There is no doubt, marketing automation can help grow independent insurance agencies.

In order to stay top of mind for modern insurance consumers, we must create more touch points. But these touch points cannot simply be random email newsletters with little to no significance.

In today’s interview, Marty Agather, Senior VP of Strategy at TrustedChoice.com picks the brain of marketing automation expert, Michael Jans, CEO of Agency Revolution.

Marketing Automation for Insurance Agents

Watch Michael explain the “Why” and “How” of marketing automation (or read the transcript below):

Interview Transcription:

Marty Agather (Interviewer): Welcome. I’m here today with our special guest, Michael Jans, from Agency Revolution. He’s going to help us understand and, more importantly, give us some practical advice on how your agency can get started with or restart an integrated marketing campaign that includes great email.

Michael, welcome.

Michael: Thank you very much.

Interviewer: We’re happy to have you here today.

Michael: Glad to be here.

Interviewer: For those of you who may not be aware, Michael has been in this industry for more years than we want to talk about, okay.

Michael: Over 20 years, over 20 years.

Interviewer: That’s right, and got his start with direct mail. He and his company are one of the most effective email and direct mail marketing outfits out there, helping agencies just like yours get real results.

Michael, first of all, tell me a little bit. Does it work? Does email marketing? We’ve heard so many things about how email is dead, nobody reads it. What’s your response to “does email marketing work?”

Michael: There are two places we like to go for research on this. One is our own, and one is what other people are saying about it. First of all, what other people are saying about it. Forrester’s research came out fairly recently. In response to that question, they said that 90% of emails get delivered. We also know that, I think the figure is about 78% of the population checks their email multiple times a day on their smartphone. Two percent of your Facebook postings will be viewed online.

When we talk about the difference between email marketing and social media, the big difference is that email’s going to show up. Just because it shows up doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s going to get the appropriate response. The content and the quality, the timing of the delivery, all those things matter, too.

There’s no question about it. Marketing automation software is the fastest growing category of business software in the world right now. It’s mostly been available in the horizontal space, so mostly companies that don’t specialize, that don’t, for example, integrate with agency management systems. Yes, they’re growing like crazy, but now we’re beginning to see it come into the verticals and become available to insurance agencies.

Interviewer: That’s obviously one of the things that Agency Revolution has as a product.

Michael: Well, that’s our area of expertise. I mentioned that we look to two places for research. One is, what are the big research firms saying? What is JD Power saying? What are McKinsey and comScore saying about email marketing? But also, what are the kind of results that we’re seeing? Our company, on behalf of clients and ourselves, we’ve delivered over 40 million emails.

Interviewer: Wow.

Michael: What we can see from our clients is that they’re growing three different ways. They’re getting more new customers, they’re getting more revenue per customer, and they’re keeping their clients longer. When you compound those three numbers against each other and they each get bigger, that’s how you build wealth and equity in this industry.

Interviewer: And how you make somebody a believer.

Michael: That’s how you make them a believer, right. I think a lot of people recognize that. In fact, we did a survey about a year and a half ago, an industry-wide survey. We asked one question. The question was, “Are you worried the world is moving faster than your agency?”

Ninety-six percent of the respondents said, “Yes, I’m worried the world is changing faster than my agency.”

I think, unfortunately, what happens is that people panic a little bit. Sometimes, they do the wrong things. That may be better than doing nothing at all. If we do nothing at all, I am absolutely convinced that we’ll continue to see market share erosion in our industry.

From that point of view, there’s a lot at stake. As people are looking at this, clearly they have to take it seriously. I think the very first thing that an agency principal needs to do is they have to say, “I’m going to be responsible for growth. How will I make that happen?”

I won’t say that email is the only solution, but I will say that because of its deliverability, because of how inexpensively it can be delivered, and because of the power of integrating technologies, it’s a very, very effective way to grow. Agency principals need to make a decision. If they don’t, if they continue to get sucked into the day to day operations of the agency, and work in the business and not on the business, and continue to operate like it’s the 1990s, I think we’re going to see those agencies will be in trouble in a very short period of time.

Interviewer: You said it’s critical to take action. We’ve got our viewers out here. Many of them are watching because they know that this is something they need to do. What are a couple of simple prescriptive steps that an agency that, as we said, either is trying to start or maybe restart a program, what can they do that are actionable things that they can begin to leverage this powerful tool for themselves?

Michael: I want to go back to the first point I just made. They have to make a decision.

Interviewer: Commit, right?

Michael: Yes. I call it a once and for all. Once and for all, they have to decide that the agency leadership and ownership will be responsible for growth. What that means is that they need to be committed to building or running or executing a system. If they think that if they kick out one or two emails every now and then, and it’s haphazard and random and chaotic, if they think that that’s email marketing, it’s not. Email marketing should do exactly what we want the best of marketing to do. It should create meaningful relationships.

