The problem with the excuse-making is that marketing is a critical part of the sales process, and, without effective marketing, it becomes extremely difficult to create productive sales opportunities. If buyers aren’t interested in what they see from you in your marketing activities, what reason do they have to be interested in a conversation with your sales team? Let alone in becoming a client of yours? Use your marketing efforts to connect with your audience over things that matter to them.
When the biography of a businessperson becomes a BizBio, when brains and Braun combine to create a pointillist portrait whose style evokes the ink drawings popularized by the Wall Street Journal, that is when nameplates cease to be vanity plates. That is when insurers become household names.
Consider, then, the power of a BizBio: an image alongside a person’s name.
Consider, for example, the power of the name and image of the American Express charge card. Consider the card’s expression of a charge to keep, of a gladiator who leads the charge on behalf of honor, integrity, strength and security.
Consider the value of a BizBio for an insurance executive.
Think of the invaluable quality of values, of knowing that people have a keepsake that celebrates the best leaders in a variety of industries, including technology, transportation and trade; and insurance, too.
To be among the likes of Steve Jobs and Howard Schultz, to be in the company of men and women whose influence is historic, to be a person whose legacy influences popular culture and popularizes insurance, to be that person is a goal all insurers should strive to achieve.
A BizBio confirms what many executives crave but few manage to convey: credibility. The credibility of a leader whose word elicits trust. The credibility of a leader whose work speaks for itself. The credibility of a leader whose legacy speaks to his life’s work.
A BizBio encapsulates these points. It proves the point that excellence matters, that an executive sets an example for workers to equal and critics to extol.
The example insurers need to make is one of connection: to connect with policyholders on a personal level. The connection between the contents of a BizBio and the content of a leader’s character: That connection depends on transforming insurance from an abstract concept to an accessible idea; that transformation depends on an insurer’s talent for translation, the felicity by which he turns numbers into words.
Put another way, an insurer who works to ensure people understand him is an insurer who develops an understanding with his clients. He connects with people by listening to them. He listens to their concerns. He tries to address their concerns, even if he cannot assuage all their concerns. He communicates clearly—and often.
An insurer who connects with policyholders is a leader.
Whether he has a BizBio is less important than what he learns by reading a BizBio. If what he reads makes him a better leader—and a better listener—the benefits will accrue to his company, his clients and his industry. He will, in the end, have what it takes to have his own BizBio.
Numbers may numb the senses, but that does not mean insurers should forsake the chance to achieve something that, in contrast to their current approach to marketing, can be numinous, relatively speaking, because neither a lack of communication nor communication that lacks style can yield anything of substance.
Insurers need not go back to the drawing board, when they should go to the photography studio instead: a place for photographers, artists, designers, writers, and directors—all of them working in a studio spacious enough for them to realize their vision, which itself is a study in the transformation of space. It is the conversion of space into living space—the way a studio lends itself to interpretation by way of a camera lens—that can allow insurers to further their message through the medium of video or photography.
Achieving this goal starts with finding a studio in which a room has plenty of space for invention, and reinvention. To have such a studio is to have the solution to a challenge that is otherwise a logistical mess and a financial disaster. Enter FD Photo Studio, literally or virtually, because this is where insurers can begin to turn their message into effective marketing.
I mention this disruption in how photographers do business, or how businesses can leverage a series of photography studios that have low hourly rates and a suite of equipment and services, because the biggest barrier to a shift in marketing is the refusal of most studios to change their prices—to change, period—in the face of changing needs and demands.
With the solution now available, insurers have no reason not to banish the banal, to erase the execrable, to delete the detestable. They do, however, have every reason to express themselves visually—to have a vision that verbalizes a specific set of values—so their marketing speaks for itself.
They have to articulate what they believe.
They have to believe what they say—they have to know what they believe—so what they say is not only believable but true, so what consumers see is a picture of what insurance is, so what appears on paper or develops on-screen is the summation of a collection of ideals like honor and integrity and hope and opportunity.
That honesty is the best policy, for insurers, is both a matter of justice and a measure of goodness. To have a marketing campaign that blurs what should be clear, or to perpetuate a message that fails to clarify what is right, is neither good for business nor a good to possess.
It is bad optics, as pundits are wont to say, because it is just plain bad.
Let insurers, therefore, resolve to make excellence a priority and professionalism a promise to keep.
Let them produce an actual snapshot of their industry, which says a lot without having to say a word; unless words are necessary; unless the words condense a thousand words into a memorable sentence; unless the sentence implies what consumers will likely infer: that insurers are great marketers.
I have a complaint against insurance agents, not a claim for them to file. Rather, I do have a claim—and reason to complain—regarding their use of marketing copy. Too much of what these agents write says too little about who they are and what they do. Too much of what they say sounds too similar for there to be a major difference. It seems as if agents use the same words with slight variations in structure, to optimize their results with search engines.
