20 Best Practices for Marketing Your Insurance Agency

20 Best Practices for Marketing Your Insurance Agency

As a business professional proficient in the art of sales, you have likely realized that the hardest product to sell can be your own brand. To optimize your time and budget, focus on these cost efficient best practices for marketing your insurance services:

1. Develop a Business Referral Partnership: Insurance sales is a relationship businesses. Establish a mutually beneficial referral agreement with another local business that you trust, like an account, car dealer, or home contractor. Make sure you each have copies of one another’s business cards in your offices to distribute to customers and prospects.

2. Enhance your Google Ranking: Consumers value convenience, and with so many searches for business services starting with a trip to a search engine, particularly Google, ranking well on Google Search and Google Maps, is essential. To help small to mid-sized businesses to control their presence across Google’s properties, Google offers a tool called “Google My Business.”

3. Make Your Business Cards Stand Out: A distinctive business card design will make your agency memorable and will set you apart from the competition. In addition, give prospects a reason to keep your card on hand. Add local emergency phone numbers to the back, such as the local police department, fire department, gas company, and electric company, so that prospects always have your card in their wallet or saved in an easily accessible place in their home.

4. Partner with Your Local Chamber of Commerce: A presence on Google is essential, but don’t forget the importance of your local businesses community. Make sure your agency is listed in your local Chamber of Commerce’s printed and online directories. Those new to the area in particular are most likely to turn to businesses endorsed by the local Chamber of Commerce when in need of professional services.

5. Write a Blog: Your prospects are likely researching topics online that relate to your services, such as: “Cost to insure my teen driver,” “How to manage flood damage,” or “How to obtain health coverage from the Insurance Marketplace.” Consumers are more likely to partner with an organization that they feel is creditable and knowledgeable. By consistently writing and publishing educational articles on your website, you will position yourself as a thought leader and industry expert. Not only will continual content help establish your industry expert status, but it will help your organic online search engine results as well.

6. The Power of Customer Testimonials: Ask your satisfied customers for a testimonial of their experience with your agency. Testimonials and endorsements lend credibility and help establish trust among prospective customers. Written testimonials can be placed on your website, or in print advertising, or you can record video testimonials and place them prominently on your website as well.

7. Mobile Optimize: With 80% of online searches being performed from a Smart Phone in 2015 according to SmartInsights, having a mobile optimized website is ideal for prospective clients searching for your services. Otherwise, if a prospect visits your website from their smart phone and can’t find the information needed because of the way your site is rendering on their mobile device, they will likely move on to a competitor’s site to get the information he or she needs.

8. Attend Local Networking Events: Your local chamber of commerce or other local business organizations likely host monthly or quarterly networking events. Attend as many as possible, and bring those memorable business cards with you! Not only will networking events help you to identify prospective clients, but you may also identify new businesses partnerships with future mutual referral opportunities.

9. Write and Submit Press Releases to the Local Media: Share the news that affects your agency with your community. Just hired a new adjuster? Recently promoted one of your agents? Offering a promotional period for one of your services? Sponsoring a local charity golf event? Share anything newsworthy with your local press. Not only will it help to get the name of your agency in the media, but the next time a local reporter is looking for a source to quote on an article that relates to your line of insurance, they will be more likely to remember you and reach out for a quote. This strategy will further enhance your position as a thought leader.

10. Brand Yourself: Invest in tasteful, branded, professional attire like golf shirts and button-down shirts with your company logo in the corner. Wherever you travel in your community for events, meetings, and volunteer opportunities, you represent your agency. Branding yourself will help identify you to prospects and will also help with your overall brand awareness.

11. Book Speaking Engagements: This is another reason that business partnerships and a Chamber of Commerce membership can be extremely valuable. Offer to speak at local events on topics relevant to your services. Let the organizers of local events know that you are available and willing to give presentations. They will be thrilled to call on you the next time they are building their agenda, and you will have an opportunity to continue building your reputation as a local, accessible, insurance expert, which will ultimately, translate into new business.

12. Wrap Your Car: To help build brand awareness as you travel around your community, invest in a car wrap and you have instantly become your own mobile billboard. If a full car wrap is cost-prohibitive, simple magnets can be custom created and fixed to the side of your vehicle at a more affordable price.

