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Episode is Sponsored by Vertafore

VertaforeVertafore—the Leader in Modern Insurance Technology. If you haven’t been to the Vertafore website lately, you need to spend some time on the blog. They update that site a couple times a week with information about industry trends and news to keep you ahead of your competition.

They have great information for producers, principals and customer service professionals. It’s worth spending some time on the site and reading the blog.

Visit Vertafore and check out the blog in the resources section.


Episode Transcript

Ryan: Hello, and welcome to Agency Nation Radio. My name is Ryan Hanley, and with me, as always, is Marty Agather. Marty, what’s going on, man?

Marty: Howdy, gang. What’s going on? It’s a beautiful day in Minneapolis.

Ryan: It is also a beautiful day in Upstate New York. What better to do on a beautiful day than to create a podcast? I’ve got to tell you, I feel like Agency Nation Radio has really hit a stride. I enjoy doing it as much as anything that we do here. From the feedback we’ve been getting, it seems like a lot of you listeners out there are enjoying it as well. We appreciate the time you guys spend with us.

Marty: Absolutely. We’ve got a fairly large announcement to make today, don’t we?

Ryan: We do, but we’re going to get to that in a little bit. Let’s roll into our first topic here. As we learned, about 20 episodes ago, people hate when we bloviate. Let’s roll right into our first topic.

Also, I will tell you, as a side note, there is a podcast which I absolutely love. It’s called The Story Grid. It’s about writing fiction, which is something that I do when I have free time, which is very infrequent these days, but I do like to write fiction. This is a fantastic podcast. But the first three minutes of it are always terrible, because one of the hosts comes on and literally tells you everything they’re going to talk about. I’m like, “I’m already here. Don’t tell me everything you’re going to tell me and then tell me it.” That’s not the way podcasts work. Just get into it.

I appreciate that we have now adopted that style of “let’s get into the content.” As a listener, I kind of hate that, although I’m doing it right now. All right.

We pulled out an article. This is from Accenture, from their Insurance Blog. It’s entitled, “Traditional insurance distribution is being upended by customer-centric, digitally savvy new entrants.” We’ll have this in the show notes. This is episode 30. You can go to agencynation.com/podcast and look for episode 30.

The reason I pulled this article out is because there’s a really cool chart in it. It’s a pie chart. It’s where in the value chain insurance tech companies are focusing their efforts. We talk a lot on this show about InsureTech, disruptors, startups, and all that stuff because I think 1) it’s something we’re both very interested in, and 2) it’s interesting when someone from outside of our industry looks at our industry and they start to attack it by creating companies to solve problems that they see as not currently being addressed.

I think it’s something we can use to improve our own businesses. If there are people saying, “I’m willing to generate capital and create a business in this space inside the insurance industry,” that means they see a need that maybe we are not properly addressing. I think this chart completely outlines that.

Here is the crux of the chart. There are five categories. This is how many insurance tech companies are focused in this area. The vast, vast majority of InsureTech startups are focused (and I don’t think this will be a surprise to anyone) on distribution and marketing. 56% – 56% – of the InsureTech startups are focused on distribution and marketing. Do we think, people, that maybe outsiders don’t believe we know how to market our product? I think that’s a fairly safe assumption.

Marty, the next one is 18% policy management and U/W. What do you take from this 56%?

Marty: I think primarily, this is not new. For quite some time, there’s been this underlying concept of disintermediation. That’s a fancy word that says, basically, take the middle man out. In many industries, the middle man doesn’t add a lot of value. All he adds is cost. That’s, I think, one of the driving factors.

But even more so than that is a topic that you and I have gone over previously. That is the influx of new technology, of new communication tools, of new consumer behaviors offer opportunities for people to revolutionize the distribution system.

What’s happening is people are seeing success in other industries, and they’re trying to say, “How can I take this success that somebody else pioneered,” whether it’s the part-time work-for-hire economy, “and how do I apply that somewhere else?”

What we’re seeing is this whole concept of online, app in your pocket, better service, ask a question and get an immediate response, 24/7, all of those things are rolling up to people saying, “There’s got to be a way that we can use these new technologies, use this new consumer behavior, to radically change the way this stale old thing called insurance is sold and serviced.”

