Tag Archives: insurance agencies

To Post or Not to Post? Choose Wisely

Social media can be a rewarding place for insurance agencies – it provides a platform to build relationships with customers and prospects and, ultimately, grow revenue. The benefits have never been greater. In fact, a recent study from Sprout Social indicates that, after consumers follow a brand on social media, 91% will visit its website or app, 89% will make a purchase from the brand and 85% will recommend the brand to a family member or friend.  

But social media can also be an unforgiving place. Over the last year, we’ve seen an uptick in social media fails as businesses tried to join conversations about trending headlines and serious issues – from pandemic developments and racial justice to election validity – sometimes causing irreparable reputation damage and business impact.

As consumers increasingly turn to social media to inform decision-making, it’s critical for agency owners to build their social media skills to navigate the risks and reap the rewards. Here are six tips to get you started:

1. Establish the ground rules.

Creating general social media guidelines for your agency will help you make faster and smarter decisions in any situation. The guidelines can be as simple as a one-page document that outlines:

  • Your social media objectives 
  • Your target social media audience
  • Your social media “voice”
  • Topics you will/will not address on your channels 
  • Frequency of posting
  • Engagement approach 
  • Who has access to post on your social media accounts
  • When and when not to respond to conversations

These guidelines can and should evolve along with your agency. Revisit them regularly to ensure they still complement your overall business strategy. 

2. Be a good listener.

While you shouldn’t make posting decisions based on what everyone else is doing, you also shouldn’t make decisions in a vacuum. It’s important to truly understand a trending situation as well as the mood on social media and in traditional media before making a decision about whether to post. 

As you evaluate the situation, look at the conversation that’s already happening. Are other agencies jumping in? If so, what’s driving that? How are people responding to that content? Are the media stories about agency response positive or negative? Are your customers and prospects joining the conversation? Are they asking you to join? Why? Understanding the landscape can help make a decision that feels right for your business and the moment.  

See also: Personal Connections Via Social Media

3. Walk the walk.

When the racial and social justice movement gained momentum last summer, businesses were eager to show their support on social media. Those with a track record for actively discussing and addressing these issues were greeted with positive feedback. Those that issued hollow statements about support and solidarity without action were savaged. For example, Ben and Jerry’s statements were viewed as appropriate because the brand and its founders have a long history of social activism, while the NFL’s statement that included the phrase “we need urgent action” was blasted. 

4. Pause when appropriate. 

Sometimes, you just need to hold off on any kind of social media posting – either because everyone’s attention is elsewhere or out of respect for the situation at hand. For example, many insurance agencies we work with paused on posting around the presidential election because that event dominated the social media conversation. And we’ve advised them to pause during moments of national and world crisis because of the gravity of those situations. Continuing to post promotional content at these moments can imply your agency is disconnected from the world around you – or simply doesn’t care. Pay attention to what is happening in the world and pause posting during times of crisis.

5. Engage with care.

Treat the content you like and share with the same care you treat your own social media content. Before you deem something worthy of engagement, review it carefully. Verify the content’s accuracy, check for hot-button language, know your source and review the current comments to avoid an inadvertent issue. For example, a controversial news figure might post something completely neutral on Twitter that you think is relevant to your customers. However, your customers might view a retweet of that post as an endorsement of the controversial figure.

6. Live the brand. 

As an agency owner, you are the brand, and anything you post on your social media accounts becomes a reflection of that brand. In a recent New York Times story, journalist and digital communication expert Sree Sreenivasan summed it up well: “The fact is that it’s impossible to separate the personal use of social from the professional, and everything you say online can and will be used against you. There are ways in which you can try to safeguard your privacy and control who sees particular content, but the onus is on you to be vigilant. So, the more seriously you can take your social media activities, the better.” You can mitigate your risks by embracing the same social media guidelines for your business and personal accounts. 

Every day on social media, agencies of all sizes are judged by what they say and what they don’t say. Understanding the risks that come with a social media presence – and how to mitigate them – is just as important as understanding how to use these platforms to connect with customers.

5 Ways Tech Can Draw Young Talent

In the past, the insurance industry has had an image problem with younger talent. Top prospects have often migrated toward flashier industries like technology. But as the long-term economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic remain unknown, stable industries, like insurance, might have a recruitment advantage that independent agencies can capitalize on. 

There has been much discussion about how younger generations are changing the work environment. They want a flexible schedule, capability to work remotely and work/life balance. But they also want to have opportunities to be contributing team members. They want to create value and have their ideas heard. 

The insurance industry—especially independent agencies—are well suited for offering employees the ability to provide impact. Every day, agents help their customers have protection when the worst happens. The industry is also continuing to innovate and transform. Digital native young talent has an opportunity to lead the charge and help employers evolve. 

