ACG - Agency Consulting Group

The PIPELINE

A national monthly newsletter for agency principals dedicated to agency management topic

Incentive Programs

By virtue of your getting this newsletter via e-mail or by “snail-mail” you are participating in the greatest information overload in human history.

1,000,000,000,000,000,000 This is an EXABYTE representing one of the largest measures of bytes of data measured on the internet. In 2008, 5 EXABYTES of data was created and transmitted. This is more data than has been produced in the last 5000 years – - combined. Our little PIPELINE has added a few kilobytes of data to that total.

Most of our clients and readers are kind enough to have named us the most important vehicle for communicating agency management information in the industry. But that doesn’t matter when you are exposed to 5 Exabytes of data. Neither you nor I are capable of absorbing that kind of overload, regardless of value or importance.

So what do we do to gather the information that is important to us personally or from a business standpoint without having to read exabytes of information to determine where the valuable information lays? Many of us simply don’t make that decision at all. Instead, we decide to ignore all of the data and we never get the needed information that will help our business and personal lives.

From the time of the first marketing efforts, we have lived in a “PUSH” environment. In a PUSH environment, suppliers and marketers attempt to push their information into the hands of their potential users. They count on users being incented by the pushed information sufficiently to respond and contact the provider to pursue the product or service. So we have had over a hundred years of advertising and marketing that thrusts information at us, regardless of our wants and needs, in the vain hope that it will pique our interest to buy or try a service or product. When products and services were scarce, when there was more demand than supply and when we had little opportunity to “find” products and services, a PUSH environment was perfect. Your identity and product or service was pushed into a void and many people would see it since there was little other information available to them and respond. The first infomercials (Ronco) sold millions of dollars of “stuff” because no one else was offering attractive and relatively inexpensive “stuff” on television.

FIVE EXABYTES – That kind of information volume renders “PUSH” technology for marketing ineffective. We are simply overwhelmed by so much information, both information of value and useless data, that we can’t differentiate between the quality and useless information. Nor can we even recall the information that has been sent to us that we consider valuable.

On the other side of the formula, as insurance agents, we know that each of us has a valuable set of products and services, and we need people to buy them in order to achieve our goals – earning a living. But what do we do if we agree that “pushing” information to the public no longer works? Information overload has made it impossible for the public to read everything they receive in either public or private forums. Junk mail is discarded without opening. Magazines and newspapers are read and the advertisements seem to disappear on the page. Radio and television commercials are break times for the consumer. TiVo and other DVRs even permit us to fast-forward through inconsequential ads.

The public no longer wants or can absorb PUSH technology and marketing. They want to know where to find information about products and services that they desire, when they desire it, in the formats that are most efficient for the specific buyer. Website technology provides one form of PULL technology and marketing that is maturing to be as easily and readily available as consumers want information.

We must devise a “PULL” technology that presents our material simply and in a straightforward manner to people who are seeking that information.

George Nordhaus, a good friend of mine and the guru of insurance marketing, recently started a web services company, www.AgenciesOnline.biz. Look it up on line. It is of great value. But the point isn’t the value of the idea, it’s the fact that he has evolved a PULL technology that we hope to build upon with more and different ideas.

His website concept for agents provides information for clients and prospects in whatever form suits each person best – in print for the analyst personalities, through audio messages for the sensors and in with videos for the observers. He doesn’t force people to access the website, but if they do they will get the information they desire in the form that best suit them.

Now take George’s concept to its logical conclusion. If you create a series of informational segments, each one short and to the point, in various mediums, you will have a basis upon which to build your marketing efforts. These tools should begin at a basic and simple level for every message you deliver. These informational vignettes should be done in text, audio and video format with the prospect determining which he prefers to access. Each one should provide both a link to immediate contact such as “live chat,” phone or e-mail to reach you with an expression of interest by the inquirer. Each vignette should also link to increasingly detailed explanations of what you do and how you do it that define your products and services. Even a third level of detailed explanations should be available for those who want to be sure they understand your service or product before committing to them. In this way, when a prospect achieves the level of explanation that is adequate for them they can immediately access you to express their interest. The information that we might need or want is posted with an intelligent, intuitive search mechanism to refine the results to only that which could help us in our quest.

