“Life is about changing; nothing ever stays the same." I think we can all agree that this is a Fact. Although change is hard, this past year has thrown us unimaginable obstacles. In spite of that, we have all risen to the occasion, readjusted, conquered, and forged new paths all while embracing change. So, indulge me in offering a few ideas on what's Fact– what's Fiction and how to embrace even more changes for a better future for you, your employees, and your agency.
Fact or Fiction? Your Life in Numbers
A person with an average life span of 76 will spend:
- One third or about 90,000 hours of their adult life working
- 26 years or 227,800 hours sleeping
- 7 years or 61,320 hours trying to sleep
- 4 years or 35,040 hours eating
- Women will spend 136 days or 3,264 hours getting ready, while men will spend 46 days or 1,104 hours getting ready (I personally think the hours for women are a little understated!)
WOW, this is a Fact. That is a lot of time working, eating, and trying to sleep. It leaves little precious time for family, romance, exercising, socializing, entertainment, travel – well anything other than eat, sleep, and work. Consider the following changes to create a better work/life balance for your employees and your agency.
Pandemic Lessons: Returning to the office can be tough on some employees who have thrived working remotely. It has given them a new lease on home life and work life – a new perspective on life that is not so easily surrendered. Consider the 3-2-2 schedule, a schedule where employees work in the office for three days, work remotely for two days, and then have the weekend off - or some variation of this. This new forward-thinking structure allows employers to create schedules that work around their employees' everyday lives, which has shown to improve job satisfaction, productivity, and attendance. If you have the tools in place for employee accountability and the technology required to do it, it's really something to consider for health, happiness, and work/life balance.
Bet on your Employees! Choose trustworthy people based on their character, competency, and chemistry because of the influence they can have on your customers and other employees. Invest in them. Invest in their craft and insurance knowledge. Conduct personality tests on your employees; you'll be amazed at how accurate they can determine if an employee is in the right position. Tip: If you want your employees to be leaders and you want to learn how to create a loyal customer base, read Bet on Talent by Dee Ann Turner. She is the retired Vice President of Talent and Sustainability at Chick-fil-a. We all know that Chick-fil-a could efficiently run a small country.
Commit to building staff relationships: Create an environment that treats your network of employees like a valuable think tank. These are the people who know you and know that your heart is in the right place. They know you have their best interests in mind when you approach them. Conversations over criticism wins every time. Come from a place of mentorship instead of a place of dictatorship. This will create not only a loyal employee, but an eager employee who will give you all they have to give.
Fact or Fiction? Big I Arkansas is the Association for large agents.
- Over 43% of our members' Gross Annual Premiums written at their main location are $1,000,000 and below. While we love our large agency members and provide them with countless programs and benefits, our small and rural agents are the lifeblood of Big I Arkansas.
- Out of 117 of the Past Presidents of Big I Arkansas, 21% have hailed from agencies that are located in small and rural towns.
- We are the only Association that has a full-time Lobbyist at the Capital everyday protecting all of your agencies, your livelihood - regardless of size.
- We pride ourselves on small town values and grand ideas.
- We have crafted our Professional Development Program to make it easy to work towards your education without leaving the office. It's hard to be out of the office when there are a limited number of employees. Over the last two years, we have increased our livestream and webinar offerings by 1,123% making it easier for our small and rural agents to get their continuing education hours and stay current – because as we all know, Insurance is one of those things we can always count on changing.
So the answer to this one is Fiction and I'll go so far as calling it an urban legend that has evolved over years and years of misinformation. Our core Mission and Values remain to serve the needs and be an advocate for all independent insurance agencies in Arkansas (no matter the size.)
The solution to this is to decide for yourself. Get involved, join a committee, come to a convention, try one or two of our member-only programs. There is no question in my mind that if you believe this to be a fact, you will change your mind!
Fact or Fiction? Investing in new technology for my agency will cost a fortune!
Not every time, so I'm calling this Fiction.
