? What are the biggest trends affecting the retail insurance agent & broker? What are the most important strategies and tactics you need to grow faster? Find out here in the Connected Insurance Podcast, where Michael Jans discusses the biggest issues affecting the independent insurance agent and broker with the industries leading figures.
One More Thing! What do you think? How will you and your peers use this to grow your agency or brokerage? Share your thoughts in the comment section below, subscribe to get updates delivered to you and *please share this if you found it informative.
[Transcript] Peter van Aartrijk – Co-founder & Principal at Chromium and CEO of Aartrijk
Michael: Peter Van Aartrijk, thanks so much for joining us. Peter how are you?
Peter Van Aartrijk: I’m doing well Michael, thank you sir.
Michael: All right. Glad to have you here. Background for our listeners who may not know you and I think most people in the independent insurance agency industry probably do. I noticed that you have a book that you are now releasing. When I saw that night, I didn’t know that until I got your email and when I saw that I thought oh, look we got to track down Peter and find out what it is that you have to share, so thanks for joining us today.
Peter: Well, thank you very much Michael. Writing a book is I’d say it’s somewhat like having a baby but that would be really unfair to the moms out there, but it did take nine months to complete, and it’s sort of like amalgamation of all these things I’ve been thinking about in the insurance industry over the last 30 plus years I’ve been working at it. Most of it in the independent agent channel.
I got my started AM best companies then went to the insurance information stood and then to national underwriter then to the independent insurance agents and brokers of America the big I. Since then the last almost 20 years I’ve been working as a consultant. My passion is helping independent agents, so you and I have similar careers, there’s slightly difference of parallel universes.
I really– My father-in-law was an independent agent. The whole ecosystem of the independent agent, the carriers, the technology firms, the user groups, all these trade associations. I just find it fascinating in the sense of just the economics of it and the sheer size of it, but also the human side which I really enjoy. I just love the people and I think they do a lot of good things for the consumer.
Michael: That’s why we fight for them.
Michael: When I think of you Peter, there are two skill sets that are related, but a little bit different that I think you’re top of the field. Number one, in this industry I think you know as much about publicity, communication through– Excuse me, I got a little bit of a cough. Through trade magazines and kind of the industry media, you know as much about that as anybody.
When I am thinking or working with a client for example [chuckles] that needs rebranding, in this industry you’re the guy I think of as the branding guy. Am I right on both of those? Would you say those are the things that define the best of your skill set?
Peter: You’re close, very close Michael. I think my passion is journalism. I started as a writer actually with a newspaper before I joined AMF. I really liked the written word and putting together a sentence and that sort of thing and that led into yes, publicity, public relations with the insurance informations to dealing trying to improve the consumers’ awareness, understanding and appreciation of insurance in general. Then when I got to the big I, it was all about focus on the independent agent as an option.
Its publicity, PR mostly now inside the insurance industry, trying to reach those opinion leaders such as editors and reporters at the many trade magazines out there that agents read and others read.
Michael: Right on.
Peter: Then the second piece as I got longer in the tooth was really focusing more on the strategy side which is, it’s easier to scream and yell. This all started in during the dot com days, now you see with some insurer tax. It’s easy to scream and yell about what a great product you have or service, but only if it’s good, only if it really is good. What I found myself doing was talking myself out of work to help people. Because I asked all those dumb questions like does this thing actually work? [chuckles]
You find people get irritated with you, I was like wait a minute, we have all these features and benefits. I know but there’s no story here, there’s no way there, there’s no differentiation there. You start getting into more of a strategy conversation which is what are you trying to do, who are you trying to impact, what is your why, why should people care about you.
That led, yes, to the brand story and in this new book which is called The Powers we talk about brand, not just for the consumer or the customer but the internal brand which is the workforce brand, the employment brand, what the culture is like.
Michael: Okay. Let’s zero in on this all right. You had mentioned, I’ll give a little bit of background on where I’m going with this. You had mentioned a few minutes ago we kind of have parallel careers. I’ve been in the industry for two, three decades. To some extent I suppose people look at you and I both as marketing people. Though we entered into this industry from very, very different perspectives.
