The Connected Insurance Agency

Posted by Michael Jans on 10/8/16 11:07 AM

How Insurance Agents & Brokers Are Rapidly Dominating Their Market by Connecting More Deeply with Their Customers and Prospects, Delivering an Ongoing Stream of Value and Marketing Like Modern Day Wizards

The insurance consumer has changed.

So what? What difference does that make to the insurance provider?

[NOTE: this blog is an advanced pre-publication of an excerpt Michael's new book. To be notified of publication and get a free ebook copy, click here.]

In particular, what difference does it make to the independent agent or broker?

First, let's examine how those consumers have changed.

Simply put, we know they've changed because they do things they didn't do a few years ago.

In fact, less than a generation ago, they couldn't do some of the things they do today. Why? Because those things simply didn't exist.

Yesterday's insurance consumer didn't…

…research online before they bought. Now, 81% of consumers do.

…trust online reviews. Now, 88% trust online reviews from strangers as much as personal recommendations from friends.

…constantly check their email. Now they're hooked. 91% check daily. (Millennials check their smartphone a staggering 43 times per day.)

…mind getting a phone call from their insurance provider. Now, 84% do.(That's right. Even if you could afford to call each and every client, they don't want you to..

…spend so much time online. Now, baby boomers spend an average of 15 hours a week online. (That's even more than their millennial children.)

 Agents and brokers seem to get it.

And, for many, it's gnawing at them.

In a recent survey taken of our 11,000 active readers, almost every single respondent expressed 'worry' that the entire channel was falling behind.

Agents aren't the only ones that are catching on.

  • GEICO and other direct marketers caught on. And their investments in digital communications have paid off handsomely, as they continue to swallow agent-broker market share in personal lines.
  • The venture capital community is betting on the disruption of P&C. And those bets are getting bigger every year.

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So, it seems, the consumer is connected.

What is the savvy agent supposed to to? Where do they find the money?

It could be 'selling on price.'

But it's not. For a lot of reasons, it's not. Including the simple fact that this channel is more expensive.

More important, that's not what consumers want. Not the consumer best suited for the agent-broker channel. 57% of consumers reject the lowest bid on their insurance.

So what does today's insurance consumer want?

Let's set aside the consumer who truly puts price first. The independent agent-broker channel won't win there. You'll be outspent, out-marketed and out-smarted.

Other channels want them. They have the strategies - and the channel efficiencies - to win them. And, they'll spend 50% more than our channel will to get them. Leave 'em alone.

Even if you do win their pocketbook, it's dumb money: low retention; high churn; small margins; low lifetime value.

Wealth and equity are built by focusing strategically on maximum Customer Lifetime Value.

There is a huge and growing demographic that wants what this channel has to offer - and they will reward you richly with much, much higher lifetime value than any other demographic.

If you earn their loyalty, how much more will they reward you? Between 300% and 700% more in Lifetime Customer Value. 

Those are numbers that should make every agent and broker in North America wake up with a startle.

Who are they and what do they want?

They are the people who value what insurance really does.

They are the people who want peace of mind.

And what they want…is you.

As members of a tribal species, they value relationship. They want to know they have someone looking out for them. They want an advocate and an advisor.

Yes. They want you.

But, how do you make that happen? How do you make loyalty happen?

How do you scrape the money from diminishing commissions to ‘do relationship?’

A few years ago, McKinsey & Company reported that, "“There are signs now... that the economics of the traditional agent model are beginning to unravel.”

Why? In part, because the commission dollars simply do not support the traditional agent-broker ways of building relationships with consumers. Phone calls, networking, pressing the flesh…it's expensive.

Unfortunately, the consumer is feeling it. 60% think the agent disappears after they get paid.

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Is the agent or broker of today backed into a corner? If the most lucrative insurance consumer wants relationship, but the carriers don't give sufficient commission to support, is McKinsey right? Is the end near?

Perhaps McKinsey was right. Past tense.

But not anymore.

Yes, the consumer is connected.

But now, with modern technology, today's agent can connect with those consumers.

And they can do it the way today's consumer wants it. Online. Unobtrusive. With value, meaning and respect. In ways that treat each person as an individual.

Agency A vs Agency B

For many years, our marketing coaching program was a hotbed of breakthrough tactics, tricks and techniques. Everyone benefitted from a generous amount of sharing - or, perhaps, bragging.

One agent, for example, shared a cross-sell campaign that generated an 11.4% response. He shared it. Others copied it.

And some did not get the same response. By a long shot.

Why?

Similar community. Similar agency. Similar carriers.

The reason is this. What we sometimes call 'The 3 Stages of Marketing.'

The beginning marketer thinks the magic is in the 'thing.'

They want the email or the landing page or whatever the 'thing' was that got the response for 'Agency A.' True, things matter. Copy matters. A good offer matters. Design matters.  But…

the intermediate marketer understands that the magic is in the list that gets the 'thing.'

Marketers have learned that lists go from 'cold' to 'warm' to 'hot.' Cold: new leads and people with whom you haven't had a relationship. Warm: lost customers; unconverted leads; referrals from partners; people who had some kind of relationship with the agent

Hot: customers.

Which gets to the understanding that advanced marketers have…

…advanced marketers know that the magic is in the relationship to the list that gets the 'thing.'

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That is the answer to the question we asked above. Where is the money?

For the agent-broker channel, it's in the relationship. And if you're willing to swim in the deep end of the relationship pool, you'll find big, reliable and renewable money.

Finally, this raises the obvious question, presented to me many times:

Does today's insurance consumer really want a relationship with their insurance agent?

The question is usually followed by something like, "I don't want a relationship with my agent," or "Nobody wakes up feeling like, 'I need to get a relationship with an insurance agent today.'’

True.

First of all, when making strategic decisions - the kind that affect the rest of your life or business - it's good to be wary of personal anecdotes. Perhaps discard them altogether.

They're not science.

Which raises the question: what does the science say?

The science is simple. And, so powerful, it would seem that there is no better strategy for the independent agent or broker of today than to embrace the delivery of meaningful, connected relationship to their customer.

Why?

Because if you earn your customers' loyalty, they will:

  • Renew at 97%
  • Buy 25% more insurance
  • Refer 2.5 of their friends
  • And deliver that staggering 7 times the lifetime value

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So, as social scientists will tell you, even if someone thinks or feels they don't want a relationship with an insurance agent, that doesn't mean they don't.

Relationship doesn't mean they want you showing up unannounced at the family barbecue.

But, if they're the consumer best suited for our channel, they will reward you richly if you take the effort to connect with them more deeply and deliver an ongoing stream of value.

In today's world, that takes two things:

  • Something worth saying, and,
  • The technology that let's you say it.

Fortunately, both of those exist. You, the expert, has plenty to say. (Including the periodic ‘thank you!’)

You have something to say when they’re a new lead.

You have something to say when they’re a new customer.

You have something to say when they file a claim. When the claim is resolved. When they have a birthday. When a hurricane, wildfire or other disaster is approaching your community. When they near their renewal date.

And that’s just a start. (And the good news: you don’t have to create, write or design this content. Resources are available to make this easy.)

While the consumer has changed and competitive channels have outpaced us in connecting with them, we have a unique quality no other channel has.

It's you. And your team. In the consumer's community or niche.

Yes, it's different than the 'old school way.' Most of it is not done one-at-a-time.

It’s done in multiples.

And it easy.

And the central hub of the whole system – the consumer who writes the check – will reward you richly. That’s been proven.

The consumer changed…and the industry caught up. This is a new day for agents & brokers and their customers.

Will you be a part of it?

Topics: Insurance Marketing, Digital Marketing

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