Consider this change that could cost you zero dollars upfront. Think about installing a Voice Over Internet Protocol system, (VoIP). This is an easy-to-use cloud-based communication platform that helps employees to be more productive and collaborative. It can include a full-featured phone system combined with chat, web/video conferencing, file syncing, and sharing and backup capabilities. The difference is that VoIP phone service provides flexibility and mobility that is not possible with traditional telephones. This technology allows anyone to use Voice over IP from anywhere via their laptops, desktops, or smart devices. Many companies give you the phone system for free for a nominal fee per user. So, just a small per-user fee and the cost of internet service (which you already have) and you get brand-new cutting-edge technology that doesn't cost a fortune.
Fact or Fiction (and this one is just for fun): Swimming right after eating is dangerous.
You know the deal - wait at least 30 minutes after eating before jumping into the pool, or else your digestive tract will use up the blood that should be going to your arms and legs, and you could drown.
The answer is Fiction. This is nonsense! According to several medical journals, “the body does supply extra blood to aid in digestion, but not enough blood to keep your arm and leg muscles from properly functioning." So, you can have your cake and swim too!
Embrace the changes! We can do it because WE ARE INDEPENDENT!
If you would like to hear more information or want to share your personal experiences about embracing change, pandemic stories, betting on your employees, and improving technology on a budget, please reach out to any of us at Big I Arkansas. We are here for you! 501-221-BIGI.
Agency Errors & Omissions coverage is the most important insurance policy an agency purchases. Having the right E&O coverage and ensuring best practices are followed to prevent E&O claims is so important.
Allegations are made against insurance agents all of the time. An allegation is defined as an assertion made by a party that must be proved and supported with evidence. It is important to remember that until each statement is proved, it is only an allegation.
Some Common Allegations Against Agents
- Neglecting to obtain appropriate coverage and/or adequate limits
- Failure to advise of policy coverage gaps
- Deficient determination of incorrect property values
- Failing to advise about coinsurance penalties
- Misrepresentation of coverage
- Inadequate claims handling, causing carrier denial
- Breach of fiduciary duty
- Exceeding binding authority or binding an unacceptable risk (Carrier claim against agent)
- Failure to properly handle coverage for additional insureds and certificate holders
- Holding themselves out as an expert or risk management specialist
- Failing to explain audit provisions in policies
According to data from Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America and an attorney survey of E&O, from SwissRe (Westport), the following are some of the common errors they see the most:
Common Errors Attorneys See When Defending Agents
- Attempts to negotiate with the carrier on behalf of the customer after the denial of a claim
- Failing to document coverage discussions with the customer
- Not delivering the policy to the customer in a timely manner
- Failing to document telephone conversations with customers
- Failing to follow steps outlined in the agency's procedures manual
- Not responding to customers inquiries in a timely manner
- Not reviewing coverage forms thoroughly when changing carriers
- Making coverage determination on behalf of the carrier
- Failing to discuss updating coverage as their customer grows
- Not getting signed applications from their customers
- Holding yourself to be an expert or risk manager when you are not
- Lack of knowledge of the product they are selling
- Overstating or misrepresenting the products coverage
What is exposing your agency? Insurance agents spend their careers managing the risks and exposures of their clients, yet they often neglect their own risk management needs. Agents are often sought out as experts in risk management and reducing exposures, but they aren't safe from risk themselves. Even with careful planning and management, insurance agencies are still subject to a number of Errors & Omissions exposures.
Activities Exposing Your Agency to an E&O Claim
- Having agency procedures in place that are not adhered to by all agency staff (or not having procedures in place at all)
- Insufficient knowledge of the products being offered
- Neglecting to recommend additional coverages or increased limits
- Failing to document the customers declination of coverages or limits
- Issuing binders outside of the binding authority of the agency
- Making depictions about the adequacy of coverage – “fully covered"
- Having the customer sign a blank application or signing the customer's name
How would you feel if one of your customers files was projected on the big screen in a court room? Would it provide answers to Who, What, When, Where, and How? File documentation is one of the most important things you can do. ALL employees should follow documentation practices for ALL customers, ALL of the time. How often are your files reviewed for verification?