Ryan: As much as I’m into technology, startups, and all this kind of stuff, and I find it incredibly interesting, one of the things about this number is that distribution and marketing is really a low cost-of-entry point to try to disrupt, as well.

I think that even though it does tell a story, if you’re examining the industry and you say, “Where is the traditional model not evolving fast enough?” I don’t think anybody could be in their right mind to say that we are on point when it comes to distribution and marketing. I think we’re getting better every day. I think more lightbulbs are going on every day. Just in our little ecosystem here, with Trusted Choice and trustedchoice.com, we see it.

But you read articles in Insurance Journal, PC360, and Rough Notes.

Marty: Insurance Thought Leadership.

Ryan: I think people are really starting to see this, but it’s lagging, there’s no doubt.

Marty: We’ve also talked about this. Best case, let’s say it’s 50% in the industry that get it, that are making these changes, that are trying to address these issues. The other 50% are ripe pickings. They are the lame impala at the side of the herd. What are the lions doing? They’re picking off the weak and the slow.

Ryan: To a certain extent, this is Darwinism. If you’re not willing to adapt, maybe you do need to be culled. I don’t think it has to be quite so authoritarian. It’s not like anyone should choose for someone else.

But I think in our deepest heart of hearts, if we look at our business and we haven’t made any improvements to the business in the last 10-15 years, I think you know deep down that you’re not necessarily interested in growing, that you probably aren’t providing the same quality product that you did at a certain time in your career, and that you’re kind of riding it out to the sunset.

It’s these organizations, both on the carrier side and on the agency side, and on the vendor side and all that other kind of stuff. It’s these types of these organizations that startups are targeting.

The hard-charging agency with a visionary leadership, that’s bringing along young, fresh, energetic, enthusiastic talent, that’s interested in testing new technology and partnering with carriers, those people aren’t going anywhere. They’re not going to be disrupted, because they’re going to just maneuver and adjust their business to fit whatever comes. These people are targeting those who have said, “I’ve done well, and I want to enjoy what I created.” More power to you. I just think that’s low-hanging fruit stuff.

There are two that interest me in the rest of this pie chart. 18% of these companies are policy management and underwriting. When I think of that, I think real disruption on the carrier side could come, I think, from underwriting changes.

Is there a way, which we can’t even fathom today, of underwriting policies that allows companies to be more profitable at less cost to consumers, or at least as profitable at less cost to consumers? If that works, if there’s a big data or whatever, if there’s a way to pull that kind of information together, when I think true disruption, I think that’s where it comes from.

I don’t think you can truly disrupt this industry just by distribution and marketing. There’s always going to be a better gag. There’s always going to be some different piece of copywriting. Then it’ll all circle back again. Just like in the early 2000s, people were in bellbottoms again. It’s just cyclical with distribution and marketing.

It’s that company that figures out how to underwrite differently, that says, “I’m not just going to take the zip code and charge them all the same price.” I think this is where peer-to-peer is going, although I don’t think any of them – at least from my understanding of any of their businesses – really have it figured out yet, the 5-10 years down that road.

I see that company that can really figure out the underwriting side of this being a true disruptor in our industry, especially if they have a direct channel.

Marty: Yeah. I think the proof in the pudding is Progressive. Progressive revolutionized auto insurance underwriting when they said, “We could look at the way somebody takes care of their money and their assets, and we can draw assumptions. That will tell us how they take care of their other things too, like their car.”

That’s where credit scoring came from. Credit scoring is a massive change to the industry. Because Progressive figured it out, worked the details, probably did 47 iterations, they’ve turned it into a serious money maker. It’s a competitive edge for them.

Ryan: Yeah. I think how long it took so many companies to follow suit was really part of Progressive’s major run-up in the last decade. It’s been understanding that piece inside of the business.

When I think “true disruption,” that’s what I’m thinking about. I’m not thinking distribution and marketing. I think you can drastically improve business through distribution and marketing. I just can’t see epic disruption because someone figured out how to create better sales copy in a text message versus an e-mail. To me, those are innovations. Those are getting better implemented.