Search as I may, and I have searched far and wide, I cannot find what I want: originality. The lack of original copy—the general absence of creativity in business writing—is a symptom of personal laziness and professional indifference; as if it is acceptable to commit plagiarism, at home or abroad; as if standards of honesty do not matter; as if the theft of intellectual property is less a sin than a sign of flattery; as if numbers nullify the underlying wrongness of an act; as if the more common a problem is, the less problematic it becomes.
Let me restate the problem: An insurance agent who does not care about the message he markets is not in the market to attract or retain clients. And yet, some marketers—including a contributor to Entrepreneur—all but admit that plagiarism is inevitable, because it is hard to come up with a unique idea.
This excuse in the form of an explanation should not lessen the seriousness of this offense. Difficulty does not, after all, denote a license to steal. It does not condone—no one should misconstrue it to mean—that misappropriating content is fine, so long as one’s clients are content.
Insurance agents need to stop outsourcing their messaging to the unskilled and the unethical.
It does not profit an agent to be at the top of Google search but at the bottom of what no search engine can retrieve: one’s soul.
An agent who cannot ensure his own integrity should not attempt to insure anyone or anything.
This rule applies to all businesses, but it matters most to how agents conduct themselves regarding the business of insurance; because each sale is an exchange of dollars and a transaction of trust; because you should not do business with someone you do no trust.
If you do not trust the originality of what an agent says, why would you entrust this person with your money—or agree to buy life insurance from this man or woman?
If insurance agents take the lead on this issue, it will benefit their industry and the business community as a whole.
The biggest beneficiaries will be the people who have or want to purchase insurance.
The following is an excerpt from a white paper, available in full here.
There have always been a lot of independent insurance agencies in the marketplace, just as there are today. But the competition seems to be increasing by the hour, thanks largely to the proliferation of digital technology and online marketing.
Consequently, most agents hear the following comments quite frequently:
“You insurance people are all the same.”
“Sure, you can bid on my business insurance; we shop it every three years.”
“Can you give me a quote on my business insurance? I’m just trying to keep my current agent honest.”
“I’d like a quote on my automobile insurance.”
“I noticed my homeowners insurance increased $25. Could you shop it around?”
And those are just a few examples. There are so many others because consumers have so many additional purchasing options that didn’t exist until recently.
Whether it’s personal or commercial lines, consumers are constantly being educated that insurance is all about price. So if you sound like, look like and act like every other insurance agent or agency, people will assume that’s who you are — like everyone else. This leads to price-only selling, practice quoting and unpaid consulting.
One of the reasons the marketplace is so crowded is that most agencies have not differentiated.
They simply do not have a compelling story of differentiation. When asked, “Why should I do business with you/your agency?” most will respond with the same standard, boring, “Generic Five” lines.
“We give great service.”
“We represent all of the major insurance companies.”
“We’ve been in business for 100 years.”
“We have the best people.”
That last one annoys me. Really? Is there a vortex in the universe that sucked all the best people in our industry into one agency?!
Don’t get me wrong. I find that most agencies provide excellent reactive service, represent a slew of great companies, have been around a long time and have some great people. There’s no doubt about that. There’s just not a compelling reason why I should even consider you. You’re just not different.
Furthermore, the vast majority of agencies simply have no formal, systematic selling and marketing process. For most, the “selling system” (or set offense, as I like to call it), is still focused on the old way of selling:
Look, Copy, Quote and Pray.
I’ll look at your policies, copy the information, give you a quote and then pray that the premium I present to you is less than what you’re paying today. I’ll continue praying that you don’t take my quote, give it to your current agent and tell the agent, “Match it, and you get to keep the business.”
Do you have an “agency’s way” of selling and marketing your products and services? As an agency owner or producer, how would you answer the following:
What’s your 30-second commercial? What’s your two-minute infomercial?
What’s your unique selling proposition (USP) — the unique and appealing ideas and things that separate you from all other “me too” competitors?
What’s different in your process of risk assessment, risk transfer and risk prevention?
Do you and all of your team members know your top five PODS, or points of differentiation, and do you actually deliver on them?
I realize that changing the consumer’s perception remains a challenge when TV’s Flo and the gecko saturate the marketplace. They, and others, spend billions on advertising. It’s no wonder the consumer thinks it’s all about price! Plus, once you click through to a site, it has your data and tracks you indefinitely. This is not just in personal lines. Small to mid-sized commercial accounts are getting the exact same message. That’s because it’s irresistibly easy for the consumer or business owner to call a toll-free number or “click here for a free quote” on hundreds of different websites.
Again, please don’t misunderstand my point. The reality is that when properly used, digital marketing can help aggressive independent agents fill their pipelines (although I fear that most are filled with suspects, not future ideal clients). But while digital marketing can provide you with opportunities, it’s up to you to seize them. Once you get an email, phone call or online alert, what do you do with it?
When I talk to agency owners about the number of clients they’ve received from online contacts, I hear vastly different stories.
What is one doing to get the prospect’s business that the other one isn’t? When an opportunity arrives, what are you/your producers doing and saying to connect with the prospect and close the deal? What’s your process, and how do you follow up on it?