Quick question: What’s the most important thing you can do to ensure a successful 2024 for your agency?
The answer: Finish out 2023 as strongly as possible.
After all, you can’t set a course for a prosperous future without knowing where you’ve been. And chances are, if you weathered the hard market and all its many challenges this year, you will carry plenty of momentum into the next year and beyond.
How can you plot a course for growth? Let’s review a few key considerations of annual agency planning and reveal a few tips that agents can use to drive their efficiency and profitability.
Where (and When) to Begin
If you haven’t yet started your 2024 agency planning, you should do so as soon as possible. The first step is to calculate your anticipated year-end results..
If your analysis reveals you might end 2023 short of your financial goals, you can still take steps to close the gap. Look to capture any potential revenue. Consider whether you could hit a quarterly incentive target or accomplish a business goal that could trigger additional guaranteed payments.
Additionally, look at your profit-sharing agreements. Is there a lock-in for achieving a specific sales target or a certain number of policies that you can still attain? Or can you start placing business with a carrier now so you can boost your profit-sharing potential and even lower your loss ratio? Another wise idea: See if you can reduce reserves on some of your larger claims to improve your year-end payout potential. Remember, the stronger you finish out 2023, the bigger head start you’ll have on driving 2024 results.
Five Must-Haves for Planning Success
Once you have your year-end ’23 plan set, it’s time to dive into 2024 planning. Consider the following five essential elements:
1. Know your carriers’ expectations. Before setting your own agency goals, you need to know what your carrier partners plan to accomplish in the coming year. Some carriers are looking to grow in 2024, but others are taking a different approach in response to the hard market. If your key objective is agency growth but your five most trusted carrier partners aren’t in growth mode, you’ll have to adjust your goals to match what’s feasible for your agency.
2. Decide what you’ll do differently. This can be the most difficult part of annual planning. It’s always tempting to keep doing things the way they’ve always been done, especially if those things have led to agency success in the past. But at its core, today’s market is much different than the one we’ve experienced for the past decade. That means you’ll need to make some changes to remain competitive and profitable.
3. Set clear goals—and put them in writing. Do you plan to grow in personal lines in 2024, or are you targeting a new class of commercial lines business? No matter which goals you choose to pursue, make sure to write them down and share them with your team to get full buy-in.
When creating goals, be specific. Spell out exactly what success will look like; for example, increasing policies per client or adding a certain number of new clients. Include distinct goals for staff, such as the number of quotes or client retention calls you expect them to achieve.
4. Build out your marketing strategy. Your goals will shape your 2024 marketing initiatives. Be sure to measure all marketing—including metrics you collect in your CRM and social media management tools—so you can double-down on the best-performing tactics and channels.
5. Seek outside help as needed. If you’re a member of an independent agent alliance, you can access expert assistance with agency planning. For example, at SIAA, our master agencies provide guidance to their local member agencies about how to write the types of business carriers are seeking the most. We also offer access to local agency growth coaches who have incentives to help our agents grow and succeed.
Five Tips to Achieve More in 2024
While there are no guarantees, these five tips can help you choose the best path forward for your agency:
1. Evaluate your agency’s value proposition. Make sure it still resonates with your clients. Agencies that once differentiated themselves based on price may find it difficult to succeed in the current hard market.
2. Choose technology wisely. When weighing tech investments, choose solutions that will help you improve efficiency, eliminate duplicate work and enhance the customer experience. These can include anything from marketing automation platforms and payment processing solutions to new websites, video proposal tools and agency mobile apps. Consider that clients today seek support beyond typical office hours and explore whether virtual assistants or service centers can help you increase your hours of operation without adding to agency headcount.
3. Educate whenever possible. On a recent SIAA panel call, experts from several large agencies agreed that education is one of their biggest challenges. Customers need to understand the reasons behind their policy increases. Successful agents will take time to explain the nuances, such as how inflation and rising replacement expenses have affected policy costs.
4. Consider setting parameters around re-shopping. It’s harder to find lower-cost policies in a hard market. Accordingly, agencies that once re-shopped policies with every renewal may want to consider setting more specific criteria, such as only re-shopping business that has increased by 15% to 20% depending on market conditions.
5. Keep on prospecting. Once you identify a prospect, treat them like a client. Include them in your newsletters and promotions, and invite them to follow your social media channels so you can increase your odds of turning them into a customer.
See also: The Key to Agency Management Systems
Plan Confidently for the Future
To ensure success, involve all agency stakeholders in your planning process. Make your plan a living, breathing document that you can update throughout the year. And build in individual goals for agency staff members so you can hold them accountable. With this approach, you’ll develop a solid strategy that will propel your agency forward.