Marty: I agree, but I would say the revolution in distribution and marketing is going to be more consumer-driven simplification. When that happens, then that changes the distribution model. For some lines of business – not for every line of business; we’ve been over this – the more power you can give to the new consumer behavior, which is, “I want to do as much of it as I can by myself, and if I’m comfortable I want to pull the trigger when I want, whether that’s 3:00 in the afternoon or 3:00 in the morning.”

Someone who figures that out and can do that in a broad scope, with more than niche lines of business, I think that does create a change, just due to distribution.

Ryan: I think, in many ways, that’s already been figured out. It’s just adoption at this point. How do you convince somebody, who’s making $300,000 a year in personal income, that they should add a call center service so that they can sell ten more policies a month at 8:00 PM?

The problem is, to the young producer, to whom ten more policies means the difference between being able to take their family on vacation.

Yeah, right. Ten more policies means something to them. Ten more policies a month, to most agency principals today, just doesn’t mean that much more. The opportunity is certainly there.

What you just said always boggled my mind. All that technology exists. It’s literally just taking the time to piece it together and understand the value behind it, and not getting caught up in the ultimate BS excuse, which is, “I want to know the exact ROI I’m going to get from this before I invest anything.”

If that were the case, none of us would have children. None of us would have children if we needed to know the ROI of everything we do from day 1, because day 1, they’re an incredible pain in the ass. But when you get to a certain age, they’re freaking amazing, right.

To me, all that is there. It’s just convincing people to take action.

Marty: I want to jump at the smallest segment of the pie, which is 7%. That’s basically the segment that is actually building, start to finish, soup to nuts, insurance platforms designed to do the whole thing, including holding the risk. It’s building a new insurance company from scratch.

There are a couple of people out there that are doing that. As I generally want to do, I went and grabbed the actual study that this came from. My e-mail address is all over the Internet because I go in and register for this crap left and right.

I grabbed down the report, and here is the money quote, as far as I’m concerned. It explains why this is such a small slice of the pie, at 7%. “For the most part, these players aren’t interested in underwriting and taking on risk. It’s just too commoditized, requires too much capital, and is too heavily regulated.”

That is the value proposition that the existing players have in place. It’s one of their strengths, and they’ve got to continue to leverage it, but they can’t afford to sit on their laurels and just use that as the ramparts to the invading horde. You’ve got to use those natural barriers, but then continue to innovate, to make sure that this channel survives.

Ryan: You brought up Progressive. I’m going to say Foremost. Even a more traditional, super-regional, like a Westfield. I love when I see these companies, who understand that there is an advantage to being established and that the answer may not be pedal all the way to the floor, but you can’t just be all brake. I love to see that.

The three that we just named are incredible examples of using the natural barriers, the motes that have been built because they’ve been in place and they’ve gotten past the regulations, and all that, and are now continuing to push the gas pedal down, in terms of innovation.

It’s really great stuff. If you want to see this study, go to agencynation.com/podcast. Look for episode 30.

Marty, it’s time for our big announcement. Guys, Agency Nation Radio listeners, we are incredibly excited, for the very first time, to announce that this podcast now officially has a sponsor. Not just any sponsor, but one of the foremost technology and innovation companies in the industry, Vertafore, the leader in modern insurance technology.

If you haven’t been to the Vertafore website lately, you need to spend some time on their blog. They update that site a couple times a week with information about the industry trends and news. They keep you ahead of your competition. They have great information for producers, principals, and customer service professionals. It’s worth spending some time on the site and reading the blog.

Go to vertafore.com and check out the blog for the Resources section. If for some reason you have a hard time figuring out how to spell Vertafore, you can always go to agencynation.com/podcast, episode 30, and click on the link that will be in the show notes that will take you to the Vertafore blog.

We are so excited to have Vertafore partner with us. I think they’re a wonderful partner to start off with in this space. We’ve had a great relationship with Vertafore. An even more exciting announcement –

Marty: But wait, there’s more!

Ryan: Take us home, Marty.

