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Juanita The CSRI met Juanita* three weeks ago.

Juanita is new to the insurance business. Young – still in her mid-20s – it’s the first non-retail job she’s had.

She has a bubbly personality, loves taking good care of customers and did very well on her insurance license exam. The agency where she works is one of the top auto agencies in their small town so she has already learned enough to be very comfortable with auto insurance issues and questions.

But they’ve been losing customers.

They haven’t had a good home insurance market. So every time a customer asked for a quote for renters policy or homeowners policy they ended up referring her to an agency down the street. Inevitably over time they lost those customers as the home insurance agents asked for a chance to quote the auto.

Juanita’s manager Rafael* found out about iMGA through another agent. He visited our website and liked what he saw there. He completed our online interest form, our system notified us of his interest and we quickly reached out.

When Rafael and I talked it was obvious that there was an excellent fit between his customers’ needs and iMGA’s products. He was easily able to complete the online new agent application and we had him set up the same day.

Because they were located in central Texas, it was easy for us to do an in person visit and train the staff on our products and underwriting guidelines that week. Juanita was, frankly, worried. How hard would it be for her to understand these new products? What questions might customers have that she couldn’t answer? Would she get the support she needed? How hard would it be to issue a policy?

You should have seen the look on her face the first time she went through a quote. She said “Is this all there is to it?” when it took her less than two minutes to complete the whole process.

She – and Rafael – especially loved how the system and printed application clearly explained the primary coverages and limitations so that she didn’t have to worry about missing those. She called into iMGA and one of our friendly underwriters made sure she got the answer she needed and felt comfortable calling any time. She wrote her first homeowners policy while I was in her office.

As Juanita’s confidence has grown she’s steadily increased the number of auto customers who she’s able to offer Homeowners, MobileHome, Dwelling and Renters coverage and their agency no longer has to refer those customers down the street.

Would You Like a Story That Ends This Well?

Yes, the process for signing up with iMGA can be this easy.

The process for quoting and issuing business with iMGA is absolutely this easy.

If you’d like to add more Easy to your life – and a strong range of Texas personal property products for your agency staff to offer to your customers – contact us.


*We’ve changed the names in this story to protect the innocent. 🙂

Of course you can grow your agency by finding new customers or by adding new markets.

But the easiest and fastest way to grow your agency is to increase the number of products you provide for your existing customers. The sale is easier because you already have a relationship, plus studies have shown that customers with multiple policies stay with you longer. This multiplies your growth over time.

Fortunately as an iMGA agent you have a wide range of products to meet multiple needs for your clients:

  • Homeowners – HOA, HOA+ and HOB options to cover a wide range of home values, ages and conditions.
  • MobileHome – Specialty coverage for clients whether inside a mobile home park or not.
  • Dwelling – TDP1, TDP1+ and TDP3 policies for owner and tenant-occupied dwellings.
  • Vacant Dwelling – A specific option for hard-to-place vacant homes.
  • Renters – Contents and Liability coverages for insureds who don’t yet own a home.
  • Umbrella – Up to $5 million in primary and/or $5 million excess coverage for clients with the need to protect a wide range of assets.

All iMGA products focus on being EASY to use, with instant online binding, payment and document and flexible direct bill options. So as an iMGA agent you can focus on making sure you’re offering all your clients all the protection they need and growing your agency quickly in the process.

If you’re an agent who is not already working with us and would like a to grow your agency by offering a Texas Personal Property program that includes cutting-edge Renters, Dwelling, Vacant, MobileHome, HOA/HOA+/HOB and Umbrella products, just tell us a little about yourself.

Home and AutoDeloitte Consulting has released a new study of auto and home insurance policyholders and the results are significant for independent agents.

