Two years ago almost to the day I took a leap of faith and walked in for an interview at The O’Neill Group, an independent insurance agency in Wadsworth, Ohio.
Well… I should say, I crutched in.
I was recovering from reconstructive knee surgery after tearing my MCL (again) from a dance injury.
It was officially my sign (and the doctor’s recommendation) to get on with my life – and leave dance behind.
So I gracefully applied for a marketing position at The O’Neill Group.
Patrick, our President and CEO, held a number of interviews for the role and finally said to Jody, our Chief Operating Officer, “Bring in the dancer!”
Shocked to receive the invitation to “audition” for the job, let’s just say – I had a lot of work ahead of me to get buy-in from the start.
Because let’s be honest… the odds were against me.
Inexperienced Millennial & Marketing Buy-In
I had no formal marketing experience.
I had no insurance experience.
I was a #millennial.
But I was also an artist.
What that means is, when I get passionate about something, my real superpowers come to life.
Those superpowers come in the form of discipline, drive and slightly abnormal work ethic.
In other words, intangible skill sets that have and will continue to lead me to successful outcomes.
At that audition, they saw it and felt it.
I crushed it. 😉
Achieving Buy-In Status
I got the buy-in and it wasn’t because of my <insert sarcastic tone> charming personality or natural sales and marketing talents.
It was because I invested the time early on to learn about every facet of the agency and the industry.
I showed up to that interview with content pieces created specifically for The O’Neill Group.
Not only did I create the content to show samples of my work, but to also develop a deeper understanding of the industry and identify if this was the right fit.
Now, here I am two years later, trying to add a little more rhythm to the insurance industry and my agency every single day.
But to be honest, the process of getting the buy-in and making change here is not easy – nor should it be.
This agency has a 27-year legacy of delivering results through cold calling, direct mail, print newsletters, referral flyers and a website from the dinosaur age.
That’s not to say that those marketing and sales tactics don’t work anymore.
In fact, we’re still doing most of them today, because they’re still proving results (Although, the website has officially received a 21st century, mobile-friendly face lift).
Instead, it implies that we need to get up to speed with technology and respond to the growing demands of the digitally-savvy consumer.
Easier said than done, right?
Maybe it is, or maybe it isn’t.
Here’s the secret to make it as easy as possible:
The saying goes, “preparation pays dividends.”
To say that I haven’t had my dose of marketing buy-in challenges here would be a lie.
But I’ll admit that 95% of the ideas I propose to our leadership team earn the green light.
And it’s because I believe in the approach of treating every proposed idea as an audition – as I did early on with the interview.
The ideas I’ve proposed and received approval on are a direct reflection of the time and effort invested up front to determine if the “idea” was in the best interest of the agency.
Here’s a few examples of what that looks like:
Recently, our agency moved to Hubspot, an inbound marketing platform designed to attract visitors and convert leads.
It’s a significant investment for our agency.
And while I knew that Hubspot was a great option for us, I needed to do the research to not only ensure it was the right decision, but to build my rationale so that I could articulate why.
I spent 14 months building my case.
- I spoke with a rep from Hubspot twice a month. Prior to each call I prepared a list of questions and kept a running document with my rep’s responses.
- I researched and compared other inbound marketing platforms and kept a running list of the pros and cons. #HubspotForTheWin
- I identified other independent agencies that were already using Hubspot and reached out to get their reviews / testimonials.
- I analyzed our Google Analytics account and identified specific areas where Hubspot + content marketing could help sway that data to our favor.
- I reviewed the marketing budget and shifted funds to support the upfront cost of Hubspot, while setting strategic campaign goals to earn ROI in Year 1.
After 14 months of research, I organized the above information and proposed Hubspot as a viable option for our agency – and received the green light to move forward.
…and let me just add that we’re 2 months in and our website traffic is on <insert fire emoji>.
Video gear, pretty please?
Those that know me know that I’m an avid fan of Agency Nation.
I consume every piece of content they create – and I do it for two reasons: One, to grow and develop my skills as a marketer in the insurance industry; and, two to steal and replicate the way they market to their audience.