Each file should include all communications with the customer including in-person discussions, phone calls, faxes, texts, emails and mailed documents. Discussions regarding coverages and exclusions should be documented and all applications should be signed and dated; forms should be obtained acknowledging declinations of coverage. Coverage checklists should be utilized as a form of solid documentation. Whether you are a new producer/CSR or long-time agency owner, using a coverage checklist will ensure you are offering broader coverage options. A form letter should be included with the delivery of the policy, stating that all policies have conditions and exclusions which affect coverages and that it's the insured's responsibility to read the policy in full. All endorsements should have an activity log identifying either the insured's request or carrier's requirement. Documenting all interactions with customers and carriers as well as every insurance transaction can be critical in defending an E&O claim. Without time-stamped documentation, an agency will be left with little more than its employee's memories of conversations that may have taken place long ago.
Don't fall into the trap of only offering the coverages the customer thinks they need. You may not have a legal duty to offer additional coverages but if you are trying to grow, it certainly makes sense. If the customer declines additional coverage, you will have documented that you offered it and that it was declined.
Does an Insurance Agent Have a Duty To Advise?
In Arkansas alone, the answer is Yes, if Special Relationship Exists. Although courts throughout the country have not produced a consistent test for determining the presence of a special relationship between an agent and their customer, courts are frequently finding the presence of a special relationship when:
- The insurance agent misrepresents the nature of the coverage being provided
- When the agent intentionally takes on the role of selecting the proper coverage for the customer
- When the agent gives the customer advice related to the type of coverage that is being offered
- When the agent holds himself out as an expert
- When the agent and customer have a well-established relationship
- When the customer paid the agent for the agent's advice
Other very important procedures to consider, in order to prevent E&O claims:
- Add a Privacy Notice on your agency website
- Maintain a policy expiration list
- Notify customers of a change in a carrier's rating
- Use coverage checklists for every policy
- Use Disclaimers for voicemail, email, fax, agency website, proposals and social media outlets
Many of these resources are available under the E&O Risk Management
area of the IIABA National website which is an excellent benefit of membership.
Lastly, as an insurance professional, you want to ensure that your clients have the right coverage, but it's also important for you and your agency to be protected as well. Just like any other form of insurance, not all Errors & Omission policies are the same. Understanding what your policy will and will not cover is essential. Some items to keep in mind when securing the right coverage are (a) Limit and deductible options available, (b) Strength and financial stability of the carrier, and (c) Are defense costs outside the limit.
Ultimately, your Errors & Omissions Insurance policy should provide coverage that best matches the products and services you offer and the size of your book of business.
Please feel free to contact me
to review your current policy or if you would like a quote with one of the top E&O carriers in the Nation.
Big I Arkansas is offering an online E&O Risk Management webinar on June 15 that can give Big I members that are E&O Policyholders a 10% credit on their policy by sending the required number of staff members to attend the course. Sign up today!
Have you ever heard the saying, “You'll never get a second chance to make a first impression?" That's right, a decision is usually made within the first ten seconds. Two deep breaths, time to say a quick hello … just a few ticks away!
I have always been big on perception. How others see me, and how I see others. After years of sales experience, first impressions can tell me a lot about a person when I meet them for the first time. It is also important to know how that person perceives me.
I want to make this person like me from the first time they see me. I know the 10 second rule applies to me too. So, what's my first step?
Proper dress. I try to dress like my prospect would dress. A neat appearance is very important: neatly groomed, clean shoes, and soft colored clothing. In John Molloy's book, Dress for Success, he writes that whites, blues, and greys are safe colors to wear.
Another way to make a good dress impression is a clean car. A clean car goes a long way when taking a prospect to lunch and not worrying about the McDonalds sacks in the back floorboard or the mud on the passenger's side. Clean cars can make a difference in making a sale.