That you mostly through traditional communication magazines, journalism and branding and me as a direct response guy in my early– if we go back 25 plus years ago. My trainers, my mentors, my marketing teachers were direct response people and there was always interesting conversation, interesting critique from the direct response guys about branding.
In other words they kind of looked down their nose at branding.
There were pejorative comments about, your new logo is not going to sell your next policy. We always in the direct response world, we always measured our success sort of event by event. In other words if it was a sales letter, back in the day or a fax broadcast or whatever, it was like, “hey, how many went out and how much did you get back. What was your ROI on that event? What’s your ROI on an email campaign?” So they’re really very measurable.
Over the years, I discovered, while direct-response certainly has its measurability and its power, brand works really deeply in people’s psychology. I’m going to ask you before we dig into this, when you talk about brand, what’s your definition of it and what does that mean to an independent insurance agent?
Peter: Well, it’s– You’re correct that the brand is– well, I think it’s the most important asset you own when it’s managed well. It’s not something that’s necessarily tangible. I think of it almost like a big spider web where your whole organization is this giant spider web and no matter what happens on what side of it, like the phone rings and the reception answers, something happens to impact your brand in a positive or negative way.
It’s a set of experiences that your customers and prospects and other stakeholders have with you. When done well, there’s a passion around it, it’s not just pretty colors on a website or pretty colors on a logo. It’s very well thought out strategic and it has various components that time not just the external expression of the brand in the marketplace, but the internal culture. Because the best brands, if you notice, there’s no disconnect between how employees act and how the customers are treated it’s almost-
Peter: I look at it like a– it’s like those discovered car commercials Michael where there is the person answering is the twin of the person calling.
Peter: We treat you like you treat you, it’s that kind of thing. I equate it to an infinity symbol, where if you drew that in the air, you’d see that it’s a continuum, on one side is brand, the other side is culture in the middle where the X meets if you will is core values. These are a set of core values, a set of how people should behave in the organization that’s where the X marks the spot.
The best brands describe their core values, write them down and live by them and share them externally. The brand it’s not something tangible and that’s where you run into issues with agents thinking, “oh, I’m just going to update the website” or, “oh, we’re going to have– my wife is a designer she’s going do our logo.”
It can’t be a tactical exercise, it has to be rooted in very solid thought and that’s why we wrote the book called The Powers. The book is the subtitle is 10 Factors for Building an Exponentially More Powerful Brand. It’s kind of a whimsical look at 10 through 1, if you will, so we count down. What the various numbers mean as a way to explain brand in more detail, so that an independent agent or anybody can understand it better.
Michael: It sounds like in your model while– The brand is a thorough internal strategic exercise before it becomes an external expression. I mean a lot of people think maybe they look at their agency brand, however they see it and they say, “My god, we haven’t changed our logo since 1917 which happens to be our tagline, “Been in business since 1917.’”
Michael: [chuckles] Okay. They want to be smart about it so they figure, “All right, let’s figure out what our logo is, let’s figure out what our colors are, let’s figure out what the font is or the fonts are that we are going to use to communicate to the world, and maybe let’s have a tagline. Maybe it’s time to say something besides, “Been in business since 1917.” Those are four tangible things that you can see and touch and feel. It sounds like you would not encourage an agent simply to say, “Let’s hire a designer.”
Peter: You’re so right, Michael. The problem is that there’s no shortcut to doing this well. Yes, you can hire a commercial designer and say, “I like the color red and I like swooshes. We’re going to be like 16,000 other independent agents have a swoosh on our name. We’re going to have initials. Instead of Smith & Jones, it’s going to be SJ with the swoosh around and it’s going to be red.”
You can look like anybody else, that’s the problem. The best brands stand out by standing for something, there’s differentiation and it takes discussion. You said it. It’s got to start on the inside. That’s what we call the power of four which is branding begins within your own four walls. You can’t rely on consultants and designers to help you come up with all the answers.
