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Can’t Do It All? Don’t Do Nothing.

By Kitty Ambers

Tweet, blog, vlog, e-market, optimize, friend, like, text. In today’s digital world, the opportunities to attract and connect with personal insurance clients and prospects are virtually endless. What should an agent or broker do first? What delivers the greatest value? Which brings the most bang for the buck?

Too often, the vast array of options leads to a certain kind of paralysis. “It’s overwhelming,” is a common lament I hear. “I don’t know where to start,” is another. What is most important when competing for personal lines customers is to not let the abundance of possibilities drive agents and brokers to do nothing.

Getting Social
Consider social networking, for instance. The ideal integrated social media plan would incorporate agency use of such platforms and tools as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Plaxo, Flickr, Vimeo, YouTube, Digg, RSS feeds, user-generated content and more. How can an agency do all that and still run the organization? Over time, I suspect, most could. But not right away.

For many, it makes sense to start small. Establishing a Facebook presence is a relatively easy way to start. Because many, if not most, employees have a personal Facebook page, it might make sense to engage one or more to set up the agency’s presence. Instructions exist right on the Facebook site; countless external resources are available, too, including some designed specifically for insurance agents and brokers. Remember, though, the goal is to network with customers, not preach at them. Focus content on the public, not the agency.

Web Success
Deploying a complete agency strategy to drive Web site traffic and leads would incorporate deep analytics, local search, blogging, multiple micro-sites, back-linking, keyword research, content enrichment, tag generation, search engine optimization, pay-per-click marketing and more.

Too much to bite off at once? Consider starting a blog and updating Web content. Include words and terms people will use as they search for insurance in your community. Again, many agencies tap interested employees for this; outside resources exist, as well.

At the same time, consider staking or building out your agency presence on local search sites, including Google Places, Bing, Yahoo!, YellowBook, Yelp, Localeze.com and more. Each has instructions on how to do this.

Marketing Focus
Work toward driving a broad sales culture throughout an agency or brokerage should include sales leadership, lead tracking, exhaustive staff training—including for CSRs, CRM deployment, continual monitoring and coaching, workflow reviews—maybe even a wiki—and more, much more.

Overwhelmed? Don’t be. Again, what is important is to start somewhere, even if the entire initiative cannot be undertaken at once. Most agencies have sales goals that they monitor and report on. Broaden the sales culture by including service staff in the mix. Create cross-selling or account-rounding goals, provide scripts, role play in sales meetings, pair the less experienced with a mentor, and offer the basic sales training.

At the same time, agents and brokers need to make the most of existing leads and client opportunities. As I present sales training to all levels of agency employees, I am reminded how easy it is to forget the fundamentals.

Agents and brokers need to make sure they set follow-ups to contact prospects about quotes presented, in case they did not close the sale. If they end up not winning the account, it is important to always ask permission to revisit before the next renewal. One way to do this is to explain that insurance rates and personal situations that affect insurance rates tend to change. I reinforce to my sales training participants the value of such persistence and follow-up, pointing out that it takes, on average, eight “touches” to close a sale. The problem, I add, is that most salespeople quit after three.

Whether working on social media, Web traffic or boosting sales, the words of Calvin Coolidge ring true: “We cannot do everything at once,” he said, “but we can do something at once.”

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