Staffing Trends to Skyrocket Agency Growth


Tia-Marie Gagnon, Marketing Manager, Chalmers Insurance Group on the Connected Insurance Podcast, presented by Agency Revolution

Tia-Marie Gagnon, Marketing Manager, Chalmers Insurance Group

What’s the biggest staffing trend to take the independent agency system by storm? Adding marketing staff, that’s what!

In this episode, you’ll meet Tia-Marie Gagnon, marketing manager extraordinaire at the Chalmers Insurance Group in New England. Nationally recognized for executing effective marketing strategies at Chalmers Insurance Group. Gagnon shares insights for every serious agency principal and insurance marketer, including:

  • Daily and weekly to-dos that get results at minimal cost
  • How to identify what to market and how to communicate
  • Which technologies make life easier and deliver results

If you have a marketer on your team, or see the benefit of hiring one to do more strategic marketing, this conversation may make the most difference as you prepare to make 2020 your best year ever!

Presented by Agency Revolution, the Connected Insurance Podcast provides weekly opportunities for listeners to dive deep into the trends affecting insurance agents and brokers today and to gain proven strategies and tactics for agency growth. Our hosts facilitate thoughtful panels and 1:1 conversations with a variety of prominent thought leaders, with a focus on how to streamline and drive operational efficiency for your independent agency through the intelligent use of technology.

Transcript

Michael Jans: Tia, thanks so much for joining us. How are you today?

Tia Gagnon: Hi, Michael. Thank you for having me. I’m doing great. How are you?

Michael: Well, good. I’m thrilled about this conversation. I think this is an important conversation so no pressure on you, but I think to a large extent, I think that hearing your story is really important for the industry right now because based on one, legitimate research, and two, my observations. Maybe you can take the research more seriously, but also, in my observations and working with my own clients; your story is the story of the industry now, and it’s the future of the industry. I’m excited about this conversation. Thank you so much for joining us. First, if you would, maybe just tell us what your job is, and then I think it’ll become clear to our listeners why I’m excited about this conversation.

Tia: I’m the marketing manager at Chalmers Insurance Group. It’s an agency in western Maine. Really my job is to share our story, share the many stories of the good work that we do in our industry and for our neighbors and our community.

Michael: Got it. How long have you been the marketing manager?

Tia: I’ve been with Chalmers for six years and specifically in marketing for four.

Michael: Got it. All right. Here’s why I think it’s important because, well, actually, the reason we’re having this conversation is because your name was used as an example in my interview with Nick Andrews at Liberty. Largely, what we were talking about, what I was asking him was, “Tell us what agencies are doing and what’s really working out there.” That’s what stimulated this conversation. Prior to that, in my conversation with Safeco’s Chuck Blondino, he revealed that in their most recent annual agency survey, 63% of their top-performing tier of agencies in Safeco and Liberty had some form of marketer, and that number is going up consistently year after year.

I will contrast this with perhaps those who worked with me back in the early days. Let’s go back 20 years or 15 years; the number was just so close to zero, it was impossible to measure. In my client base, most of the, “Marketing and the principals” that I was teaching and the tactics that I was sharing or the strategies I was sharing, that really had to be executed or implemented by the principal.

Now, there were some who were relying on assistance, support personnel to help them, but now we can see that a major transformation has happened, or I would say is happening in the industry and, Tia, you represent that. Let’s start at the beginning. I’m going to walk through the story, and we’re going to talk about some of the things that you as marketer do and the positive impact that that’s had on the agency. You started six years ago.

Tia: Yes.

Michael: Then, tell me, was that a lifelong dream to work in an insurance agency? How did you get started and what did you do?

Tia: First, thanks to Nick and to the Safeco marketer development program because that program, the teachers are amazing. If you can take it, you should take it. When I started, that wasn’t even an option. That wasn’t even– I don’t feel like in anybody’s plan. I started as an assistant, got my license, TNT license. Then I really kept getting drawn back to something that I started when I was an assistant. That was developing our social media.

Michael: Okay. The initiative to develop a social media presence, did that come from you or from management?