It’s got to be your own key stakeholders which we believe are the owners of the firm, perhaps a collection of key employees, maybe even some really good customers or a board of directors if you have that. There’s got to be some structure to the conversation, but where you want to go in the future, what are the attributes you want to lose as a firm, what do you want to keep at all costs, and what do you want to be when you grow up?
You want to be more innovative. If you want to challenge the status quo and be more innovative, then you’ve got to talk about it and start to tell people in the agency what that really looks like. It’s okay to raise your hand and say, “This workflow sucks. We shouldn’t be doing it anymore,” without any repercussions.
Michael: Let me tell a Peter Van Aartrijk’s story which by the way you probably don’t even know. All right?
Peter: [laughs] Okay.
Michael: I’m telling the story because I do want people to get a sense of what internal process that they may use. You and I had a conversation sometime, maybe was a year ago. One of the things that you pointed out to me and I think you said you have a PowerPoint slide about this, is that in fact, yes, the world is changing, the insurance industry is changing. You had made an observation that if you if you took a bunch of the traditional insurance carrier logos and put them all together, there’s some common elements like lots of blue, right?
Michael: Lots of blue, a color that psychologists or color psychologists say just represents trust and stability. As I recall, you said you had a slide with a lot of insuretech logos. These are the emerging companies. You said, “It’s a rainbow and they’re pastels and they’re bright and they look different.” That happened to be around the time when I was designing the color scheme that goes with Michael Jans Advisory.
Originally, [laughs] I was going blue and then after that conversation sometime within the next few weeks I said, “Nah,” so now it’s this bright, spring green. The world is changing around us and insurance is changing, so first of all, I might ask you to comment on that observation you made. What do you think is going on that so many of the the disruptors or the innovators are looking and attempting to feel different than the traditional industry? What does that represent?
Peter: I love this storyline, Michael. It’s in the book in a sidebar or somewhere in some chapter about insurance blue as I call it. It was an accident because we were doing a project for a large Midwest regional insurance carrier, super-regional. We were looking for points of differentiation, we couldn’t find any especially the blue. We talked about how color, we just got done saying this, “Color and logo and things are tangible.” This is the fun stuff of branding.
If you got your story straight then the colors will naturally flow from that conversation, from the words that are underpinning your brand. It’s no surprise to me that so many insurance carriers followed each other with blue but also with words like state and farm, farmers, all state, state farms, safe auto, it’s mutual. It’s these words that all just pour out, they all sound the same, they all look the same, and we put them all on a keynote slide.
You’re exactly right, we ran out of space for what I call insurance blue which is same color blue. Not just blue, the same PMS color blue as they say in the printing world. Now fast forward to the innovator days, insurtechs, no surprise that the colors that are emerging are a lot different, they’re are a lot younger. Baby Boomers find the insurance blue a safe thing.
A lot of those insurance entities are run by baby boomers. The younger ones are coming up and saying, “We’re going to have a fresh new look that’s about the customer experience, not about insurance blue,” so if you have a name like trove or goji or cover or zebra or hippo or lemonade, you’re not going to have insurance blue.
Peter: You’re going to have yellows, greens, and pastels as you said. What’s going on is a fresher, hipper, cooler, younger look to these insuretechs because they’re appealing to the millennial population, Michael, which as of next year 2019, they will be larger than baby boomers and huge in terms of economic impact. I’m sorry, but insurance blue is not going to cut it anymore.
Michael: Okay. [laughs] To keep it in perspective, nobody can just change the color to transform their business.
Peter: Right, but in the power of 10 which is the first chapter as we count down 10 of them, we talked about every 10 years, brands will go through either a brand overhaul completely or even just a slight tweak. You’ll see big companies like Pepsi doing it, so every 10 years, every decade, if you’re a brand, if your logo, if your whole place is starting to feel like a rummage sale, it’s time to go through a brand refresh. That’s in the power of 10.
Michael: When you get a chance, google Betty Crocker, you’ll see how she’s changed over the years. In any case-
Peter: Yes, it doesn’t always have to be an expensive overhaul. It could just be a slight tweak. Color is something you need to take very seriously. You don’t want to just keep jumping all over the place as I see agencies do as well, but if the color should fall out of a brand strategy.