But agencies need to take the first step to show that they are committed to adopting technology and implementing new solutions. Agencies need to have tools that increase productivity. Frustrating old systems that only work on Internet Explorer – a web browser that Microsoft discontinued – won’t cut it. 

Here are five technology solutions agencies should consider using to make their business more appealing to young prospects.

1. Take your agency to the cloud

Key platforms that agents need to use every day such as agency management systems and customer relationship management systems should be accessible in the cloud. Up-and-coming generations don’t want to be tied to a desk. And in a post-COVID-19 world, where there may be lingering hesitations about going into crowded offices, being able to work from home might be a common expectation. Cloud-based applications allow more flexibility and give employees more freedom to work remotely. 

2. Add automated solutions like online rating and CRM to your cloud-based agency management system

Any solutions that help reduce redundancies and rekeying will help make your agency more appealing. For example, online quoting tools that automatically pull in customer information and can get multiple quotes from a variety of carriers using a single form can save valuable time. Solutions like these give agents more time to do meaningful work like servicing clients’ unique needs rather than typing the same data into different places. 

Also, look to see if there are integration capabilities between your different technology vendors. For example, your agency management system could be partnering with your CRM provider and online quoting solution so customer information passes from one platform to the next, so agents don’t need to reenter the information. 

See also: Keys to Finding and Nurturing Talent  

3. Use data analytics to help target customers

The next generation of workers never knew a time when information was not readily available at their fingertips. They rely more on facts rather than hunches or “the way we have always done things.” Agencies should implement customer relationship management and agency management systems that gather data, can analyze trends and give you a 360-degree view of your clients. For example, using analytics from your CRM system, you might see that emails to small commercial prospects about workers’ comp had a higher open rate than ones about business owner policies (BOP), suggesting you do more detailed outreach on a particular offering. 

4. Be like e-commerce – incorporate online bill pay, e-signature and SEO

e-Commerce has forever changed consumers’ expectations when dealing with companies. They want on-demand service, and agencies need to adapt. They should look to reduce the amount of paper needed to complete transactions by implementing solutions like secure online payments and e-signature technology. 

Whether a prospect is looking for an agent to help with their insurance needs or a top recruit is looking for a place to begin a career, all searches begin online. People are not going to scour through multiple Google pages to find an agency, so those with the top rankings will win. Agencies need to invest in an SEO strategy that will elevate them in searches. This includes regular postings on social media, using keywords for key product offerings in website content and updating the website with thought leadership. 

5. Take face-to-face into the virtual world with video conferencing 

Even before the global pandemic, people were changing the way they interacted with companies. While customer relationships are important to any agency, agencies should go beyond in-person interaction. Video conferencing tools like Zoom and Skype allow agents to still meet face-to-face with clients but provide more flexibility. Agents can have more impromptu discussions or virtually meet with customers when they are not in the office.

Young talent wants flexibility and the ability to have an impact. With the right technologies, agencies can provide recruits with these experiences — and even offer them more – the chance to help the business evolve. Agencies should be doing everything in their power to recruit these workers. Not only can young agents help your business transform, but they will help build your book of business with the next generation of insurance customers.

Online Payments: A Help During the Crisis

Online payments are convenient, secure and easy. These days, they can also help keep you, your employees and your customers stay healthy and ensure your insurance business stays productive during the coronavirus pandemic.  

Amid the virus health concerns, employees across the country are being encouraged to work from home, while most Americans are being advised to stay inside.

That spells trouble for those consumers who prefer to pay their insurance bills in person or by the mail, many of whom are older. And it presents a tricky situation for insurance agents and companies that have shifted their work remotely for the time being. 

Not only should your clients avoid going out to pay their bills, but, even if they do, your business may not have anyone there to accept payments. 

That could be especially problematic in the insurance industry, where timely payments are paramount to maintaining coverage, something many Americans are undoubtedly nervous about as the virus spreads.

Even paying by mail could be problematic, as it requires having stamps on hand or going to the post office – again, your clients should be focusing on social distancing, not worrying about making a payment in person—and your office may not have anyone there anyway to open the mail.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Boston found in a 2017 study that the average American paid 8.4 bills in person, by mail or by phone, compared with 6.5 bills paid online and 6.4 bills paid through automatic withdrawal. That means a significant amount of people still aren’t paying online — presenting an opportunity for you to increase the number of online payers, a true benefit, especially during the pandemic.

If your insurance agency or company doesn’t accept online payments, it’s not hard to add that capability to your website quickly, with a plug-and-play system. It’s even easier to get your customers set up. Under the current circumstances, they’ll be especially thankful. 

See also: Coronavirus Boosts Cyber Risk  

Online payments also allow your customers to know exactly when the payment is received, while mailed payments depend on the timing of the delivery. Your customers will be able to manage their cash flow better.

