In this brave new world, technology has brought scale to the classic principles
What happens when you bring together 4 of the sharpest marketing minds in the insurance industry? You get a conversation loaded with so much great information that it bears revisiting… more than once.
Michael DeLaGrange, Brent Sheppard, Robert Knop, and Tyler McConvill gathered last week to help you define what marketing means in 2019. And together they concluded that while a lot of the core principles remain the same, the way the game is played is completely different.
Listen to this discussion to discover:
- Step-by-step advice on how to know if your marketing experiments are successful… or if it’s time to leave them behind.
- How social media can be used to amplify your involvement in the community, presence at events, and more – all while bringing hot leads to your doorstep.
- The shockingly common pitfalls that render good marketing efforts as useless as if they never happened! (If you’re not following up on the right activity, you’re leaving money on the table!)
Whether or not you caught it live, this discussion is worth listening to… over and over again! Don’t miss a detail from this information loaded discussion!
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 industry’s 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
Rick Fox: Good morning everybody. Welcome to our latest edition of the live roundtable webinar here from Agency Revolution. Today’s topic, Marketing In 2019. Very excited for the panel we have. I’ve been anxiously looking forward to getting this group of gentlemen together and having this conversation as marketing becomes more and more prevalent in the independent insurance space.
I want to get into the questions, but let’s do a quick round of the table, who’s who. Robert Knop, CEO of Assist You Today, social selling expert. He’s at the forefront in one of the most essential aspects of modern marketing: social media. Robert specializes in creating custom sales and marketing programs that enable you to turn your social media activity into real meetings that become real sales at a rate cold-calling can’t touch.
Robert, really glad to have you, thanks for being on.
Robert Knop: Thanks, Rick.
Rick: Michael DeLaGrange, other than the gigantic O sitting behind him for Oregon, him and I have a Washington-Oregon rivalry, but we’ll leave that for another day. He’s the founder and president of the Insurance Lounge using an innovative approach that combines the best features of both traditional retail agency and the online insurance shopping experience.
Michael has invented new distribution models for insurance, really different. He’s got a different feel to his agency both in person and online. They’re not just attracting local attention and this is inspiring investors to help scale Michael’s vision and bring that onto the national stage. Michael did play football at Oregon, so I’ll give him a pass on that. Michael, thanks for being here.
Michael DeLaGrange: Thanks, Rick. I appreciate it.
Rick: Brent Sheppard, founder and president of Xanatek. Xanatek AMS system, a partner with Agency Revolution, a great partner with Agency Revolution. Brent is keenly aware of the impact technology has had on the day-to-day operations of today’s insurance agency. He’s actually helping drive that evolution with the software that they make and produce.
Brent Sheppard’s experience building one of the most exciting AMSs on the market for small to medium insurance agencies and vast technology expertise give him a unique view of how running and growing an insurance agency has evolved and transformed over the years and getting his perspective here on marketing will be great as well. Brent, welcome.
Brent Sheppard: Thank you.
Rick: Then, last and certainly not the least, Tyler McConvill. He is the vice president of marketing at FMG Suite. FMG Suite for those that don’t know is the parent company of Agency Revolution. Tyler and I work closely together. Tyler has been doing this marketing thing for the last 15 years, guiding digital marketing teams, implementing new technologies, launching integrated strategies to drive growth for insurance agents, financial advisors, and many, many more industries.
Tyler’s position and deep understanding of the principles of marketing, the trends affecting our industry gives him keen insight into how marketing has evolved over the years. I think it’s important to say that Tyler and I have been working together for about a year. Tyler came in fresh out not in the insurance space and to get his perspective and have him learn without any preconceived notions of how marketing is, has been, is, and will be in the future.
It’s really good to have him on and his insight will be very informational for everybody. Tyler, welcome.
Tyler McConvill: Thanks, Rick. I hope I can live up to that.
Rick: Yes, I put it on you right there. I think the best way to start this would be to talk about maybe where we’ve been, where we are, and where we’re heading in this marketing world for the insurance agent. I’m going to ask all of you the same question. What makes marketing different today than it was, say, 5 years ago, 10 years ago, 20 years ago?
I’ll jump right over to my friend, Michael. Michael?
Michael: Yes. Thanks, Rick. The biggest thing with the rise of social media, I think that’s completely changed the whole landscape of marketing in general, but the foundation of marketing being a key piece to the insurance industry hasn’t changed. With the Millennials and social media and where that’s going, I think that’s the biggest thing from my perspective of how people need to change with the changing landscape with the Millennials in social media.
Rick: I would agree. Robert, your input?
Robert: I would say, the echo that what Michael said, you can be all face-to-face and then it would be a phone or even be a fax in the ’80s and ’90s. Remember, we would do marketing and then email-
Rick: Reverse directories.
Robert: Exactly. Now, social media is so much easier to get in front of the key decision-makers at large companies, the commercial lines. Then for individuals, it’s so much easier to get them to respond and to look at your ads and marketing on something like a Facebook than an email open rate, it’s just, as Michael says, totally changed the game.
Rick: I think what’s interesting too, you talk about marketing, that outbound, outreach marketing and so much now that’s changed as well, just to give my two cents is with brand awareness and how do you market yourself as a brand for people that– I think we’ve all talked to people in the space that say, “Well, we’re a referral agency. We just work off referrals.” That’s great.
Tyler and I are friends and if Tyler says to me, “Hey, you need to call this insurance agent.” The first thing I’m doing is going online and checking them out. That brand, whatever they put out there to the world is as important as anything else. If I’m not being social, if I don’t have a following, if my last post on my Facebook page was 2014, I’ve already lost that referral that Tyler gave me that this agency might have gotten from Tyler because I’m not interested.
As social media changes, it also changes the way we brand ourselves and the way we present ourselves for people that might already have some interest, but they need to see that we’re real as well. Brent, your input?
