About 10 days ago, the Independent Insurance Agents of Georgia held their annual convention. This year, after many years at Amelia Island Plantation, the convention moved to the Marriott Resort on Hilton Head Island. Unfortunately, the weather was not as great as the facility, but a good time was had by all who attended. The legislative panel moderated by IIAG’s CEO John Barbour kicked off the convention on Thursday afternoon. As might be expected, the continuing increases in motor vehicle insurance rates was the first topic addressed by the panel. Hope was expressed that the new distracted driving law, which takes effect on July 1, 2018, will help stem the increases. Beyond that, the forces driving up rates (increasing number of accidents, escalating repair costs) are mostly beyond the ability of the legislature to address. People just have to become better drivers.
Friday morning was filled with two seminars, one on digital marketing and the other a synopsis of the latest J.D. Power survey on insurance industry issues. What J.D. Power found customers wanted fit right in with the other seminar. According to its survey, customers expect a seamless experience when dealing with their insurance agents and companies over all the various ways of communication that now exist. They want online access to their policy information and prefer to use digital methods to deal with routine transactions (ordering insurance cards, making and verifying payments, updating contact information, renewing their policies).
Tom Wetzel of Wetzel and Associates spent two hours explaining how agencies can provide what J.D. Power found they wanted. According to Mr. Wetzel, digital marketing is now the most important type of marketing agencies must engage in (click here for a whitepaper that contains a more detailed version of his presentation). As with traditional marketing methods, a one size fits all approach cannot be taken to digital marketing. Instead, each agency’s digital marketing program must be customized to fit its people, resources, and target markets. Three basic principles should guide an agency in putting together such a program: (1) Optimization (get the biggest bang for the buck), (2) Scalability (must be adaptable to changes in technology), and (3) Measurability (must be able to track the effectiveness of what is being done which helps with principle number 1).
Mr. Wetzel stated that the foundation of an agency’s digital marketing program is its website, which must be interactive, i.e., designed to be used, not read. As it happens, members of IIAG have access through Trusted Choice to a free evaluation of their website and social media outlets. A report will be provided that recommends what action should be taken to improve them.
After optimizing its website, Mr. Wetzel’s number one recommendation was for an agency to develop a mobile app that would allow its customers to do those things that J.D. Power found they wanted to do online using their favorite new tool, the smartphone. He advised against just telling the agency’s customers to use their insurance company’s app, as this would condition customers to bypass the agency in the future when seeking help with their insurance needs. Creating such an app is a branding opportunity for the agency and increases its ability to provide multiple contact options and real time response to customer inquiries. Agencies should also move toward better real time responses to requests for quotes and the binding of insurance policies.
Mr. Wetzel has devised a clever acronym to remember what an agency’s digital marketing program should be. The acronym is PROFIT, which stands for Personalized, Relevant, Original, Functional, Interconnected, and Tangible. With respect to social media use, an agency should pick one outlet to focus on and after it masters that outlet move on to another one that makes sense for the agency’s particular situation. He also was a big proponent of using text and other messaging apps to communicate with an agency’s customers, mainly because e-mail has become like voice mail in terms of responsiveness. Such apps have the added benefit of automatically archiving all communications for documentation purposes.