Do you want to write more business? Perhaps you are an agency principal, and you want to help your producers write more business.
The easiest way to write more business is to have prospects who want to do business with you and your agency. That’s why referrals work: “My buddy tells me that you are the right person for me. Now I’m predisposed to do business with you, and it is a LOT easier for you to write my business.”
In a previous post, I introduced the concept of expertise as a magnet. In many ways, your expertise works in the same way as a referral. You build the prospect’s trust by showing how your expertise will benefit them, and then they want to do business with you.
By detailing your agency’s preferences and expertise, you quickly segment the wheat from the chaff. If you don’t want to insure young single drivers, then you should be talking about all of the services that you provide to families.
Conversely, if you want to write non-standard auto, you should be talking about how you can provide coverage for those drivers who have recently been cancelled by their insurer, or who need proof of insurance in order to get their licenses back.
How do you do that? Here are four methods that will help you distinguish yourself from the crowd.
Branding Your Agency and People
Many agency leaders think that branding is something that other bigger, maybe even national, companies do. Yet, building your agency’s and yes, even your employees’, brands is more important now more than ever.
Seth Godin says that the best way to tell if you’ve got a brand with value is to answer these simple questions about a product or service:
- Will the customer pay a premium to get it?
- Will they consciously make a selection for it?
- Will they spread the word about it?
If the answer to each of those is no, then you’ve got no brand value.
Many principals think “My agency’s brand is me.”
In many instances, that is absolutely correct. But as agencies grow, it is important to brand the agency in a different fashion other than just the persona of the principal. Why? Because although corporate brands and individual brands build upon one another, each type has a unique role.
Corporate brands are about about business traits such as longevity, stability and processes–the elements that tell the customer and prospect what it is that differentiates the business from its competitors.
Individual brands are about relationships, expertise and community. Individual brands are all about referrals and testimonials.
Does anyone say to their family member: ‘Just call anyone over at the Smith Agency, they can help you’? NO! We refer our friends and family specifically to Sally at the Smith Agency, because Sally was the person who helped us.
Well-constructed and supported agency and personal brands will begin to identify your agency and staff in the mind of your customers and prospects. Those brands will tell prospective customers “We help people like you.”
For more on creating what Peter Van Aartrijk of the Van Aartrijk Group calls Innovator Brands, watch my interview with him here.
Finding and Developing Expertise
Specialization benefits your agency in all sorts of ways. Done right, it can:
- Increase the value of your agency
- Improve your staff’s effeciency
- Improve your closing ratio
- Get prospects to call your agency
We explored how agencies that specialize in one or more niches can increase their multiple by 57% in this article on Increasing Agency Value earlier, so we won’t belabor that benefit again here.
Another benefit that comes with specialization is that your staff becomes more efficient and effective. As you develop your expertise in a niche or business, you will begin to understand the coverage requirements that the class needs, along with which markets have an affinity. This enables you to better service the business, whether with a new prospect, or by retaining a current client.
Now that you are becoming familiar with the customer segment, you can speak in their language, and you’ve identified exposures of which they may be unaware. All of this helps you close more business, improving your closing ratio.
And when you share that expertise, prospects seek you out because you are the right person to help them. They want you because you understand their needs.
How do you find a niche in which to specialize?
What interests you? It’s tough to beat specializing in something you love.
One of my CPCU buddies started writing little recording studios in Chicago. He loved music, and the bands he followed recorded at these little studios and one thing led to another. Maybe you like sports, or restaurants, or planes, or cars.
What segment is underserved? Don’t send me hate mail, but I bet the first agency that can figure out a market for Transportation Network coverage on a nationwide basis is going to be able to print money.
What types of accounts are you already writing? If you have a couple of artisan contractors on the books, maybe you can figure out how to specialize and write more.
What do your carriers want to write? How many times have you had a marketing rep drop into the office to talk about the new hot class? You should be putting those on your short list because the carrier has probably developed an underwriting expertise and a pricing model designed to write business.