Attitude can be a difference maker in perception. A good attitude can start with how you begin your morning.
I am an early riser. I'm up by 5 a.m. with my first cup of coffee, in my favorite chair, writing in my daily journal. Most mornings I write out my thoughts as I feel them or experienced them the day or weeks before.
Here's what I ask myself most mornings. What am I going to do with the opportunity God gives me today? I want to make the most out of the opportunity by surrounding myself with people who are positive.
Don't worry about next week's potential problems. Give today everything I've got. I want to hit a home run today. All the way out of the ballpark! I can now head out the door with a purpose.
These habits make the rest of my day go well. Of course, I have bad days too. But I wonder sometimes how my attitude would be if I did not have a morning routine that I enjoy and embrace.
Staying Positive in the Workplace
- Surround yourself with positive messages.
- You become what you see and read. Read books that will lift you up.
- Look for the good in every person and every situation.
- Have fun! It's okay to laugh.
- Use positive statements. Tell others what you can do rather than what you can't do.
- Every person you meet wants to feel important- using someone's first name accomplishes this.
- Make an effort to compliment someone every day. It could make a positive difference in their attitude that day.
You must have a full dose of it. When we first moved to Arkansas, I told my boys once they entered the insurance business, to always stay alert, look for ethical ways to serve the business, and don't mess up! Without ethics and integrity there would be less of a chance of making it to the top.
There must be no wavering, even when it hurts. Your character and reputation is very important.
Here are some important tips for good market conduct:
- Obey insurance laws and regulations.
- Keep client information confidential.
- Show loyalty to your company. Never talk bad about another company.
- Be polite and courteous with everyone, all of the time.
- Set an example for others around you, all day, and every day.
I am a firm believer in mentors. Mentors are people you can bounce ideas off of. They can also serve as ethic checks. I have several mentors that keep me in check. If I have a possible ethics situation that needs to be addressed, I know the right mentor to reach out to. If it's a business decision, I have those mentors too.
Sometimes we work like a clock that runs on batteries. The batteries will eventually run out of what is needed to keep the clock on time. A good mentor charges your batteries and sets your timing again.
If you don't have a mentor, I recommend that you reach out to one. It could make a big difference.
If you were to ask which benefit available to Big I members I feel isn't taken advantage of enough, I would 10 out of 10 times say access to the Trusted Choice co-branding opportunity and everything that comes along with it.
Let's talk about branding. You know, name brands. Products and services we are all familiar with based on logos, our feelings about a specific product, an experience, or maybe a spokesperson or slogan. I read a quote recently that said, “branding is a reason to choose" and this could not be more accurate.
Can you keep a secret? Before learning about the independent agency system, I had … wait for it … auto and home insurance with a captive agent. I know, I know – how could I have been so unaware of all of the better other options out there? The answer – branding. I was familiar with other insurance brands because they were insurance for me. Let's do a little exercise: think about all of the insurance “brands" out there – what comes to your mind when you think of their brand? Probably a guy named Jake in khakis? A gecko? The phrase 15 minutes could save you? Mayhem? Am I right? That is called consistent branding and it works. Branding is so very important for every business, and independent insurance agencies are no exception.
As a member of Big I Arkansas, your agency is a member of the mothership, Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America (IIABA), which means you have at your disposal one of the most powerful branding tools available to independent Insurance agents. That tool is Trusted Choice®. Trusted Choice® is the national marketing brand created exclusively for Big I members to help consumers understand the value that an independent agent offers. This brand was designed to highlight the strengths of independent insurance agents: Choice, Customization, and Advocacy.
In 2020, Trusted Choice reached 100 million consumers, had 20,000 agents utilizing their resources, had 2,000 pieces of content shared monthly, and had 2,500+ agencies co-branding with the Trusted Choice logo. These numbers show the power of the Trusted Choice brand.