13. Partner with a Local Charity to Elevate Your Brand: By aligning your company with a charitable event or organization, you not only have the opportunity to give back to your community and make a difference to those in need, but you can help to increase your brand awareness and elevate the perception of your agency. Consider supporting a charity that aligns with your services for the most impact. Offer home insurance? Co-sponsor a local Habitat for Humanity project. Sell life insurance? Co-sponsor a local run/walk event.

14. Monthly Business Card Drawings: Place a fishbowl on your reception desk and encourage everyone who stops by to drop in their business cards to be entered into monthly drawing. Make the price valuable, like a $25 gift card to a local restaurant. Most importantly, ensure the contact information from all collected business cards is saved in your prospect contact files for future follow-up.

15. Award Yourself: Apply for local and regional businesses awards. Your local business media publications or chamber of commerce likely create annual rankings for “Best of the Best” in town, in your industry, within your business size category, etc. Many competitions are free to apply, and when you win, you will be able to promote your “Best of” designation as another level of credible distinction.

16. Create, and Continually Update, your LinkedIn Profile: LinkedIn is a social media site that allows business professionals to connect with one another. Not only will this help you find business-to-business leads if you sell commercial insurance, but having a LinkedIn page that is continually updated with news, information, and links to educational content (time to re-post those blog articles again!) helps to establish your knowledge base and credibility.

17. Conduct an Annual Customer Survey: Survey your existing customers annually. A brief online or paper survey can easily gather satisfaction data. Once you have compiled the exceptional results of your survey, promote them! Add statistics to your website, print advertising, or even business card. Statements such as “100% of our customers would refer our agency to a friend,” or “99% of our customers rank our customer service as excellent 5 years in a row” are powerful statements for turning leads into sales, so long as they are factual.

18. Submit Educational Articles to Your Local Media Publications: After the time and effort you have put into developing additional blog articles, get extra use out of them by submitting them to a local newspaper. Reach out to the paper’s business writer and ask if you can submit a monthly article for an “Ask An Insurance Expert” column. The next time someone in your community has a question or needs a quote, they will remember you as their local expert.

19. Reward Referrals: Let your customers know that you offer thank you gifts for referrals. Financial incentives are the most appealing form of rewards. Consider a $50 gas card if the lead turns into a client.

20. Host Your Own Event or Seminar: Here’s our final suggestion to help establish you as the preeminent insurance expert in your community: host your own seminar or educational event on a hot topic impacting your industry. Be sure to invite all of your current clients and prospects by email, postcard, and phone. Consider co-hosting the event with one of your business partner and encourage them to invite their clients and prospects as well, a strategy that can help you both with cross sales.

To learn more about EZLynx marketing solutions, check out Agency Websites and Marketing Campaigns.


How to Grow Your Insurance Agency Using Local SEO

How to Grow Your Insurance Agency Using Local SEO

In today’s world of smart phones, Twitter feeds, and geo-targeted advertising, a successful business marketing strategy must be optimized to identify local prospects. The cornerstone of a successful local marketing strategy requires effective search engine optimization (SEO). This is especially true for small insurance agencies. More insurance buyers are going online during the buying process to research their decision. Local search engine optimization is focused on providing results that are relevant to a searcher based on their current location.

For independent insurance agencies, this means that if a prospect in your area searches for “car insurance,” that your website appears at the top of the rankings, above national agencies, educational pieces, and news articles. Ensuring that your agency is at the top of local search engine results takes a multi-pronged strategy, but it can be accomplished successfully by completing the following steps.

Improve Keyword Relevancy

A successful SEO strategy should begin with keywords. SEO keywords are the terms your website is targeting. Research the keywords that are the most relevant to your industry and that will be the most effective in driving traffic to your site. Since search engines rank pages and not websites, each page of your website should include keywords that are specific to that page. Use your keywords frequently throughout your content, but be sure to use them naturally. Search engines can identify websites with unnatural keyword densities, which negatively impacts rankings. Be sure to also include location information throughout your content as part of your keyword strategy, such as the name of the city where your office is located.

