A few years ago Agency Consulting Group, Inc. visited an agent who boasted about continuous strong advertising and marketing efforts but bemoaned the lack of growth in his agency. Our consultants asked the Agency for the marketing layout and the results. His “continuous strong marketing and advertising efforts” consisted of a full one page ad in the Yellow Pages.
Agency Consulting Group, Inc. began to assist him to create a true marketing campaign; the campaign was designed to spread the advertising over several media types with effective methods to gain a higher visibility among the prospects and to drive more of client to the agency as the preferred insurance professional to handle their asset protection needs.
Whenever Agency Consulting Group, Inc visits an agency, we ask for a record of new business, proposals and prospects over a multi-year period. Two issues are being judged: the effectiveness of the agency’s sales and marketing programs and if agents are even aware of their successes and failures.
The agent only realized that he was having problems when his overall commission income dropped below what he remembered having in the prior year. It was getting worse, so he called on Agency Consulting Group to remedy his problem. He immediately assumed that his new business was down and that the cause was market related because of the declining economy in his area. He had no idea of the effect of changing rates, his own retention rate of clients and the secondary effects of changing rates, his own retention rate of clients or the secondary effect of rewriting business to maximize client savings.
But “gut feel” is sometimes intuitive. We measured his retention rate and found it to be over 95% with only five or ten rewrites each month. The agent was right. His marketing method, attracting new residents to the area, was having substantially diminished results. He needed a new way to attract prospects for his products and services through advertising and implementation of a marketing campaign that would yield new prospects and clients for his agency.
We began by identifying the number of total households in his geographic marketing area – his demographic prospect base. Then we determined how many clients he already had insured to determine the agency’s current penetration level. This is critically important. Even if the client numbers are relatively low, you do not know how successful you have become unless you have a frame of reference.
Once the agency baseline and total insurable population was determined, we began designing a specific combination of internet, media and targeted marketing methods that would sequentially present the agency and its message to the residents of the local area. We chose a sequential approach instead of a simultaneous approach in order to measure the activity and results of each method. Measurement of the results is as important a key to success as making the sale.
A marketing campaign was proposed that included media advertising for name and image recognition, bill boarding to get the agency’s message and motives to the target population, internet presence to permit the computer literate younger people to inquire at their leisure and targeted marketing to chosen local communities consisting of homogeneous and relatively affluent residents. A local advertising agency was solicited on behalf of the client to schedule and budget the entire campaign. Before the first dollar was spent and the first advertising performed, we knew, as did the agent, the targeted goals of the program, the cost and expected return, the monthly benchmarks that would gauge the agency’s success and the MSL (Minimum Success Level) below which the program would be considered unsuccessful and therefore be terminated. The advertising agency was able to ‘fine tune’ the components of the program to yield the best results based on the sequential presentation and both the activity of each segment.
A marketing campaign is much like a behavior modification diet to an overweight person. It must be life-changing and continuous or it will eventually fail causing all of the lost weight to be regained (something that many of us Yo-Yo Dieters’ recognize after dozens of years of weight loss and weight gain).
Every agency has its own set of unique strengths and weaknesses. An advertising and marketing program must be tailored to the strengths and away from the weaknesses of the agency and of the agent. Each agency will find a set of advertising and marketing programs that will work to present the agency with more opportunities to grow its customer base. Changing economy (insurance and/or general) will require changing advertising and marketing methods. Only effective record-keeping will permit you to know when you’ve found the right formula for success – and when that formula no longer works and must be refined and revised.
“Begin with the End in Mind” (effectively stolen from Steven Covey). Don’t start any advertising campaign to simply stir up activity. It will drain your pocketbook and leave you hungry. Have a short term (one year) and long term (three to five year) goal that qualifies through the ROAM (Realistic, Objective, Achievable, and Measureable) test. No, you can’t grow in an unlimited way and get more people as you need them. You are limited by your current staff (how many calls can you take every day?), by your production capabilities (what would you do if you had 50 prospects contact you tomorrow asking for a visit within the next week?) by your markets, (what would you do with hundreds of homeowners asking for insurance if you are on the Coast and are not invited to write homeowners by your current carriers?) and even by your own personal capabilities. Structure your growth path in a comfortable way that “fits” your personality and your organization.
Don’t begin a marketing campaign until you know your own statistics and demographics.
Don’t let anyone (including your ad agency) convince you to do multiple advertising methods until you have tested each in a logical sequence to determine how effective each method is alone.
Keep score of the activity related to the programs you implement as well as the results. This means that you must count the responses as well as the sales calls, proposals and sales. Keep a budget of costs and results that will be your bible for future marketing efforts.
Finally, once you find the formula that brings you the right number of prospects and clients, keep advertising, extend the marketing efforts and realize that the tide will continue to change. You will find that you must alter your methods to meet the current conditions in order to keep your marketing efforts successful.