So, there's Trusted Choice and TrustedChoice.com – the TrustedChoice.com website was created for independent insurance agents AND shoppers to help them connect with exactly what they need, insurance solutions. You have access to materials that will benefit your agency, provide you with consumer leads, and enhance your online presence. So, why aren't more agencies taking advantage of this?
Well, you probably want to know how Trusted Choice can help your agency? We thought you'd never ask! Trusted Choice helps by educating consumers on the value of independent agents, providing your agency with marketing resources to connect you with consumers, and helping you to be a part of the collective brand. Ahh, there it is….branding. This applies to carriers too - Trusted Choice Carrier Partners that support the brand are demonstrating their commitment to the independent agency system, and their confidence in their agents' unparalleled value.
Let's take a deep dive for a minute and talk about a few ways the Trusted Choice brand and TrustedChoice.com can assist with branding identity and help to amplify your local marketing efforts.
By Helping Enhance Your Digital Presence
Have you ever visited a really bad website? Do you have a really bad website? Do you even have a website? If you answered 'yes' to any of these questions, then it's time to make sure your web presence is working for you effectively – whether that means enhancing an existing website or simply creating one. If you have an OK website that you would like to level up, let Trusted Choice do a comprehensive digital review. They will analyze your current website and social media channels, and give you feedback you can use to make changes that will yourself apart from the rest. In my opinion, a bad website is worse than no website, so make sure that your agency's digital presence is drawing customers in and not running them off.
For agencies who have no current online presence outside of social media, Trusted Choice has partnered with five industry leading web providers that can help your agency build a modern, clean, custom, and lead-capturing website for a fraction of the cost of other web developers. Creating a website is quite the endeavor and there is a lot involved. Leave it to the experts to help with this and pay a minimal fee to have your domain maintained – it is totally worth it to pay the monthly fee to have someone else maintain it. Visit Trusted Choice to get started.
By Aligning Yourself With a Recognizable Brand & Advertising Campaign
Being in the independent insurance world, it is crucial to enhance reach and increase brand awareness. And what better way than aligning with a recognizable brand and advertising campaign? Trusted Choice logos are available for free download for co-branding purposes, for use on your website, on signage at your agency, and any consumer-facing material. Trusted Choice also has a variety of consumer tested, customizable advertising campaigns that are always free, and a way for you to highlight your agency value. You can choose your ad, send in any additional content, and Trusted Choice will take it from there. Are you kidding me right now? I think you should read that again. This is all available to you – for free. Are you taking advantage of this benefit?
By Providing You With Content
We can all probably agree that having a social media presence isn't the hard part – maintaining that space and having (good) content is. Even on a personal social media page, unless you are a social media influencer and it's your bread and butter, or you use it as your very own daily diary (we all know those people), it can take several weeks, if not months, for us to have new content to post. An agency Facebook page is no different – sometimes good content is hard to come by. There are only so many times you can poll your audience about their favorite snack before your audience starts to disengage. Trusted Choice has graphics, infographics, videos, and articles to share on social media that are professional and can be filtered by popular topics (specific types of insurance coverage, season of the year, etc.) For ideas on how to implement this content, check out the Trusted Choice monthly Content Calendar.
By Connecting You With Buyers
Are you actively looking for leads and seeking insurance shoppers, or are you cool with your current book and not looking to grow your agency? If you answered yes to the latter, you can go ahead and stop reading now. My guess, however, is that most if not all agencies want (need) good, solid, legit leads. By upgrading to an advantage subscription with TrustedChoice.com, you will be staying ahead of the competition by strengthening your online presence and attracting the right business. TrustedChoice.com attracts insurance shoppers to you by creating search engine optimization (SEO) keyword-rich content on their website. They gather information from insurance shoppers based on their needs and connect them to Trusted Choice agents based on what is in their advantage subscription profile. You take it from there and grow your business and make millions and millions of dollars. Ok, that might be an exaggeration but you get the idea. The possibilities are endless.