Tia: It was just something that I noticed. I feel like anyone can be a leader. In whatever position you are, when you see something that’s missing, offer it up, put it together and make it happen for your agency. Usually, if you have a great leadership team like I did and do, they’ll support you and help you develop it.

Michael: You said it was what you saw. I assume that what you saw was that there was relatively little social presence.

Tia: Yes, little social presence, outdated website. Things that needed to be freshened up. I had no formal marketing background.

Michael: Okay. When you came into the agency, it was a job right?

Tia: Yes.

Michael: You weren’t saying it wasn’t a fulfillment of a dream to be a marketing manager in a small business or insurance. It was Tia needs a job. Right?

Tia: Yes, not even on my radar.

Michael: As I recall, you started at the front desk?

Tia: Yes. I really had the opportunity to learn all of the aspects of working in an agency. Now, I learn more and more every day. The industry is always changing so you really have to be a student of the industry. Get interested.

Michael: I’m going to circle back to that one and also preface this by saying I wish more agency principles were students of the industry and took that as seriously as you do, so congratulations to you. At some point then within your first couple of years you were noticing that there seemed to be a gap between the agency and it’s what? Connection to the marketplace or sharing its presence and its story and you raised that to your management team.

Tia: Yes, and it’s just kind of the position has grown and evolved from just starting with social media to really, now what I do is work with our management team each department head and the senior leadership team. My biggest mentor is Steve Cody. He’s our president. I work with him hand-in-hand to make sure that his vision and the senior leadership vision and goals and message is the one that we’re sharing with our community, our prospective clients and our client.

Michael: That’s that relationship, the integration of the vision. The alignment of the vision and its execution through you and through your efforts is really critical. I’m curious; do you have a regular cadence of meetings with Steve?

Tia: Yes, definitely.

Michael: Roughly, how–

Tia: Weekly. A weekly meeting. That comes from going through Safeco marketer development program and we had that on the books as other requirement. Then we were like, “Hey, this really works for us.” So we kept it and it’s great. It’s just one on one time I get to know like, “All right, what’s going on in his head? How do we align? How does marketing support his vision and get that message out?”

Michael: Without getting too much into the weeds, roughly, how would you characterize the vision or the story that Steve wants you to share to your marketplace?

Tia: Yes, definitely. I think its way more than just product price, ease of doing business and trust. I feel like sometimes those are the given. We have our core values.

Michael: You’re not jumping on social and say, “Hey man, look at our shiny new homeowners policy.”

Tia: Yes, definitely not. That’s the easy way to start stuff. Always share the info that your carrier rep give you. Your marketing reps from your carriers. You can always go on to Safeco and grab social content. That’s a huge support to start.

Michael: Got the ball rolling.

Tia: You want to dig down and get a little deeper and figure out like what are you really about? Like we’re a fourth generation, family-owned, family-operated business in western Maine. We love our clients, we love insurance, we love our coworkers, we really find value in protecting our neighbors. When we share on social or in advertisement or with our community members, we want to make sure that they know that we really do care about protecting their assets more than just, “Here’s a great product, we want to make money.” Like that kind of thing.

Michael: Got it.

Tia: You really have to dig down and do some soul-searching and figure out what your company vision is and what you really bring to the table and share that. That’s the connection.

Michael: You did just give a little mini master class in things to think about beyond price and product.

Tia: I feel I keep on going and going–

Michael: Yes, well, look, I’m taking copious notes when Tia talks, I take notes. You talked about being a fourth generation family-owned business that loves insurance, loves the community, loves coworkers, finds value in protecting neighbors. Those are terrific stories. Could you give us maybe one example? Like today or one day this week, what was a message that you may have delivered to your marketplace? What was the story?

Tia: Yes, so we just had our annual meeting. It’s a business meeting. It’s not an all-day event where everyone from each of our eight offices comes together. We call it our family reunion.

Michael: Yes, okay.

Tia: It’s a really special time for us. I just shared a picture of Steve our president with Jim, our vice president who is also an owner. Just this candid interaction between them where Steve won a Mount Washington Valley treasure award and that’s for a lifetime of service to the community and Jim comes up and grabs the mic and he’s just like, “Steve’s a really great guy. Last night, he gave me some money for a beer.” He gave the money back to him, the five bucks or whatever. I just thought it was a cool special moment that they shared.