Create Deep Content with Internal Links

An internal link connects one page of a website to a different page within the same site. For example, on your home owner’s insurance product page, include a few sentences in the copy about obtaining a quote, and link it to a “Visit our location” page to reinforce your local presence. From your user’s perspective, this strategy provides the opportunity to read more of your content and spend more time within your site. From a search engine’s perspective, internal links encourage the crawling of multiple pages to index more content, which in turn improves your ranking.

Improve the Visitor’s Experience

Search engine rankings are improved for websites with low “bounce rates” and longer “time-spent-on-site.” Your content should answer all of your prospect’s questions (such as where you are located). Search engines can tell how effectively your website accomplishes this by monitoring the time between when a prospect clicks on your search result and when they return to the search engine. If a prospect only stays on your site for a few seconds, this high bounce rate, or low time-spent-on-site, can hurt your rankings.

Maintain an Active Social Media Presence

Creating social media pages across multiple platforms will help to improve your organic search results. Create social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn and continually update the pages with new content. Post information about community initiatives, new hires, industry news and trends, and product offers to your social media accounts and link to your website for the complete details.

Create a Google My Business Page

Google My Business allows companies of all sizes to create pages to promote their local business, which can be highly effective for small businesses looking to attract local customers. Google search engine rankings are improved for businesses that have verified Google My Business pages. Be sure your Google My Business page includes accurate information about your businesses, including your local address and phone number, and include a Google map of your location.

The Power of Social Validation

Positive customer testimonials, both within your website’s content and posted to third party sites, can enhance your search engine rankings. Ask trusted clients if you can include their testimonial and home town on your website, or ask them to review your agency on Google, Yelp or other such sites that aim to match customers with local, highly-rated companies.

Optimize Backlinks

Backlinks are links from other websites that point to your site, and they improve your search engine rankings. There are many opportunities to obtain backlinks from local partners. For example, get included on your local chamber of commerce website, or submit a scholarly article to your local online news outlet (e.g.: “How to Purchase First Time Flood Insurance in Tampa”). Links from these highly-ranked sites back to your website will not only give your agency local credibility, it will improve your local SEO.

Go Mobile

According to our own analytics, 20% of consumers are completing an insurance quote online using their mobile or tablet device, and an even larger percentage are using those devices to browse our agent websites. To ensure that these searchers can find your agency, and have a positive experience with your site once they get there, you will need either a mobile version of your website or a single responsive website. Either of these options will ensure that your website displays comfortably on any variety of mobile phone or tablet. Otherwise, if a prospect quickly leaves your mobile site because it is too difficult to navigate and read on their mobile device, your search engine rankings may suffer from high bounce rates.

Independent insurance agencies should not be intimidated by the mysterious and ever-changing algorithms of Google and other search engines. By implementing these simple strategies, your agency can improve its search engine visibility – allowing you to grow your business one click at a time.

Learn how EZLynx takes advantage of many of these strategies with EZLynx Agency Websites


Agencies and the Art of Upselling: “Do You Want Fries With That?”, Part 2

Insurance Agency Upselling

How does an agency successfully cross sell products, while keeping their clients’ best interests in hand, and without the appearance that all they are doing is trying to further separate your customers from their money? Here are a few suggestions that will help you or your staff to write more from within:

1) First off, establish a cross selling (and measurable) goal that your agency can attain. By this I mean that you should have a team meeting, and determine the percentage of total growth that you expect to achieve from existing business within your agency, versus business that is entirely new to your organization.

2) Next, create a method of cross-selling to your clients, specific to each line of business. It can be as simple as what type of coverage should you suggest to owners of certain types of policies.

3) Establish a target for each line of business customer. Such as, from a personal lines auto policy customer you may expect a 25% increase in written premium, and perhaps from a commercial account.

4) Designate a person within your agency who can champion this project, who will monitor achievements, track successes, and encourage others to always be selling to all those who communicate with the agency.

5) Do not expect to obtain large premiums on each cross sell opportunity…take advantage of a small renter’s policy sale to a single auto policy owner, with the long term goal of selling a life policy to them in the future.

