How to Leverage the Advantages of being an Independent Agent

Many independent insurance agents feel the tremendous pressure from the behemoth directs, captives, and high volume shops that tend to dominate the airwaves and the search results. While there is certainly reason to be concerned about the impact these companies have on the smaller independent agents, there is also much to be optimistic about.

While directs, captives, and high volume shops have advantages in terms of the online experience they can offer and the marketing dollars at their disposal, they all suffer from the same glaring disadvantages as well. To put it broadly, they will never have these key competitive advantages that define the independent agent. EZLynx, for our part, strives to provide tools and services that only serve to maximize those advantages and minimize the disadvantages. Here are some tips to help your agency thrive

1. Continue to provide a personalized experience

National brands are forced to provide a compelling online experience to counteract the fact that they cannot provide the personalized, hands-on service that a local independent insurance agent can provide. Continue to make yourself known as a trusted agent in your community.

EZLynx is continuously enhancing our suite of consumer-facing solutions to help you even the online playing field with these national brands. We provide personalized website services, integrated consumer quoting, and a customer self-servicing portal.

2. Adopt local search for your website

The cornerstone of a successful local marketing strategy requires effective search engine optimization (SEO). Establish a solid local SEO strategy. It’s important to realize that an independent agent cannot compete nationwide against large insurance comparison websites or carrier websites for broad search phrases like “auto insurance”, but they’ll always have an advantage at the local level, e.g. “auto insurance agents near Dallas, TX”.

With the Gold-level of EZLynx Agency Websites, we’ll take care of some of the local SEO best practices for your agency. We’ll also hold ourselves accountable by providing you with quarterly website performance reports – even if it’s bad news!

3. Grow your network

Network with other local businesses, such as attorneys, accountants and other business professionals. Send them referrals, and hopefully they’ll do the same. Local businesses in your city likely host networking events. Attend as many as possible, and bring your memorable print collateral with you to hand out.

4. Increase yearly touches

Utilize communication solutions such as email marketing to help with your agency’s retention. The more yearly touches, the better chances you’ll keep a customer for life. We all know it’s cheaper to retain a customer than to acquire a new customer, but we rarely take the steps necessary to achieve a high retention rate.

Check in from time to time to see if they are happy with their current coverages, send happy birthday emails, weather alerts, or periodic emails with tips and community updates.  Just be sure you don’t go overboard – no one likes spam. EZLynx Email Campaigns, part of our Communication Center bundle, is a great way to handle sending all of these kinds of emails directly from EZLynx.  We have exciting plans for enhancing this tool throughout the year.

If you’re ready to take your retention efforts to the next level, ask your sales rep about EZLynx Retention Center. This retention workflow management tool and consulting service simplifies the tedious task of working through your renewals for the day, ensuring each customer is touched throughout the process. This is the time when you are at most risk of losing the customer, so you cannot afford to hold your breath and just hope they renew.

5. Embrace in new technology

Bring your agency up-to-date with a complete customer lifecycle solution like EZLynx, which includes a feature-rich agency management system, comparative rater, agency website, marketing & communication tools, service tools, and more. While we certainly think we provide the best set of solutions, regardless of which tools you use, you cannot afford to put your head in the sand when it comes to new technology and the advantages it brings.

6. Focus on streamlining your agency’s process

The sales process involves a lot of back and forth communication.  Prospects are often worked on by multiple users in your agency, so it’s all too easy for tasks to be duplicated and communication to be repeated. It’s important that you have a well-defined process for working new leads and processing them through the sales pipeline. Make sure you have the tools to help those in your agency collaborate and stay organized.

The Agency Workspace in EZLynx is a great way to keep track of due dates, review notifications, and create notes and tasks for any applicant without leaving the page you’re currently working on. This simple feature spans across all parts of EZLynx, giving you easy access no matter what you’re doing.

Later this year we’ll be announcing some exciting updates related to how you manage your sales workflow to help streamline your agency’s process even further!

Putting it all Together

It’s no mistake that by combining the full suite of EZLynx products and services, you have essentially minimized the perceived advantages that these national brands have over independent agents.

Learn more about how EZLynx can help your agency be more successful.

EZLynx Agency Websites: Understanding SEO

EZLynx NewsLynx - September 2012SEO has become a buzzword for anyone that is looking to make their website a key component in the success of their business.  And for the insurance industry, a website has quickly become a non-optional element of success, in large part because of the consumer expectations for 24/7 on-demand access to sales and service that has been nurtured in the insurance industry by the likes of Geico, Progressive, Esurance, and others.  Now that this Pandora’s Box has been opened, there is no going back.

If you’d prefer, we have a PDF version of the September NewsLynx available.

Consumer Shopping TrendsDespite the problems the transition to online shopping has created for some businesses, the internet has opened up more ways for a business to reach a potential customer than would ever have been possible with a brick and mortar storefront alone.

Search ResultsThe difficulty of tapping into that online marketplace is in the ongoing time commitment, and independent agents are simply too busy. When you run a quick search and find that perfect match on the first page of the results, there is much that happened behind the scenes that led to those particular sites being listed first.  Specifically, it was the efforts of the search engine in working to understand both the motivations of the searcher and the relevance of the websites in its index.

Understanding why those specific websites came up first, and figuring out how to have your site be among those chosen few, has sprung up an entire industry devoted to nothing else but to what is called Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

EZLynx understood the need that independent agents had in providing their prospects and customers with a rich online experience in order to remain competitive with the big direct writers, as well as keeping up with consumer online shopping trends in general.

EZLynx Customer ServiceOur consumer quoting and customer service portals were already best suited for being directly embedded on a website, so it was a small step for us to begin offering several agency website options to meet these very specific independent agency needs.

If you’re an independent agent, you have no doubt had to wade through an SEO marketing onslaught.  You will have heard about a hundred different “must do” things in order to have a successful website, all of which sound great in theory. In the doing, however, it becomes much more complicated when you also have an agency to run – that’s where EZLynx can help streamline your agency and increase your online presence.

Actual EZLynx Agency Website DataEZLynx has slowly grown our Agency Website team over the past few years, and our SEO strategy has remained consistent and proven: add value and convenience for the readers of your website.  We do this in ways that would be unrealistic and unsustainable for an agent trying to also handle the general day to day operations of running a small business.  Most notably, we use our insurance industry knowledge to speak the search engine’s language—content.  The search engines don’t see your beautifully designed website; all they see is the text content on your site. More specifically, they seek to determine how relevant your content is and how frequently it is updated.

EZLynx Agency Websites, as part of our Agency Suites, are the perfect agency-in-a-box solution for independent agents, providing websites built using SEO best practices that come with our powerful products fully integrated.

Consumers will experience a seamless experience—from information gathering, live quoting, to on-demand customer service.  For our advanced websites, we take SEO one step further by providing completely unique, relevant, and locally-focused content on a regular basis that feeds the search engines need to provide timely and relevant information to their users.  The online shopper today does their research first, so having a blog that is full of useful, informative, and unique insurance articles will bring in these savvy shoppers that are unwilling to give their business until they have the facts.

EZLynx Website OptimizationWe also work with you as partners, having meetings each quarter to review the overall performance of the website and to brainstorm ideas to continually improve the value of your website for the consumer.

The business of being a Search Engine is to ensure that the search results provided are relevant, timely, and useful.  When the goals of your website are in line with the goals of the search engines, slow and steady wins the race.

For more information on EZLynx Agency Websites, please contact [email protected] or call (877) 932-2382.