Michael: Did you share a still picture or was it video?

Tia: I have the video but I just did a still picture of him handing it over.

Michael: Okay, so that went out on social and now presumably, are we talking Facebook?

Tia: Yes. We shared that on Facebook and then we try to tailor it to E platform. We did Instagram and then I’ll do like a more serious post and put that on LinkedIn.

Michael: Are those the three platforms that you rely on? Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.

Tia: Yes.

Michael: Okay, and as you said, like for the Facebook and Instagram posting, it’s relatively colloquially and casual. When you go to LinkedIn, you polish it up and make it a little more businessy?

Tia: Yes.

Michael: Okay, got it. The frequency with which you post on social is what?

Tia: I would say we try to do every other day. It just depends on how much content you’re putting out there. You want it to be valuable to your audience. If you don’t have anything to post that day, it’s okay. If you don’t have anything to post for the next few days, it’s okay. Just make sure it’s meaningful.

Michael: Okay. I want to circle back to something. As I recall, you have eight offices?

Tia: Yes.

Michael: When you had the “family reunion”, how many employees?

Tia: We have a hundred employees.

Michael: I’m sorry. A hundred?

Tia: A hundred.

Michael: Yes. I don’t know if everybody came but you got a monster group of people. Obviously that’s an opportunity where it’s rich for you to take pictures of virtually anybody and everybody, right?

Tia: Yes.

Michael: Okay.

Tia: Yes, that content, so all the pictures, like I have all of them. We had a couple of different coworkers who like to take photos so they helped me out. Now, I have this collection of pictures that can take me for quite a while on my calendar.

Michael: All right. When you’re not having a monster family reunion and you’ve got people distributed, is it throughout Maine or does your footprint go beyond that?

Tia: It’s throughout Maine and then we have off of the New Hampshire and North Conway, New Hampshire and that’s where I’m based out of.

Michael: Got it.

Tia: Go ahead.

Michael: You’re in a couple of states and what I’m curious about is how did you get visual content from the other seven branch offices or the other seven offices?

Tia: All right. That’s actually a really good question because what started out as me being the annoying social media girl begging for pictures.

Michael: [laughs]

Tia: People shying away and running [crosstalk]

Michael: “Oh, here comes Tia.” They go like, “Don’t take my picture.” Okay.

Tia: Get out of here. We’ve just kind of mobilized our entire group, our entire team into these marketing machine. They like to share what’s going on in their offices. We also have an intranet where it helps us connect internally, we share things there too. It’s a little competitive, it’s really fun. Yes, we have office coaches, so we do some really cool things throughout; in the community, we have Halloween dress-up contest, things like that. I get the pictures now and people want to share.

Michael: They want to share?

Tia: Yes, they’re proud.

Michael: You’ve got your army of photographers in the other parts of the agency.

Tia: Yes. It’s definitely a team effort.

Michael: Now, you’d mentioned out in the community. I don’t think we’ve talked much about that. What do you mean when you say that?

Tia: One of our core values is community involvement and that can be in our industry. We’ve chosen to be leaders. I feel like that is something that it goes beyond just being a leader in your career or at your work. That needs to stem into everything that you do out in the community, we are running boards or we’re part of boards. We’re at our national and our state association for insurance. We’re out there just giving back and being there. I think that that’s something that anybody can do, but you just have to dedicate the time.

Michael: Presumably, the agency’s active in let’s say, eight different local communities in New England and people are on maybe president of the chamber or a charitable board or something like that. Is that then part of your storytelling? You present that through presumably social and probably also we’ll talk about marketing automation in a moment. Those are part of the stories– is part of the ongoing story you tell.

Michael: So much so that we’ve kind of done away with the broad brush marketing tactics like, “Okay, we’re going to go all over, print and radio and tell everybody how cool we are.” We’d rather support our community members and let them help parts of our story and shows in press release and free press and community members. They’ll come to me and ask me to share their event or share things that we sponsor. I think that’s just more impactful than us explaining to everybody why we’re so great. [crosstalk] see how great we are.