6) Sometimes the cross-sell opportunity is right under your nose, and you don’t even realize it. For example: analyze each and every portfolio of all your clients, with the intention of uncovering business that you may not have sought after the first time. For instance: perhaps you targeted pizzerias because you have a program with a certain carrier that specializes in these types of establishments. Well remember that the owner of the pizzeria most likely lives somewhere so there is a need for some type of home coverage, or perhaps they even drive a car to work, or have a family to financially protect…see my point?

7) Offer incentives to those who cross sell…perhaps a bonus, or a higher commission rate. It may cost you a few bucks extra up front, but in the long run your retention rate and agency bottom line will all be affected in a very positive way.

8) Lastly, when a cross sell opportunity is resented to a client, and the client refuses the product, have a preprinted coverage sign off sheet readily available for them to sign, indicating that they were offered the coverage, and declined. Chain drug stores have implemented this procedure when purchasing prescription drugs, requiring the customer to check off the “declined consultation” box, before being permitted to complete the transaction and purchase the drugs, which causes some folks to actually ask additional questions about what it is that they are purchasing.

9) Schedule annual policy reviews with your clients. This will not only help you to broaden the policy portfolios of your clients, but will also offer them the added protection that they may certainly be in need of.

10) Learn from the experts of cross selling: Did you ever notice when you purchase an item online, more specifically a book, that you will receive an email stating that “75% of those who purchased that, also purchased this”. Believe it or not, with a little thought and imagination you can find a correlation between many policies, that when one is purchased, it will cause you to consider another. For example: if one purchases a homeowners policy for a new home, perhaps they need life insurance to protect the mortgage.

All of the suggestions above are just the proverbial “tip of the iceberg” when it comes to new and innovative ways to cross sell to your existing business, as there are so many additional means of increasing each clients’ value in your agency. But no matter what your organization’s method of obtaining new business from existing business is, remember to always look for the additional opportunity, and “always be selling”.


Agencies and the Art of Upselling: “Do You Want Fries With That?”, Part 1

Agencies and the Art of Upselling

Every time I walk into a fast food restaurant, whether it be for a cup of coffee, a salad, or a box of donuts to bring to someone’s house, I always pay particular attention to the server to see just how hard they will try to upsell, or cross sell, a bigger, better, tastier, or hotter food than what I placed an order for.

Why is that? Because I can learn from these large nationwide chains new and innovative ways to ask the very simple question of, “What else can I sell you today that will make myself and the company that I am employed with more money?”

How important is this? Well, for many agencies out there, the emphasis has long been on obtaining new business, and not as focused on protecting what is already in house. I speak with agencies on a daily basis. Based on these sources, I have gathered a few statistics.

1) Most experts agree that it costs 4 to 6 times more to acquire a new customer, than to retain an existing one

2) Marketing to existing customers is 5 to 8 times less expensive than marketing to new ones

3) 65% of a company’s new business comes from existing customers

4) Repeat customers spend on average 67% more than new ones

Because it costs so much more to acquire a new customer than it does to sell to an existing customer, you are much better off spending your marketing dollars on those who you know, rather than on complete strangers. Armed with these and other facts, I am not at all saying that you should not continue to obtain new business, but it makes perfect sense for an agency to find new and innovative ways to increase their effort on retaining existing business, and increase the portfolio of their current clients…something that many agencies don’t take advantage of.


Increase the Value of Your Agency, Part 2

Increase the Value of your AgencyThe ability to grow and add value to an agency is only useful in the long run if it is sustainable.  Maintaining value requires taking a deeper look at some of the important KPIs that affect the overall health of an agency. EZLynx Agency Pulse puts these metrics and more at your fingertips each month for a quick agency check-up. We’ll look at three proven indicators that we have seen as most important to sustained stability in an independent insurance agency.

1. Balancing revenue segments – Revenue is vital to any business and diversifying these segments helps provide long-term stability. As we know, personal lines are becoming ever more competitive and frequently see a high level of churn. Balancing this out by increasing the segment of commercial policies and other segments helps provide long-term revenue stability. Most personal lines agencies should aim for a PL/CL ratio around 60:40 for ideal revenue segmentation.

