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Social Media Survey – Which Way to Turn?

choice 300x231 Social Media Survey   Which Way to Turn?You know you need to have a presence in the social media world. You’ve heard everyone talk about the trends and how if your agency isn’t there then your relevancy will drop. But how to do it and how to get past the anxiety over not knowing what to do is critical for your success. Where can you turn for advice?

Well, PLGA is looking into what it can do to help you overcome these challenges but we need your help. Please complete this short survey to provide your input and we’ll share back with you what we find. The goal is to provide you the tools you need to succeed in this Perfect Digital Storm we are all living in.

PLGA Social Media Survey

Mobile Musts

Smartphone apps reach clients quickly.

AgencyTech opener 300x200 Mobile MustsThe iPhone 5 launch left consumers around the world both in love and frustrated. Many of its reviews glowed about the new form factor, improved optics and audio and updated operating system. Just as many consumers were disgruntled with the loss of the native YouTube app, the subpar Apple Maps app and the all-new charging dock connector.

Despite these issues, Apple sold 5 million of the iPhone 5 mobile devices in just the first 10 days.

Notwithstanding the power of the Apple brand, many other smartphone brands like the Samsung Galaxy S III also achieved great pick-up within the consumer market, once again underscoring the long-held belief that we are quickly becoming a mobile society.

Related: Read Rick Gilman’s previous column, “Hunt and Gather.”

Trending toward mobility

Hubspot’s recent 2012 Mobile Stat Report notes some startling trends:

  • Worldwide, more people own a cell phone (5.1B) than a toothbrush (4.2B)
  • There are four times more cell phone users than PC or laptop users
  • Three out of five searches are performed using a mobile phone and 70 percent of all mobile searches result in action within 1 hour
  • It takes a month for the same percentage of desktop users to take action.

Internet searching isn’t the only activity taking place in growing numbers on mobile devices; text marketing is proving to be an effective means of reaching your audience quickly, efficiently and successfully. According to the same report:

  • It takes 90 minutes on average for a person to check and respond to an email
  • It takes 90 seconds for that same average person to check and respond to a text
  • Text messaging has been estimated to be five times more effective than direct mail and 10 times more effective than newspaper advertising.

Finally, the report states:

  • 43 percent of businesses now use mobile phones
  • 25 percent of businesses plan to do so within the next 12 months
  • 16 percent of businesses plan to do so in more than 12 months
  • Only 15 percent of marketers have no plans to use mobile technology at all.

With trends like these, if you find yourself in the 15 percent group, with no expectations of implementing mobile technology, then your agency will become irrelevant.

The pros and cons

There are many reasons for not implementing a mobile strategy for your agency.

Applying another technology and marketing tool may be too much to consider right now. Or perhaps your agency is concerned with the inferred security issues stemming from mobile access. Exposure of sensitive data through a mobile device might cause enumerable damage.

Maybe you don’t see the value for your agency to provide this “painful,” “extra” service to your clients. The return on the investment just isn’t obvious.

Read another Gilman column, “Personal Touch.”

The truth: Mobile is here to stay. Your current clients use it and your future customers look for your services on it. Your staff and future hires expect it. If you don’t embrace mobile technology, your agency quickly will become irrelevant.

The business community is in the midst of a perfect storm in the world of marketing and communications. First, constant change and its pace are increasing exponentially. Technology is the root cause of this quickening pace, with Moore’s Law the oil lubricating the engine.

Add to that the fact that we are inundated with messages by the thousands each and every day. Consequently, agents are finding it harder to get their messages heard. Finally, let’s throw in the mix this thing called social media.

Keep your brand visible

One key to thriving in this growing digital marketing revolution is finding ways to build an effective brand that demonstrates rather than just communicates. In the long run, if your brand is not visible, you don’t exist.

One way to help your brand stand out from the competition is to leverage mobile technology and the powerful aspects of video-based marketing.

Many studies have shown that when it comes to information retention, people remember about:

  • 10 percent of what they hear
  • 20 percent of what they read
  • 80 percent of what they see and do.