Michael: Yes. You let the story tell itself.

Tia: Yes.

Michael: Okay. Moving along here then after a while where you were, as you said, the annoying social media girl. Your position has evolved and you’ve taken on more responsibilities, what happened, how did that transpire?

Tia: Yes, definitely. Some people probably still think I’m the annoying social media girl. I’ll own it.

Michael: [laughs] Yes.

Tia: Now, in my day-to-day, even though I’m still posting on social and that is a big and important part of my job. I think that even more so now, it’s about creating the strategy behind our marketing campaign.

Michael: All right, that’s magic to my ears. Talk to us a little bit about that because there was something that you said in our earlier conversation where you said it’s important that the technology aligns with the strategy.

Tia: Yes.

Michael: Talk to us a little bit about that, how strategy guides your decisions and guides your execution.

Tia: Yes, you can have these lofty ideas, you can have these one-off social posts or these one-off communications with your clients, but how does that actually build the relationship with your clients and your community? That’s something that we had to ask ourselves. Really, when we’re talking strategy, we’re talking growth, we’re talking relationship management and to do that, we have to be efficient and just make the time to create the strategy where we’re continually reaching out to our clients, touching base with them, meeting them where they are. For us to do that, it’s pretty hard to organize a staff of a hundred people to do the same exact thing, reach out at all of these different touch points so that we can be there when our clients need us all the time. Technology is amazing.

Technology, we use it to optimize our communication strategy, and strengthen our relationships with our clients. Whereas before, it just wasn’t as consistent and it’s like if we want to be the best, if we want to be excellent, you have to kind of break down all of these different experiences that our clients have with us and say how can we be better and that’s where the strategy comes in.

Michael: Got it, all right. Tia, it sounds like at the core of your strategy is the value of making relationships deeper and stronger.

Tia: Definitely.

Michael: Okay. Beyond postings social, and I don’t want to minimize the importance of that, but we’re going to recognize that we we’re lucky in the best of worlds. If, let’s say 2% of our followers even see our social posting. The regularity matters, but we’re going to be missing a lot. It’s certainly not the only communication medium that we have available to us. What else do you do to execute on that value or that core strategy of deeper, stronger relationships?

Tia: Yes, we know that we need to be an agent in the future, to continue doing what we love. We need to adopt technologies that enable efficiencies in all aspects of our business. That’s from marketing, to sales, to service. Something that we implemented, which you’re probably very familiar with, is Agency Revolution.

Michael: Okay, heard of it. [laughs]

Tia: Yes. It’s a game-changer. Not that I really want to give all the info out because it really is something special, and its become a huge part of our communication strategy. You’re right, you can’t only look outward, you have a base of clients where you need to keep in touch with them, and they’re your best chance for another warm lead. They’re your best chance for referral. They’re the most connected and loyal to your brand. You’re not out there just busting through prospects’ list trying to find your client, you have a base of clients, so use that, and that’s what Agency Revolution has helped us do.

When your strategy is really based on, its client centric, and you go back and you go account by account and just figure out how you can make an impact for those clients. You’re doing them justice and you’re getting your word out there to people who are already willing to listen.

Michael: Let’s walk through this because, well, there’s some lessons in the story. At some point along the line, the agency chose to act on this strategy by doing what you talked about, embracing technology and looked at marketing automation, in this case, Agency Revolution, and chose to use that as its platform. I’m going to guess based on my experience when I was active with the company and at least that part of the company that there was perhaps some resistance, people were maybe fearful or frightened about all of a sudden going from, you know, I don’t want to overemphasize this but maybe it’s almost no outbound communication other than the traditional kinds to boom, push button, then all of a sudden, we’re delivering in your case, tens of thousands of email messages at once. I am assuming that there may have been some resistance to that.

Tia: Totally.

Michael: Oh, totally. Not even just to like a low. Okay. All right.

Tia: It’s beyond just the technology. It’s not like it is the revolution. It’s like this year of, oh, my gosh, robots are going to– like if they’re doing that, what am I going to do?

Michael: All right. I hadn’t even thought about that one; that maybe there were some people who were thinking, “Wait, I’m the communication liaison to my client base, and now, the robot is?”