2. Carrier Distribution – The fluctuations of carrier rates are common place. Many producers go with a gut feeling about which carriers are hot at any given time. The truth is that they all will eventually have rate increases and decreases. Like investing in the stock market, the best way to manage risk is to diversify your assets. Managing the percent premium volume with each of your carriers will provide greater long-term revenue sustainability. Try aiming for a distribution with no more than 20 to 25 percent of your premium volume with any one carrier.

3. Revenue Per Customer – This is an interesting metric because, financially speaking, increasing this average is a good thing; however, if you are depending on one or two large accounts to bring it up, it can be fiscally risky. To mitigate these two alternatives, focus on balancing this with the policies per customer indicator mentioned previously. Our current customers average 1.6 policies per customer, and captive agents achieve upwards of 5. In a typical independent agency, it is not unreasonable to aim for a policy per customer number at three or above. Higher numbers correlate to a stable balance of revenue among your customers and an increase in the average customer life-time value to the agency.

Another major factor in keeping these metrics stable is to establish process and routines. According to leading neuroscientists, more than 40 percent of what we do in life and business is based on habits2. Creating specific procedural habits in your agency helps maintain consistency and efficiency. Setting specific processes for managing new business, cross selling mono-line policies, working renewals, handling policy change requests, etc. can make a huge impact in the sustained growth of an agency.  Each customer interaction provides an opportunity to build customer loyalty and reinforce the agency’s unique value proposition. Setting process expectations for producers and CSRs in your agency will help this to become second nature and keep your staff from missing opportunities to reinforce the relationship with each customer.

EZLynx offers turn-key business solutions to help any agency grow reach its goals like the Agency Pulse, which puts agency KPIs at your fingertips.  EZLynx offers products to help make your job easier, so you can get back to what really matters!

(2015). 2014 insurance agency transaction multiples. The Deal Maker’s Dialogue, 6(2).


Increase the Value of Your Agency, Part 1

Increase the Value of your AgencyAn agency’s value can be an ambiguous figure often inflated in the minds of agency owners. It is frequently overlooked as long as book size is growing. Owners who are not planning to sell usually have number in their heads, but many neglect to take the time to delve into the actual valuation. However, its value goes beyond getting a good sale price. The agency valuation can not only be used to secure financing for sudden opportunities, but, more importantly, it provides a roadmap for strategic planning and growth. Understanding an agency’s value can identify potential risks and vulnerabilities that could change its worth over time.

The first step to increasing an agency’s value is understanding its current value. A variety of factors are taken into account for establishing value including growth, profitability, and financial security. MarshBerry, an M&A advisory firm, reported that in 2014 the average Base Purchase Price increased to 7.14 times EBITDA with a range from 5.9 to 7.81. EBITDA is a widely accepted measure of profits which stands for Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization. By removing operating expenses from the revenue and excluding the administrative expenses, it provides an accurate picture of how an agency is performing. Whether you utilize retained commissions or agency earnings (EBITDA) as the base, the same principles for increasing value will apply.

Average Value = 7.14 x EBITDA

EBITDA = Revenue – Expenses (excluding interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization)

If you can remember back to your basic algebra, you’ll know that to increase the value you would need to increase the EBITDA base by either increasing revenue or decreasing expenses.

Most companies find it extremely difficult to cut operating expenses, so the only other option is to increase revenue. As we all know, the two biggest factors that contribute to revenue in an insurance agency are growth from new business and reoccurring revenue from retaining customers. Here are 3 proven ways to increase your base and, more importantly, sustain that increase.

