Life as an insurance producer, in an agency you do not own, can be a struggle.
It is particularly frustrating for producers, when owners (or other decision makers) refuse to prioritize an initiative the producer believes is vital to the success of the agency.
In independent agencies, where staff is often seen as family, differences in opinion over the short and long-term priorities of the agency can be toxic. Too often, wildly different perspectives create disruptive factions within the agency.
It’s a fairly good bet that if you’re reading this article, you’re either facing this challenge now, as either an owner or frustrated producer, or have dealt with it in the past.
Believe this, you are NOT alone.
Thousands of agencies across the country, at this very moment, are struggling with the same battle.
I’ve lived this struggle.
Back in 2009, when I first started blogging about insurance, I faced the very same friction.
The digital marketing culture struggle is real within the independent insurance agency. There few topics within an insurance agency, for which the cultural struggle is more real, than digital marketing.
How does a frustrated producer create a modern digital culture within their agency when ownership doesn’t believe?
This was the question posed to me on Twitter by Andrew Nazzaro.
@RyanHanley_Com what needs to be done to convince your agency to compete in a world of speed and convenience? Signed, A frustrated producer
— Andrew Nazzaro (@ajnazzaro) March 2, 2017
I’ve had this same question posed to me hundreds of times through social media, email and after presentations.
Today, we’re going to answer this question, you just may not like the answer.
One note before we begin, for the purposes of this discussion, we’ll assume producers are non-owners and non-decision makers while ownership means an individual or small partnership who tied both structurally and financially to the long-term success of the agency.
The Reality of Prioritizing Digital Culture
Before we go too far, let’s discuss a very plausible conclusion to this endeavour:
There is a good chance you will never convince ownership to prioritize building a digital culture in your agency.
At the end of the day, you do not own the agency.
And no matter how charismatic, persuasive, or successful you are, in order for cultural changes to take root, leadership must be on board.
I’m not being pessimistic, I just want you to tread this path with your eyes wide open.
The reality of prioritizing a digital culture is that the answer might be a flat “No,” and you must be prepared to deal with that scenario.
But let’s hope that isn’t the case for you. The vast majority of agency owners I’ve met, in my almost decade of experience in the insurance industry, have been reasonable people.
Admittedly, most agency owners are not digital natives, but that doesn’t mean they’re steadfast against cultivating a digital marketing culture within their agency.
Here’s some additional reading on insurance agency culture:
Don’t Be a Brute
I am a brute.
Don’t be like me.
At 26 years-old, completely sold on digital marketing, I couldn’t have been any more of a hammerhead while “selling” my agency owner, (and father-in-law), on why we needed to dive in head first.
I couldn’t understand why he:
- Didn’t see the opportunity.
- Wouldn’t just listen to me.
- Couldn’t just get out my way.
Because seriously, all I really wanted was number three. I didn’t want to have convince him digital marketing worked, I knew it worked.
All I really wanted was for him to get out of my way and let me do my thing.
I knew best.
He was just holding us back.
Sure, he had almost single-handedly grown our agency to over $2M in revenue. But that was then, this was 2009 and EVERYTHING was different.
At least, that’s what my arrogant, brutish 26 year-old mind kept telling me.
So I tried to steamroll him with complex marketing jargon, new and expensive tools and a pandering attitude towards his “remedial” questions.
I was a brute. Worse than that, I was a classic jerk.
Needless to say, my campaign for digital marketing did not gain traction. If anything, he dug his heels in on the “Old school” methods of prospecting that had built the agency over forty years.
Six months after I had first broached the topic of digital marketing, I was farther away from having ownership support than before I had begun.
Beyond the obvious, my campaign for digital marketing failed because I didn’t respect the hard work and methodology that our agency was built upon.
[tweet_box design=”default” float=”none”]To succeed at digital marketing, we must have respect for the analog marketing methods, digital was born out of.[/tweet_box]
7 Tips for the Frustrated Producer
Eventually, I saw the error in my early attempts, adjusted course and was able to get acceptable support for my digital marketing efforts.
By the time I left the agency, we were generating over 90 inbound opportunities a month from digital marketing and writing just over half of those.
Based on my experience, here are a few tips for you frustrated producer’s attempting to build a digital culture inside your agency:
1) Don’t get frustrated.
This is the mistake I made. I thought I knew better than my father-in-law and allowed his laggard nature toward technology, (which is perfectly fine and reasonable), to distract me from making a sound argument.
Now, as a leader within TrustedChoice.com, I understand the ramifications within an organization of making substantial cultural changes.
Whether you agree with ownership or not, always maintain respect for them as people and their accomplishments in business.
Showing a lack of respect for ownership is a clear path to getting your digital marketing project derailed.
So don’t get frustrated. Just keep trying different tactics until something clicks.
2) Take a long view.
It could take a long time to convince ownership digital marketing can effectively produce results in your agency.
I mean a long time.
What’s long time?
It took me a little more than a year. It could take you a day, a week, a month, a year or even years.
Very few agency owners who haven’t already adopted a digital culture are going to change course after one discussion.
Be prepared to take a long view and just keep trying different tactics until something clicks.
3) Logic alone will not win your argument.
Your first instinct will be to use logic for why digital marketing is important to the future success of your agency.
Logic will only get you so far.
