Successful marketing activities can build a positive brand and reputation in the community and help boost sales for agents by putting them in front of increased numbers of qualified prospects.
Yet, in my work with many agents and branch managers, I’ve experienced a common frustration related to these marketing programs: Managers and agents often feel paralyzed by the variety and complexity of their options.
Luckily, there are very simple ways to strengthen their image in their particular marketplace, establish better connections throughout the community, and spend more time meeting with prospective clients. The key is to partner with a distribution company that will guide and support marketing efforts and help implement the programs that make the most sense for the individual agent.
The right materials help
Some basic materials that all agents should have handy include a background or biography with a photo and an easy-to-review summary of their credentials and community involvement.
A straightforward website presence is also important because prospective clients now look to the web to gain information about any company or person they are considering working with. The website doesn’t have to be fancy, but it should include the same kind of background material as the agent’s paper copy, as well as information on the kinds of products and services provided and a resource section where clients and prospects can find value-added information on financial issues and concerns. Many distribution companies work with agents to help them establish the framework and compliant copy for personal websites. It’s only the initial startup of the site that requires dedicated work from the agent.
See also: What's your Web presence?
Another common frustration for agents is the use of social media. Where should they be? Facebook, Twitter, somewhere else? What kind of information should they be posting? Are they missing out if they don’t do this kind of communication?
The real question an agent should be asking: Is social media an effective way to communicate to my market, to my clientele? Social media may or may not be appropriate based on what you’re trying to achieve and what your clients require for communications and information.
The solution is easy. There are affordable services agents can subscribe to that will automatically send out compliant and agent-branded messages several times a week via Facebook and Twitter. It only takes a little planning and investment on the agent’s part to get it up and running.
Community-based programs work
Beyond websites, brochures, direct mail programs and social media, our branch managers and agents are finding the most effective marketing activities are the ones built around supporting the community and offering educational talks and seminars.
These initiatives help agents establish multiple connections among the people with whom they want to do business. Well-developed, topical sessions are not difficult to implement and are cost effective in that they often aren’t the traditional dinner or lunch seminars requiring food and a fancy location. If the efforts are sincere, done on a regular basis and in front of groups, the community connections can be strengthened and spread, resulting in increased sales and referrals.
Let me offer some examples from our branch office system. Ian Perkins, branch manager in South Florida, supports his agents in conducting educational workshops for CPAs, attorneys, property casualty agents and their clients. He helps agents partner with these professionals to share educational information on topics such as “Safe Money Strategies” and “Retirement Income” for the pre-retiree market and “Retirement Savings Strategies” for the 30- to 50-year-old set.
There are many benefits to this approach. The clients of the agent and the other professionals are provided with a value-added service. The agents meet a group of prospective clients in a professional setting and with the invitation from trusted advisors. The other advisors meet potential clients and are viewed as a great resource.
A more uncommon market Ian is involved with is surety bond companies. These companies guarantee the work of builders, contractors and developers on projects for municipalities or cities will get done even if a worker dies during the job. There is a need for these companies to purchase life insurance on the contractors to ensure the continuity of the building project.
Ian reaches out to the surety bond companies to educate them on our company and its lineup of products and carriers and, in doing so, has secured another market for his agents to work.
Ian also conducts Medicare 101 seminars for people on the cusp of turning 65. Again, the material is educational, not sales-oriented. He helps his agents conduct the seminars at key venues in the community, such as the library, a local university or college, and schools.
The sales often start with helping clients choose a Medicare Supplement plan. But, using a consultative approach and fact-finding process, the agent also uncovers many other financial needs that can be addressed through life insurance, annuities or long-term care insurance. The cross-selling opportunities are great using this approach.
To further the connections of his agents and branch with the community, Ian attends local events, such as senior and health expos. His branch is known at the local hospital among patients, doctors, nurses and staff. He is also an advocate of networking through volunteerism with his team’s active involvement in the Alzheimer’s Association, Relay for Life, and Girls on the Run.
Aamir Chalisa, branch manager in Chicago, is also a proponent of community-based marketing and helping agents get in front of groups of qualified prospects.
His strategy includes implementing multiple educational seminars for different markets. Before the agents become involved in these prospecting opportunities, Aamir works with them to develop their own personal marketing and business plans, which allows them to stay on track and measure effectiveness. He helps them uncover people they know in the community and then puts in place ways to reach out and strengthen these connections. He asks questions about hobbies and interests, charity work, alumni, children and their schools, sports and other activities, as well as religious organizations. The agents focus on their townships, become involved in the Chamber of Commerce, and identify people while matching them to the appropriate educational seminar offerings from the branch.
One agent with Aamir’s organization, Mick Murray, focuses on sharing value-added information about “Social Security Planning” and the “Top 5 Mistakes Retirees Make,” two very popular topics today. He delivers seminars to Lions and Kiwanis Clubs, which are always looking for guest speakers, as well as a local YMCA fitness group comprised of seniors.
Through the Social Security Planning seminar, he offers a free software analysis for people who want to follow up and see the most advantageous Social Security benefit option for them. Keys to success include never peddling product, always being educational, being consistent, and showing a long-term commitment to the community. The connections, sales and referrals come over time.
Partners boost sales
Like Ian, Aamir also believes in working with attorneys to share seminars covering estate planning and retirement planning. Attorneys specializing in estate planning often recommend life insurance to fund trusts, but they generally can’t sell the product. Life insurance agents can. If you have a great relationship with an attorney, together you can share important information to both client bases, cross-sell services, and gain valuable referrals. By working with an attorney partner, the agent gains credibility, increases brand awareness, gets in front of a group of quality prospects and provides a value-added service.
Some agents may be concerned about coordinating and running such seminars. But, with the right support locally from a branch manager and with the right materials and step-by-step instructions from a distribution organization well-versed in community-based marketing, the time and expense is well worth it. Through this type of business marketing model, cold calling is minimized, and groups of people are seen, which can be more effective than meeting one client at a time. The result: This simple approach will boost your brand, your productivity and your sales!
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