There is something different about Trusted Choice Insurance Agents.

It’s hard to point your finger on it exactly.

It’s a confidence, a swagger, that other insurance agents and providers simply don’t have.

It’s as if they know something others do not.

I see it every time I’m on the road.

Over the last seven years I’ve presented to groups of Trusted Choice insurance agents at the local, state and national level over 150 times. My favorite part of performing at this events is not the presentation itself, but the interactions that happen all around the presentation.

  • Dinner and drinks the night before.
  • Sitting with new faces at breakfast.
  • Chatting up the early arrivals to your room.
  • Answering questions after it’s over.
  • The conversations that take place in the hallway.
  • Sitting with more new faces at lunch.
  • More conversations in the hallway.

It’s these one-on-one conversations that you really get to know people.

It’s in these private conversations that people will share:

  • What they’re excited about,
  • What they’re working on,
  • What frustrates them,
  • The obstacles they face,
  • The mistakes they’ve made in the past,
  • The advantages they have in the marketplace,
  • They’re history and legacy, and
  • Where they want to be in the future.

Some share freely their entire story, while others crack the door open just enough to share the bits and pieces most pressing on their mind.

From these hundreds of conversations I’ve distilled two distinct observations about Trusted Choice insurance agents:

1) No two independent agencies are the same. They are all unique snowflakes. It’s prudent, as an industry, we step back and marvel in the beauty of their individuality once and awhile. It’s humbling.

2) The binding force of independent agents is their pride in and dedication to the relationships built with clients.

Those insurance professionals, who genuinely embrace the ideology of Trusted Choice, strive for a value proposition beyond the standard talking points of what it means to be an “Independent agent.”

This isn’t an exclusive trait of Big “I” members only.

One of the many things my eyes were opened to during Elevate 2017 is the sheer volume and caliber of independent agents who aren’t currently members of the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America (a.ka. The Big “I”).

There was a time when most Big “I” members would look at non-members and say,

“If you’re not with us, you’re against us.”

That day has come and gone.

We’re all in this fight for relevancy together.

Independent Doesn’t Mean Alone

The Independent Agency Owners Alliance (IAOA) has a hashtag they use all the time, #IAOAbettertogether.

I love it.

I have to admit though, in the past, even the not too distant past, I believed the concept of IAOA to be an adversary. Even though IAOA is relatively small compared to the membership of the Big “I”, they are fresh and new and fun and full of energy.

Maybe I was jealous. Maybe I felt threatened. Doesn’t matter.

trusted choice logoAfter getting to know Nick Ayers and Dave Jackson, (two of IAOA’s founders), I see the organization for what it truly is, a group of agents working together to do better by their clients, their staff and their community.

These are core ideas behind what it means to be a Trusted Choice insurance agents as well.

Trusted Choice and IAOA, (any many other independent agent focused organizations), are fighting the same battle. The only difference being, some agents get to use the logo and some do not.

Furthermore, many IAOA members also members of the Big “I”, (and hopefully we’ll be more strategic in helping each other thrive moving forward).

There is an intellectual potency in this type of cross-pollination.

I for one, will no longer view groups of agents, such as IAOA, as adversaries, but rather potential partners and non Big “I” members as future Trusted Choice insurance agents.

[tweet_box design=”default” float=”none” inject=”#trustedchoice #IAOAbettertogether”]Independent doesn’t mean alone. We are, “Better Together.”[/tweet_box]

Being an independent agent gives you the freedom to grow your business whatever way you choose.

Being a Trusted Choice independent agent means you’ll never be alone when facing the obstacles of growth.

Calling yourself a Trusted Choice insurance agent and living the principles are two completely different things.

It all starts with the Pledge of Performance…

The Pledge of Performance

You don’t like how GEICO, Esurance and Lemonade have devalued and commoditized the insurance industry.

OK.

What are you doing about it?

As a Trusted Choice insurance agent, you commit yourself to treating clients as people, not just another policy.

Nothing embodies this commitment like the Trusted Choice Pledge of Performance. It goes like this…

As your Trusted Choice insurance agent I shall:

Work with you to identify the insurance and financial services that are right for you, your family or your business and use our access to multiple companies to deliver those products.

Guide you through the claims process for a prompt and fair resolution of your claim.

Help you solve problems related to your coverage or account.

Explain the coverages and options available to you through our agency, at your request.

Return your phone calls and e-mails promptly and respond to your requests in a timely manner.