Marty: The really cool part about this whole deal is we are going to be joined from time to time a Vice President over at Vertafore, Vice President of Marketing, Guy Weismantel, who is truly one of the bright lights in this industry. If you are not familiar with Guy, you are going to get to know him.

As I said, he’s brilliant, he’s opinionated, and he’s got some good stuff to add. He’ll be joining us on a regular basis. Many of the times, we’ll be talking about some of the disruption stuff. Vertafore hosted a disruption virtual summit about six months ago that I participated in. Lots of good stuff. This partnership is really, really going to add value to our podcasts.

Ryan: I’m excited for it. The whole thing happened kind of organically, just to give you guys the backstory very quickly. Guy has contributed to Agency Nation. He’s written a couple of articles for us, which is really fun.

Then I read a couple things and forwarded them to Marty, or maybe it was vice versa, on Insurance Thought Leadership, which is another wonderful site. I said, “Marty, we’ve got to figure out how to get Guy onto our show for an interview or something.” I definitely liked his perspective. Then that turned into this partnership idea.

I think it’s going to be a lot of fun. It’ll help us, from a straight monetary standpoint, add some more production value to the show and do some more fun things. We’re incredibly excited to both partner with Vertafore and, on occasion, have Guy add his experience in the technology side of this industry on the show. I hope you guys enjoy that. Today is not one of those episodes, obviously, but we will have one soon.

Let’s move on with the show and talk about our second article. This actually comes from Insurance Thought Leadership. It’s probably why they’ve been on my mind here. This is an article by Mike Manes. Actually, Marty found this. It’s called, “Differentiation – Real Advantage or a Lie?” I’m going to give the setup, and then I want Marty to take us into this thing.

The setup for this article is Mike, the author of this article, is making the case for how agencies market themselves as being different from other agencies is actually a lie. The reasons which they use as differentiation are not actually differentiators, because every single one of their competitors uses the same set of items. He calls them “brag points” or something. He has a special term he uses for them, something about bragging.

The example he gives is he had an agency that he was working with list out their nine competitors. He then went to the websites of both his client and the nine competitors and pulled off the top five brag points, like great service, responsive, all the same stuff that you’d see on every website. He pulled off the top five things from all ten websites and then sat them in front of his client and said, “Show me which agency is yours.” They couldn’t do it, because they all looked basically the same.

Marty, we talked about this. The thing that Mike doesn’t make are what actually are true differentiators that agencies could start to think about. But before I get there, why did you think this was so interesting?

Marty: I think it calls out the real challenge that we have. Depending on what study you look at, somewhere between 60-70% of the buying journey takes place before the person ever talks to a representative of the company. They’re out there doing all that research on their own.

Where they’re ultimately making the decision on who they want to work with is a function of all of that marketing collateral that you’ve got in space. Primarily that’s digital, but it doesn’t have to be.

If you aren’t giving the consumer a real reason to choose you as their provider, they’re going to blow by you and go to the next one. After they look at 20, do you actually think that they’re going to remember?

The easiest way for me to describe this – and we talked a little bit about this in building your advantage profile on Trusted Choice in one of our webinars a couple weeks back – is think about the personality of your agency.

If I were just to look at headshots on most agency websites, they’re tremendously alike. It’s a guy or a gal in a dark blue suit. Maybe you’ve got a little color in your shirt. You’re wearing a tie. If you really want to be out there, you might have an open collar. Smiling, handsome. But how is that a differentiator, other than I look a little different than Ryan does? I’ve got a little more grey hair or what have you. I’m probably better looking, but that’s another topic for another day.

The point is, that doesn’t really set you apart. You need to begin to think. What Mike was doing in this article was calling these agencies out, saying, “Don’t fool yourself and tell yourself that you’re different when you’re not really calling anything out that’s unique.”

I’ve got a couple of things that I wanted to lay out on our audience as points to ponder about things that I believe are real differentiators. Then, Ryan, I want you to come back at me.

Ryan: I’ve got two quick things. Essentially, what we’re going to do today for you guys is take Mike’s article and go a little further. We’re going to actually talk about differentiation items.