This means that if you can implement tools that show your brand—and I don’t mean your company name and logo, but actually demonstrate the “attitude, aptitude and action” of your brand—then you’re on the way to distinguishing your agency from the others.

Video is a great way to do that by adding video-based email marketing, video messaging and video resources throughout your website. Your website should include a mobile-optimized site to simplify access over mobile devices. If you visit your website on a smartphone and you have to zoom in to read or to click a link; or if you have to scroll in any direction to see the whole page, then you will lose prospects if they’re searching for insurance via the mobile phone. And more and more people are doing just that.

Finally, what better way is there to get noticed than being able to put your brand in your client’s hand via your own customized phone app? Many of the biggest carriers are offering mobile apps for their clients directly. GEICO, State Farm and Progressive offer apps that make filing a claim easy, accessing basic policy information convenient and communications between carrier and insured a one-click option.

So why shouldn’t your agency have an app, too? There are a handful of companies that target insurance agencies with their mobile apps. Some include components of ACORD forms that can be completed right on the mobile device; some have the feature allowing your insureds to report an accident with photos of the damage, automatic GPS location, and capturing of the other person’s insurance information, all connected to the VIN number and policy number.

Related: Read “New ROI” by Rick Gilman.

Additional features agents can bring to a mobile app include one-touch calling or emailing, information on the agency, products and services listings, office locations and directions, appointment scheduling, listing of approved service providers like repair shops and glass replacement services also with one-touch calling. Video functionality and the ability to post podcasts within your app demonstrate your knowledge, professionalism and caring, which are essential when convincing prospects to buy from you.

These features bring both value-added benefits to your existing clients and enormous credibility to your marketing efforts to find and keep new clients.

And don’t think that this is way out of your price range. Developers  build apps for your agency anywhere from as low as about $1,000 all the way up to $10,000 or more; some give you only one platform, others give you all three platforms (Apple, Android and HTML5) and the input on design varies as well. No matter what your budget is, there is a solution for you. Even if all you have to spend on a build is $200, if you have some basic design skills, there’s do-it-yourself approach as well.

So there’s no excuse anymore. You know it’s going to happen. Similar to where the business community was at 15 years ago with the need for websites, we are at that point with the need for mobile phone apps. At some point in the near future, you will wake up one morning to find everyone has a mobile app. If your agency isn’t among them, then you’re out of the game.

How Technology & Service Drive Carrier Choice in Personal Lines

Photo on 2010 05 05 at 12.34 How Technology & Service Drive Carrier Choice in Personal Lines

Back in April I read an article online by National Underwriter’s Bob Hyle – The Great Equalizer: Technology for Personal Lines - on a study conducted by Novarica that looked at the top technologies being used by personal lines carriers. It was an interesting report but it occurred to me that what if the flip side didn’t match up? I mean what if agents were looking for other technologies and services from carriers than what carriers were focused on?

So, I contacted Karlyn Carnahan, insurance principal, Novarica and the point person on the study I read about. When we talked we agreed that it would be good to look at the similar issues from the agent’s perspective. Thus the PLGA Novarica study was born.

The survey, which received about a 20% participation by PLGA members, concluded over the summer and results were tabulated. I just posted a podcast with Karlyn where she presented some of the findings and we announced this morning a webinar for December 8th at 2PM ET where we’ll go into a full presentation of the findings.

I’ve been a member of and participant at both ACT and AUGIE meeting for many years and I’m always hearing from the agents in the room how important it is to have a single workflow that has at its foundation, the agency management system. It’s always made sense to me. The idea of having to go to different carrier websites, logging in and out in order to place business, make inquiries, etc. has never seemed the best workflow efficiency. So it was a bit of a surprise when one of the findings from the study showed that CSRs preferred, by a majority, to go through a carrier’s portal rather than their own agency management system.

There is more data behind that finding and you can hear about it next week during the webinar. I suspect, however, that a large part of the discrepancy between the study results and the ACT and AUGIE discussions is due to who is doing the talking. I still think working through the agency management system offers the most efficiencies, we just need to get that message across to everyone.