Let's recap and circle back to the quote I mentioned earlier – let's give insurance shoppers a reason to choose independent agents. Take advantage of all that is available to you by co-branding with Trusted Choice so that when people think about insurance, they think of you, a Trusted Choice independent agent.
Did I mention the reimbursement money that's available to our members through the Trusted Choice marketing reimbursement program? Shoot me an email for more information about how to get money back from expenses incurred for marketing materials that include the Trusted Choice logo.
There's so much available to our members through Trusted Choice and we want to make sure you are aware so that consumers are aware – of you. And how do we do that? All together now, branding. To find out more information about Trusted Choice visit www.trustedchoice.com.
“Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country." This phrase has stayed with me for a long time. Back in the day this was a familiar quote associated with learning to type on a typewriter. It turns out that this sentence is exactly 70 characters long, which was the entire length of one complete line on a typewriter. Yes, when I was in school, learning to type on a typewriter with accuracy and speed was a goal for anyone wanting to work in an office setting. Fast forward to today where typing or keyboarding is second nature to almost everyone.
In March of 2020, “Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country" came to my mind again as we all struggled to come to terms with a global pandemic. The coronavirus pandemic introduced us to new words and phrases like COVID-19, social distancing, shelter at home, quarantine, and mask mandate. We quickly had to change the way we did many things in order to keep ourselves and others safe. Many companies asked their employees to work from home, while other businesses had to shut down.
We have learned to pivot, be agile, flexible, and think outside of the box. We learned that with technology we can stay in touch with our customers and continue to provide the services needed. People keep asking, “When will things get back to normal?" I doubt that everything will go back to the way it was before 2020; innovation and change are often born out of necessity. Many of the innovative ways that came about in the last year will be here to stay.
What I am certain of, is that individuals and businesses alike will continue to need to purchase insurance to protect their financial assets. I also believe that to best protect their assets, they will need the assistance of professionals like us in the insurance industry. The definition of a professional refers to anyone who earns their living from performing an activity that requires a certain level of education, skill, or training. We in the insurance industry should all be professionals.
What are some qualities of a professional?
Here are a few that immediately come to mind:
Know your stuff.
Please notice I did not say “know everything." Having been in the insurance industry for 40+ years I can say this profession requires a lifetime of learning to stay on top of your game. Make sure to take advantage of all the learning opportunities that your membership with Big I Arkansas offers. We have expanded our pre-licensing courses with both online and classroom versions. Big I Arkansas also invested in additional technology for the ability to provide the CISR and CIC programs in classroom as well as a live-streaming experience. You can find information regarding our education calendar anytime on our website. Additionally, we will be adding several Big I Arkansas CE days with Big I Virtual University live webinars. Our first CE day will be March 29th, and you can register now! And a new feature launching soon is a New Hire Training Plan to assist with onboarding new employees.
In addition to education courses, you can find a wealth of information under the Business Resources & Tools tab on our website including access to Virtual University. You must be signed in to access all of the information available.
Be sure to check out our monthly e-newsletter Education News You Can Use. It is important to remember that learning is a lifelong process. I love this quote from Henry Ford, “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young."
Stand for something.
This is about ethics and having a moral compass. A portion of the Code of Ethics of the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America, Inc. states, “I believe that serving the public as an Independent Insurance Agent is an honorable occupation, affording me a special opportunity to serve society and offer valuable insurance products and services to the public." Believe it, embrace it, and stand behind that thought!
Keep your word.
This is a big one. Your word is your bond and can certainly set you apart. Be honest - say what you mean and mean what you say.
For those of us who have been in the insurance business for some time this may mean taking on mentoring roles and sharing your knowledge with others coming on board. All of us need to remember to be humble. If you have a humble eagerness to learn something from everybody, your learning opportunities will be unlimited.
I am very proud to be a part of the insurance industry and the wonderful professionals that make up the Independent Insurance Agent Association - Big I Arkansas. I would like to revise the original quote as I believe that “Now is the time for all good men and women to come to the aid of their country and their industry."