Tia: Yes, they’re mine. Its gone from a me, mine type of deal to either our client and that’s really come from leadership. That’s from Dottie and Jim and we know neither our clients. I’m over here now not only the social media girl, I am saying, “Hey, I can help you out with Agency Revolution. Let’s set up some time to create a few campaigns that will help your department help you get your message out cross sell or just get a referral. Let’s do that.” Oh, you don’t have time to make, no, 900 calls?

Michael: That 86% of the recipients don’t want to get.

Tia: It’s like, all right, well, let’s warm up, let’s, first of all, be consistentin our communication and send out communications every couple months so that our client base remembers us and knows that we care. We’re reaching out, we’re not being reactive. We’re flipping the switch. A total like mindset is like, all right, we’re proactive, we’re the advisors, we’re the ones you trust, we’re going to reach out to you because we do care. That’s our main of Agency Revolution.

Michael: Maybe that transformation, maybe it is fairly extreme where the default for a lot of agencies. I don’t want to say this about yours, but the default for a lot of agencies is, we’re going to be really really good at reactive communication. When Frank calls, we’re going to take great care of Frank the customer, and boom, for then we took care of Frank and I feel good and moving on waiting for the next inbound phone call. To some extent, Tia, the annoying social media girl, now was saying, “Hey, we’re going to change everything.”

Tia: They’re going to love it.

Michael: Admittedly, and understandably, maybe there was a little bit of resistance, a little bit of fear and at some point, you weren’t their confidence or their trust of the rest of your team. You probably as you said, you had support from Steve about that. Now, those departments or those producers, those divisions that you work with, before it was fear, now how do they feel about this new strategy?

Tia: Now is blessing. I don’t think that we could really do what we do without it.

Michael: Did you say blessing?

Tia: Yes.

Michael: That’s a good one. It was all the divine connotations. All right, I like that one. I’ll make sure that Pete folks at Agency Revolution hear that one.

Tia: Tell Joel that.

Michael: What’s that?

Tia: Tell Joel that.

Michael: Tell Joel. Okay. I will tell Joel that he is also part of that blessing. Why do they feel that? What are they getting out of it?

Tia: It’s giving them a way to reinforce their relationship with their clients. Before, maybe they were expected to send out a welcome packet, a welcome letter.

Michael: Which by the way is way proactive compared to the industry average. There were some good stuff in the culture before. Now these things happen automatically.

Tia: A lot of it is, we have goals and we’re like, we want to be able to reach out to our clients. We have a lot of clients.

Michael: As I recall, you’ve got over 20,000 clients. Well, that’s roughly half of Maine. Okay, teasing. We all have goals.

Tia: It makes their job a little bit easier and it aligns with what they want. It aligns with what our friends are doing, and it aligns with what our senior leadership wants and is going to make happen then use it, like use the technology to your benefit and get it going because there are just certain things that you can’t do as an individual but automated technology can really help you out.

Michael: Good technology multiplies. The team members have gone from fear to it’s a blessing, and that’s really important. That probably makes your job tremendously easier than having to fight through the resistance. I want to jump out then to the next recipients, the end consumers of the content that you deliver your customer base. First anecdotally, what do they say? Now that you’re communicating with them, you’ve been doing it for two or three years. Am I right about that?

Tia: Yes. Two and a half years.

Michael: Two and a half years. What are the customers saying?

Tia: For the folks who really do not like email and do not want to be emailed, they let you know right off the bat. That initial transition period, from, “Hey, we don’t reach out to our clients enough.” To, “Hey, we’re reaching out all throughout the year. All year long.” They let you know, and then you just take them out.

Michael: I want to address that one, let’s you and I explore that one for a minute. Some people feel like, “Oh my gosh, I got an unsubscribe, somebody doesn’t like me, the sky is falling.”

Tia: The world is ending.

Michael: End of the world. The perspective of marketers is you should invest as zero calories of energy into unsubscribe, you just allow them to unsubscribe or you unsubscribe them if they ask; next, right? Okay.