Brent: I think I’ll agree with those guys, but I think to the event of the social media gives an agent a lot of personalization they can do with their advertising; target markets, niche markets, a little bit different than what you could do in the past. I think also the pure number of places that an agency can market is exponential now compared to– 15, 20 years ago, it was a phonebook and a billboard, the basketball program or whatever.
I think that’s a big challenge because you still got to pick a place, but you got to still be on Facebook and Instagram and LinkedIn and Google Ads, the list keeps going.
Rick: I think what’s great about the people we have on this is the different perspective because Brent is working on the management system side. It’s so true that building that relationship and being able to use that data to be targeted, to be tactical has changed over the years as well because it used to be, “I’m going to send a fax to everyone.” Now, it’s like, “Well, I can send a fax or I can send an email or a social post or I can boost my LinkedIn ads to this specific targeted group.” Tyler, any input?
Tyler: I think it’s really interesting what everybody said. When I read this question, one of the things I thought about was how do I bring context to the marketing that we do and what’s actually changed. I think the technology, and this will resonate with this group, has been the biggest thing that’s changed over the last 20 years. If we think about 20 years ago, we’re talking about pre-email and then 5 years ago, 10 years ago, in some cases, pre-Facebook.
That has changed, but fundamentally, the goal of the marketing that we do and I think that sits at the foundation of a lot of other marketing is the idea of relationships. Now, we can not only market to our prospects through social media, we can be a lot more targeted. That’s really important, but also the current client base that we have can be touched by our marketing and that can enhance the relationship and really mean equal ways, especially when you can target that group of people very closely.
It also presents risks because you can potentially damage the relationship as well. Thinking about things in terms of relationship for me, that’s what marketing has always been, so how does that drive the conversation. Then, the technology is the thing that allows us to do that a little better way at scale.
Rick: I think the old-school thinking in insurance was you had the ability to have a personal relationship to see them at the grocery store. As the industry has changed, as the consumer has changed and as you’ve needed to have so many more customers to be relevant for your agency to succeed, we’ve had to figure out ways to be one-to-many instead of one-to-one.
I want to ask this question: Personal relationships, are they as important to marketing an insurance agency today as they were 10 years ago and how has that changed? I’ll go to Brent first on that one.
Brent: I’m going to say yes that it’s still very important and I think for a few reasons. One, it really depends on where you’re located. If you are in a rural community, a lot of my agents will tell me they take in $7,000 a day in payments. People are still walking in their door, dropping off checks. But if you’re on a rural area– I’m sorry, more of an urban area looking at let’s say Atlanta or Chicago, probably not as much because you can do a lot of social media because I think the culture is different and they expect different things.
I also would look at that on the type of business you’re marking to because on personal lines, you might get away with a lot less, personal relationship where as a business owner myself, I want to have a little trust in my agent and know that they know what I am talking about or what I need to cover my tail or my business.
Then as my business grows, I want them to be aware of that and be proactive, if you will, knowing that I may need more coverage or more help or whatever my situation is, they can be more attuned to that where if you’re not with that personal relationship, I don’t think you’ll get that kind of attention.
Rick: Michael, being in it day to day, what would you say to that? Would you agree with Brent? Do you have your own input on that?
Michael: I would disagree just because from a generalist perspective, I think it’s no, but Brent’s right in specific scenarios depending on what product line you focus on, what type of customer you deal with. It can be more important but, in general, from my perspective, it’s really what is a personal relationship anymore.
I mean, you can build these relationships not face to face. You can personal relationships in so many different mediums now. What we try to do, at Insurance Lounge is to build a brand relationship going back to how important it is to build a brand.
I know some agencies focus on that personal relationship but we try to focus on a brand relationship and what that brand brings to the consumer. In general, I would say no but there is definitely situations especially like commercial where business owners expect face to face interaction but, in general, no.
Rick: Well, I think to your point Michael, a lot of that has changed because of the consumer behavior. The consumer has changed. Their expectation back in the day was you’d give them a phone call and they’d pick up and you’d have a conversation. They don’t want to call anymore. 86% of insurance customers that were surveyed said, “Do not call me.”
While they might still have a personal relationship, to your point, it means something different. I think Brent is spot on with the specifics of it but on the generic level, you can have those relationships in a much different way. Robert, do you want to add?
Robert: Yes, I think the way I always looked at it is about adding value. You can add value from a personal relationship perspective if that’s what they want. I like Michael’s point around commercial because I think that is much different. I think you do need that personal relationship but if you’re adding value, you’re going to keep that client because everyone views insurance as commoditized.
We all think that our products and services are purple unicorns, they’re much different than anybody else’s, they’re specialized. “No one has what I have,” but to consumer, it’s all the same thing. I was speaking with a friend of mine who works for the State Department recently and he lost a client over two dollars a month. It’s all commoditized. You add value outside of your products. I added an extra level of service by creating those perfect relationships to Michael’s point. That could just be done online. You could just be adding value here and there through content, whatever that may be, but that value add is what is going to make a difference in a retention situation.
Rick: I want to say to the audience, on your panel there, you can type in questions. We will save some time at the end for a little Q&A with the panel so do type in any questions you might want to add in here and we will leave a little time at the end for all of these gentlemen to give their contact info, so you guys will know how to reach out to them on LinkedIn or wherever they want to be reached.
Let’s talk a little bit about– I think this is interesting because when I talk to anyone that I talk to, a lot of these people are still using something that is- maybe it feels old school. You know what I mean? I want to ask this question: What old school strategy, whatever that is, will never lose value? Something that will stand the test of time. Tyler, we’ll start with you.
Tyler: One of the really interesting evolutions in my career has been– I’ve been immersed in digital marketing for the vast majority of my experience with marketing especially coming into this space. Finding that there’s tools that have been around for a long time like print that people decried that it was dead. I think used in the right way and through an authentic brand or personal voice, it can have real impact.