Many of us are approaching the one-year mark of working from home, and looking back, it's hard to remember a life before COVID-19 – before your children, spouse, or pets became your work-from-home colleagues; before staff meeting attire consisted of a business casual shirt paired with sweatpants; before the phrase “you're on mute" was understood and spoken by virtually everyone over the age of six.
In the early months of 2020, life outside the safety of our homes became almost nonexistent. It became clear that if a business or organization wanted to stay relevant and accessible to their customers, the only way to succeed was to embrace that distance and adapt accordingly. This triggered huge advances in technology, both in how we use it and how often we use it. More than ever, businesses needed digital tools to help them engage with their workforce and their consumers – which brings us to where we are today. A world where our face-to-face interactions have been replaced by email chains and video calls in an effort to maintain our normal lives at a minimum distance of six feet.
Is this the future of our professional lives? As we make plans to return to the office, it's important to consider that “business as usual" may look pretty different in a post-pandemic world. Many employers have realized the financial benefits of a fully remote staff, and they have an abundance of affordable, user-friendly solutions specifically designed to meet their goals. Those that do make their eventual return to the office can utilize technology in a unique way that enhances their business practices. As much as we may like to pretend it was all a bad dream, it's much more productive to reflect on both the struggles and the solutions we faced during the pandemic and use that knowledge to evolve in a world that doesn't just use technology but relies on it.
Technology trends you can expect to find in your post-pandemic world:
One of the major changes we've seen as a result of the pandemic is the way consumers are spending their money. Online shopping and automated customer service has become more prominent in recent years, and that trend has only accelerated in the wake of stay-at-home orders and social distancing. While the insurance industry has a unique need for a personalized customer service experience, that doesn't mean agencies shouldn't embrace the rise in online commerce.
Digital communication channels such as live support chats and contact forms can be used to increase productivity and reduce costs by shifting away from labor-intensive phone calls and in-person visits. Many agencies have adopted eSignature software like DocuSign or HelloSign to create a quicker, more convenient service experience for both the agent and the customer. These days, most consumers expect to be able to research a business and its products online. A website that's informative and user-friendly can be paired with digital tools that increase staff productivity and organization, so you can find your agency's perfect balance of automated customer service with a personalized touch.
Did you know? As a Big “I" member, you have access to a free agency digital marketing review with Trusted Choice! Find out how Trusted Choice can help you improve your online presence.
2. Social Media Presence
It's 2021 – you don't have to be an expert in digital marketing to realize that social media has arguably one of the strongest influences on the public's buying habits. We spend more time online than ever before, and social media is one of the most common ways people get information about a brand and its products. Smart businesses understand that because over 70% of Americans have at least one social media account, it is essential to utilize platforms like Facebook and Instagram to increase exposure and connect with customers. The best part? Its free, and you probably already know how to use it!
Need guidance on boosting your social media presence? Check out the last issue of Inside Look: 3 Content Ideas to Improve Your Agency's Social Media.
3. Virtual Events & Training
In December 2019, around 10 million people across the globe attended a Zoom meeting daily. By April 2020 that number rose to a whopping 300 million virtual meeting attendees each day. That's not counting other prominent virtual conferencing platforms like Microsoft Teams or GoToMeeting. Virtual meetings have changed the way we work, the way we educate our children, the way we earn a college degree, and the way we celebrate holidays with our loved ones. Soon, we'll reunite with co-workers face-to-face and return to discussions without a mute button, but that doesn't mean you should cancel your Zoom subscription just yet. Virtual conferencing can and should find its place in your business's post-pandemic world.
Virtual meetings can still be used to make communication with your customers and associates more efficient going forward. Virtual conferencing subscriptions are incredibly affordable, and some packages even offer a virtual meeting assistant built to listen to your meeting and transcribe it for your records. You can make meetings even more efficient by eliminating travel and using calendar integrations to seamlessly schedule events.