Sure, you’re going to have to do research. You’re going to have to show personal proficiency and case studies. You’re going to have to show how digital marketing helps retention and grows referrals.
But please understand, the reason your agency hasn’t already adopted a digital culture has little to do with logic.
The real reason(s), the reason(s) that will keep you from moving forward are some combination of the following:
- Apathy, and/or
The vast majority of these emotional obstacles are rooted in the belief that insurance is a relationship business built on trust and respect and digital marketing will somehow devalue the relationships ownership has built within their community.
Sell the digital handshake and the valuable relationships that can begin online and be strengthened offline.
If that doesn’t work, just keep trying different tactics until something clicks.
4) ROI matters for digital marketing.
Very few independent agencies track the ROI (return on investment) for each of their marketing channels.
That being said, I guarantee, when you bring up digital marketing your agency owner will become a Harvard MBA and demand ROI figures for each dollar spent before you’ve ever run a Facebook advertising campaign or hit a single keystroke on a blog post.
Why the focus on ROI? See #3 above.
By focusing on ROI ownership is able to defer the risk in making the decision to try something new.
Do NOT fight the ROI request. Give in to it. Track everything. That’s what good marketers do.
But if that doesn’t work, just keep trying different tactics until something clicks.
5) Take ownership of the project.
One of the absolute worst mistakes you can make is expecting your agency owner to invest their own time, resources or agency money into digital marketing.
You are the one that wants a digital culture, not ownership. If ownership wanted a digital culture it would already exist.
Take ownership of the project and don’t expect anyone to help you.
Not that anyone else in your agency won’t help, but they have their own jobs to get done and your fellow staff members aren’t paid to do digital marketing.
You and you alone are responsible for:
- Building out all the resources,
- Planning the budget,
- Creating a strategy, and
- Executing that strategy.
This might mean you need to get up early and write blog posts (I’m writing this post at 5:32am on a Tuesday). You might not get to take a lunch because you have to fill out your social media sharing calendar. You might have to work late to get some videos done.
Remove all responsibility, stress and pressure for the project from ownership and take it all on yourself.
If that doesn’t work, just keep trying different tactics until something clicks.
6) Be all in.
Have you ever said the following in regards to digital marketing?
“I don’t have time.”
If you use this lame excuse as a reason for not taking on digital marketing yourself, (and thus blaming ownership for not supporting you), then you are NOT a frustrated producer.
Let’s get this straight…
It’s not ownership’s fault that you don’t want to make time during the day to build out a digital marketing presence.
Your agency owner can’t stop you from having a LinkedIn account. They can’t stop you from creating videos and posting them to Youtube. They can’t stop you from adding your own clients to a Mailchimp account and sending out a monthly email newsletter.
If you, frustrated producer, want change, you make change happen.
YOU MUST BE ALL IN.
I hate the, “I don’t have time,” excuse. It’s not that you don’t have time, you just don’t make time.
Which means, you aren’t frustrated.
You just like to tell people you’re frustrated so it feels like it isn’t your fault digital marketing isn’t part of your business.
Be all in. There are no other tactics.
READ THIS: How to “Lean In” to the Future of Insurance
7) Be willing to leave.
Here is a harsh reality, there is a possibility your needs as an insurance producer (and as a person) will never align with those of your agency ownership.
If ownership puts totalitarian regulations and rules around your use of digital and social media. If they completely refuse to support you. If you are unhappy with other factors including compensation, time off, work environment, etc.
The terrible, nuclear option, is that you may have to leave.
Let me stress, frustration around the digital culture in your agency is NOT a good reason in-and-of-itself to leave your agency.
I’m not advocating leaving. Leaving sucks. Leaving is hard, stressful and causing tumult in your personal life.
I know this from personal experience.
I do not share this “Tip” lightly.
I’m not being cavalier or trite about the idea of leaving your agency.
But what I don’t want you to feel is trapped. What I don’t want to have happen is the independent insurance industry loses another hard working, talented professional to a more “modern” industry.
I used to work for my wife’s family agency. Now I work for TrustedChoice.com. I took my passion for marketing, sales, communication and insurance (go figure) and parlayed a career as an insurance producer into one of the more intellectually challenging and rewarding endeavors of my life.
At the end of the day, you have to be happy.
Maybe, you love working at your agency so much not having a digital culture really isn’t that big a deal.
Just promise me, you’ll NEVER EVER use leaving as a weapon for getting your way with digital marketing.
That is wrong and I cannot support it.
To convince ownership that building a digital culture is right for your agency, focus on their motivations:
- Stress reduction
- Efficient revenue growth
Most independent agency owners live a comfortable lifestyle. They’ve already put in their grinding years. Asking them to reset their operation in the name of digital marketing is a tough ask.
Ownership doesn’t need digital marketing to survive, you do.
So help them, help you. Focus on helping ownership meet their personal and agency goals with the assistance of digital marketing.
Make small, incremental asks that you can back up with research or case studies and always relevant, yet achievable goals.
Over time these small successes will create trust and respect in ownership’s mind for you and digital marketing as a tool. In turn, this will allows you to make larger and more impactful asks of both time and resources.
The long-term success of digital marketing in your insurance agency must include the effort and support of both ownership and staff. When you are all working together, I promise, you will be frustrated no more.
image credits: giphy