I don’t know if that’s a technology that never goes away but I think it’s one that people in the past have written off as not a really good way to market to people but in the right situations, they can be extremely effective and I think there’s a lot of other things out there in the world like that where if you can differentiate yourself through the channel that you’re marketing through, you can make an impact and at the end of the day, that’s really what you’re looking to do, create a moment on–
Rick: It changes, I think. Sending a really cool postcard or a holiday card or something like that does differentiate you now because there’s not as many people doing it so you’re right I think on that. Robert.
Robert: Yes, I would agree. Something I would add to that is face to face. You can’t really do it from a P&C perspective, you have thousands of clients but for those commercial lines or high net worth clients, they still respect that white glove treatment.
Personally, from my agency, I try to do this as much as possible, I try to get in front of people especially the bigger engagement that we have as much as possible especially the kickoff an engagement to make sure you develop that rapport, that camaraderie and make sure you have that face to face time. People I’ve thought are much more forthcoming in person than they are be at phone, for example, or even online. I think face to face is still really valuable although it’s fleeting. People are so on the go nowadays it’s challenging.
Michael: For me, I think it’s just caring about the community you’re doing business in.
Rick: Great point.
Michael: From my perspective, that’s really what people care about, that’s what I care about personally. If you care about the community you’re doing business in whether it’s a small local community or a national community, if you’re giving back, people can see that, people see you’re genuine. That’s something that will never get old.
Rick: I think there’s such a beautiful way to get that out into the public more now because if you use social media, like some of the software we have, we’ll do social scheduling and as content built in, it will give information, it’s very value add but we tell all of our customers at the same time be personal as well, be posting to your point. If I’m giving back to the community, if I’m in the community, put that on your social pages. That’s how you build that personal brand.
While it’s an old school strategy, you can employ new school technologies to get that out and make that more relevant.
I remember back in the day, we did a lot of stuff. I was an agency owner. We were involved in a lot of things but not very many people knew about it other than the people that were at those things. We weren’t doing it for– We were doing it to do good things but as long as you are, you may as well let everybody else know that that’s your personality of your agency, what you’re trying to accomplish. I think that’s spot on, Michael. Brent, do you have anything to add to this?
Brad: I’ll kind of piggyback on Robert because I believe picking up the phone is a really good thing to do still. I’ll joke but have you ever tried to argue with your wife in email? It’s really–
Brent: Exactly. Sometimes, when you’re trying to make the message in a text or in an email, it just doesn’t work and just picking up the phone and having that live voice makes a big difference.
Rick: I think one thing that’s old school and it’s- maybe wasn’t even ever a thing but should have always been a thing and the people that have been most successful use this, tracking what you’re doing and using some kind of ability to- whether that’s brand-new technology or old school postcards or whatever that is.
Even back in the day when you had Yellow Page ads and finding out how many people are calling you from that to see if you’re paying for it, I think using- staying tracked on that so that you can get off of something if it’s not working sooner is to me something that’s- that will stand the test of time. We always hear the term marketing waves, the newest, brightest, the shiny toy. Anything out there marketing waves wise that’s crested or plateaued in your minds? Michael.
Michael: In general, we keep going back to social media, this new wave in general, but there’s some very economical ways to do– In Instagram, the story of doing paid stories and stuff like that, it’s a very inexpensive way that people are starting to hear more and more about, so it’s becoming more mainstream. Gary Vee pushes that a lot as one of the most economical ways. It hasn’t crested yet, but it’s headed that way.
Voice is another huge arena that insurance hasn’t had a huge footprint in yet that I think is the next wave of marketing and getting in front of people. I know some big national carriers on the insurance side are really putting some big investment into voice. Those are the two that are starting to crest, and starting to gain some momentum.
Rick: Interesting. In the midst of it, but also, you can see there may be a little writing on the wall. Robert.
Robert: I would say websites. I know it sounds crazy, but why try to pull someone back to your website when they spend three hours a day on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Just go where your audience is. I think websites nowadays, unless you’re selling specifically through your site, and you can still do that through those social media sites, your website is really just there for window dressing to show that you’re credible, you’re viable, that you are a real company selling to real people. Besides that, spend your time and effort on those outposts because that’s where your clients are. Don’t try to pull them back, just stay where they are, put your experiences and your presence there, focus on that.
Brent: I have to say email. Well, it’s maybe not gone and dead yet. The 400 emails I get a day, it’s hard not to just hit the delete button on many of them. That used to be a really great way. We got a lot of customers that way, but it’s so much noise out there with email.
Rick: It’s funny. Just over the weekend, I was talking to my son’s basketball coach. I’m like, “Well, I’ll shoot you an email.” He’s like, “Just DM me on Instagram. I’ll get it easier that way.” It was just right off the end of his tongue, just like, “No. It’s going to get stuck in my email with the other 100 that I’m going to be looking at. Just send me a DM on Instagram.” That was the easiest way to get him. It’s crazy. Tyler.
Tyler: All these things, they come and they go, and people learn how to use technologies in ways that may be surprising. What maybe cresting now in social– I think people that use social in really effective ways can drive a ton of traffic.
Robert, I loved your idea of these outposts, but we still see websites being such a great lead driver for a lot of businesses when they use it in the right way. I think that there is this noise that occurs in the marketplace over time with new technologies. If you can be part of that first wave, you can gain a lot of traction and interest because of it, and then people will move away from it.
There’s this period when people are moving away that I think that you can step in and have an effect in meaningful ways. I also think that idea of what’s easiest for people, that someone would ask you to get in touch with them via DM, you can’t be resistant to that. You may decide you’re going to go to one channel and go, “Oh, this doesn’t work.”