Michael: Okay. I want you to comment on something, a client of mine said. Hopefully, he’ll listen to this Podcast. He said that, I can’t remember why he needed to change the name but he needed to change the name of his agency. The agency is a big agency. This is a fast-growth agency, literally year-over-year growth for many years in the mid-30s, so it’s a nice, fast-growth agency. I’ve worked with them for 10 years, no more than that, probably closer to 15.
He had to change it. Again, don’t remember why but he said, “Here’s a few things I’m thinking of but it really probably doesn’t matter that much because nobody buys it for the name.” Boom, what’s Peter Van Aartrijk’s response to that?
Peter: I think names and logos, these kinds of brand communicators are empty vessels into which you pour a meaning like, “What does over time you pour a meaning?” Like what did Nike mean when you first heard it, when they told us over time what it meant? What did Amazon mean? What does Starbucks mean? It turns out they mean a lot, but it took a while.
They’ve been around decades to make it happen. What does AIG mean? I really don’t like initials as an acronym as a general rule but if you’ve got billions of dollars which is what Mr. Greenberg and everyone had, you can tell people with AIG means.
Michael: Right or IBM.
Peter: The problem with insurance agencies in general is that I think they need to rethink what they’re called. I think agency sells them short. I even think the word insurance may sell them short. Their names, if it’s autonomously named, can be a real problem because again, if I want to talk to Mr. Jones, I don’t want to talk to him-
Michael: Yes, that was three generations ago.
Peter: Yes, that was three generations ago. Again, this brand, overall, can sometimes include just to step outside the box and let’s look at the name as an employee, is this employee pulling his or her weight for the firm? Is it too small, is it too much in a box? We’re doing more in commercial risk management, does insurance agency really say that, that what we do for people from their perspective, not from ours?
The other problem is, you see this all the time Michael, is taglines and things like that where words like “producer”, from the customer’s perspective they’re saying, “Why, am I being produced?” What does that even mean? We have all this jargon and we need to change it, we need to spend time on the customer experience, and that is described in The Power of Five, in the book which is, “Make your brand a human brand.”
The human side of this industry, Michael, you and I know really well, is what gives it the power. It’s all about the people. We always say it’s all about relationships and referrals, et cetera. Why is it that in our branding, in our websites, for example, we don’t show our people, we don’t show our employees, we don’t show our customers, we don’t have testimonials, we don’t have video?
It’s like we have stock art and we have buildings, and we have just strangers, we should be showing our people. The best brands are human brands, they put a lot of thought into what our personality is going to be, and it comes out in all the branding that they do.
Michael: To circle back to the question I asked a moment ago, the words matter, right? As a copywriter, I know they matter, but the name of your company, it really does matter because it’s the vessel that you fill with meaning, it’s the packaging that somebody unwraps to get inside, right?
I’m going to guess that we have listeners who are driving down the road right now thinking, “Yes, my goodness, we haven’t really done anything with our logo, our name, or that sense of who we are, that brand for decades.” What do you want to say to them?
Peter: Well, what I would say is you cannot look at this as like a project or an expense or as a tactic. I think if it’s been this much time since you’ve done, if you’ve done this last year and you feel like you’re in the right place, it’s not for you. If your brand looks like something from the 1970s, you’ve really got to pay attention and look at this as a strategy, as an investment for the future, and not as a project, it’s an ongoing effort.
I would say I like to spread everything out on a table, business cards, look at the website, look at your marketing materials, just look at what people are saying about you. You’ll see that it probably doesn’t look the same, it doesn’t look professional. You’ve got to take the time to write down some things. We have a process that we’ve described in The Power of One which is all about looking at the different elements, like mission, vision.
Mission is what you do, vision is why you’re doing what you’re doing, values is how you should behave, and there’s other components to help you build a really solid differentiation from the competition. I think that the very few percentage of agencies that go through this process, and take the time, and talk with each other, and say, “Why are we different? Why should people care about us, why should they renew with us” They’ll have the messaging they need, and then they can start to worry about how they look from a communication standpoint.