As the coronavirus continues to spread, now is a better time than ever to shift your payment processing online. Many more of your customers are open to the change, because they’re trying to avoid personal contact. They’ll thank you for the opportunity.

12 Animals That Sell Insurance

Insurance companies, agencies and vendors really like animals. We like them partly because we insure them. But mostly we like them because, in an industry that struggles to translate its core values to tangible brand attributes, a cute and fuzzy or large, strong animal can help convey the right message and generate attention.

These 12 brands, while completely different in size and essence, found the perfect animal to communicate their offerings and stand out from the herd (or pack or pride or. . . ).

1. Aflac Duck

AFLAC

2. Bolt Horse

bolt

3. Car Insurance Gorilla

gorilla

4. Elephant Auto Insurance Elephant (What Else?)

elephant

5. Geico Camel

geicocamel

6. Geico Gecko

geicogecko

7. Geico Pig

geicopig

8. Giraffe Professional Insurance Agency

Giraffe

Giraffe

9. Hartford Stag

elk

10. ING Lion

ing

11. MetLife Snoopy

snoopy

12. The Zebra – Zebra

zebra

What Happens When an Agency Owner Dies?

I have unfortunately worked with the families, estates and partners of several agency owners who have passed away.  Most of the deaths occurred unexpectedly.  In all cases, the person who passed left the family, estate and partners with far more problems than necessary.  So, my question to you is this: If you passed away tomorrow, what problems would you leave behind?

One situation I absolutely dread is when I have to tell a family the agency is not worth anything near what the recently passed relative (usually the father) said it was worth.  Agency values are not what they once were. So, you may be telling your partners and loved ones that the agency is worth more than it really is, a practice that, while possibly innocent, is still cruel.

Get your agency valued using real world values so everyone’s expectations are realistic.  Put yourself in your family’s and partners’ shoes.  The income from the agency will be eliminated upon the sale.  Will the agency’s sale be enough to support their standard of living? 

You will uncover problems such as bad debt.  I have seen a number of agency owners die with sizeable accounts receivable that were quite old and totally uncollectible.  These debts may total 20 percent, 25 percent, even 30 percent of the agency’s commissions.  Even if an agency is worth some high multiple, those bad debts have to be deducted.

You will also find issues that you can address, sometimes rather easily. It’s horrible when a widow learns that her husband did not really own all the business on the books.  He always meant to get around to fixing his producers’ contracts but died before he did. As you get your agency valued, however, you can confront the issue and correct it. There have also been situations where all the important accounts are written by the deceased, and there is no one in the agency to take over those accounts.  Those key accounts most likely will not stay with the agency, so its value is not going to be what the estate may have thought.

Another example: keeping lousy books.  It is not imperative for an owner to keep good books and good data.  It is smart, and it is a good business practice, but it is not imperative.  However, if a person dies and the books are poor, the agency is not going to sell for full price.  Who will pay full price for an agency for which no one knows the true income and the true state of its balance sheet? 

Getting a valuation will force you to look at issues such as contracts and books—in time to fix any problems.

I know many readers are thinking these things never happen, but they do. How do you know you do not have similar issues if you have not had your agency valued by a competent appraiser? 

Two other issues to focus on:

Agency Ownership

Do you really own your agency?  I have seen a number of situations where the agency’s contracts were so poorly written that the agency did not clearly own the business on its books.  Maybe the owner knew this at one time and had forgotten because nothing bad had happened.  On a day-to-day basis, it didn’t really matter. But when the agency is being valued, especially when it is being valued because the owner has died, it does matter, and that is not when anyone wants to discover the problem. As more and more clusters develop and even age, this is going to be a bigger and bigger problem.

Buy-Sell Agreements

What happens when a person dies with a bad buy-sell agreement with his partner?  Unless luck and goodwill are in plentiful supply, nothing good happens.  The partner may have been the greatest, most unselfish person on earth, but is his or her family just as unselfish?  This is important because, at least for a time, the dead partner’s family will be partners, too.

For example, what happens when the surviving partner realizes the buy-sell agreement poorly defines value?  This may leave the door open for the dead partner’s estate to claim any amount of value. I have seen, more than once, claims of two times premiums!  It is not always that the other side is greedy; often, they are just uneducated about the insurance world. Combine that with grief and a feeling of immense vulnerability, and they may not want to settle for a reasonable value.

Another great example is where the agency’s balance sheet is poor and the estate’s trusted advisor discovers some rule of thumb that agencies are worth some multiple of commissions, but fails to understand that balance sheet deficits, especially trust ratio deficits, must be deducted.  If you have ever tried to buy out a partner at full price while the agency has a trust ratio deficit, you will know how difficult it is to make payroll and other payments.

The readers of this article have the opportunity to fix a wrong before the wrong occurs.  The pain survivors feel when a loved one or partner dies is already immense.  Why exacerbate it by leaving them a business in a mess?