Having that data we talked about a little bit earlier is key to understanding when that happens, and being able to pivot, so whatever you’re doing, move towards the most effective way to interact with your clients and your prospects is just what I would encourage.
Rick: We started on the topic of waves and old-school strategies, and things like that, it’s important to define– Let me just take a pause on the broad and define marketing. We are still talking about two different marketing end games, which is one is marketing to drive new business and drive new prospects and drive awareness of your brand, and your company, your agency.
The other is the marketing that goes to your existing customers; that’s the value add that shows them that you are relevant, that you are there for them. Another survey that was done recently, I think it was by Deloitte said 60% of insurance consumers felt like once they wrote the first check or pay their first bill, they never heard from their agent again. They’re going to hear from other people, they’re going to watch the Super Bowl and see way too many GEICO commercials, and there’s a lot of noise out there. As the people that are listening in, we are talking about the breadth of the entire marketing.
Those are two very specific things that we’re trying to accomplish is, any agency needs to be acquiring new business, getting new prospects in the front door, but at the same time, marketing does need to also encapsulate what we’re doing for our existing customers to retain that business.
I think Tyler made a really good point there about listening to what they want. It does not take much in a system like Brent’s AMS to tag those kind of things with, “This person wants a phone call, this person is tired of being emailed,” that kind of information readily available in a lot of the AMSs.
Again, Xanatek being a very good example of that. That is to me where the rubber meets the road. We can get on Facebook all day long, and if we’re not doing the right things, this is what Robert does, he helps people with this kind of stuff. You’ve got to be speaking a language that is personal, that is also speaking to different groupings. Anybody want to add to that, or move on to the next?
Robert: You look at Amazon, for example, they know everything about you, and they tailor everything they show you online, the products they offer, whatever that may be to your expectation. You look at hotel chains, they know all your preferences, airlines, they know all your preferences, they know everything about you, and tailor their messages and their offerings towards you.
If we’re not doing that in this world, then we’re not meeting expectations nowadays. I think the expectations of the consumer based on other industries, other verticals outside of insurance has really affected customers inside of insurance, and we need to be able to quickly adapt to that.
Rick: I think we’ve done a good job so far of covering what’s out there, what’s going on. I’d like to make this a little more specific as people taking out either their keyboard and typing or their pens and writing, what do you have planned or what do you think is going to be big? Here’s the question: What’s the most exciting outreach effort you have planned for 2019? That could be a personal thing for your business. It could be, in Michael’s case, specific to a niche or a customer. For Tyler, it could be for Agency Revolution. What is it that’s exciting and people might go, “Oh, that’s very interesting. I should take a look at that”? Tyler, you go first.
Tyler: Yes, you got it. We have, as you talked about in the lead-in, been running a podcast for the last year plus. We’ve just seen such great interaction there as a way to connect with our community of both users and people that are interested in marketing in the industry across the board. It’s just a really interesting piece of content that we put out. It’s very interactive and has a very specific way of interacting with our community.
We’re bringing other voices into that podcast over the next year. We’re just super excited to be able to do that and to reach out to a wider audience. That’s one of the really cool things that we’ve got on the agenda for the year and just looking forward to seeing how that goes.
Robert: Well, first, a couple of things now. First and foremost, from a marketing perspective, more video as people spend 12, 13, 14 hours a day online. I hate looking at myself in front of the camera. I actually have myself covered right now so I’m not looking at myself while this is going on.
Rick: Yes, I was noticing that my head looks bigger than everybody else’s head. Is it just me or is that really happening? Thank you, Michael.
Tyler: That’s really happening.
Robert: It’s such a necessity nowadays, because channels like Facebook, like LinkedIn, their algorithms prioritize video content over everything else. If you’re not doing video content, you’re not getting out to as many people. Some cases, you want to get your message out there, you want to continue to add value, you got to add video to your repertoire for marketing perspective. Also, for us, we’re focusing a lot more innovation this year as well.
Last year, I was out on the road speaking on innovation, four or five different companies and a couple of conferences. I’ll be doing more of that this year to augment what we do from the sales marketing and social media perspective.
Rick: Robert, you’re good at this. Like you said, you’re out there speaking and informing people. Tyler hit this from an Agency Revolution perspective. If you’re listening to this, you are part of what we think is important, which is sharing information within this industry. The podcast has been extremely successful, mainly because people are looking for information, and in the insurance space to have that, it’s crucial for consumers to have access to somebody who knows what they’re talking about, has that same level of influence on them. I think you’re both spot-on. Michael, your opinions here, what you plan or what’s exciting.
Michael: This year or 2019 is a big year for Insurance Lounge. We created that store for insurance that looks like an Apple store. It’s in a high end retail setting. Marketing, in general, that’s a big piece of our marketing is just the look and feel and visibility of our stores but we also created these boxes you see back here. We want to do create a tangible representation of insurance. We created this insurance box for each product that we represent.
We give it to our clients to take home with them so they have something tangible with all their policy information inside and we’re really going to be expanding that this year. We’re going to be using on a couple different marketing ways besides just in-store.
Then we’re rolling out a digital platform that we’re really excited about later this year that’s going to be super unique to the industry. That’s going to be our biggest wow moment for 2019.
Rick: I love the boxes. It almost goes all the way back to what Tyler was saying on another question about print to go back to that old school vibe and almost looks from here, it almost looks like a video game box. It’s so awesome. That’s great.
Again, at the end, we’ll have Michael tell you where you can find him if any of that’s interesting and you want to follow up with him. We will save room for Q&A but there’s one right here that I want to get to. What is the podcast called? Just go to Agency Revolution, click on the Media tab on the top and it is called the Connected Insurance Podcast. You can also get that at the iTunes Store and any other where you can download it.