Often, agencies go through this process where they might want to be expanding into a new county, or new state, or new product line. They might be buying or merging. This is happening big time in their system right now where they’re buying or merging with other agencies. When they feel compelled to add the new agent’s name to their name, it becomes this long list of names just to satisfy egos.
I think that’s a real problem because they’re thinking small, they’re thinking from their perspective. That is why in this process you’ve got to talk to customers. Even your best customers will give you some real good advice you can use to position the firm in a way that they find appealing, not insurance people find appealing.
Michael: Right, okay. What do you find happens internally with the team, with the staff when an insurance agency goes through this rebranding process as you’ve described it?
Peter: It’s galvanizing. My favorite billboard cartoon is a suggestion box and there’s a shredder under it. The worst thing you can do is answer people’s opinion, not act on it. If you the CEO or principal are ready for the truth, and you have a process to gather the unscattered, candid truth, you will learn some things that you’re doing well, and some things you’re doing really poorly, you’ll learn about your culture and whether it’s as good as you think it is because maybe your ego is getting in the way.
When people have an environment where they can express themselves, they don’t really care as much about pay as principals think. It’s important, time off is important too, but they want to come to a place not because they have to because they want to come to work. How can you create an environment where it’s a really strong employment brand? We can talk a whole separate podcast about the brain drain that’s going on with baby boomers retiring, so many agency owners not perpetuating their firms and so on.
How do you create a strong employment brand? You create it by having happy people, and people if they give their opinion. The other thing too, Michael, this is a problem too with many firms, not just small ones. This is going to sound bad, but I’m going to say like it is. I think older employees, have been there a long time, they have all the answers, they don’t want to change. Change is the number one hardest thing for a small business to go through.
I think if you prune the rose bush and do it in as diplomatic way as you can, and get rid of the brand cynics, if we call them in the book, you’ll find the whole rose bush does better. That’s very hard, but it’s a problem, like why do we put CSRs that have “People issues” at the front desk? Why do we demote them when now they’re the director of first impressions at the front desk and they have a people issue? It doesn’t make any sense to me. We just find a place for them where they’re going to be happier than your firm. That’s hard, but I think that’s another key way to build a strong culture.
Michael: Do you think that because of the pace of change right now, pace changes is fast, insurer tax, billions of dollars are being invested in some disruptive, some innovative, but certainly in change. Technology used to cause change, and then as you said, we’re a few months away from millennials being the largest generation in our marketplace. All of these forces, they’re changing the world that insurance operates in.
Do you think that that is making now a critical time for agencies to do this kind of introspection and act on it?
Peter: You’re so right, I don’t think we have time to cost anymore. I think the window is closings on the firms that don’t want to make any changes. Listen, I just gave a speech to the big I at Rhode Island, and they asked me to be candid about what is the impact of insuretech on the business. I laid it out for them and I said, “Listen, if your intent is to coach for 10 years, you’ve got it made. You don’t have to do anything for 10 years.”
If you want to have a firm that is perpetuated, where you get more value out of it, where you can sell it, et cetera, there’s some work to be done, and it has to be done at a quicker pace than before. It doesn’t mean you have to be overnight a digital marketing expert, although clearly, that’s an area where you’ve got to get sharper. [crosstalk]
Michael: You better move in that direction.
Peter: Move in that direction because people are mobile first, they’re digital first, and online first, they’re not the way you’re used to. The customer has changed dramatically.
I think the independent agent or broker channel has tremendous assets. They have a big customer base, they have a lot of people who used to be customers that could be customers again, so that’s data mining, going back to those ex-customers.
They have terrific carrier relationships. They understand how to market a piece of business to a company and how to get written. They have a staff that’s professional. All these things, insuretechs just come in, take it for granted that they can disrupt all of it. It won’t happen that fast, but it’s going to happen faster if you don’t react. I think the second piece of this is not just bringing new sales talent, but new talent, period.