Yes, you read that right…
Because great marketers steal, as Ryan likes to say.
So in 2017, as Agency Nation was encouraging their followers to pursue video as another medium to market their agencies, I jumped on board.
All I had was an iPhone, with only 32GB of storage, but I decided to try anyway.
And the only thing I had to edit on was a cheap personal laptop with a core i3 processor.
But, before proposing the idea of video marketing to my team – I spent time off the clock creating my first video on Life Insurance.
I had absolutely no idea what I was getting into.
But with the guidance of Agency Nation’s videos, blogs, and podcasts – I was able to piece something together.
I wrote the script, created the concept, filmed on my iphone, edited for the first time on Adobe Premiere, found free copyright music, and posted to YouTube.
I basically adopted Casey Neistat’s philosophy to do it and ask for forgiveness later.
At the time, I have to say that I was pretty proud of that video. Looking back… I’m not so proud. Other than what’s most important: it got my foot in the door to do more!
After sharing the video with my leadership team, and securing the buy-in, I took it a step further.
“Here’s $2,000 in co-op funds,” they said.
I met with our marketing rep and shared my vision for video marketing.
I followed that meeting up with an email proposing an eight-part video series focused on personal lines coverage. Each video would include the carrier’s logo in exchange for co-op funds to purchase video equipment.
I sent the Life Insurance video as an example of what the videos could look like.
I had $2,000 in co-op funds that I used to purchase video gear.
Since purchasing the gear in January of 2018, I’ve produced over 20 videos that pair with blog posts to drive SEO both through the posting on YouTube and on our website.
My agency is supportive and essentially “bought-in” on video marketing for a number of reasons:
- It enhances my understanding of the industry and the products we are selling by researching and developing content around those products, yet challenging myself to make it relatable to our target market. Like my Classic Car Insurance video, for example.
- It increases our exposure and is engaging content to repurpose and post on our social media accounts to build relationship with our social audiences.
- It drives traffic to our website through a strategic SEO plan that’s paired with the actual video post on YouTube.
- It’s cool.
6 Steps To Get Marketing Buy-In
If you’re struggling to get the marketing buy-in at your agency, invest more time in your strategy to determine if it’s worthy of a proposal, and if so, build your case.
Perhaps this step-by-step guide that I apply to get marketing buy-in at my agency, will be helpful for you as you propose your next idea:
- Identify the problem or need at your agency.
- Research industry and global trends to determine how to solve that problem or need.
- Organize a list of possible tools, tactics, and strategies needed to support your solution.
- Talk with industry experts (agencies, carriers, insurtech professionals, insurance marketers, etc.) to see how they are / would approach a similar problem / need.
- Create a budget that outlines the cost and time investment.
- Compile all your research and data and build your rationale that responds to two main things:
- Why you identify the “problem / need” as a “problem / need” in your agency.
- Why this solution is the best possible solution for your agency.
Here’s a couple things to be aware of when proposing your idea:
- Don’t assume that a decision will be made after your first proposal. Your team will likely have questions that will require you to go back to the drawing board. Be open to that.
- Look ahead and anticipate what concerns your team may have regarding your proposed idea. Formulate responses to those concerns in advance and make sure each response is valid and accurate (backed with data).
The investment of time before proposing your idea is key.
It’s what will move the needle on your marketing buy-in status.
And when the process is slow (sometimes unbearably slow) don’t get discouraged.
The process of change is slow and steady. Gary Vaynerchuk will attest that patience is the answer here – accept it, embrace it, and keep pushing the needle forward.
Treat every proposal as an audition. Prepare ahead of time, organize a proposal, go in with confidence and be open and respectful towards your team’s thoughts, ideas, and decisions.
What vision do you have for your agency?
What projects do you believe can drive real results?
Get to work on your research and build your rationale, because it will be the solution to your marketing buy-in challenge.
And when you earn the green light, I want to hear about it!
Follow me on twitter and let me know what you’re working on, where you’re at in the marketing buy-in process, and what challenges you’re facing – and let’s tackle those together.
See you at #Elevate18