The Resilience of Independent Insurance Agents

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“The Independent Agency System continues to grow and adapt despite challenges of the last couple of years.” This is a recent quote from Bob Rusbuldt, Big “I” president & CEO. Direct evidence of this would be the increase of almost 4,000 new agencies during the pandemic. “Business conditions will continue to be favorable,” Rusbuldt continues. Proof of this can be found in the 2022 Agency Universe Study. They report that 62% of agencies saw increases in total revenue between 2020 and 2021, although lower than 70% in 2020. More than 1 in 5 independent insurance agents reported the pandemic has affected their operations and revenue.

We’re amidst tough times. There isn’t a magic ball to see the future. So how can independent insurance agents focused on small businesses strengthen their market position? This blog post will address some of the biggest issues facing agents and agencies.

The War on Talent

Our industry continues to struggle with a rapidly aging workforce. Nearly 400,000 employees are expected to retire from the insurance industry over the next few years according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Those outside the industry are unaware or misinformed about insurance as a career. Do you feel the public views of insurance make talking about your profession a showstopper? Consider the reaction you get when you meet someone on a plane or strike up a conversation at the grocery store. Is it general apathy or do you get eye rolls, sympathy, or sarcasm? And consider the only thing the average high schooler knows about insurance. That their parents pay for it so they can drive.

Accommodate older workers

Legacy approaches to aging and the workforce need reconsideration. Smart organizations will view age and longevity as an asset. They will shift focus to retaining older workers.

The Duncan Financial Group advises 4 key things to retain older workers:

  • Include flexible work schedules
  • Proactive ergonomic strategies
  • Good health benefits
  • Two-way mentoring opportunities

Millennials Want to Make a Difference

Business insurance companies have so many roles that exist. From underwriting to claims, legal, finance, sales, and marketing. There are endless opportunities from a growth standpoint. Millennials seek meaningful, purpose-driven work. Why not focus on telling better stories about these endless possibilities?

Find ways to let them know how working in insurance helps companies protect what they value. Answer the next generation’s question on what you do for a living with stories about affecting change for your small business customers. Millennials want to make a difference with their career choices. We should be leaning into this idea with our local colleges and universities. “Make it part of the recruitment playbook,” cites Diane Delaney, Executive Director at PRMA.

Mastering Marketing

Selling your services likely comes as second nature to you. Yet, adapting to an ever-changing marketing environment can be daunting. As a business insurance broker, you face increased competition from online insurance companies. Budget or bandwidth limitations can keep you from creating a sound, online presence. It’s not quite enough to have a website and business listing anymore. Enter digital marketing. Social media, online advertising, and email campaigns will improve prospect and customer trust, not to mention your ROI.

Social Media Marketing

The whole purpose of digital marketing is to make sure you are where your customers are. With over 270 million active social media users, finding most of your customers on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram or Twitter should be easy. It’s the place to start conversations about your agency and build customer loyalty. Learn about your potential customers’ interests to better engage in their conversations, too. The best approach here is to be personal, educational, and engaging with your content. Check out these Social Media Marketing Ideas for Insurance Agents and don’t be intimidated. Get started!

Advertising for Awareness

Advertising typically creates awareness for your company, products, and services. It could include radio ads, print ads, and online ads. Public relations (PR) is another important aspect of advertising. PR promotes your brand and builds customer relationships. This can lead to positive media coverage. Contact local media outlets and offer expert commentary on developing or seasonal stories. Where can you be a guiding light with the knowledge you have? Handling claims after natural disasters. Managing cash flow during the lean months of a business cycle. Use these interactions to boost your social media channels’ content. Customers love to be educated by those they perceive are likable and trustworthy. Education on how customers can manage during these important cycles when they opt for insurance buying will turn in your favor.

Generate Leads and Get Referrals

Email marketing is the top channel for delivering a consistent ROI. Especially when compared to more expensive solutions. You’ll easily find online email templates to get you started. Don’t be afraid to create some yourself either.

Well-timed emails keep you in touch with your business prospects and customers effectively. Focus on personal over generic email templates to avoid turning people off. Spend time categorizing your email database and selecting small groups to send personalized messages. Incorporate drip marketing as well to increase your sales conversion rates by as much as 50%.

Haven’t dabbled here yet? Let’s explain a few things. Drip marketing is a series of pre-written emails sent out to customers on a planned schedule. They should be educational in nature with strong calls to action. Incorporate drip marketing emails into almost any area of the sales process. Start with the welcome email and continue on through the sale. After-sales-related activities are slam dunks for drip campaign content, too. Nectar Marketplace shares tactics for agents to win at this game if you need inspiration.

Weathering economic uncertainties

Our economy is still on rocky terrain. Many consumers and small business owners are less likely to make insurance purchases. They need to please the cost-benefit side of their brain that insurance is worthwhile.

Depending on the types of small business coverage you’re trying to sell, it could be a tough pitch. Work towards reducing customer uncertainty by emphasizing the benefits of purchasing specific products. Minimize the shifting economy as a deciding factor in customers’ decision-making. Ask prospects about their motivation to consider buying insurance. Take into consideration their attitudes and beliefs around making different types of investments.

In a recent interview with Insurance Business America, the CEO of the National Association of Professional Insurance Agents noted, “Any sort of economic uncertainty is unnerving to business owners and agencies alike. At the same time, this is an opportunity for agents to showcase the strongest part of their value proposition, which is the communication and education of consumers on their insurance.”

Don’t Oversell It

Be careful not to oversell the insurance product. It’s about making sure that the product is the right fit for the client. Then the sale will be from a genuine urge to help the prospect improve their life and/or small business. Take the time to explain the reasoning behind the policy and its premium or rate increases.

Use Technology to Your Advantage

Automate repetitive and time-consuming admin tasks. Do you have a robust CRM or AMS? Now is the time to invest if you haven’t already. Funneling client data into a quality system will free up time and energy to work with your clients more.

Now that you’ve streamlined workflows, layer on additional tools. Consider document management tools for policy data accuracy and risk management. eSignature software will help you close deals faster and improve the client experience.

Tap Into Your Local Community

Yes, networking can feel awkward sometimes. Likely because we’re thinking too much about how to generate new business while there. Change the story. Position it as an excuse to take part in activities you already enjoy.

Find events or groups that interest you. Fundraisers for causes you care about. Workshops for skills you want to learn or meetup groups for your favorite hobby. Informal and authentic connection happens in the darndest of places. Lead with intention and the right business conversations will happen. Whether it be now or down the road.

Invest in Strong Carrier Relationships

Working with carriers fuels your ability to offer clients deep expertise. And let’s not forget about more market options. Coterie Insurance has expertise and coverage options you might not have on your own. Tap into a network of carriers for hard-to-place risks or specialized coverages.

Your Business Health for the Win

It’s impossible to know exactly what the future holds. But the reality is insurance agents are resilient! With a little ingenuity and a lot of grit, they overcome mountainous challenges. Client-side, carrier-side, and back-office technology side. You tackle it all and tend to evolve for the better.

What have you tried to influence business growth for your agency? Tell us your story about what’s working or what you’ll be trying to keep positive momentum in 2023. Learn more about how Coterie Insurance can help fuel your growth in these uncertain times.

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