  1. New Business Growth – The need for growth in the agency, as well as with each carrier, is well known. Many agencies focus on acquiring new business as a way to drive value, but neglect to account for the cost of acquisition for each new customer. Leveraging cost effective alternatives to traditional marketing, such as email or social media, is one way to reduce expenses without risking additional new business opportunities.
  1. Agency Retention – One of the quickest ways to increase the value of EBITDA is through increasing agency retention. Reoccurring business doesn’t need to take into account acquisition costs, so the revenue drops directly to the bottom line for an agency. Even a one to two point increase across the agency as a whole can have significant ramifications on the overall value. As an independent agency, you provide significant value in the choices of carriers that you represent. Frequently, this value is not fully communicated to the insured who goes shopping at renewal rather than providing you the opportunity to save the business. Communicating with every insured at renewal provides an agency a way to discuss any changes fully manage the renewal conversation.
  1. Policies Per Customer – Adopting a specific agency wide strategy for cross selling monoline customers works to both increase your retention and the value. It is common knowledge that the number of policies per customer directly correlates with the length of time the customer remains with your agency. Utilizing email marketing to educate monoline customers on the benefits of having both home and auto policies written with the same carrier can make a large impact.

1. (2015). 2014 insurance agency transaction multiples. The Deal Maker’s Dialogue, 6(2).
2. Duhigg, Charles. (2012). The power of habit: Why we do what we do in life and business. New York: Random House.


Summer Guide for Insurance Agencies

Summer Opportunities for Independent AgentsHow many times throughout the year are you asked to secure coverage for an insured for a specific reason? Well, once you obtain coverage for that insured, how many times do you actually revisit that account and review their coverage? What other missed opportunities are available for you to provide additional coverage that will not only affect your bottom line in a positive fashion, but also assist in protecting your agency against a potential errors and omissions claim?

These are the questions that an agency must ask itself, in order to secure its perpetuation, and increase its rate of retention. In most agencies out there, the emphasis has long been on obtaining new business, and not as focused on protecting what is already in house.

I am not at all saying that you should not continue to obtain new business, but it makes perfect sense for an agency to find new and innovative ways to retain business as well. This is something that many agencies don’t take advantage of, but it has just as much potential to put money in your pocket as new business does. It also makes sense if an agency uses what already has in house to cross sell to its existing customers, which will not only increase the agency’s rate of retention, but also drive additional revenue into the business. In many instances, cross selling also helps to lower the agency’s loss ratios over its carrier inventory. It has been proven that insured with multiple policies within the same agency, are less likely to file a nuisance claim than those who have only one policy with that particular agent.

So what are some of the best ways to cross sell and protect yourself and your agency against an E&O claim? Well, for starters, think of what opportunities are made available just by the time of year. As an example, summer time is now upon us, so what happens differently in the summer than in the other seasons? Let’s look at vacations for example: are your insured traveling to Mexico? Most private passenger policies in the United States do not extend coverage to that country. Therefore, by using EZLynx® Management System you can implement an email campaign, advising your customers to make certain that they contact your agency if they are traveling to Mexico, or any foreign country where they may be under the impression that they are covered by their existing auto policy. It may be as little as providing a Canadian insurance card for an insured visiting that area, or you may be looking to write a policy for someone driving across our southern border. Even if your auto policy does cover you in another country, is the coverage as robust as if you were in the states?

Speaking of traveling abroad, another question to pose your vacationing customers is whether or not their existing health insurance extends coverage while traveling to another country. Most people are so excited about their trip that they fail to look ahead and plan for an emergency while they are overseas somewhere by purchasing vacation insurance. Same goes for your insured that may be hosting graduation parties, or religious celebrations in a rented hall such as a firehouse or VFW hall. Does their homeowner’s policy include host liquor liability if they are having the party offsite? Are they better off purchasing an event liability policy for that celebration?

These sorts of opportunities are not only limited to the summer season, but to all seasons. Come the fall when kids are back to school, especially college, are they covered for their personal belongings while away at their dorm? To drill down even further, even if there is off premises theft coverage while away at school, is there coverage limited and filled with exclusions for certain items, such as electronic equipment, jewelry, or even cash?

Although we have just skimmed along the top of this subject, I am certain that you get the idea that we are trying to impress upon you. Not only is it incumbent upon you as an insurance agent to make certain that your insured have the coverage that their needs require, but cross selling is also a tremendous way to protect your agency against claims by your insured and also to add to your bottom line.


How to Stay Competitive

Stay Competitive by Using EZLynxToday there are large companies entering the industry which have not historically offered insurance products.  This is causing many small and mid-sized independent agencies to question whether or not they will be able to survive among the new behemoths.