Connected Insurance Podcast by Agency Revolution. I wanted to answer that question and get a little plugin for ourselves. We just passed 100 episodes. They’re all there. They’re all good. Like Tyler said, excited for some of the new stuff that’s coming this year. We’ll be changing some of the formatting and getting more interactive with some other voices. Very, very excited about that.
Next question is, is good modern marketing all about the digital landscape or are there other avenues we need to pay just as much attention to, and I’ll start that with Brent.
Brent: No, I do think you still need to look at the relationship side, I’m never going to dismiss that.
Rick: I’m getting the impression, Brent, that you think your relationships are important?
Brent: I do. Yes, I think too the differences. My viewpoint is just slightly different in being I’m more what we would consider a B2B business, business-to-business where on the retail side, there’s a lot of things that are different. I think the independent agent market cannot be too digital or too technical because then you’re just becoming a GEICO. You can never have a conversation with anybody at GEICO but what happens when you have a claim or you have a real question? One of the things you think about is like, you ever called the phone company and you had like, 46 prompts you go through? It’s very–
Rick: Cable company.
Brent: Cable company. Exactly. I called my health provider the other day. I’ll leave them nameless but I was on I think it took me 10 minutes to get to the prompts and I was still in the wrong department that I need to get to. I think you still have to focus on the customer and the customer service and making sure that even with all the technology that we had, we use it properly to satisfy the customer. It’s kind of tick them off because they can’t get to who they want to talk to.
Michael: Well, we’re not scared to try everything and anything. We’ll try everything one or two times to see, check the analytics constantly to make sure you’re not wasting money. Forward-thinking, we are on the tech side and one of our most successful marketing pieces is the turning 65 mailer. It’s funny. We don’t focus on any specific area, we just do everything and for certain markets, certain things work and in certain markets, certain things don’t work. What I would say to everybody out there is just try everything and what works for us may not work for you and vice versa.
Don’t be afraid to try something but definitely track the analytics, make sure you’re looking at it constantly and be able to change. If something isn’t working, change, try something new.
Rick: Tyler, having so much experience outside of the insurance space, that was probably a little bit eye-opening when you got here to see how much of this space was still not quite as far into the digital landscape, and now as agencies are catching up, and there are a lot of forward-thinking agencies out there, I think Michael’s agency being one of them. Tyler, would you agree? Did you see that coming in and then what are your comments on the digital landscape and other avenues?
Tyler: I came from the banking industry by way of another industry. Banking is probably the only industry that’s less forward thinking in many ways. Maybe even you’re selling yourself short. Maybe I was surprised at how progressive everybody was.
Rick: Like, “Wow, these guys have email addresses.”
Tyler: Yes, right but I love this idea of service and experience. We talked about how a lot of these things and the products that are provided are essentially commodities and that at the end of the day, the thing that differentiates you is the service and value you provide and the authentic brand or personality that we talked about earlier.
Whatever way you can find to expand that and use it in more specific ways to create better relationships, I’m all for it. Michael brought up a good point don’t be afraid to try stuff and really understand how it’s working for you and if it’s not, try something else and if it is, but be comfortable with that because that can open up new doors that you never even really thought of.
Robert: Speaking of that, the one thing I would add in digital, we get 100% of our business from LinkedIn and conferences. For example, this webcast is- we’ve got hundreds of people watching right now but the ads that you sent out beforehand, that I sent out beforehand, those were seen by tens of thousands.
It’s a great way to get your name out there so that you know what you’re doing. You’re talented, you’re speaking on this topic, you’re at this conference. It’s got 2,000 people there so dang, and you must know least a little bit of what you’re talking about.
Then pair that with the digital promotion before, during, after, send out messages before you go to the conference through your social media channels. I’ll give you an example. I was in Atlanta in a conference about a year, year and a half ago and before I went there, I looked through my connections and there were 11 people that I connected with on LinkedIn, but I’d never met in person. Those 11 people, I sent out 11 private messages, I got nine responses and I set up six meetings and closed one deal just while I was at the conference itself.
It was great that I was speaking there. That was nice, but the biggest value was being there, letting people know about it and then the additional things that you can add to that. Pairing things like conferences and events with those digital mediums, that’s huge.
Rick: Great. That makes perfect sense. Michael hit on this, but I want to shift the topic a little bit to analytics and tracking. What are the most important ways to track the success and progress of any marketing efforts or ways that you found to be successful? I want to add a second part to that. You don’t have to answer all of this but at what point do you say- how long do you experiment with a strategy before you might abandon it or move away? Let’s start with Tyler.
Tyler: This is one of the most critical parts of marketing that people tend to miss. Defining the goals upfront, what are you trying to achieve, and then setting milestones for those goals. Everybody who’s participating there, whether it’s just you or it’s you and a team knows what you’re aiming for and has check marks along the way to reorient and then also sending timeframes around whatever effort that you’re engaged in. How long do we think this is going to take and are we meeting the goals along the way are the three components of really being successful with this stuff.
As you indicated, knowing when to either pull the plug or dump more resources into it. Setting that up in advance and having everybody be on the same page is absolutely critical to being successful. Then consistency within that because when you’re in the middle of a campaign and it’s sometimes very easy to walk away from it and not stay focused on those milestones, especially if it happens over a long period of time. Just that consistency within the team that’s operating the outreach is absolutely critical and then looking at the goals, being honest about whether or not you’re successful.
Brent: Tyler said it really well.
Rick: Yes, he did, didn’t he? He did drop the mic on that one, almost, that was good Tyler.
Brent: The only thing I would add is really tracking the analytics. I think too many agents, in particular, they start a marketing campaign they don’t follow through-
Rick: A hundred percent.
Brent: -or track it very well to figure out if it’s really a good or bad investment. Define it, of course, but also define how you’re going to track it.