If you Google “agency consulting”, Agency Consulting Group, Inc. will likely show up on the first page --- of 500 pages of response. How do you distinguish the real target of your search from thousands of responses? This is another example of information overload. Our readers already know that Agency Consulting Group, Inc. is the answer to pretty much all valuation and merger/acquisition and management, operational and planning consulting needs of any insurance agency, but it has taken more than 30 years to make us that familiar to our market. However, we still encounter agents every day who meet us for the first time. And when we meet those agents, one common question is, “Why didn’t I know about you a few years ago when I desperately needed help?” Have we marketed? Of course! Do we have a website presence? Yes, an immense one. But we were invisible to them even though word of our service was certainly broadcast before they needed us.

We have begun using PULL technology in our own marketing and have suggested it for our vendor friends who provide products and services to the insurance agency marketplace.

We will present short, simple straight-forward statements of services and products for insurance agencies. We will do so visually through video format, audibly through a recording on the site and in writing. We will link each statement to a more in-depth presentation in each format. Each presentation at each level will permit the viewer, listener or reader to call us or link to us by e-mail for immediate response.

We suggest a similar form of Pull Marketing for you, as agents. Start with a list of your products and services in order of popularity, what you already do well enough that you have more clients in those arenas than in others. Develop a short, one paragraph description of each service and product. Create both video and audio versions of each description. Imbed a link into each form of statement that leads the interested prospect to a more detailed description of that product or service in your second-level marketing messages. Then, for the detailed analysts who want to know before exposing themselves to you, create a short but detailed description of each product or service. Each level should provide a quick-link to e-mailing you or to a live-chat function that can operate during business hours.

Live chat is a function that alerts a person in your office when someone asks a question in a form that permits the staff member to respond by return chat with the questioner in a live format. You are writing and “chatting” with each other in real time.

This information stream will give your prospects as little or as much information as they need to convince them that you have the products or services for which they are looking. Now you need to familiarize them with your name sufficiently that they access you when they need you.

8.33% of the population needs insurance products at any given point in time. If you live in a marketing area of 500,000, then about 41,500 people are cognizant of their insurance needs at any point in time. 70% to 80% of this population just takes the renewals that are offered to them or buy from their current provider. That means that 10,000 people are still desirous of getting advice or products. Few go to magazines, newspapers and television scanning to find an insurance provider. These prospects are as frustrated as we because they don’t know where to go to get the advice and products they need. A Google search of “business insurance” just developed 110 MILLION responses. Narrowing the search to Cherry Hill, NJ (where Agency Consulting Group is located) narrowed the responses to just 92,000. At this point most searchers will either look through the first page of the search engine. Search engine placement is needed today just like insurance agency placement in the Yellow Pages was important for the last generation of shoppers. Do you even know where your YP is in your home?

Search engines give you a listing but are too voluminous to permit prospects to determine your quality and differentiation. In order to familiarize your prospects with your presence and your capabilities, you must find the path that your prospects will accept and do it in a form entertaining enough for them to remember you. THE GOAL OF YOUR MARKETING AND ADVERTISING IN A PULL ENVIRONMENT IS TO MAKE THE PROSPECT REMEMBER YOU!! Remember, all the information that they need or want is available to them on your website or, if you do not yet have a strong site presence, in the documentation that they request from you.

Most advertising agencies and marketing companies are generally unfamiliar when it comes to product and service advertising and marketing in the insurance business. They don’t know or understand our products and services and will charge you to educate them so they can reword your thoughts in a way that is attractive and acceptable to the prospects. But they ARE good at image advertising and marketing and don’t need that specialized help and education if their role is to make everyone you are trying to attract familiar with your name and how to get the information they can “pull” from you.

Our recommendation for marketing and advertising is to focus on the prospects that are really in your range. Few of us can insure everything for everyone and even if we could, do you really want to spend the kind of money needed to market to everyone in your geographic marketing range? You, as an individual, as an agency, and your specific carriers of choice have specific market strengths. Concentrate on those prospects and ask us or an advertising group in your area for assistance to market to them.

Don’t market at all if you don’t have the Pull Technology ready for those who desire more information to get it easily and readily. If you need help in creating the Pull Technology or Marketing Programs for your agency, call David Diamond, our Marketing Director, at 800-779-2430.