There’s this big gap missing between a lot of agency staffs, sales and service and ownership around the 50s and 60s. Then you get down them maybe at some in the 20s’ but there’s a huge gap. We got to bring in younger people and that gets back to what is the reason I should work at this agency. What is the culture like? Am I going to like working here? Are you going to tell me when to come in, when to leave? Do I have to wear certain kind of clothes? What is it going to be like working here? You’ve got to tell that employment brand story.
I’m telling you, Michael. A lot of this issues take care of themselves when you have a good story about where you want to go with the firm. The better world you want to create for your employees and for your customers.
Michael: Talk about that for just a moment. The story. How do you create a story?
Peter: Well, the story comes from writing things down just like the story about the bill of rights and our Constitution came from what those guys wrote down and they signed off on it. They basically signed off on dying because the king of England wasn’t really happy with this evolution. When they signed off, they argued about the words in the constitution and they finally agreed and then they signed it.
That’s what needs to happen. Who is really our target audience? This is a big problem. Michael, I don’t think being a “generalist” is going to work in the future. I think commercial and personalized customers want someone who knows them. Even though it may not necessarily be all true, make it so that they feel special, that they feel that you understand family risk management for example.
It’s targeting that customer and the things that they care about is really important. Positioning which is power of three which is you versus the competition. Your story becomes more clear when you can look at not looking at the competition which a lot of agencies tend to do. They want to repeat a good firm across town, repeat some of the same words. It doesn’t really work.
Another way to get out of this is to write down what we call the brand narrative which is, where do you come from? What is your story? When were you created and where are you doing today? If you look at the back of a bag of Lays Ruffles potato chips. It talks about how chips used to be boring because they were flat. Then we came up with Ruffles which have ridges that hold the dip better and put back to our barbecues were never the same.
It’s like a story that builds trust around your firm. It doesn’t mean it becomes your tagline. Like our main street since 1917 as we said. That’s just part of the narrative, but it’s not your lead because other times people don’t want a firm that’s been on main street since 1917. They want somebody that looks like Lemonade. Something that’s little bit cooler looking.
You’ve got to have a good strong narrative, but what does it mean for the future? The idea that you have of some evidence that your brand is stronger, better, best, first, only. If you don’t have anything that really sets you apart from the competition, you’ve got to give some thought to what that could be or what it is your just missing it. Are you the very best agency in you’re county in point of practicing liability coverage or are you the very best at providing holistic risk management solutions.
The very best at serving small contractors and here’s why we do X, Y, and Z. There’s got to be some brand evidence where in a court of law you consider the judge, “Here’s how we’re the better, first, only.” The three most important components of this written strategy are as I mentioned, your core values which is how your employees behave. Your mission which is what you do. Which is very hard for people.
Your mission is not to double sales by 2020. That’s a business plan. People are not going to give you money because you want to double sales by 2020. That doesn’t work. It’s what you do to help people. Then your brand vision is the most important part is, why you do what you do. Why do people come to work, why do customers want to renew with you.
What is the better world you’re creating? What is the better state of affairs you’re creating for your customers?
If you’re success for your mission which is what you do. All this is outlined in the book. It’s not really an academic exercise at all. It’s really just an introspective exploration of why these independent agents we love so much are so good. Why are they so good. They’re wonderful, but they just don’t know how to tell the story.
Michael: To kind of to sum up some of your key points here Peter. To some extent, you are saying you can put lipstick on a pig. If in fact, the agency hasn’t had those soul-searching introspective, difficult conversations, maybe debates and arguments and all that important thrashing around. Then, clearly changing the color and maybe going with the green pastel and the nifty new name or what have you. That doesn’t fix the core problem, right?
Peter: Precisely. It’s words. Words have consequences and-
Michael: And ideas, right? The core ideas that you were talking about. How are we different? Why do we matter? Important question. I suppose, on one hand, I’m slightly sympathetic, on the other hand, who cares. I’m sympathetic that the average insurance agency principle has a busy day, right? On Tuesday, the most important thing that they have to do is get through Tuesday and Wednesday the same thing.