Rick: Well I think part of that too is there’s all these buzzwords like social media and SEO and they hear all these things and they think if they check the box and are doing something then they’re doing it. This is the most crucial piece, anybody, write this down. Don’t just say, “Yes, we paid somebody to do our SEO.” Okay. Now do the analytics on that and see if that’s working.
If you’re going to be spending money on LinkedIn, Facebook if you’re going to do Mailers whatever it is, track it. To Tyler’s point, find the milestones. We want to get 100 new leads from this campaign. Where are we in that? We’ve got four and it’s been nine months, not working. They check the box and they move on to their days which having been an agent we all know the days are crazy and they get busy, but if you can stay diligent in this, I promise you the juice is worth the squeeze. Robert?
Robert: If I can just expand what you were saying there for a second Rick. I think that follow up is still critical. Not just tracking, what you do is tracking absolutely 100% have to do that. If you don’t know what’s working you could be hurting your company doing what you’re doing from a marketing perspective. You absolutely have to track it and see what’s working, see what’s not working but then follow up with people that respond.
I’ve seen so many people in my own experience– Someone reached out to me on Twitter a couple of weeks ago, they did it with product pitch which you should never do. It’s horrible, but it was actually something I was interested in and I had been thinking about. I responded back and I said, “This sounds great. I’m available next week. Give me a call at this number.” I didn’t get a response.
Rick: Wow. [laughs]
Robert: They’ve sent out, it’s a blast, Twitter DMs to how many people whoever the new connections were, I responded back I was interested. This happens all the time. I ran a test last year on Twitter, people sent those automated DMs all the time, those direct messages. I responded back to 25 of them and said, “I would love to talk. Give me a call. Here’s my number.”
One person of those 25 actually responded. This goes outside of insurance. This is industry wide, but to your point, they’re just checking boxes. They set it up and they said, “I did it. I’m doing social media. I don’t need to do anything else.” E-mails the same thing. I’ve responded back to e-mails or even calls the same thing. People don’t care they just– you check the boxes.
Rick: I wonder why my business isn’t growing. I’m doing all the social media. [laughs]
Robert: Wait a minute. Michael?
Michael: Wait, that brings me to the point. Know what you’re good at and know what you’re not good at. Have professionals come in and help where you don’t have an expertise. For example, we have a chief technology officer that does all our analytics. I don’t like analytics. I know they’re important, but I don’t want to be deep in these numbers so I brought someone on board who knows numbers and how to analyze them way better than I do. I would just say, use resources outside your agency, outside what you’re good at and know where your limitations are and where your time is best at.
Rick: Stay in your lane to some degree, but don’t just let it fall off. The fact that someone reached out to Robert and didn’t respond. What are you doing? Why are you doing that? It’s such a waste of time. Now not only– that’s worked in a double whammy negative because now if they ever reach back out to Robert, he wouldn’t have anything to do with them anyway.
I think a good timing wise here. I’m going to switch over to the Q and A. We’ve got some question and great questions that people have typed in. I want to do that. I will do this part as, if it’s one you want to get in on raise your hand and I’ll call you out. If you don’t, you don’t have to say anything. This one is specific to Michael. Someone said, “What was the other social media platform other than Instagram that Michael mentioned?” This was a long time ago. Michael, did you say something else other than Instagram?
Michael: I said Voice. I talked about Instagram stories, paid Instagram chats [crosstalk]
Rick: That’s actually the second question is Michael mentioned Voice, what is that?
Michael: Alexa, how do I find the best insurance agent? That’s Voice. Voice is, in my opinion, one of the emerging technologies that is completely underutilized in marketing in general because it’s so new. For example, Safeco one of the biggest carriers out there is putting a ton of money into Voice and I don’t see hardly anybody on the agent level looking into those options. That’s one of the biggest waves that I see coming is Voice. There’s a lot of different platforms out there for Voice, but it’s basically doing business without having to type or talk on your phone.
Rick: How lazy can we get? We can’t even pick up our fingers anymore.
Tyler: We’re lazy.
Rick: Tyler and I can tell you that that’s something that’s been talked about in our organization and it’s starting to be road mapped as the same thing because you’re right Michael, it’s just the next generation. Everyone’s used to saying, “Alexa, turn off the lights.” That’s funny I’m in a conference room and I just said Alexa and it lit up right over here next to me.
All right. This is from Chelsea she asks, “What would be one tip you have when first starting out on the social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter? One tip, anyone wants to take that?
Tyler: Go ahead, Robert.
Rick: Robert, go ahead.
Robert: You’d start with your profile. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter whatever that may be, make sure it’s got key information about you. That’s the first step. The second step, write it from the perspective of potential customers so that when they come there what they see is going to make them want to reach out to you. That’ll be the first step.
Second step, engage with others. It’s social media, not anti-social media. If we’re just blasting out content which you do want to distribute content that adds value to your target audience. If you’re just blasting out content and you’re not engaging with anybody else, then you’re that crazy person on the side of the street screaming through a megaphone 24/7. As long as you keep on everyone is going to go to the other side of the street, they’re going to ignore you.
You want to make sure you’re engaging with others, you’re validating them, you’re starting real conversations, and a real relationship. I’d start with those things. Get a good base of establishing a strong personal brand through your profiles, your content, then start to engage with others and connect with people you know. If your starting with zero connections on LinkedIn, for example, or Facebook reach out to those people you know already.
Friends, family, people you work with currently, people you’ve worked with before, people you went to college with because if you were sending out messages to 10 people you’re not going to get a lot of value out of it. Everyone knows probably 500 to 1000 people you can start with and then your message is going to go off to exponentially more people, increase your awareness, increase your reach, increase your opportunities.
Rick: I think it’s interesting too when you look at that when you’re trying to grow that base. The more people you’re connected with, the more people they’re connected with and when they say, “Robert likes this,” and I see it then there’s somebody else there that I might be interested in connecting with and it’s that domino effect that you can use. Tyler you wanted to chime in on this one too?