Register NOW for the December 8 Webinar

Title: How Technology & Service Drive Carrier Choice in Personal Lines

Time: 2PM ET

Plan Your Route to Personal Lines Profits

pathways 150x150 Plan Your Route to Personal Lines ProfitsSince joining PLGA, I’ve talked with lots of different people about what it takes to grow their particular agency’s share of the Personal Lines market. Depending on their perspective, the list varies greatly from more competitive markets to shifting internal culture from service to sales to assisting with CSR scripts, and everything in between.

Occasionally, I’ll come across specific products that different vendors may be offering to help leverage the social media environment more effectively or it might be creative carriers that are supporting their agency force with content for Facebook or Twitter, etc. or maybe they’ve created an agency portal for rate quoting or other services.

Regardless of the focus of their efforts, generally there is one common element, the agency recognizes the value of personal lines and is making a concerted effort to grow that market. I recently read an article by Ross Dik, president of the Worchester, MA-based Knight-Dik Insurance Agency called An Argument For Personal Lines. It originally appeared in TAAR, The Anderson Agency Report and addresses the main reasons agents should consider building a strong personal lines book. Ross makes a very potent case for personal lines as a highly profitable market, one that leverages the key strengths of agency management systems and the stability that is inherent in personal lines.

In a follow up conversation I had with Ross, he talked about the four outcomes his agency is focused on when going after personal lines business:

  • Retention of your existing business – renewals often proving the best retention methodology
  • Upgrade of your existing policy limits
  • Cross selling other coverages
  • New business acquisition

If you’d like to hear more about this directly from Ross, check out this month’s The Power of Personal Lines Podcast.

What Have You Heard Lately?

Photo on 2010 05 05 at 12.34 150x150 What Have You Heard Lately?

Rick Gilman, Executive Director

I recently read an article called 3 Social Media Band-aids for Your Broken Business Model that drives home two points that I’ve been talking about for some time that bare repeating.

First, as the title of this post infers, you no longer control your brand. You can still have a significant impact and help shape it but ultimately it is your customers and various stakeholders that will define what your brand truly is. This shift in power is directly related to the growth in social media. The sooner you recognize this, the sooner you can engage them more effectively and participate in shaping that brand.

Second, and this point is difficult for many businesses to understand, social media is less about marketing and more about listening. I often advise agents that are new to using social media be it a networking tool like Twitter or Facebook, or even blogging, that the best first step is to surf the web for blogs and Twitter accounts that you find interesting. They should read them regularly, then begin to engage the writers with your thoughts. This step-by-step process introduces you to the environment, teaches you what a good and appealing blog or Twitter account is like and lets you begin your own foray into the social media world at your own pace.

In that same sense, even when you are fully engaged in the social networking environment spend more time listening to your customers and markets than talking at them. This way you can learn exactly what your customers want from you, expect of you and how best to serve them. It puts your agency in a much better position to demonstrate your “Unique Selling Proposition” and can move the discussion away from bottom line price.

Jeff Yates, executive director of ACT, recently published an article about this very idea called Taking Back Personal Lines. In it he refers to a concept by futurist Dan Burrus whereby he advocates “going opposite” as a way to distinguish your brand from everyone else. If your competitors are pushing price as their selling point, go opposite and tout your unique selling and service qualities. For independent agents, it’s a perfect perspective.

So, if you’re out there on the social media circuit, what have you heard about your agency lately that you didn’t know? What insight into your customers and prospects have you uncovered? And, what are you doing with that new found knowledge?

How do you define “Easy to do business with”?

Photo on 2010 05 05 at 12.34 150x150 How do you define Easy to do business with?

Rick Gilman, Executive Director

PLGA is partnering with Novarica on a new survey of agency personnel on the technologies you find important from your carriers. What are the online features of your top insurers?

Your responses will be used in aggregate only to help insurers understand agents’ viewpoints on various elements of distribution technology. Your individual responses will not be shared with insurers.

Whatever your role in the agency is (producer, principal, CSR), your opinions matter. Please share them with us and have others in your agency participate, as well.
The survey is a short 14 questions and for your efforts, your name will be put into a drawing for an iPad 2 (WiFi model).ipad 2 sold out 150x150 How do you define Easy to do business with?