Tia: Now, it’s a 360. I received an email from one of our account managers and it’s so nice because they’re seeing the value in these consistent communications going out, their clients are reaching back out, they’re responding and they’re connecting with their agents. It’s not about me, it’s about the relationship between the agent and their client. For example, it just says, “I got a very nice note from my client back in response to your thank you email blast and I wanted to share it with you as encouragement. What you do matters so much. Thank you for the time and thought you put into our AR campaign. They’re making a difference and raising the bar.” I was like, “Yes. That’s what we want.”

Michael: Okay.

Tia: That’s it.

Michael: What was it that the client was saying?

Tia: They received a thank you, just that we’re grateful for their business. It’s just says, “Hey, I looked for you at the Chambers dinner and I–” They’re trying to connect outside of the insurance world. They’re going into the Chamber dinner and then it says, “I appreciate the social media that you’re putting out.” Then also, “Just have a great day and thank you for all you do. Take care.”

Michael: Got it. All right. [laughs]

Tia: Simple as that. Just like a little nice note. Nice to know. The other one they’re reaching back out saying “Oh, we bought a new car.” “Oh, we want to buy a new house.” That kind of thing, in response to this campaign or “Hey, I was thinking about a boat.”

Michael: Okay. They’re presenting opportunities to you that otherwise may not have been presented-

Tia: Exactly.

Michael: -because you’re there and you’re present with them. Do you know roughly how many campaigns you have active in your system now?

Tia: Yes. We have seven going and the one that I feel is the most beneficial to us is our welcome kit. The welcome kit it has thank you after renewal, account reviews a couple times a year, quarterly e-news, lots of clients’ campaigns and we’re working on car selling.

Michael: Got it. Okay. For example, the welcome kit may inconceivably could go out from not a hundred people but dozens of people. Right?

Tia: Yes.

Michael: It’s not coming from Tia, who nobody knows. Right?

Tia: Yes. It’s going out from their agent. Client’s agent is sending out these emails and they just happen to be automated but that doesn’t diminish the value. There’s something in that, “Oh, yes. It’s coming from my agent.”

Michael: Coming from the agent and as I recall you’re on AMS360?

Tia: Yes.

Michael: These are automatically triggered and it’s picking up the information from your agency management system?

Tia: Right. Agency Revolution, It has to be a partnership, it has to be a part of your processes and your strategy because it’s intertwined with what your AMs are doing. The data that they put in triggers AR. One of the first campaigns that we held again internally was Drive for 85. We currently we wanted to go the automation route but we didn’t feel like we could support that until we updated all of our contact information because really, we were driving for 85% of our email to update our client information to 85%. We went way beyond that and now we’re at 80% with active emails.

Michael: Once again, you’ve got emails for 80% of your customer base.

Tia: Yes. That set us up for success.

Michael: Yes. When you started with Agency Revolution two and a half years ago, what percentage did you have then?

Tia: Under 50.

Michael: Under 50. Do you know what was your most successful way to get new email addresses?

Tia: Just about all came from- this is before automation. These all came from our account management team. They all buckled down. They were asking the questions, updating the contacts information, updating their accounts. That was a huge team effort just to get us on the right foot so that we could prepare and do it the right way.

Michael: All right. I get it. I got two or three other questions that I wanted dig into before we wind this up. Number one, how do you know all this stuff works? How do we justify Tia’s efforts and the agency’s commitment to technology?

Tia: Well, we’re growing, and that’s always a good one. We have some some KPIs and it’s showing growth. That’s always positive. We’re also growing in the number of staff that we have all across the board. We are in growth mode. The policies per account is up three points. Our top campaign open rate is 60%, so that’s [crosstalk]

Michael: The average person listening to that may not realize that compared to the marketing industry averages, that’s a mind-blowing number; 60% open rate. Obviously, there are a lot of factors that go into that. Do you know what your average open rate is for your emails?

Tia: Yes. 40%.

Michael: Okay. Again, mind-blowing number. That’s one question. What about referrals?

Tia: That keeps me employed. Those little stats. Which is good but I think it’s even more than just the numbers. It’s our net promoter score. It’s our numbers but it’s how we’re- the feeling that we get when we’re talking with our clients and how the relationships are being felt. That’s the [crosstalk]

Michael: Do you run a net promoter score?