Provide 24/7 services for our customers, offering any or all of the following: emergency phone numbers, Internet account access, e-mail and call center services.

Use our experience and multiple company relationships to customize your coverage as needed.

Commit our staff to continuing education so they may be more knowledgeable in serving you.

Treat you with respect and courtesy.

Conduct our business in an ethical manner.

Whether you believe in the pledge or not or if you take umbrage with any particular portion of the pledge doesn’t matter. The point is, you are committing to hold yourself to a higher standard.

The pledge is a public declaration of your trusted advisor status.

By taking the pledge your are standing tall, raising the middle finger of both hands towards GEICO, Esurance, Lemonade and all the others who would defile your great industry while delivering your best President Whitmore,

“We will not go quietly into the night. You will NOT commoditize us without a fight. We will live on. We will thrive!”

But to do this, to make good on our promise, we must hold ourselves to a higher set of standards.

Trusted Choice and the Pledge of Performance, are key blocks in the foundation upon which you will build your unique customer experience.

[tweet_box design=”default” float=”none” excerpt=”To grow, independent agents must begin to match customer expectation to customer experience. #agencynation #trustedchoice”]To grow, we must match customer expectation to customer experience.[/tweet_box]

When customer expectation matches customer experience, the result is trust.

“The single best machine to measure trust is a human being.” ~ Simon Sinek 

Back in 2012, when I was an active independent agent, my brother-in-law and I took the pledge of performance.

We made our pledge of performance public via the following video we published on our website:

Here is the original post which accompanied our Trusted Choice pledge of performance video.

To be honest, back then I didn’t know much about the Big “I” or Trusted Choice. I certainly didn’t understand the gravity of the program and implications on the independent insurance industry.

All I knew was that there was this group of agents who didn’t want to be like our direct and captive competition. They wanted to be more.

By taking the pledge of performance, these “Trusted Choice” agents were setting aside their own selfish wants and desires to do what was best for their clients first and always.

That was something I could get behind back in 2012 and it’s something I still stand behind today.

Enough Playing Defense

For the last decade, too many independent agents have been playing defense.

We’ve hidden from the digital marketplace, making logically unsound justifications for our lack of digital adoption:

“Our type of client doesn’t shop online.”

If I hear, “Our clients don’t’ shop online,” one more time, seriously, I’m just going to yell as loud as I can at the top of my lungs. It’s going to weird and uncomfortable and everyone is going to stare and wonder what is wrong.

I don’t care.

It’s 2017, your clients shop online.

Everyone’s clients shop online.

Weird and uncomfortable is the only response I have left.

But it’s not just about digital. We’ve resisted change, we’ve hunkered down, and we’ve made excuses for our lack of progress.

On an per-agency basis, complacency and comfort are the prerogative of those in charge.

Unfortunately, the actions one impact the entire ecosystem of independent agents. We are only as strong as our weakest link.

Cliche? Yes.

True? Absolutely yes!

Having worked at TrustedChoice.com and Agency Nation for almost three years now, I’ve had the opportunity to look out over the industry in its entirety and analyze the consumer behaviors affecting all independent agents.

The most complex consumer behavior is the relationship between the U.S. consumer cultural belief of the value of “Independent Agents” and brand value perception of real tangible local independent agents.

At a local level, the independent agent value proposition skyrockets. Local independent agents know the consumers, they know the community and they care. The local independent agent makes insurance a tangible product.

At a national level, independent agents have little consumer impact. Trusted Choice is the vehicle by which we crack consumer consciousness and begin to own our story. The independent agent story. We’re not there yet.

Lack of execution and widespread adoption of the Trusted Choice brand has allowed our competition to dictate the independent agent story.

The above depiction, (old, out-of-touch and antiquated), boils my blood.

I talk agency leaders like Matt Simon, vice president of Hill & Hamilton Insurance and Seth Zaremba, owner of Zinc Insurance and all I see is fresh, relevant and energetic.

How then, has State Farm been able to successfully utilize the commercial above for over four years?

foundational co-brand trusted choiceThe answer is simple, we’ve all hunkered down into our own little world, tried our best to throw up defensive barriers and hoped for the best.

We’ve taken the easy path.

We’ve been unwilling to do the hard work of setting aside our own ego in support of the greater industry good.

Easy for me to say.

I don’t own an independent insurance agency.

…and I’m sure attaching your own hard earned brand value to something you don’t have direct control over is a scary proposition.

I get that.