The results of this survey will be published in the PLGA newsletter, in an article on this website and in a webinar with Novarica.

Novarica logo How do you define Easy to do business with?Novarica (www.novarica.com) is a research and consulting organization that advises insurers on technology strategy.

https://www.surveymk.com/s/NovaricaAgentSurvey2011

 

Jobs Recovery Numbers Bodes Well for Personal Lines

Photo on 2010 05 05 at 12.34 150x150 Jobs Recovery Numbers Bodes Well for Personal Lines

Rick Gilman, Executive Director

The recent news stories about the tenth of a point drop in the unemployment rate to 8.8 percent and the growth in jobs added in the month of March is, according to some, a sign that the U.S. economy is “kicking” into gear. I have seen signs myself of at least a perceived improvement in the economy of a lot of people. My 401k is feeling the benefit too, thankfully.

As I was reading some of the stories today it occurred to me that, while you might naturally think these improvements will have a positive impact on the commercial lines market (which it might, if it is sustainable), there will also be benefit for the personal lines market.

I believe as people are finding themselves employed once again and feeling the relief of having a regular income, they might consider trying to achieve a certain sense of security in other aspects of their lives. What better way to do that than to insure their assets.

Of course, it’s unlikely that anyone dropped their auto coverage or homeowners during their “employment hiatus” unless financial circumstance were very dire. But what about talking with your personal lines clients about rounding out their accounts? Do all of those appropriate accounts have personal umbrella? What about flood insurance? If your agency sells life too, is now a good time to bring that into the discussion? Or long term care?

Sometimes growing your personal lines business can be as simple as asking for it. Hopefully, if you’ve built up a solid relationship with your PL clients, you would know if they had been let go during the down turn or have been part of the recovery. There are so many ways you can have positive impacts on your clients lives, you just need to be part of their lives in some small way.

Millennials Set the Expectation for Service

Photo on 2010 05 05 at 12.34 150x150 Millennials Set the Expectation for Service

Rick Gilman, Executive Director

I recently read an article in the Wall St. Journal about how teenagers are building traditional summer-time jobs into not-so small businesses. The kids down the block washing cars or mowing lawns for the summer to earn some spending money are now your newest entrepreneurs.

Who’s the Boss? When Jobs Are Scarce, the Kids Are got me thinking about the fact that more and more small businesses are being owned and run by 20 and 30 somethings. While the independent agency system already is succeeding in the commercial lines market, to fully realize similar growth in the personal line business, we must understand who’s in control of the service and product demands. Those same up and coming business owners are the same homeowners and auto owners that you’re prospecting for their personal lines business.

Recognizing the similarities in personality between the young business owner and the Millennial that bought their first home or condo might help you apply similar relationship tactics when you go after the personal lines business.

There are a number of paths to success in personal lines and one obvious one should be through your existing commercial lines customers. Start with going after the key personnel in the businesses you currently write to sell home owners, auto, personal umbrella and the like. Then once you’ve proved the quality of your personal lines products and services, talk to the “powers that be” about possible payroll deduction programs or about doing a presentation to staff much like 401k savings plans do to encourage enrollment.

What other pathways to profits do you use? Join the conversation and share your thoughts.

 

There’s Great Harmony Happening

Photo on 2010 05 05 at 12.34 150x150 Theres Great Harmony Happening

Rick Gilman, Executive Director

If you’ve ever heard a great a cappella group perform, the harmonies that serenade you are amazing. It is a perfect example of when the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. The famous Wiffenpoofs from Yale University are a great example of this. Yale University’s Wiffenpoofs

Another great example is when I attended a meeting down in Tampa of the AIMS Society, the ACORD User Groups Information Exchange (AUGIE), and Agents Council for Technology (ACT). While there was some wonderful singing taking place during the evening events, the harmonies I heard were in the common purposes, the complementary visions and the camaraderie felt by everyone that attended the joint meeting.

