Super Agent

Posts Tagged ‘brand’

How Prospects “Check You Out”

A recent study by Hinge found the top 4 ways buyers “check out” sellers in today’s crowded marketplace. In the age of the internet, most no longer turn to referrals of references to get a better perspective on the capabilities, resources and expertise an organization has to offer.

So, what are the top methods?

(1)    Website. According to the study, over 80% of buyers evaluate you through your website before turning to any other method.

(2)    Online search. The next most common strategy is utilizing a search engine to look more deeply at your online presence.

(3)    Friends and colleagues. Word of mouth is a powerful tool when you have advocates.

(4)    Social Media. We’re often surprised by how many agencies aren’t utilizing social media tools to help build their brands. Social media plays an important role in establishing yourself as a thought leader and industry influencer.

The study suggests that “in most cases, a buyer can Google [you], check out your website, and explore conversation about your work on social media in less time than it would take to get in touch with a reference you’ve provided…. As buyers increasingly look online for solutions, it is more essential than ever that sellers address their online brand. Social and search are no longer optional.”

Have you been building your brand using strategies of the past? Does your marketing plan rely heavily on referrals? If you’re still considering whether or not to invest in quality website development or in committing to building a social media presence, there is no better time to take the leap than now.

“The key to success is often the ability to adapt.” – Anthony Brandt

Does Your Website Meet Your Prospect’s Expectations?

One of the first opportunities to differentiate comes with your agency’s website, but if yours is like most agency websites it may focus on sharing information about your services, how long you’ve been in business, an easy quoting process, etc. The problem? If a prospect is willing to meet with you, they will do their research on you first. And they expect to find out, not about what makes you great, but about how you can help them achieve their goals and learn more about themselves.

So, how do you know if your website meets the expectations of today’s buyer? Here are Jill Konrath’s top 3 things prospect’s expect to find:

(1) Articles and videos on your site that deal with issues your customers face.

(2) Information on how to make a good decision.

(3) Customer testimonials on video.

If your website uses commoditizing language and doesn’t prompt your prospect to think, “I want to know more…” you’re not effectively positioned to get in the door.

Jill said, think of your website “not as a brochure about how great you are, but as a repository of great information.”

Define Your Expectations

One of the biggest challenges and frustrations facing agency principals today is the failure of producers to perform. Producer sales goals aren’t being met, pipelines are weak and renewals are increasingly difficult. Unfortunately, most agencies don’t have an effective process in place to enhance producer performance.

There are a number of important strategies that can be incorporated into an on-boarding process or training program for existing producers, but the first step is to define your expectations.

If you’re focusing only on the revenue, you’re not setting your producers up for success. If other, more fundamental expectations are insisted on, then revenues will most likely be met. So, what expectations should you communicate to your team?

- Adhere to a sales/agency culture. Without a doubt, producers who are the most destructive to agencies are the ones who erode the agency brand. Failure to communicate the agency’s value proposition and follow the sales process can lead to decreased differentiation and confusion in the marketplace.

- Work only with right-fit clients that the agency has the capabilities to service effectively and consistently. Producers that use resources on deals that aren’t likely going to close or are a poor fit threaten the foundation of their agency.

- Develop and execute action plans to reach objectives and grow professionally. Producers who are expected to include performance activities on their calendars such as phone calls, first appointments, messaging campaigns, and networking opportunities are more likely to perform well.

“Our environment, the world in which we live and work, is a mirror of our expectations.” – Earl Nightingale

 

Why Should A Prospect Engage with You?

We often encourage the agencies we work with to ask this question: Why should a prospect choose to engage with us over our greatest competitor? If your answer sounds the same as the rest of the pack—we have excellent service, access to markets, we’ve been in business for X number of years … then you’re not answering “Why you?”. Instead, you’re playing into the prospect’s belief that insurance is a commodity, and that all agencies are the same.

“When you find yourself in the bake-off,” Corporate Visions explains, “your salespeople’s ability to deliver a highly-differentiated experience becomes even more important.” So maybe your answer is that you help employers reduce the number, cost and duration of employee injuries, or that you help employers to select right-fit carriers that focus on their specific needs. Whatever it is, producers must not only know it, they must also believe in it in order to convey it effectively to prospects.

The answer you come up with is your unique story, so take the time and energy to develop it. But, more importantly, continually assess whether or not everyone in your agency is living it. Management guru Tom Peters said “the development isn’t worth anything without the live.”