With Walmart offering auto insurance quotes and reports that Google will soon be doing the same, how can independent agencies compete? In an industry that is already dominated by billion-dollar advertising campaigns, individual agencies’ budgets are a small fraction of Walmart and Google’s. So, is there hope for these comparatively smaller agencies?

Sure there is! The outlook for independent agencies is not as bleak as Walmart and Google’s entrance into the insurance industry make it seem. As long as agencies continue to focus on serving people, they will give customers an experience that Walmart and Google struggle to provide.

When surveyed on this subject, agents say:

  • Google and Walmart will generate a different kind of insurance business; it will be similar to Consumer Quoting on an agency’s website – business that agencies struggled with 5 years ago, before they embraced it and learned how to profit from it. Originally, agents did not want this kind of business; they believed it was of was of a transient nature, where customers would switch for a $5 premium difference.
  • Agents are looking at these Walmart and Google models as purely lead generators, not as competitors, and not as threats. Agencies report they are not concerned in any way.
  • Agents believe Google and Walmart will write some auto business, but will not affect their commercial business book at all. However, this doesn’t seem to be the direction that online writers are moving.
  • Independent agents feel there is no “stickiness” to this business, and that it wouldn’t add value to their agency, especially to agency re-sale values.
  • Independent agents say Google and Walmart haven’t worked out the “back room” servicing aspect of this business model, and how to work cohesively with the agencies involved in the process.
  • To date, a very large insurance trade organization hasn’t received any calls from member agencies inquiring about Walmart and Google’s involvement in the industry or shown any concern.
  • One issue that does concern agents is, if the rumors are accurate, that Google and Walmart will be allowed to bind coverage from the carrier sites, while independent agents do not have this privilege. Agents see this as extremely unfair.
  • A common argument of independent agents is that these models sell solely on price, and consumers will not be covered properly. This will lead to more E&O claims, and eventually drive insureds back to the independent agency anyway.

That’s what agents are saying regarding this new era of competition.

So, here are five ways individual insurance agencies can set themselves apart from these box store companies who are entering the insurance industry.  These tips mostly focus on putting customers first.

Have a Real Person Answer the Phone

Instead of directing incoming calls through a phone tree, have a receptionist answer each phone call. Customers want to talk with a live person, not a computer, so don’t send them through a frustrating automated system. Let them talk to someone as quickly as possible. A receptionist can also help with basic office administrative tasks when not answering the phone.

Be Available After Hours

Customers expect their insurance agent to be available at all times. After all, companies like Google and Walmart don’t limit their online operations to business hours. While no single agent can be available constantly, by having all of the agents within an agency work together, you can provide around-the-clock assistance by developing an on-call system. When agents take turns covering for each other during off-hours, they are able to enjoy their personal lives and ensure their customers receive help whenever they need it. Of course, any phone calls that come in after hours should be answered by the agent who is on-call, not an automated system.

Know the Neighborhood

Agencies can set themselves apart from big companies and develop a personal connection with their customers by becoming familiar with the local neighborhood. Large companies that have customers in many states cannot focus in on a small area, but agencies that serve one neighborhood can focus in on that community’s specific needs. Being familiar with concerns commonly found in your local community will let you anticipate, identify with and address the needs of your customer base.

Specialize

There are lots of insurance-related resources on the web, but many of the materials that are readily available only address surface-level issues. Customers often have detailed questions that pertain to their specific circumstances, and they prefer an authoritative source to provide answers. If you specialize in a specific type of insurance, such as auto or homeowners, you will be able to answer the most difficult questions, the ones that can’t be found on websites.

Work on a Team

No agent can specialize in every type of insurance, but an agency can have a team of agents that have different specialties. When agents are knowledgeable in areas where their co-workers are weak, they can work together to answer any customer’s question quickly, so that the customer doesn’t have to seek help elsewhere.

If you’re part of a small- or mid-sized independent insurance agency, don’t fear Walmart and Google’s foray into the industry. Customers have come to you for years because they appreciate the service you provide. Continue to serve them well, and they will continue coming back to your agency.