Tia: Yes.

Michael: Okay. This is a bit on the side, but yesterday, I had the opportunity to see Agency Revolution new net promoter score feature and its really mind-blowing. You’ll be happy when you get your hands on that one. A couple of other questions. We’ve talked about email. We’ve talked about social and still pictures. Do you do anything with video?

Tia: Yes, but we want to do more.

Michael: It’s typical. A video would be what marketers call a low production video where you could shoot it on your phone and maybe not do anything to it other than maybe clip the beginning and end and often, boom, you got a video.

Tia: Yes. There are great tools out there. There’s biteable. Facebook, you can create video on Facebook. It’s low production for the most part. Stuff that lives on our website, that’s professionally done. I think there’s just a good mix. If you’re doing video, you can just do with your iPhone or hire somebody else to do it for you.

Michael: Then, next question. We’re circling back on part of that or maybe a theme from this conversation. Have you noticed that there’s been a transition or transformation in agency culture because right now clearly the agency, it stands for proactive, deeper relationships. Has that changed the culture? Has it strengthened that value?

Tia: Yes. Definitely. There’s just this great team atmosphere here kind of like what I I said beofre; okay, so social girl, she’s doing it basically on her own trying to grab all these pictures and you have these different events, when really, it’s easier and more beneficial to empower everyone to take their hand at it. Marketing isn’t just a department. I feel marketing, it includes your sales process, it’s a business function. Everybody has their hand in marketing but it is just about organizing and empowering people so that they can take their piece and bring their piece to the next level.

Michael: That’s a good segue to my next question. There is no right or wrong answer on this one, Tia. Now, when Tia shows up at work and there’s stuff you got to do, do you identify professionally? Do you identify as a marketer? Do you identify as an insurance person? How do you identify professionally in your position?

Tia: I would say insurance marketing.

Michael: Okay. [laughs] Now, how do you think you’ll get better, or maybe clearly, your responsibilities and your capabilities have progressed in the last three or four years. What do you do to be a better marketer?

Tia: I feel like it starts with listening and just putting yourself in other people’s shoes. If you go in and you’re a new marketer, don’t go in and say, okay, let’s do this, this and this. I think you really have to listen to the organization, listen to the management team, and also listen to the front lines because they’re the ones who are interacting with clients on the daily and their input is so valuable. Anything that I can do to align with those three, I do that and then I know that I’m doing the right thing.

To get better from there, if you have your problem, you need to meet with your management team, you need to be a part of the strategy meeting sessions or whatever your company has. Then you need to pick out the tools that will help you become more efficient and then take classes. Take as many classes as you can.

Michael: I know you’ve taken classes and I’m not sure if they’re available where you are. Do you belong to any local network of marketers like a martech group or anything like that?

Tia: No, I’m a part of a state association but it’s not marketing.

Michael: Probably insurance. What about online? Are there markers that you read?

Tia: Safeco marketer and I’m on LinkedIn. I reach out to my teachers at Safeco for feedback. Folks at Agency Revolution, they’re always willing to work with me. Then just network and build it up from there. I read a lot of insurance magazines. Insurance Nerds; I was scrolling through his stuff this morning, and then podcasts.

Michael: All right, very good.

Tia: I can get to those traditional classes too, like stay in insurance, stay connected to that but seek out the classes that will help you develop your marketing skills in insurance through bricks and clicks, Safeco marketer development. Those are my favorite programs.

Michael: All right. One last question. If you could say something to the industry, to agency principals who are doing their best to thrive in a fast-paced turbulent environment, what message would you want to deliver to the independent agents of today?

Tia: Make the choice to lead, make the choice to their industry and stay fiercely independent. I think from that, it will help guide you into the future. Take on technology, adopt the early your co-workers and be as efficient as you can.

Michael: All right, Tia. This has been a terrific conversation and I hope illuminating for a lot of agency principals who are thinking about their agency and thinking about the future. You’ve been very generous with your time and sharing your wisdom. Tia, thank you so much for joining us today.

Tia: Wow. Well, thank you so much, and take care.


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