It’s one thing to say something once; it’s another to live it every day. How are you living your story? Let us know in the comments!

Are Your Clients Fiercely Loyal?

In an interview on Inc.com, Sarah Robinson, author of Fierce Loyalty: Unlocking the DNA of Wildly Successful Communities talks about why developing a community of loyal clients requires a commitment that goes beyond great service. She says “You’ve got to be willing to listen for and acknowledge the specific needs your customers have, and most importantly, you’ve got to invest in a way to meet those needs.”

Think about what companies or brands you’re loyal to. Are you a die-hard Apple fan who’s first in line at the store for every new iPhone launch? Do you forgo a soda during lunch if the vending machine is stocked with Pepsi products instead of Coke?

Our loyalties to specific brands develop over time and through reinforcing, positive experiences. Customers who are loyal often act as brand ambassadors, and will provide you with honest feedback on what’s working and what you can improve on—both are valuable benefits in today’s crowded marketplace. So, how can you foster fierce loyalty in your clients?

Here are a few questions to ask:

  1. Can you, your producers and other team members clearly articulate who you are, and who you want to be it to?
  2. Does your value proposition or “brand” communicate more about you, or does it focus on outcomes for the client?
  3. Are your producers able to articulate and provide tangible value to prospects and clients?
  4. Are you investing time and resources in meeting the specific needs of your existing accounts rather than focusing solely on winning new accounts?

 

Creating Your Asset Vault

Does your agency have content ready to leverage at each stage of the sales process? According to a recent article on CMO.com from Corporate Visions, you “should grasp [the] opportunity to drive content deeper into the selling process, improving the consistency and quality of selling conversations.” If your messaging content isn’t consistent with or doesn’t augment your process, it may be time to develop or enhance your asset vault. The first step is to assess where you currently stand:

  • How much content is your agency creating?
  • How much of it are you actually using?

  • And of that amount, how much content is in alignment with what you’re looking to achieve?

Whether you’re trying to impact your prospects’ business by reducing the number, cost and duration of injuries, determining the right risk financing mechanism, or bending the health care cost curve, the materials that comprise your asset vault should include valuable information about what it is you are trying to help employers achieve. If it’s not in alignment with your purpose, throw it out. If it is, begin organizing and adding more to your vault so it includes a combination of self-published work, industry publications, and additional thought leadership in the form of webinars, articles, Whitepapers and videos.

Once you have a good mix of content you can use these resources as marketing tools, sales conversation starters around the problems a prospect is facing, or as a way to challenge the status quo in your niche market.

Forbes contributor John Hall gets it right when he says: “Thought leadership doesn’t have to be a mystery. If you do it right, you’ll find it not only gives you more time to do what you do best, but it will also bring more business your way.”

Protecting Your Brand

In a recent article on Property Casualty 360, Laura Toops poses this question: “Does the insurance industry even have an inkling about the disconnect between what they do and what they say—and more to the point, do they even care?”

She discusses an incident in which Allstate ran a popular ad campaign after Hurricane Sandy, “complete with sweeping music and square-jawed insurance adjusters tramping resolutely through the rubble on behalf of their customers”. The problem is that the ad featured a couple who, in reality, are very displeased with the settlement offering on their home. Toops talks to brand strategist Tony Wessling about this disconnect, and he stresses the importance of developing a transparent and authentic brand.

He says, “if you apply (brand strategy) to all situations, whether its business decisions or marketing… your message will come out consistent.”

 Many of the branding problems that Toops discusses in this article apply to insurance companies as well as independent agencies. There are often two issues that we see at an agency level that threaten the value and reputation of an agency in the marketplace.

(1)    Agency and carrier goals and objectives aren’t aligned. When working with a third party there must be clear rules around engagement and execution in order to convey goals and objectives to prospects seamlessly. It’s important that both parties are moving away from just providing the lowest premiums and are instead joining together to improve employer outcomes.

(2)    “Lone wolf” agents advance their individual brand that is not in alignment with the agency brand. This can quickly erode the agency brand and decrease credibility and trust. It is vital to be sure that messaging strategies and methods of engagement are consistent and aligned. Agencies often spend money on branding and messaging campaigns to attract right-fit prospects and to differentiate, but they are putting their brand at risk if they do not hold producers accountable to a singular view of success and value.