The online study of 1,080 each auto and home policyholders, titled “The Voice of the Personal Lines Consumer/Buyers in the driver’s seat”, reaches several relevant conclusions:

“there is a sizable group of consumers who still prefer the human touch in personal lines, choosing to establish a trusted relationship with an insurance professional who can help them shop for a policy (sometimes for more than one type of coverage) as well as show them how to navigate the claims process and be their advocate in case of a loss”

“fewer companies are dedicated to distributing through any one channel. Many are looking to reach prospects and more regularly communicate with policy- holders over multiple platforms, both to take business away from competitors as well as improve retention of their own customers”

“there are demographic factors at work that make some prospects more viable than others in terms of taking them away from the competition”

“while some respondents are committed to buying with an intermediary and others without, there is a significant percentage of “independents” that are more open to switching from agents to a direct purchase (or vice versa) given the right circumstances and enticements”

“overcoming suspicions about the integrity of insurers and agents can play a major role in drawing prospects away from rival carriers and channels”

“Price remains the biggest single element respondents consider when purchasing personal lines insurance. However… price is far from the sole decision point when a prospect is determining whether to become (or remain) a policyholder”

If you think your agency is “destined” to lose clients to direct sales, never to retrieve them again – that is definitely not true, especially if you offer homeowners insurance products. 39% of homeowners currently buying direct said their top preference the next time they buy a new policy is to work with an agent. The same was true with 30% of direct auto policy holders.

Homeowners Clients are Better

55% of homeowners who responded to the survey had been with their insurance agent for at least 6 years. Only 49% of auto insurance customers said the same.

Home policy owners are:

  • Less likely to think buying direct would save them money (59% for homeowners vs. 67% for auto customers)
  • Less likely to strongly agree that buying direct would be more convenient (29% vs. 33%)
  • Less likely to consider price extremely influential in their decision (45% vs. 54%)
  • Less likely to switch agencies (only 20% had been with their agency two years or less and many of those were younger consumers who had been purchasing homeowners coverage for a shorter period of time)

With all those great characteristics, it’s clear agencies need to attract homeowners policyholders as much as possible.

What’s the most important step in doing that, according to the survey?

Get Homeowners Policyholders as Young as Possible

Nearly half (45%) of homeowners said they had never switched carriers. So being there first made a huge difference to their agent and/or carrier.

iMGA products let you bring in homeowners clients that are buying their first home or mobilehome. Even before that you can offer your clients a renter’s policy through iMGA. Later if they purchase a rental dwelling or vacant dwelling, we can help you protect that for them also. Together we can help you build a book of quality homeowners clients that will make your agency more successful in the long run.

Higher retention, less price sensitivity, more appreciation for the value agents bring. Who wouldn’t want that? iMGA – and a focus on providing quality homeowners protection to your clients – can make that a reality in your agency.

Every business needs a “hook” . A great hook is something worth talking about. Better yet, it’s something worth driving out of your way to get.

Snuffer’s restaurant in Dallas has a hook. It’s their cheese fries. In my case it’s their cheese fries topped with bacon, chives and jalapenos.

For $8 or less they’ve come up with a dish that is truly noteworthy. It’s special. It’s unique. It made Snuffers our choice for lunch over the thirty other choices we had within 5 miles that day. It’s remarkable in the sense that it’s worth remarking about.

What’s your agency’s hook? What’s the one really unique thing you give/offer/do for your customers? What makes doing business with you special?

At iMGA our hook is that we go crazy making things easy for agents. To do a homeowners, vacant, rental or mobile home quote with us takes well under 2 minutes. We look up the protection class for you. When possible we look up the square footage, construction type and year of construction for you. We don’t ask a single question or require a single piece of paper we don’t have to. We keep our focus on easy in the application and underwriting processes also.

Our goal is to be so easy that it’s noteworthy. We’re obsessive about it because we know it’s our hook. We’re not the biggest or oldest market you have – those spots are taken. But we know we can be the easiest – and we’re determined to be – and as a result agents are telling their friends about us.

How about you? What’s the thing that makes your clients tell their friends about your agency? Please tell us about it in the comments so we can help you spread the word.

As insurance professionals we should be acutely aware that emergencies can and do happen very frequently. Recent storms and power outages have reminded all of us in Texas about how true that is.

It is critical that every agency have a contingency plan to deal with such emergencies. Fortunately, developing a basic plan is not that difficult.

List Your Critical Systems

If you’re like most agencies you need access to:

  • phones,
  • your agency management system,
  • your accounting system,
  • email,
  • the internet (to access carrier and bank web sites),
  • a scanner or fax machine for documentation from clients or to carriers,
  • etc.