Our philosophy is that the most advanced form of marketing is that which creates meaningful relationships. We’re not just desperately throwing messages out there in hopes that maybe we get a few dollars back. What we really want to do is look at our customer base, look at our marketplace, and identify what are the things that we can do that deliver value. How can we reach out to our customers and nurture them on an ongoing basis?

Very simple things that we can do. Number one, we have to make that commitment. Number two, we have to deliver it with regularity. We know that in business, if something is going to work in business, it needs to be a business system. We have to be committed to having that system.

At a minimum, we need to be looking at where the easy money is. The easy money is from our existing customer base. At a minimum, we should be reaching out to our existing customers and adding value in every point of contact.

Interviewer: Let’s talk a little bit about that, because I think you came at how much do you want to segment your current book to create unique messages for different groups of customers, or do you just hit them all with the same thing.

Michael: See, now you’re getting my juices going, because this is what marketing automation can do if it’s integrated with the agency management system. Let’s take an agency. For the sake of discussion, let’s say maybe a large or medium-sized agency. Let’s say they’ve got 10,000 clients.

Here’s what most people may not be thinking about. Let’s say next Monday what’s likely to happen in the lives of those clients, not what’s likely to happen in the life of your agency and your team and all that jazz. What’s going to happen in the lives of those clients? Well, statistically speaking, if you have 10,000 customers, 27 of them will have birthdays on Monday of next week. Twenty-seven of them will be renewing in 60 or 90 days or whatever. You might have a few claims. You might get some new prospects. You might lose a customer. We’ve identified ten different things that can happen in the life of a customer, and they could all be different. Roughly out of 10,000 people, about 150 people will have those things happen.

When you integrate with an agency management system, you don’t have to rely on Sally or Nancy or Bob on your team to figure out the information, follow up with a sequence of messages. An integrated marketing automation system will read the information in the agency management system and trigger the campaigns automatically. What’s happening then, and this is fairly sophisticated, is you’re reaching out to the right person at the right time with the right message. When are they going to be most receptive? Obviously, there’s one day a year when they’ll be receptive to a warm cordial birthday greeting, on their birthday. When are they going to be most receptive to an account review? Probably as they’re approaching their anniversary day.

Interviewer: Renewal.

Michael: When are they going to be most receptive to having your reach out to them when they have a claim? Well, it’s when they have a claim, and so on and so forth. The most sophisticated kind of email marketing does happen behind the scenes 24 hours a day automatically reading changes. That’s one kind of segmentation.

The other kind is strategic. It’s not triggered by the client. It’s determined strategically by the agency. Again, let’s say for the sake of discussion. you’ve got 10,000 clients. My agency sells me between personal and commercial lines, I think nine policies. We run a business and we’ve got cars and homes and things like that. We’ve got about nine policies. Average policy per customer count in the industry is under two.

If you step back and you look at your client base, you’ll discover, let’s say it’s a Main Street agency, yes I’ve got 1,516 clients for whom I have auto and no home, and 711 for whom I have home and no auto, and on and on. There are an unlimited number of opportunities for cross selling.

That’s another way. You can’t just blast everybody with that, because then people will be turned off to the message. Again, the most effective form of email marketing is when you’re reaching the right person at the right time with the right message.

Interviewer: So segmenting your customer base to figure out who needs what, rather than saying, “Hi. We want to sell you home insurance,” and you send that to the customers that have home.

Michael: You already have home, right. Yes.

Interviewer: Absolutely.

Michael: Very good.

Interviewer: One of the things that I see as a common mistake many times is, the reason that these programs fail is, that the principal adds it as a task to somebody who’s already overloaded, and it becomes the least urgent thing on their to-do list, so it just keeps getting pushed back.

Michael: Right.

Interviewer: Do you have any help?

Michael: Yeah. I’m going to keep going back to my first principle, which is that the agency leadership needs to make a once and for all decision that they’re going to be committed to growth. If they’re going to take their growth strategy and delegate it to the least qualified person, for whom they’re not going to manage or monitor their behavior, then it’s probably not going to work. They need to have some attention on it. They certainly can delegate the execution and the operation of it to somebody. I mean that’s appropriate. But if it’s a serious business system, then they want to monitor the performance of the system and monitor the performance of the person who’s in charge of it.

Interviewer: If I was going to try to encapsulate what we’ve talked about here, I’d say commit to a program, segment, and create customized messages that match the needs and the times when the people are most receptive to those messages.

Michael: Right on, very good.

Interviewer: All right, perfect.

Michael: Okay.

Interviewer: All right. Well, I want to thank you very much for tuning in with us today. We look forward to giving you additional great value in the rest of this series.

Michael: Thanks.

Interviewer: Thank you very much.

Michael: Enjoyed being here.

Conclusion

A large part of creating a quality customer experience involves communicating with clients during relevant moments in their life. Marketing automation done right provides independent insurance agents with the ability to scale their communications and deliver that experience.

Are you using marketing automation to grow your agency?

Thank you and good luck,

Ryan Hanley

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