As you begin to specialize, you gain experience, and that experience begins to turn into expertise.
With that increasing technical expertise on the coverages for the niche also comes social expertise. You know and understand the business of the prospect, and talk in their lingo. You know what the hot buttons are, and where the swamps lie.
That technical and social expertise is then married into your content creation efforts.
Why does the process of content creation frighten many, otherwise competent, business leaders? Because when faced with an empty sheet of paper, many times our minds go similarly blank.
When we talk about content creation, we mean creating specific pieces such as:
- web pages
- blog posts (a specific form of web page)
The list goes on and on. You don’t need to know how to build all of them, or even most of them. Just create content for the ones you do know how to produce. As you master one, you can learn another.
Content creation doesn’t need to be a scary topic. Neither is it so difficult as to be impossible. Like most things, the more you practice, the better you get. Best of all, that expertise that you develop is going to come in handy. Katie wrote a great intro to blogging here.
Don’t have a topic for your content? What’s going on in your world? Local or national news is often a great inspiration. Do you have an opinion on an issue? How about some employee news that’s fit to share?
As an example, perhaps Sue in the office just got a professional designation. You could talk about how that designation is going to make her better able to help your clients. You can discuss what goes into getting that specific designation. Then you might refer to other holders of designations in your office, and how your agency is committed to ongoing professional education.
Another great way to get topics for your content is to use your familiarity with one of your target markets. You should know what their issues are. Talk about them.
When you use the technical and social expertise you have developed in your prospect segment, you begin to create content that isn’t generic. You are developing content around the topics of conversation and real problems of your selected customer and prospect group(s). In short, you are addressing real issues in an authentic way, and that resonates with your audience.
That content then becomes a magnet for your customers and prospects, and cements your position as a resource for THEM in their mind.
Entrepreneurs are often accused of ‘shiny object syndrome’. That’s where you can be focused in on a task, something else catches your attention, and bang, you are off in a completely different direction; all thoughts of the previous efforts are long gone.
Shiny object syndrome also takes place in the tech world all the time. The latest electronic gizmo, operating system, or website all grab our attention. Then an improved version or new competitor shows up and everyone races to adopt.
Just because the iGizmo 6 came out, does it really mean that the iGizmo 5 no longer works? Of course not.
In the past few years, marketing has been besieged with new ‘digital’ techniques. But that doesn’t mean that traditional marketing techniques no longer work. As a matter of fact, some may work better now than they did a few years back.
I’m not suggesting that you should go cold-knocking on doors. I did it as a young producer many years ago, and it wasn’t terribly productive. But I’d bet that it is more productive today than a decade ago, as receptionists today are far less adept at turning away a cold call visit. They don’t deal with them every day anymore. Many may never have had a drop-in call in their life.
In the same way, if someone tells you that direct mail or email outbound marketing doesn’t work, guard your wallet. It might work more effectively than it did a few years ago because everybody is chasing the shiny digital object.
Don’t forget the opportunities to market in the specialty magazines that your prospects read, whether print or electronic. That can be as straightforward as a paid ad, or an article that you write for them. Volunteer to be an ‘Ask the Expert’ resource for them.
Conferences that your prospects and customers attend are great opportunities to both network and learn the niche. Sit in on a session. You may never need to know about how to install a terrazzo floor, but I’m betting that you’ll come up with one or two great ideas to talk about in your content, or exposures for which you can provide coverage.
Don’t forget all of those newfangled digital shiny objects either. But you know that already–you’re here, aren’t you?
Long Story Short
By far, the easiest way to write new business is to have the customer warmed up to you and your agency before you start the application and submission process. By using the techniques discussed here, you can show the customer you know and understand their problems, and that your products and services can help.
Most importantly, you can show them that you care.
Once customers find that out, you’ll have far less reason to cold-call (or cold-knock)–the clients will be coming to you.