In the last decade the direct insurance writers have really upped the pressure on the independents. Everywhere you look (internet, television, billboards, you name it) stands a mascot promising better rates or parading some new gadget or phone app.
For many of the carriers their goal is to shift the insurance consumer’s focus away from personal service and guide it toward price. By changing the way people perceive insurance (as a commodity rather than a service) they can leverage their marketing budgets to encourage consumers to save with them over a competitor.
In response we’ve seen independent agents go in one of two ways. Either seek to further differentiate themselves from the direct carriers, or choose to take them on toe-to-toe. Which leaves us to wonder…
Does your independent insurance agency have an identity crisis?
If you run an independent agency chances are you don’t have a lizard, caveman, or lady named Flo on your payroll. But you do have real-life people working closely with clients on a day-to-day basis. And you probably don’t always have the lowest rates. But you do offer the guidance and advice to ensure clients have the ideal coverage for their needs.
The bottom line is that, as an agent, you should be highlighting ways in which you differ from the big guys, not the things you have in common. Don’t echo their taglines, but distance yourself from them.
Price vs Relationship
Perhaps the most common blunder we see from independent agents is making price the focus of their brand and messaging. Not to say that rates aren’t important –they certainly are– but discounts are the hallmark of the big guys, not independents. Consider instead leading with your strengths (service, personalization, relationships). This message will separate you from the pack and attract better fitting clients.
Focus on People – Not Rates
Visit direct insurance carriers online and you’re likely to see mentions of low insurance premiums at every turn. This is their angle. Their forte. Their pièce de résistance.
Let’s examine briefly the websites of two insurance mammoths. Smack-dab on the landing page GEICO manages to reference price in nearly half the words describing its product. And Esurance goes straight for the jugular by requesting a quote “to see how much you could save.” There is no mention of personal service or a relationship at all. Instead are words like “save,” “money,” “quote,” & “discount.”
Unfortunately we’ve seen many independent agencies take a similar approach. They put together a (less-intricate) website and splatter references to low rates all over the homepage. The problem is, prospects searching for low-rates are likely to choose one of the fancy-schmancy direct carriers with the million-dollar websites.
I’ll be frank. As an independent agent forget all that hoopla and get in touch with your inner-self. Spotlight your strengths and use words like “service,” “reputation,” “stability,” “relationships,” & “unique needs”. This is what resonates with your ideal client and separates you from the direct carriers. Check out the snippet below from an agency that got it right.
It’s all about how you communicate
Clients of direct carriers don’t expect much other than discounts, claims to be handled effectively, and maybe a cool smartphone app. They don’t need a personal relationship with an agent. Heck, they don’t even have an agent. They’ve got a 1 800 number. Therefore, carriers can get away with nothing outside the occasional automated email.
Independent agents, on the other hand, have a service to maintain. Regular and meaningful communication is a key differentiator used to maintain personal relationships with their clients. Without this contact the relationship with an agent feels much like that of a direct carrier. In fact, lack of quality contact with clients is the number-one reason for turnover for an insurance agency. Reactive communication leads to the following feedback:
“I’ve never heard from anyone after first signing up. I’m now looking around for better insurance and an agent that treats me as a person not just a piece of paper.”
Independent agents can prevent this by proactively reaching out to clients throughout the year. This can include phone calls, personal emails, check-ups, surveys, handwritten cards (loyalty, birthday, holiday), newsletters, etc. Clients expect this and it goes a long way to keep those clients you’ve worked so hard to acquire.
“You know that you are important to the company by the written and verbal communication that occurs periodically throughout the year.”