I was fortunate to have been there and had the opportunity to talk to a lot of people about PLGA and how we might “harmonize” with the group. The mission of PLGA is very simple: help the independent agency system capture a greater share of the personal lines market. The first step is to “make the case” for the value and importance of personal lines; the second step is to help agents do it.

To my thinking, this second step is NOT about PLGA creating all of these new resources, training guides, webinars, etc., they already exist in organizations like AIMS, AUGIE and ACT plus a whole lot more. But if we can link to them, point to their resources and encourage our members to take advantage of what’s already there, then we’re doing our jobs and making a difference.

That’s why over the coming months, I will be developing on the http://personallinesgrowth.org website harmonies with our peer groups, listing resources, descriptions and links to a whole host of resources for members to tap.

We’re are still moving forward with our The Power of Personal Lines podcast series and have already recorded two of them courtesy of American Agent & Broker magazine and the Agent/Broker channel on the PropertyCasualty360.com website. To start, we’ll be coming out with a new one every month which (if I can figure out how to insert a podcast player in our website) will be posted over on the left there for you to hear. Archives of PLGA podcasts can always be found on the PropertyCasualty360.com website.

So, if you have a success story about growing your personal lines business, let me know. If you’re a personal lines-only agency or carrier and would like to share what’s you’re doing to be successful, I would welcome the opportunity to talk. Remember, communications happens when you bring information together with intelligence.

Let’s harmonize!

PLGA Presentation at AUGIE Meeting – Feb. 18, 2011

PLGA presentation to AUGIE 2-18-11

Download the presentation first, then follow along with these comments.

PLGA Presentation at AUGIE Meeting – Talking Points

SLIDE 1

The Personal Lines Growth Alliance is one year old this month. I’ve been executive director since September and can honestly say this is the right time for this organization.

SLIDE 2

I say that because we have a fairly simple mission, which is to help independent agents and brokers grab a larger share of the personal lines market. We do that by conducting an educational, communications and leadership campaign to do two things, primarily. First, raise awareness of the value of personal lines business for agents and brokers and second, help them understand how to go after it.

SLIDE 3

Personal lines is a $230+ billion business, 50% of all Property/Casualty premiums. Personal Auto alone account for one third of all P&C premiums annually. And independent agents and carriers only capture around 35% of it. $150 billion goes to the likes of lizards and cavemen.

The current economy has hit our industry, as you all know, but fortunately not as bad as others. I’m sure all of you are feeling it in the commercial lines area. The recent survey conducted at the Joint Industry Forum shows that CEOs from the leading insurers agree. While they believe the worst is behind us, by line of business, they see a difficult year ahead for commercial lines while conversely seeing a continued improvement and growth for personal lines business.

SLIDE 4

That’s why it is a great time for agents to focus on the personal lines market. And PLGA is here to help.

SLIDE 5

First, PLGA is all about helping agents and brokers grow their share of the personal lines market and so membership is free for them. I hope you will all join if you’re not already a member.

Carrier and solution provider partnership fees are less than the price of a single full-page ad in most trades, so it’s not a huge investment but potentially can return a lot back to the companies.

Associations and User Groups are an important source for getting the PLGA message out and so, I will trade memberships with them for support like this.

I encourage you to visit the website – http://personallinesgrowth.org and check out our blog and feel free to send me your comments. You’ll soon find our latest feature, a regular podcast series entitled, The Power of Personal Lines. If you have a success story to share on how you’ve increased your personal lines market share, drop me a note and maybe we can do a podcast on it.

SLIDE 6

We’ve recently started up the monthly eNewsletter again and members are automatically be added to the list.

In the future, we’re looking at maybe doing some webinars, developing a best practices guide, providing some agency analysis of your current preparation for personal lines growth.

SLIDE 7

My last point I’d like to make is to acknowledge all of the great work that AUGIE, ACT and AIMS do which ultimately help agents to improve their bottom line and some of that is by helping them to grow their PL business. There are many other organizations in the industry that share our common goal as part of their own missions, but there are none, that I’m aware of, whose sole purpose is to grow the Personal Lines market share for independent agents and brokers and the carriers they represent.

I hope you’ll come and check us out and decide to become a member or supporting partner.

Thank you.