You may also depend on any number of other systems. Just list them all out.

This doesn’t have to be fancy. It’s much more important to think through everything in advance and be prepared than it is for this to be a fancy, formal process. The end result can even be a simple table that might look something like this:

System Location Vendor Name Backup Remote Access?
Email Offsite Google Automatic Yes
Quickbooks Mary’s Computer Intuit None No
Fax Machine Onsite Verizon Another at Home After phone number is forwarded

Review the List

It will probably become very obvious quickly where your weak spots are. If your agency were flooded, or if power were out in your neighborhood, or if a storm prevented anyone from getting to your office, what would you not be able to access? It’s quite likely that just like in the simple example above, the areas that you must fix are very clear.

Plug the Holes

Use backup software. Switch to a laptop the next time you need a new computer in the office. Change systems to one that is hosted for you so that it can be accessed remotely. Change phone companies or upgrade to a Voice-Over-IP system that you can use as if you are in your office from anywhere in the world with an internet connection.

The options are many.

In many cases if you make the changes systematically you’ll actually save money at the same time that you improve your ability to recover from a disaster.

Is it really that easy?

Like anything else worthwhile it takes a little work. But with some advanced planning it can sure make you glad you did it.

How do we know?

We’ve had critical equipment stolen, weather shut down access to the office, and transformers explode. Thanks to automatic continuous backup, data security plans, a Voice-over-IP phone system, offsite hosting of all of our core systems, we didn’t miss a beat.

Do you have a contingency plan for your agency? What is in it that we forgot to mention? Please add your thoughts in the comments below.

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.

More information is released daily on social media in general and social media in insurance specifically every day. The day after our last post about the topic large research firm Celent announced the results of their study on the topic, titled Leveraging Social Networks: An In-Depth View for Insurers.

In that report they note that nine of the top 10 of the top 10 P&C U.S. insurers have at least one Twitter account, and eight have at least one Facebook page.

Also noted is that in March 2010 Facebook received more visits than Google for the first time.

So, in short, social media is big, getting bigger, and being supported by major insurers. If you, as an insurance agent, haven’t started already, why not?

If you’re like most independent insurance agents you may be getting irritated about all the talk about “Social Media” these days. Every week, it seems, there’s another reference to the latest darling, whether it be Foursquare or Gowalla or Google Buzz.

Personally you may already be using Facebook. If you follow news or entertainment you can’t help but have heard of Twitter.

But what does all this mean for your agency? Is this all just a way for you and your staff to waste time playing the latest farming or mafia game or is there something more to it?

Social Media is Word of Mouth only Easier

If your agency is like most, word of mouth is your top new lead source. Your current customers are pleased with what you have done for them. The subject of insurance somehow comes up and they tell their friends what you did. Social Media makes that whole great cycle happen faster. Being connected with clients and friends on Facebook, Twitter and other sites means:

  1. The subject of insurance, and the fact that you’re an insurance agent, comes up more often. It’s in your profile, you can’t help but talk about it occasionally (not in a “salesy” way, but in a “you won’t believe what happened” or “this sure was interesting” or “watch out for this” way).
  2. You, as an insurance expert, are an easy click away for current and prospective customers. A friend of a client doesn’t even have to say “who’s your insurance agent?” They only have to look at the “friends list” or “following list” and see you there. You’ve just eliminated a huge step between you and someone looking for an insurance agent.
  3. Your information, and several easy ways for them to contact you, are at their fingertips whenever they’re ready to shop for insurance. Or, if they do get asked by someone not connected online, your information – and a great snapshot of your personality – is at a link they can easily find and forward.

Social Media is the Ultimate Soft Sell

Social Media done well is not just word-of-mouth made easier, though. You’re there. They’ve seen you. They’ve interacted with you and seen you interact with others. They’ve come to like and trust you as a result. It’s the ultimate soft-sell. For this reason, independent insurance agents we’ve worked with often have over 75% close rates on leads that come to them via Social Media.

Are You Using Social Media Already?

If so, what have your experiences been? If not, why not? What other reasons are there that insurance agents should be active in Social Media? Why or why not?

Please add your comments below (or by clicking on the “comments” button on the top right of this post) and share your thoughts, suggestions and experiences.

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