Before we go there, Marty, I want to ask you a very quick question. That picture thing, I think it’s an incredible example, the headshots. I think the natural pushback from most agents would be, “But we have to be professional.” What would you say to that? How far can you go and still be professional, if that actually is important?

Marty: Sure, absolutely. Thanks for bringing me back to this, because I didn’t really finish up there. What I think is critical is that your picture shows some of your real personality. You have to begin to think about, what is the personality of the agency?

If you are all buttoned down, and maybe you serve Wall Street, and all of your clients are absolutely Wall Street investment/banker types, then button-down shirts and black shoes is probably the most appropriate thing you can do. Your personality, the agency personality, is exactly that.

The flipside is if you are in the Front Range of Colorado and your primary customers are ranchers and/or construction companies, then I think there’s nothing wrong with a pair of blue jeans, a big belt buckle, a set of cowboy boots, and a pickup truck. That’s who those people are going to relate to, far more than somebody in a blue blazer, a blue shirt, open collar.

Those are the kinds of things that you need to understand. But not only the headshots. How about pictures of the agency itself, that are showing the personality and the culture that you cultivate inside your agency?

If you have one of those Minnesota Twins helmets with the two can-holders on either side, with the straws, if that’s the way you like to go to the ballgame, that’s great. That is not a picture that ever should be on your agency website though, because that’s not professional.

Ryan: That would be amazing. That would be amazing.

Marty: It would be amazing. Literally, you might get some customers or people who would say, “This is so out of place. These guys have such a sense of humor that I want to work with them.” But that’s a pretty big gamble to take, so I’m not sure I’d make that advice to you.

The point is that’s what I mean by those pictures. Figure out who your personality is, not only for yourself, but also for your agency. Then make all that stuff congruent so that you’ve got that ability.

Ryan: If you’re super into fishing, why can’t it be a nice, good-looking shot of you fly fishing? If you’re a skier or if you are into baseball, or maybe you’re super into your kids, I’m 100% with you that there is nothing worse than the glamour shot or, worse, the SD (standard definition) cellphone headshot. It’s such a bad impression.

It’s like you said. There’s nothing memorable about it. Your marketing is supposed to be memorable. That’s why people buy it.

Marty: I’m just going to give you one perfect example. You triggered a thought. Who’s our guy with the food trucks out in San Francisco?

Ryan: Denny Christner.

Marty: Denny Christner. Go to Denny Christner’s website, and look at the picture. It’s a family shot of him, with his wife and his two kids. It’s fantastic. It gives you an idea of exactly who he is as a person. Beautiful.

Ryan: Okay, let’s get into it. What’s your #1 way – maybe we just talked about your #1 way. What’s you’re #2 way in which agencies can differentiate themselves from the competition?

Marty: I wrote a blog post some time ago – it’s probably been taken down now, it was so long ago – called “The Message that Speaks to Exactly Nobody.” It’s all about the, “Hi. Here at the Agather Insurance Agency, we sell insurance to everybody. We’re specialists in all kinds of insurance.”

That is not a message that resonates. I’m not online looking for somebody who does everything really well. First of all, if I’m even beginning to think about it, I probably know that’s not true. But more importantly, when I go online and I’ve got an insurance challenge, I want somebody who is a specialist in exactly what I do. The way you prove to me that you’re a specialist in exactly what I do is you talk about it.

Let’s go back to our guy in the Front Range. He specializes in ranch and construction. He’s going to create content talking about how he’s helped ranchers and construction contractors, how he’s on the job site with you. He’s giving you impromptu safety tips while he’s out there. He can get the special builder’s risk programs. He’s available 24/7 for performance contract bonds, all that kind of stuff.

That’s what matters to me if I’m a builder on the Front Range of Colorado. That’s the differentiator that’s going to get me to pick up the phone and dial that shop, rather than, “Hi, this is the Hanley Agency. We do everything for everybody.”

That’d be #1. Talk specifically about who you are, what you specialize in. Talk to your prospective client.

Ryan: Completely and utterly, 100% agree with this statement. People go online to find the best option. They don’t have to settle. That’s why they go online. That’s what Google is all about. Don’t settle just for the person across the street from you when there could be someone five minutes down the road who’s the perfect fit. Don’t settle.