Moving forward, virtual conferencing will continue to play a huge role in your professional development. Even when the rest of the world stopped, your bi-annual CE requirements sure didn't. In the absence of in-person classes, agents and employers across the country turned to online training. Continuing education providers were forced to adapt to this new reality and provide accessible, affordable online education solutions using virtual conferencing software. Professional education and development became easier than ever with the emergence of webinars and on-demand courses. Even as life returns back to normal, we can expect this online education trend to continue. Employers no longer have to pay travel expenses to send employees to class, education providers no longer have the cost of hosting in-person attendees, and employees can still receive the same quality of education from their home or office.
Have you heard? Big I Arkansas now offers a wide variety of online education options for your continuing education and designation requirements!
In today’s world social media is everywhere, both in our personal lives and our professional lives as well. As a consumer, it's an easy way to learn more about a business without even interacting with them. And honestly, if a company ISN’T on social media these days, aren’t you a little concerned? But with the speed and intensity of the world’s digital transformation, have you ever wondered if your agency is actually utilizing social media to its greatest potential?
A simple way to optimize your agency’s social media strategy is the 80/20 rule. This term is used in marketing and public relations, and it helps to guide content creators in the right direction. It simply means that looking at your brand’s social media presence as a whole, 80% of your content should be community focused, while only 20% of your content should be focused on actually selling your product.
Now I know what you’re thinking, “Only 20%, how will my clients ever know what to buy?” While it may seem counterproductive, this percentage has proven to be effective. In today’s culture, people are consumed with products and sales. They see a multitude of ads with every swipe of the thumb. But what recent generations have shown us is that relationships, knowledge, and loyalty are becoming more valuable than ever. And this is even more true in the Insurance Industry. Today’s clients want to learn and understand the agencies they do business with, and in turn they want to feel truly understood by their agencies as well.
And this concept is possibly the most relevant in the world of social media. Clients don’t want to be sold, they want to be known. So by instituting the 80/20 rule, agencies are able to cultivate a two-way community that provides value for their client’s needs, rather than forcing them things they don’t actually want.
But simply cutting down on posting about your agency's products won’t fix the problem. You need to transform the way that you communicate with your followers. So here are three quick content types that will help you to increase your online community.
A simple way to connect with your audience is to teach them something! And the most effective method for doing this is to frame it in a way that solves a problem. Share your tricks of the trade that will help your followers save time, money, or effort. You can even showcase interesting facts about the insurance industry, or answer frequently asked questions in an exciting way. Educational types of content provide major value to your audience, which validates their reason for following you. This causes them to gain interest, trust, and loyalty in your agency. And eventually, a loyal follower will turn into a loyal client.
A big part of social media is starting a conversation. Easily engage with your readers by compelling them to add their part to your story. Today’s generations are showing us that now more than ever, they want their voices to be heard. To do this, create posts that pose a question and ask for answers, or showcase a popular person in your industry/community. Member shoutouts and personal stories will always stand out more to your audience than products, because people truly care about people. It’s in our nature. But don’t fight it, embrace it!
How do you connect with a new person that you meet? You tell them about yourself. So how do you connect with your online audience? You tell them about yourself! Agencies are often surprised with how much their clients want to know about them. But think about this, if your favorite celebrity shared a video about their everyday life, wouldn’t you want to watch it? This is because we want to feel like we are more than just their follower; we are their friend. And you can easily translate this concept into your agency. Start by sharing your foundation, history, and mission. Next, showcase your staff and share their path in the company and in their everyday life. Finally, find ways to express how your ageceny’s values are embodied into everything you do. The more a client understands about who you are as an agency, the more they will understand why they want to be a part of it.
Social media is exciting and ever changing, but at its roots it is a way for people to connect with one another. And for your agency to succeed in this online community, you must contribute to the conversation instead of just saying the things you want it to hear. Take the first step by implementing Educating, Engaging, and Understanding Content, and see where it can take you.
Has your agency tested out the 80/20 rule? Let us know!
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