Sometimes stepping back and sort of taking that short reverse going like, “Let’s not produce, let’s think.” That’s a challenge, right? But thinking before you produce is really important. It’s not necessarily built into the cadence of the agency, right? It’s not on the Tuesday staff meeting agenda. It’s let’s really take a dip dive. I don’t know how often you recommend agencies should do it. I think you said maybe once every 10 years if they do it right. My guess is, that’s the majority of this industry now in an environment that is exacerbating the problem.
Peter: Yes, I know. Listen, you are hitting nail on the head. A lot of people listening right now are saying, “It all sounds good man. I just don’t have time for this.”
Michael: Now, because things are changing so fast. I don’t have time to deal with it. [chuckles]
Peter: I know. I would argue that it’s being on that Hamster wheel, the wheel is only going to turn faster if you don’t hop off it and slow it down somehow and really focus on things that are important. Maybe not urgent. Maybe not staring you in the face, but they are incredibly important and if you can solve this issue of who we want to be when we grow up.
How can we create a better state of affairs for our customers and our employees? What do we need to do?
Just take a half day or a full day with your staff, may be off-site and just invest in that and talk it over. You got to do this. I would say, refresh it once a year. Just challenge what you have written down. If you’ve written down new core values just like I said earlier, challenge your status quo. You could talk about that for the staff. Maybe you don’t have to leave the office.
Just have a staff meeting over lunch and say whatever core values we said will challenge the status quo. How is that working around here? And, you keep it top of mind. People in the office will see the importance of that work you’ve done in the off-site session. It’s not again like the Mad Men base Michael where you would hire a Madison Avenue firm to go off and create a new slogan for your company.
Lucky strikes, they’re toasted or something. This is about starting from within, but having a facilitating conversation where you can think and brainstorm and write things down and talk about and agree on and say, “You know what, we’re not going to try to be all things to all people anymore. We’re going to lose some things we’re not good at. We’re going to focus even more on truckers. We’re just going to rock for the next 10 years. Here’s where we’re going, who’s on board? Join the movement. It’s happening Who wants to work at this agency? Who can refer people to work at this agency? This is where we’re going.” That’s what people want. They want to know that there’s some future you’re pacing for that.
Michael: Got it. All right. You’ve covered a lot of ground here. I appreciate that, and I suspect you would agree that if an agency waited until branding was urgent, they would never do it. They have to be willing to live in that Stevn Covey’s quadrant not urgent but important area, part of the world.
Peter: Exactly. Yes. Do it from a position of strength. Don’t wait until you’re weak, or in a crisis mode to do this process.
Michael: Do it from strength. All right. Peter, if our listeners want to find out more about the book, or reach out to you, what do you want them to do?
Peter: There’s different ways. It’s thepowersbook.com, #thepowers. You can find me on LinkedIn or Twitter, at pvaartrijk. My email is, it’s a tough one, I know, but I’ll just spell it. It’s firstname.lastname@example.org, and all those handles work. The book’s available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble. It’s eBook, hardcover copy, softcover book, whatever you want. I just want to close by saying thank you Michael, but also I hope people realize as much as I do, if you can tell this, this is really fun.
It’s fun to have conversations about the stuff that’s happening in the hallways of your office right now and just bring it all together and say, “You know what, let’s stop talking in the hallway. Let’s bring this on to the open,” have some transparency, have some fun with this, and create a better world for people.
Michael: Here here. One last thing to our listeners. If you missed Peter’s contact information, because the spelling of his name is impossible, I hate to do this, but I’ll help you. Email me and say, I want to get in touch with Peter. You can email me at email@example.com. I would prefer you reach out to Peter directly, but I’ll help you if I have to. All right.
Peter: Thank you.
Michael: All right. Peter, as always, been a joy. I will see you shortly in Las Vegas at the Insuretech Connect conference. I’m looking forward to that, and so, again, thanks so much for sharing your expertise and your wisdom.
Peter: Glad to do it. Thank you Michael.
Michael: You bet.