Responsive Websites get a Better Response

EZLynx Agency WebsitesIt’s no secret that digital marketing plays a huge role for both consumers and agencies. In 2014, IIABA conducted a marketing study with shocking results – a staggering 50% of all insurance shoppers start their search through a mobile device. Clearly, it’s important to not only have a web presence, but a web presence that is optimized with a responsive, mobile-ready design.

For starters, if you don’t have a website at all, your customers and potential customers are simply not going to be able to find you.  Furthermore, with the latest mobile emphasis that Google is placing in their search results, if you don’t have a responsive website, you’ll potentially be missing out on 50% of insurance shoppers online! This is a common mistake agencies make, but luckily it’s one of the easiest to fix.

From the same IIABA study, over half of the consumers that visited an agent’s website from their mobile device immediately left if the site was not mobile friendly. If your website is not mobile responsive, consumers will quickly find a website that is.  Imagine if your local grocery store put all of their products on shelves that were out of reach.  Would you keep going there?

It’s no different online. At the end of the day, the agent that makes the insurance shopping experience as painless as possible will win the most new business. Simply making your website responsive could help retain this extra traffic your site is trying so hard to generate for you.

How many phone numbers and addresses has your agency had over the past 5 or 10 years? Over time agencies end up in multiple locations, with multiple ways to get in contact with them. The more ways someone can get in touch with you, the better, right? Not according to Google.  The search engine places a lot of value on providing accurate and official information on the first page of their search results. Thus, having your contact information consistent on multiple directories across the web helps search engines confirm where and how to locate your agency. This simple adjustment could mean the difference from just a few leads a month to multiple leads on a daily basis.

So, who knows your customers better than you? The best way to understand where your agency’s web presence stands, is to put yourself in your customer’s shoes. Get on a mobile device and see how easy it is to find yourself. How easy is it to get a quote or get in contact with your agency? Does it take seconds or minutes?  Is your website even mobile friendly?

Learn more about how EZLynx can help get your agency online, mobile, and ready to generate online leads.


Spring has Sprung – Tips for Seasonal Marketing

Seasonal Marketing TipsWell, spring is finally in the air and we all know what that means…clocks are turned one hour ahead, flowers begin to bloom; kids are counting down the days until school ends, and it’s the beginning of a new season: the motorcycle and boat insuring season!

Yes, it’s finally here! Those days of insuring hulls and Harleys, outboards and overdrives, Sea-Doos and Suzukis are now upon us. This is also the time of year when guys who grew up with the muscle cars of the 70’s and 80’s dust off those chamois covers, fire up that ole engine, fill ‘er up with “high test” and renew their classic policies so that they can flex their own muscles by cruisin’ down the Avenue like it was 1976 all over again. Then again, with “regular” approaching three dollars per gallon once again and a ’69 Road Runner that gets 8 miles to the gallon, insuring that Honda 750 is looking wiser by the minute!

But don’t sell this winter short or empty the tank in snow blower the just yet. I have been speaking to many of our agency clients in the northeast who are still bracing for auto claims as they are expecting another ice storm to blanket their area over the next couple of days, so insuring those Harleys lined up outside the diners, or those sailors who are dreaming of seafaring along the beach may just have to wait a couple of more weeks.

So as an agency who is obviously looking to round out your book of business, what steps have you taken to ensure that your insureds are covered for all of their seasonal needs? For instance, spring has a unique set of risks that are inherent to this time of year, such as boat insurance, classic car insurance, motorcycle coverage, and items of that nature.

We all know that some direct carriers will now be advertising their expertise in these types of risks, along with their claim of the lowest rates in town. However, are they truly offering what is adequate for the insured as you would?

Our suggestion during this time of year, is to take a few moments to re-evaluate your entire book of business, along with your prospect list, and see what opportunities are out there for you and your agency to take advantage of.

If you are using EZLynx Management System, this process is as simple as running the “Cross Sell List” report, to see exactly which of your clients have what policies…and what their needs might be that you can respond to.

If you don’t have our policy management system, please give us a call and we will be happy to speak with you to see if this is something that might be a fit for you and your organization.

Until then…Happy Spring!