Tony Caldwell's Blog

Insights on entrepreneurship and strategy for the insurance industry.

Grow Your Insurance Agency: Geography Doesn't Matter Anymore

The COVID-19 pandemic has made the world scarier and more uncomfortable. It has negatively impacted our economy in ways that won’t fully recover for at least two years. The economy and markets are reorganizing based on the new reality and for many, it’s ugly. Businesses are failing and unemployment is at a record high.

However, for an entrepreneurial-minded independent insurance agency owner, there are massive opportunities. 

Geography Doesn’t Matter - CTA 1

 

Social Distancing Equals Exponential Reach

Social distancing measures have changed the way that we buy things. 

Take a moment to consider that last point. 

One online conferencing software company is worth more than the combined leaders of the commercial aviation industry. 

Once upon a time, insurance sales meetings happened in a conference room or in the insurance agent’s office or in the prospect’s home or at a restaurant over lunch. It was important to forge that personal relationship, in-person. Sometimes it happened over a crosstown phone call. 

COVID is changing that. 

Customers want to handle their business with less personal contact. They want the convenience and safety of video conferencing. They want to be able to find the answers to their own questions on websites and in chats. This includes the insurance business. 

Right now, you might be thinking to yourself, “That’s how things are now, but once COVID goes away, things will go back to how they were before.” 

And you would be wrong. 

COVID is hastening an already existing trend toward technology-driven convenience. 

There is a silver lining for independent insurance agency owners:

Since the producer no longer needs to be in the same physical place as the customer in order to effectively sell insurance, every agency can sell nationwide. 

But, you need technology to do it. 

Insurance technology

Marketing software

Since your potential customers are online that’s where we need to be marketing, using some combination including:

  • Content marketing
  • Email marketing
  • Social media
  • SEO
  • Search marketing
  • Digital advertising
  • Digital prospecting tools

For many businesses, intelligent digital marketing and prospecting tools are replacing the cold call for prospecting. 

Teleconferencing

No amount of marketing can completely replace a face-to-face meeting. This is where video conferencing software helps. 

I already mentioned Zoom. There are other good providers, such as UberConference, Microsoft Teams, GoToMeeting, and Google Hangouts. 

The key is that the process is easy and convenient for the customer to talk with your producers. 

Document Management and online signature

So how are we going to get the customer to sign all the paperwork when we’re not in the same room, let alone the same town?

Document management and online signature software make this happen.

Popular software providers include:

  • Adobe Sign
  • DocuSign
  • Secured Signing
  • PandaDoc

For a more in-depth look at technology solutions for independent insurance agencies, see our Insurance Technology Guide.

Get your producers’ licenses in order

Make sure that your producers have their non-resident licenses in order. 

The National Insurance Producer Registry is an excellent resource for submitting the necessary applications. Here is more information about non-resident licensing from the NIPR.

Stand out nationally by niching down

So, you’ve made the commitment to selling nationally, now, how do you set yourself apart from every other independent agency, captive agency, and alternate distribution channels?

The answer is to niche down.

"As you niche down to a specific industry or kind of customer, it’s easier to be relevant in the marketing messaging and process."

With nationwide reach, your agency can’t be all things to all people. However, it can be all things to some people. And we want to strategically select who those “some people” are. Since you’re now serving a much broader customer base, you can narrow your niche down to a laser focus.

For a commercial agency, this means focusing on a specific industry or several related industries. For example, we’re predicting that manufacturing in the United States is going to grow over the next few years, due to reshoring.

As a local agency, there probably isn’t enough growth potential to solely focus your agency only in the manufacturing industry. However, now that your agency is nationwide, the growth potential is huge. So, if you are interested in manufacturers you could specialize in plastics, further in injection molding, further by size, etc. and build a strong book by really owning a narrow niche in a broad market.

Since your producers focus on only one kind of industry, they will learn industry knowledge which will make them even more successful insurance producers. When they have sales conversations with potential clients in the industry, they’ll bring a deeper understanding of the industry which provides value to the customer.

Focusing on a niche also makes it easier to build successful marketing strategies.

Winning insurance marketing ideas are the result of fully understanding the customers. As you niche down to a specific industry or kind of customer, it’s easier to be relevant in the marketing messaging and process.

Niching down also brings one more advantage: it makes your agency more efficient.

How to operate more efficiently

A high performing insurance agency knows how to optimize day-to-day tasks to free time for what’s really important. The whole world is changing before our eyes; there is no better opportunity to take a look at your agency management and look for opportunities to optimize. 

Moving the sales process online already adds a new level of efficiency. Before, when sales meetings were mostly in person, your producers are commuting around town, going from one meeting to the next. 

Business team having video conference in the conference room-1

Now, with everything done via video-conferencing, your producers can take more meetings per day.

Take this new efficiency and add others to it:

If your producers are also doing customer service tasks then you should change that. Producers add to the agency’s book of business. That is the highest use of their time.  

If your agency is so overwhelmed with customer service duties that your CSR(s) can’t handle it, then it’s time to figure out if your CSRs are slacking off or if you need to add a new CSR position. 

The Silver Lining

If you are an independent insurance agency owner, then you are two things. Obviously, you’re probably an independent insurance broker, but don’t forget that last part. You’re an owner--a business owner. 

Be an entrepreneurial business owner. There are opportunities to grow through this economic upheaval.

Seize them.

4 minute read