An Interview with Joel Zwicker

"Many agencies will say, well, we have two policies per client, so we've done a really good job because the industry average is around 1.62. But if my agent only has two policies with me, he's left well over half my business on the table."

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It has always seemed to me that marketing is a tough thing for agents and brokers. Customers can be told what the products are and what brands the agents are representing, but how can you communicate, believably, what level of service you’ll provide, and how can the customer know whether they’ll click with the agent?

Joel Zwicker:

People choose an independent agency for two reasons: It is your expertise, and it is the relationship. That’s how agencies need to market themselves.

Far too many agencies forget that they have a whole book of business leads right in front of them. You have an acre of diamonds. Many agencies you talk to will say, well, we have two policies per client, so we've done a really good job because the industry average is around 1.62. But think about it: My family and I have five or six policies. If my insurance agent only has two policies with me, he's left well over half my business on the table. If you’re an established agency, you have more than enough opportunity sitting right in front of you.

Agencies need to remember they are in the renewal business. They should have a strategic communication plan to continually share their expertise, building deeper relationships that will maximize their book of business.

You also need to have niches. Too many agencies want to sell to anybody. The sexiest thing in the world is new business. But you’re just not going to wind up with more quotes than you could ever imagine. An agency needs to take a step back and truly understand who their ideal client is, then focus on that type of client.


Let’s start with niches. It's fairly easy in commercial to think, Okay, I'm going to be the guy on landscaping businesses or pizza parlors, but it sounded like you were saying that the niche idea goes even beyond commercial. What would some niches in personal lines look like?


Here’s one from personal experience. When I worked at an agency, we didn’t focus on traditional home and auto. Our niche was toys, things like cruiser motorcycles, classic cars, boats, snow machines and, off-road vehicles. So, we had expertise – and if someone has the disposable income to have a nice boat or a cruiser motorcycle or a classic car, chances are they have some nice properties and other things they want to insure, as well.

Another common one would be to take a private client-type approach, focusing on higher-end neighborhoods in your area or higher-end clientele.

Another niche is not necessarily the product that you're selling but the client experience. I can think of a client of ours whose niche is that the experience is all digital, through email, text and video. Everything is done in multi-step sequences that incorporate video so you can see, say, how to file an auto claim.


Once you’ve picked your niche, how do you make sure the world knows you have that expertise?


Here’s a commercial example, from my friend and our client whose niche is laundromats. If you were making a list of the top 10 niches that you're going to make money on like gangbusters, laundromats wouldn’t be on that list. But he knows them better than anybody. Why? Because he spent 20 years working with them, and that's what he's focused on. When he talks at events, when he writes white papers or posts on his website or blog, when he's doing an email, he demonstrates his expertise and stays focused on his niche.

Some people focus on contractors, but that’s a broad area. Specifically, do you do roofing contractors? Okay, let’s go deeper. Just commercial asphalt, or are we talking about hot tar?

Too many agencies try to be too broad with their expertise. Be specific. Find that area where you're really an expert. Then share stories about claims experiences or coverages you should be leery of, maybe highlight some other vendors that may partner with you.


Now that you’ve identified your niche and demonstrated your expertise, how do you build the relationship so you generate more and more business from those clients?


The vast majority of agencies have an incredible database of leads. It’s just being able to target them. It’s understanding when someone has commercial general liability but no cyber, property but no personalized home or auto, no umbrella… whatever the example is. You also keep in mind that there are other opportunities, too, in life insurance and annuities and financial planning if you nurture the relationship.

Simply remember why these people chose you in the first place: your expertise and your relationship with them. Then continue to share your and your staff’s expertise.

Here’s an obvious one that’s often the toughest thing to do: You ask for the business. Simply ask for the chance to discuss those other lines of business.

A lot of agents are afraid of annoying clients, or assume that everybody knows that you offer all these services. Assume nothing. Agents fear that, if I start asking, I’ll trigger them to maybe shop their insurances or go elsewhere. And I have to say that that is maybe one of the most ridiculous thoughts you should have in your head. If you think for a moment that an email, a text, print or a phone call from you, on a quarterly basis, asking about other business is going to trigger that person to shop elsewhere…. They’re already getting any number of imprints in their mind about what to buy, minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day, just by turning on the TV, listening to the radio or going online. Why would a simple request from you trigger them?

And here’s a powerful, easy way to talk to your clients: Ask them to assign you a Net Promoter Score. You see who really values you, and you know who would be most likely to respond if you ask for additional business. Combine that information with the data points in your management system about

what additional policies those customers might buy from you, and you have an awful lot of low-hanging fruit.


Great stuff. Thanks, Joel.

a headshot of Joel Zwicker wearing a black button down shirt Joel Zwicker is insurance evangelist at Agency Revolution Suite and formerly an insurance agent at one of Canada's largest independent insurance agencies. He now works to provide independent insurance agents the best marketing tools for their unique needs.


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Insurance Thought Leadership

Insurance Thought Leadership (ITL) delivers engaging, informative articles from our global network of thought leaders and decision makers. Their insights are transforming the insurance and risk management marketplace through knowledge sharing, big ideas on a wide variety of topics, and lessons learned through real-life applications of innovative technology.

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