Tyler: I think that one of the places that people fall down a little bit when they try and get on social and start things out is not really having defined what their brand is. It’s a hard thing to do. It happens over a period of time it doesn’t happen overnight. If you can take a few minutes and write down a brand promise to say, “This is what I’m trying to do as a brand.”
Keep it short, keep it to two or three sentences that will help you in writing the full profiles that will help you in being authentic in the way that you express yourself because the actual act of writing it down is a really important first step that can make all the subsequent steps a little bit easier. That’s an important exercise that you should go through before you even start to get on some of these other platforms.
Rick: Then, Tyler, just from your experience how often should you be revisiting that brand promise and not only confirming that what you’re putting out there is matching it, but maybe adjusting it or changing it as your brand changes? Is there a timeline on that?
Tyler: No, I think in the beginning it’s really important to revisit to make sure that you’ve got it right that what you’ve wrote down feels authentic. That as you decide to embark on these new channels, you’re being honest about how good you can express that in those channels. I think over time especially after the first six months if you’re active that should be locked.
That should be something that you’re not revisiting that often unless there’s a meaningful reason that your audience or your customers is telling you, you need to change it. You should have a pretty good sense of that because that’s the touchstone that allows you to communicate who you are from. It’s important not to change it a lot. I think after you’re comfortable with it.
Rick: Michael, are you raising your hand or you just want everyone to see your organ ring?
Michael: I had a piece of input for someone new and to be honest for anybody in social media. Most people think insurance is boring. Just a newsflash for everybody, be fun. That’s what we try to do. People want to be engaged with things that are fun and different. If you just post boring insurance articles every day, you’re going to miss a huge segment out there.
Rick: Robert, did you want to get back in on that?
Robert: Yes, a hundred percent I agree with what Michael was saying, and you want to piggyback on what Tyler was saying as well. I think the first step is to figure out where your target audience is. You don’t need to have 10 social media channels. You can only have one or two, it’s okay. For example, if you’re B2B, you’re selling commercial insurance, you shouldn’t be on Snapchat, that’s not where target audience is. You’re going to have no shot of success there.
From the same perspective, if you’re doing commercial lines, LinkedIn is all B2B. That’s where you should be spending your time and effort. If you’re doing PMC, you should be doing Facebook ads, boosting posts, as Michael mentioned, Instagram, telling the stories, things like that, that’s where you want to spend your time and effort. Really knowing your target audience when it comes back to that data of course, who buys your products and services? You’re growing out that, that’s going to determine what channels you want to utilize. That’s really the first step.
Rick: I think we would– Yes, go ahead Brent.
Brent: As I was thinking about this, it occurred to me probably the first thing most people need to do is have someone objectively look at their profiles. Not yourself, because what you think might be okay isn’t necessarily okay. When we get a job, the first thing we do is go Google them and see what’s out there. That’s what your customers are going to do and make sure it’s nothing that you’re going to offensively make them unhappy from the very start.
Rick: I think back to the earlier point, if you wrote all of this down or if you’re not doing what Tyler said, what Michael said, what all of our panelists have said, you don’t just check the box, take the time– Robert made a really good point. You don’t have to be in every single social environment. Being where it makes the most sense and be really good at it, I think that’s the key. We’re running out a little bit of time.
This is from Andy, what mobile solutions are going to be needed going forward for an agency management and marketing team, recommendations for SMS and MMS solutions for inbound texting, attaching documents to text agency apps, carrier apps et cetera. I think that the topic there, mobile, anyone wants to jump in on that? Tyler? Yes, please. I love that one up for you. Please talk about agency evaluation.
Tyler: Sure. One of the exciting things that’s happening for the platform in the coming years is texting abilities. We will have texting needed to the platform at some point in the very near future. Some of the questions relevant to that are, how do you use it? How do you make sure that you have the right permissions in place to use it and all those other things?
As these technologies emerge, it’s really important to have a partner like agency revolution that can help you understand and navigate the waters. That’s one of the things that our tool does really well, is help people understand what regulations are in place to protect you, or that can potentially trip you up.
Then, the other thing is because this is an emerging technology, attaching documents and that type of thing. We are interested in hearing about this too because there’s some places where you can really be helpful to the customer that I don’t think have been totally figured out yet. Whether it’s through links or otherwise, just be really careful about how you’re moving forward with the technology if you’re on the forefront of it.
Host: I would say obviously drinking some of the Kool-Aid here, but insurance specific technology is important especially when you start branching out into things like texting, talking to companies like ours. There’s other companies out there as well. Our product fuse is already text-enabled, you can do it.
We have sort of a best practices around. We don’t recommend using text for, hey, your payment is late because you don’t have the same level of documentation and all the things that you need if that policy cancels. Things like that that are very insurance specific when you’re looking at technologies would be a recommendation, I would say would be good. Anybody else want to jump in on this one?
Brent: Your management system should be texting if it’s not. Actually, we do keep track of that. If you’re going to send whatever message to a customer through text, it’s automatically documented in our system.
Brent: I think a lot of them are doing. I think it’s going to change over time because the texting capabilities are becoming better. I think we’ll probably have to upgrade to meet that. Also, I think we talked about preferred method of contact a while ago. It’s easy to mark that in the system or any system I would think. Then, if it’s texting, boom, you hit a button and you start typing.
Rick: Good. I’m going to go the next question. This will be our last Q&A question and then we’ll wrap it up. Any examples of what’s included in a brand promise? Anybody want to just give your two cents on what a brand promise might look like? Yes, Tyler go. You’re muted now, all of a sudden.
