Join us as Rick Dinger, National Director from California for the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America, sits down to explain why social media is a chamber of commerce event on steroids.
This conversation with Rick Dinger is part of our Insurance Expert Interview Series.
As you’ll hear Rick explain, social media has played an enormously important role scaling the relationships Rick has made in the physical world.
Additionally, Rick’s talks about his service to both the state and national association and why getting involved in the association is so important to the independent insurance industry.
Watch the video interview or read the transcript below:
Interviewer: Welcome. We are here at the Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C. and I’m joined today by Rick Dinger, one of our national directors. Rick, you’re from the state of California. Tell me a little bit about your agency.
Rick: Second generation agency founded in 1969. I started right in high school. I turned 18. I got my license. I worked part-time for many years until I decided that I should probably get focused. I really got down to it in 1994. Actually, I took over the agency in 1999. We’re a $2 million revenue agency, about 17 employees right now. We’re 65% personal lines and our course lines are growing, more small commercial and some middle market, kind of the smaller, lighter commercial stuff but pretty well based broad agency.
Interviewer: What’s the exact community?
Rick: It’s La Crescenta, Glendale area which is just north of downtown Los Angeles. We’re located in Los Angeles County. Glendale is a couple hundred thousand people. We’re surrounded by Pasadena by the Rose Bowl about another 125,000. Burbank’s about 125,000. Really just north of downtown Los Angeles.
Interviewer: So, pretty good population. What’s your economic situation there? Are you guys booming?
Rick: Yeah, it’s going pretty well. It’s an affluent area, not Beverly Hills where they have business managers affluent, but people do very, very well. They pay their own bills, so they see their auto insurance. They might be paying $6,000-7,000 a year or $8,000 a year for their auto insurance but they’re the ones writing the check. If the price goes up, they’re calling us. It’s not just, “Oh no, it doesn’t matter” type thing.
Interviewer: Excellent. One of the ways I first got to know you was you were very early on the social media bandwagon. As a long time practitioner, talk about some of the things you’ve learned, some of the challenges you’ve seen. A lot of agents are afraid of it. Start there. How did you get involved?
Rick: I was at a state board meeting and a young person that worked on our staff mentioned Facebook. I might’ve wandered and typed in and logged it in. Within seconds, I had my first friend request. I was like “Wow, what’s this?” It grew pretty rapidly from there.
What I learned right out of the chute, a lot of my marketing is community based. I’m on lots of boards. I do a lot of things. I’m very active in our community. I found this to be like going to a chamber of commerce event that’s on steroids. Because all of a sudden now, I’ve got over 2,000 friends on Facebook. A lot of them are from my geographic area. I’ll post something and I immediately get people chiming in. We bought our building. We put that out there that “Hey, we’ve got some space to rent. We need to rent some individual office.” Immediately it starts picking up.
There’s probably no better way. It’s free to get the word out to a lot of people. It takes some effort. You see people doing things the wrong way, which is easy to spot. Trying to do things the right way’s a little tougher. You keep experimenting and see what works, see what people are interested in, and do a lot of posting.
Interviewer: Let’s talk first, what have you seen, one or two things that you should avoid?
Rick: Overselling to people you don’t know. There are some community pages and there’s an agency that keeps posting their advertising. They’re not even from our community. You can see where that would turn people off. Nothing but business posts I don’t think is a very good idea. I use more of my personal page in mine. It’s actually a business page. It’s actually a marketing page. It’s for if I’m hosting a charity basketball event. Boy, I’m pushing that out there. If my agency’s one of the sponsors and that just happens to be in the picture, so be it.
Interviewer: That’s great. The whole key is we’re there for social reasons, not to be sold. Selling is ancillary. We sort of have the 80/20 rule. We say 80% of your posts should be about nothing about business. People will allow you every now and again to bring the business in, but if you make it all about business, you get turned off.
Rick: Yeah, no question, no question.
Interviewer: You’ve been obviously very committed to your state association and to the national now. Tell me a little bit about how that’s gone for you, what’ it’s done for your career.
Rick: On the state level, the number one thing it did was exposure to the people that run the insurance companies, the top people that make decisions on appointments. My agency, when I first started, we had two appointments, both personal lines, Mercury and Safeco. We were able to from there built it on and start picking up all the commercial markets and then feeding them. On the state level, it’s been an amazing journey to be able to get these companies to do business with, and it really makes us a small agency that has access to all the markets.
On the national level, one of the main things is the relationships. I’ve made friends from across the country. You can ask questions. There’s no concern about taking business from each other. It’s nice to know people in different economic and different regions and different places to see what’s out there. It’s also been great, I get a lot of phone calls from people that I meet at these events. “Hey, I’ve got a client moving to California, can you help him out?” That’s a great thing. Being one of the California contacts in a big state has been great. The relationships are probably number one.
Finally, learning about all the products that our association offers from trustedchoice.com and CAP back in the day, InsurBanc, Project InVEST, all things that I’ve been able to get involved in and have been a real boost to my agency.
Interviewer: What would you say sitting at the horse shoe, obviously, we talk about some of the most challenging issues that this industry faces. What would you say is one of sort of your things, a touchpoint that’s really meant something to you and you’ve said that is an area that this association needs to focus on?
Rick: Advocacy is important. We’ve got a great machine going there. I think that information’s getting out there.
Interviewer: You’re talking about Insurepac, our. . .
Rick: Exactly, our political action advocacy. Where I think we need help, and I think I’m seeing steps in the right direction, is in the aspect of trustedchoice.com, pushing that information out and getting it out to more people. I don’t think that all of our members know about all of the advantages our association has. I think it’s imperative to get that information out. I think that’s through communication. I think that we’ve got amazing staff at the Big “I” and I think they’re doing some great things. We’ve got amazing committees throughout the Big “I” doing amazing things. Getting that information out to our members I think is really what we need to work on.
Interviewer: L.A. proper is probably a pretty diverse community. Let’s talk a little bit about that. In your local association in California, do you see diverse agencies joining? Are you addressing that in your agency in any way?
Rick: On the agency side, diversity at our place, we’ve got a very large Armenian community in Glendale.
Interviewer: There we go, yeah.
Rick: We’ve got some Armenian staff that speak their language. There are multiple languages. We’ve got a couple of Spanish speakers in our office and that helps, too. It’s not as much. We’ve got a Korean population that we haven’t addressed yet, but it’s out there on the horizon that we’re looking for. As far as the agent members go, we haven’t broken through to get more diverse agencies in. To top it off, with the mergers and acquisitions, it’s made it difficult. We have either one or two man shops or companies that have been purchased by huge agencies, whereas there are fewer and fewer 10 person and 20 person agencies.
Interviewer: Right, right. That is a challenge, because if you’re a smaller agency, how do you continue to grow your business? We’re not all just looking to get out. Absolutely. Well, I’d like to thank you for your service to your community, to the association. As always, it’s been great.
Rick: Appreciate it, Marty.
Interviewer: Thank you very much.
Rick: Thank you.
Rick Dinger makes two different but very important points:
- Social media is an incredible tool we must embrace as an industry.
- Service to the independent insurance industry is what effects change.
How to do you provide service to the insurance industry?