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 for setting goals, reaching them, and growing your agency. To grow insurance businesses in these hard times will require time, effort, and some hard decisions, but the truth of the matter is that it is a great time to improve your agency and sell like never before!
Social Distancing Equals Exponential Reach
Social distancing measures have changed the way that we buy things.
- Walmart is testing a completely cashier-less store.
- Amazon sales were up 26% in Q1, as consumers moved their shopping online.
- Online conferencing software company Zoom is now worth more than the seven biggest airlines combined.
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 a life 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.
Since your potential customers are online that’s where we need to be marketing, using some combination including:
Digital prospecting tools
For many businesses, intelligent digital marketing and prospecting tools are replacing the cold call for prospecting.
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:
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.
Remember everyone in the team should be able to sell and upsell, so look into licenses for customer support, admin roles, and even your accounting manager - anyone who can sell, should!
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.
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 spent time commuting around town, going from one meeting to the next.
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.
Always keen on helping others make their dreams come true, Tony and his team have helped independent agents grow into more than 250 independent agencies. This has made OAA the number one ranked Strategic Master Agency of SIAA for the last 5 years, and one of Oklahoma's 25 Best Companies to Work for.
Tony loves to share his knowledge, insight and wisdom through his bestselling books as well as in free mediums including podcasts and blogs.
Tony and his family are members of Crossings Community Church, and he is very active in community initiatives: he’s chairman of It’s My Community Initiative, Inc., a nonprofit working with disadvantaged people in Oklahoma City; and chairman of the Oklahoma Board of Juvenile Affairs., and he has served through many other organizations including the Salvation Army, Last Frontier Council of the Boy Scouts of America, and the Rotary Club.
In his spare time, Tony enjoys time with his family. He’s also an active outdoorsman and instrument-rated commercial pilot.