That’s the whole thing with searching online. We don’t go and say, “Give me the average agent. Give me the best average agent that you have out there.” They go, “I want the person who understands exactly who I am, how I operate, how I want to communicate, and the things that I need, and I want them now.” If you are trying to be everything to everyone, I absolutely, positively guarantee you will struggle to separate yourself.

I’m going to give you a great example. I have two brothers-in-law in the insurance industry. One owns a national renters insurance agency called Effective Coverage. All he writes is renters insurance. Then he cross-sells into other personal lines, but his primary sales point is renters insurance.

Over the course of the last seven years of him growing this agency, he now has something like 20,000 policies in force, or some enormous number, because here we are, seven years later. He’s the renters insurance guy. You have 20,000 units? You go to Effective Coverage. He’s the renters insurance guy. You don’t go to Johnson General Agency in your town. They’re not the renters insurance people. He’s the renters insurance guy, and you go to him. That’s what he’s found.

My other brother-in-law, who is a local agent, he did this with property insurance. He is a habitational guy. If you are in the greater 50-mile radius of Albany, New York, Ryan Murray is the guy you talk to about habitational insurance. It’s his reputation. He knows it. He knows all the carriers. He knows all the risks. He knows all the underwriters. He has them all on speed dial on his cellphone. Because of that, if you have habitational, you eventually bump into him. He writes a ton of it.

If you try to write everything, you will fail. It is an absolute differentiator. Marty, you are two for two.

Marty: Do we have time for one or two more?

Ryan: Yeah, of course we do.

Marty: I don’t have to get really into them.

Ryan: It’s our podcast, Marty. We can go as long as we want.

Marty: Yeah, but people start hanging up. We don’t want them to do that.

Ryan: Not if it’s good.

Marty: Well, you’re right, absolutely.

We just touched on this earlier in the show. How about real 24/7 availability? Now, I’m not suggesting that you start buying illegal uppers so that you can stay up 24/7. But there are things you can do that will allow you to have a live body 24/7. You can contract with a call center. You can create a mobile number that roves with a certain member of your staff. You can have rotating duties.

The point is, when you say, “We’re always here for you,” and there is a live person who answers the phone 24/7, that is a differentiator.

Ryan: This is one of my top pet peeves, is agencies who say, “We value customer service,” but if you call after 1:00 PM on Friday, you get an answering machine. That’s not customer service. You don’t really care. You only care when it’s convenient to you.

Think about that. To say that you value customer service, but only when it’s most convenient to you, is incredibly selfish and isn’t actually good customer service. Eventually, this won’t be a differentiator. But today, access and availability are huge, huge differentiators.

Three for three, Marty.

Marty: I’m going to disagree with you a little bit there.

Ryan: Okay. Okay.

Marty: I believe that this will be a differentiator in the future, but not in the positive sense. If you don’t have it, it’s going to be a major differentiator. It’s one of those –

Ryan: It stops being special to being the baseline.

Marty: That’s exactly right. If you don’t have it, it’s just one more piece of evidence that you’re circling the drain hole.

Ryan: Again, this is not rocket surgery. Having your agency –

Marty: If that isn’t a mixed metaphor, I’ve never heard one.

Ryan: We use Insight 24/7. Call Insight today. Set it up so that at least a human being is taking a message and saying, “We will have one of our representatives call you back first thing in the morning.” Even if it’s one person a week that calls, if you truly value customer service, then you will do this. If you don’t, then you won’t, and that’s the way it is.

Don’t sit on your high horse and pontificate about how important relationship and customer service is, but only when it’s most convenient to you. That’s not the way it works today. We can’t dictate that relationship anymore. It’s why 56% of InsureTech startups are focused on distribution and marketing, is really this point.

Today, I 100% agree. It’s a positive differentiator. I agree with you as well that in the future, it will be a negative differentiator. Marty, you are three for three. Can you roll on?

Marty: Yeah. The last two were fairly straightforward and should be achievable by virtually any agency. This next one, it’s going to take a little work. This is not a “just start it tomorrow,” because I think there’s a little bit more effort required. But it’s a true differentiator.