I want you know that your fears are not lost on me or my team.

The Trusted Choice brand initiative is often compared to the “Got Milk?” campaign of the 1990s.

Unfortunately, by all measurable statistics the “Got Milk?” campaign was a complete and utter failure. On a national basis, data shows that the yearly consumption of milk has declined from 23.9 gallons per person in 1995 (the year “Got Milk?” began nationally) to roughly 20 gallons per person in 2011 (source).

Not good.

However, taking the same industry, milk, and working back into the 1980s and early 90s, the “Milk. It does a body good.” campaign was very much seen as a success. This campaign is often credited with the run up of milk consumption to the 23.9 gallons per person in 1995.

The milk industry has recently returned to national advertising strategy similar to that of “Milk. It does a body good.” titled, “Start your day with the power of protein. Milk life.”

While it’s too early to determine results, there is a very positive lesson to be learned.

You never know what is going to work. You have to push and test and listen and push even harder.

Execute. Execute. Execute.

Defense may win championships in the sports arena, but in the battle for business its offense, offense, offense.

What Offense Looks Like

I’m sick of playing defense.

Defense is boring.

Defense gives ground over time.

Eventually you have to push back.

At TrustedChoice.com our move to offense began with the video below…

The tone, the style, the swagger, are not coincidence.

The script for this video started with a single sentence in a Google Doc:

“We give a shit.”

I looked at my team and said, “We need to turn this sentence into a message that the industry can grab hold of and bite out of it.”

We wanted people to know, that whether you believe in Trusted Choice or not, we believe in you.

Whether you’re a Trusted Choice agent or not, we believe in you.

Trusted Choice is the national consumer brand for independent agents and damn it, it’s time people knew it.

This is our call to arms.

If you’re current Big “I” member, become an Advantage Subscribe today.

If you’re not a Big “I” member, click here and join the fight.

But we are only one weapon in the battle for national consumer consciousness.

The Trusted Choice messaging battle must be taken up by the local warriors fighting on the streets of everyday America.

Take this sign from Jim Karras, partner at the Karras Agency…

trusted choice insurance agent

You can debate the impact or effectiveness of the message all day. That’s not the point.

It’s aggressive.

It’s direct.

It’s offense.

Imagine if every Trusted Choice insurance agent across the country were pushing this hard. Do you think we’d start to get people’s attention?

Hell yes we would.

Would it be everyone? No.

Would crack the national consciousness? Maybe.

Would we ALL write more business? YES!

Yes!

That’s the point.

[tweet_box design=”default” float=”none” excerpt=”If you’re sick of consumer perception of independent agents, do something about it!”]If you’re sick of consumer perception of independent agents and insurance in general, do something about it![/tweet_box]

Trusted Choice is a weapon at the disposal of every Trusted Choice insurance agent.

At TrustedChoice.com we’re just getting started.

But you have to believe. You have to use it. You have to engage.

Some of you are.

More need to if we’re ever going to win.

Trusted Choice Done Right

Robert G. Slocum, President of The Slocum Agency, Inc recently shared this story as reminder of what Trusted Choice is doing in the marketplace:

One morning not long ago, my brother Phil got a phone call from someone that he had known for some time but never did business with.

Much to Phil’s surprise, his acquaintance told him that the prior evening He and his wife had been sitting on the couch watching TV when suddenly our trusted choice commercial came on and there was Phil! he turned to his wife and said “I’m unhappy with my current agent how come I never thought of Phil?”

As it turns out, this man owns a substantial business in the hospitality industry and we picked up a rather large account (in the $200,000 range) thanks to our status as a trusted choice agency, and our willingness to participate in this important branding program. Our agency is a strong supporter of the trusted choice branding initiative and have been since its origination.

While it’s not always easy to quantify the value of this type of exposure, we believe it’s critical and will continue to be so for all agencies and their company partners.

My friends, this is what it’s all about.

So what does it mean to be a Trusted Choice insurance agent in 2017?

You give a shit; about your clients, about your staff and about the community you serve.

You put in the work to be the best you can be at the business of insurance.

At the end of the day, all of work and caring is in service of helping Trusted Choice insurance agents grow.

You in?!

If you’re current Big “I” member, become an Advantage Subscribe today.

If you’re not a Big “I” member, click here and join the fight.

Yours in insurance,

Ryan Hanley

P.S. click here to get the Agency Nation Newsletter delivered directly to your inbox.

Samuel Scrimshaw

image credit: giphy

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