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Many of us have tried those “30-day-free” trials, only to forget to cancel during the 30 days and end up paying for something we didn’t really want that much.

A free trial offer is a legitimate way to get a much larger percentage of the population to be willing to try a product or service. The big question for businesses, though, is whether to structure how it works in order to “trap” as many as possible, or to treat customers and prospects the way you’d like to be treated.

Citrix does this really well with their GoToMeeting service. It offers a 30-day free trial. The day before the trial ends they send an email that includes a reminder that you’ll start getting billed the next day, an offer to convert to an annual subscription AND information on how to easily cancel the trial – including a link to make it really easy.

Go To Meeting Email

In insurance we can’t offer free trials, but – with things like clear language, readable fonts and timely reminders – we CAN make it clear that every time we get the chance we choose to treat prospects and customers as we would want to be treated.

It’s just plain the right thing to do. At iMGA, we believe strongly that it’s also better business in the long run, and we plan to be here for the long run.

What are some examples you’ve seen of insurance companies and agents really treating clients and prospects with respect (or not)?

In Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania every Groundhog Day up to 40,000 people gather to see if Punxsutawney Phil, the world’s most famous groundhog, will see his shadow. If he does, then tradition says we’ll have 6 more weeks of winter and people can prepare accordingly.

A large crowd on Groundhog Day.
Do you have a “groundhog” in your agency? An early indicator that lets you know what to expect – and how to prepare for the future as a result. If not, think back over the last few years. When has your business gone up? When has it gone down? What preceded those changes?

Have a Groundhog

Managing a high-growth independent insurance agency is much easier if you have just a couple specific leading indicators you always watch. Not your sales or cash (those are lagging indicators – by the time they’re dropping there’s already a problem somewhere much earlier in your sales funnel). For many insurance agencies it might be something like the number of incoming phone calls, number of new quotes issued or number of inquiries via your web site. Whatever it is, make sure you have one. It can make the difference between having the time to prepare and being caught by surprise.

In our business there are several, but a couple that are much more reliable than others. Which brings us to the other important step.

Make Sure Your Groundhog is Accurate

Punxsutawney Phil has seen his shadow nearly 100 times, has not seen it 15 times, and nine years are unaccounted for, but his prediction as to whether there will be six more weeks of winter or not only has an accuracy rating of 39 per cent. That’s not very reliable. In fact it would make more sense to see his prediction and do the opposite.

So, look for those leading indicators in your agency, but always test the results against expectations. Otherwise you may find yourself in for a very long winter.

Photo courtesy of Aaron E. Silvers.

At iMGA we’re extremely fortunate to have an incredible Board of Directors. Each member of the board has many years’ experience in running a wide range of insurance businesses. On Monday most of the board was here, and we had a couple extra days with our Chairman.

During those two days we talked about the business: what’s been working (great agents, a system we all love, products that are meeting unique needs), and what still needs more work.

It’s amazing how much clearer things are now. Our Chairman didn’t point out things that were new ideas. Yet the advantage of both an understanding of our business and the ability to look at it from a little distance, helped him ask the questions and make the comments that helped reinforce and refocus our plans for the rest of the year.

Who helps you do that for your agency? If you don’t already have such a person, I highly recommend finding one. If you do, please tell us about your experiences with them in the comments.

The news this week was full of coverage of the rescue of 33 Chilean miners who had been trapped 2,000 feet underground for 69 days.Photo of an unknown Chilean miner - NOT one of those rescued.

According to one article on the rescue,

Many agencies and companies around the world contributed expertise or products related to the rescue, from a high-calorie liquid diet, donated by NASA, to suppress motion sickness in the miners as they ascended; to iPods donated by Apple, which the miners were to receive when they emerged. Gifts for their families donated by unions, companies and individuals have ranged from food and clothing to sexy lingerie, wine, toys and children’s Halloween costumes.

The gift that has received the most attention, though, has been the Oakley Radar sunglasses that were donated to help the miners’ eyes during the period of readjustment to light levels on the surface.

Did Oakley make the donation (valued at $6300) out of the goodness of their heart or purely in a gambit to get media attention?

Bottom line – it doesn’t matter. Regardless of the reason Oakley made the donation, the miners got something that will help them at no cost to them. No laws were broken and no one had to be forced to make it happen.

Capitalism leads to better things for all – those in need and those looking to fill a need. It’s nice to see that this time it was noticed, but there are millions of times each year that similar things happen that don’t get reported on by the Associated Press.

That’s okay, but keep it in mind the next time you hear some talking head or politician promoting the need to take more from businesses by taxation or regulation. Good businesses already do a lot. Bad ones will ultimately go out of business. The market (you, me, our friends and neighbors making purchasing decisions every day) does sort these things out over time.

As insurance professionals it’s pretty clear what needs our businesses meet. Every time our customers have a claim, need to get a mortgage, or just want to sleep well knowing they’re protected in case something happens we’re there for them. Remember that – and be proud of it – the next time someone asks what you do or attacks businesses in general.

I wonder how much it costs for 8. More importantly, I wonder what the dish they are actually selling looks like.

Details matter. Are you watching the details in your business?

Rob and I are visiting agents all around the state today. My travels took me by Carl’s Corner, TX, home of Willie’s Place, which is basically a themed truck stop, and from the outside looks pretty much like any one of the dozens of other truck stops on the state’s highways.

Then, though – IF you go inside – you’re surprised first by a large collection of great memorabilia spanning Willie Nelson’s long and illustrious (if checkered) career:

And surprised yet again by a full-sized concert venue that, according to flyers posted nearby, features significant and well-regarded musical acts with some frequency.

The most interesting and engaging parts of this business weren’t promoted anywhere that I could see. The signs leading to their location looked exactly like other truck stop signs except for the photo of Willie.

What hidden gems are you keeping all too secret in your agency? What should you be highlighting that you’re not? You may be missing out both on a lot of business and a chance to let your true self show through if you don’t take the time to think about that and share it with the public.

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