I didn’t make this one up in the back of my mind. I actually worked with a local agency that does this. That is, they do monthly risk management seminars. This is a large enough agency that they’ve probably got, I don’t know, 30 specific practice groups. They are specialists in 30 different areas.

What they do is they have risk management seminars, or employee benefit seminars, that they put on for their clients and for their prospects. They are literally bringing good knowledge. This isn’t a sales seminar. This is not, “Hi, buy my stuff.”

This is literally (I’m making this up off the top of my head), “If you want to run a safe construction site, here are the risk management, loss control things that you should be doing. 1. Store your gasoline away from the equipment. 2. Make sure, when you leave at night, that you remove all keys from large equipment and lock up all small tools so they can’t get stolen.”

If you can do that, then you’ve got something that, number one, provides value to your existing customers, but more importantly, serves as a magnet to attract new prospects.

Ryan: Just to sum up, I think what you’re saying is it’s flipping your thought process to true value creation all the time. I 100% agree. This is like the 100 Insurance Questions thing that I did. There are lots of people doing this.

i80 Insurance, Nick Ayers and Shane Eastman out on the West Coast are doing this with their “Insurance Chef” show. They do meat-and-greet. They’re doing a lot of cool stuff. The Lemanskis are doing lots of great stuff up in Michigan. Josh Lipstone, down in North Carolina, is getting in the game. Cass has been doing this for a while. They just rebranded, went local, hired some producers, and they’re creating a lot of great content.

I think, 100%, this is a heavy-work one. This isn’t just call Insight and hire them tomorrow. This is definitely work. But again, when people start to see you as a value first, you’re willing to provide value without asking for the sale and it’s educational and informational, all that good stuff, then that’s just a straight homerun and a true differentiator.

Marty: That wraps up my short list. We could probably brainstorm some more, but I think we’ve given our audience some ideas about those things that you can really pin your hat on, in terms of differentiation.

  1. Figure out who you are and what your personality is for both you and your agency. Make sure that’s visible to the public.
  2. Focus on your specialties. Make sure that your content strategy wraps around that. What you’re doing is you want to be the choice for the people who have the kind of problems that you specialize in solving.
  3. Don’t forget that that 24/7 is a differentiator right now. That’s where the promise is kept. You don’t know when your customer is going to have a problem. The fact that you’ve got a live body there shows you care.
  4. Finally, if you can figure out a way to start bringing your expertise in a non-selling situation out to the marketplace, delivering something of value, that’s a really great way to provide value to your existing customers.

Is somebody going to leave you because the premium is 6% cheaper but that agency doesn’t have the ability to provide that level of services, those ongoing risk management services? Probably not. Yes, we all know that a quarter is a quarter, and you’re never going to pry it except when my cold, dead fingers relax. We know those people. But most people see value. They don’t just figure on the bottom-line dollar amount.

Ryan: I agree with you. Will they leave? Maybe. I think it opens the door. I think if you’re trying to build fences around your clients, these are things you need to do. That’s a great podcast topic for the future.

Marty: Note to self.

Ryan: Yeah, note to self.

I think we’ve hit on it. If you do these four things, the cool thing about these is it isn’t just, “Be good at customer service.” These are things that end up being very specific and tailored to your personality, your niches, your access and availability, your willingness to deliver value. These are things that are specific to your agency, and your agency only. They are true differentiators.

I hope everyone takes the time to think about these just a little, tiny bit and figure out how they can start to incorporate them. The agencies that really dive in, look at Erin Nutting and Integrity Insurance, out in Arizona. Look at i80 Insurance.

Marty: Absolutely.

Ryan: These are fantastic examples of agencies that have taken ownership over differentiating their agency versus their competition, and they’re crushing it.

With that, I want to say thanks to everyone for listening, for making it 45 minutes into the show. Marty, great episode. I am so proud of you for hitting four for four today.

Marty: I hit the cycle, man!

Ryan: Yes, you did. Yes, you did. Now that we have Vertafore as a sponsor, great stuff. It’s a new era for Agency Nation Radio. We’re going to get out of here.

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