Tyler: What I would say is, what is your brand delivering? What is the promise you’re making to your customer base? What are you doing for them? This can be because it’s very specific to the business, especially if you talk about insurance agencies that are niche or whatever it happens to be. It’s very hard to say this is the specific thing that you would do, but what is the primary promise that you’re making to your customers that you are saying you’re going to fulfill, that you’re committing to fulfill for them? I would be interested to hear what Michael has to say about this, but that’s really where you should be focused.
Michael: Like I said earlier, we make it about the communities that we’re doing business. We’ve promised to give back as much as we can through both money and time and supporting our client’s philanthropic endeavors. That to us is our biggest brand promise. Our brand, In general, is about accessibility and many consumers do business the way they want to do business. In general, just being a good community partner with what communities you’re doing business in is our biggest and my biggest passion.
Rick: That question was from Jenna. Thank you, Jenna. I’m going to ask one final question. Try to keep it between 30 and 60 seconds in your answer. Ideally, 30 as we answered a lot of great questions today. There is only one thing you could do in 2019 to market your agency, what would it be? Brent? One thing.
Brent: From an agency standpoint, what I would say is, actually take a hold of your marketing and don’t just expect and check the box. We have a lot of agents, for example, that want to integrate with agency revolution and then they talk to you guys and they go, “Wow, that’s a lot of work.” Or like, “Yes, it’s not magic, there’s not a silver bullet.”
Rick: All marketing? [chuckles]
Brent: Yes, you actually have to put some effort into it. I think if you’re going to do it, do it well, do it right, and don’t be afraid to put some effort.
Rick: To backup Brent, we have a lot of Xanatek agents and they find that once they do the work, then some of that work can be automated on their behalf and they have marketing, ta-da. Tyler.
Tyler: I think the one thing that I would just encourage everybody to do is make a decision and be consistent, commit to that decision picking up what on what Brent had to say. The last thing that you want to do is spend all this time setting up campaigns or getting new technology in place, and then at the end or in the middle somewhere, you move away from that as you put the effort in. You need to complete the turn. It’s just a tragedy when people decide not to do that because the hard part is over with, it’s the next steps that really you yield the benefits or you reap the benefits and so don’t go in and not be consistent.
Robert: I would say at a very high level, embrace change. The pace of change is faster than ever and it’s only going to get faster. If you’re thinking like, “This thing isn’t going to affect me.” Michael mentioned Voice, for example. If you think that sounds crazy, that’ll never be something that’s important to myself and my agency. You’re going to struggle in a few years. You have to embrace change.
You don’t need to be on the cutting edge. We need to have an open mind and start to adopt technologies that are going to help your company and new methods of doing things. For example, social media didn’t exist 10 years ago. I can’t imagine any agency who’s incredibly successful nowadays and they’re not having deep roots in a social media strategy.
Michael: I would just say be ambitious. I mean, if you want to be the best, you have to work just as hard if not harder than everybody else. If you want to have one thing that you’re good at, you better be better than everybody else at it. That takes time, that takes effort, takes a lot of things that a lot of people aren’t willing to do to be successful. If you want to be good, that’s fine too. You don’t have to always sacrifice everything to be the best. My perspective with collegiate athletics that’s kind of how my brain is trying to do. It’s to be the best at anything you do and that takes a lot of work, also commitment.
Rick: For any of our listeners that have listened to any of these webinars, I’ve said this every single time. We go to conferences we sit and we hear all this great information– I’m so impressed with our panel today and the information that they’ve shared with you, but the one thing that I always say is don’t hang up from this webinar, don’t leave the conference, don’t do all of those things, and just go back to your day.
You’ve got to take something out of this meeting. Whether it’s the– there’s 100 nuggets that have been shared by this group, but something, take something and go do it. If you do that, I promise you’ll be rewarded with whatever work you put into that. As a last sort of parting of ways, I would just want to go around and have everybody tell how people can get a hold of you and what you have going on or what that is. I’ll start with you, Tyler.
Tyler: Yes, sure. The LinkedIn is always a good way to reach out if you’re interested. We are obviously at agencyrevolution.com. The people over there are always looking to talk to people. Whether you’re looking to purchase products or not and just have a conversation about where you’re at with your marketing and how we can actually help. I encourage everybody to visit, check out the podcast, it’s phenomenal, and then that’s it. Keep listening to the webinars and keep participating because that’s one of the best ways for us to interact with our clients.
Robert: Yes, I would say LinkedIn as well. You can see my name on the screen Robert Knop, K-N-O-P. That’s where I am 24/7 that’s where you can catch me.
Rick: Great. Michael?
Michael: Yes, any insurance must pop and run on every platform basically, but my direct email is firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to reach out directly, but if you go through any of our direct insurance launch platform there’s a little thing that’ll get to me if you ask for me.
Rick: You chewed on the last one. Michael@insurancelounge.com.
Rick: Okay. Even though you’re a doc, I gave you that last option.
Michael: I appreciate that. [laughs]
Brent: You can find me on LinkedIn. The key thing is you’ve got to spell Xanatek right. It’s not a drug of any sort.
Brent: Although, they probably could make more money selling drugs often, but hey, that’s a different story.
Rick: Could we argue that it’s such a good management system that it’s significant like a drug.
Brent: Hey, I’ve said that it helps carry your woes, but that’s X as in X-ray, A-N-A-T-E-K or you can email me at email@example.com. Thanks for the opportunity.
Rick: Yes, thank you so much guys from an agency revolution perspective. As Tyler said, if you want, if you have followed questions you’re more than happy– I don’t know that I even introduced myself. I’m the president of Agency Revolution. My email is rfox@agencyrevolutionrfox. You can also just email anything to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For those looking for information, this webinar will be recorded along with other webinars that we have done on our media page at agencyrevolution.com. Great engagement. So happy that we did this. Thank you so much, gentlemen, for all the incredible information. That’s it. Thanks, everybody.
Tyler: Thanks all.
Robert: Thanks for having me.