Archives for Marketing

Celebrating Cinco de MayoTexas and Mexico have a long history together, from Spanish colonies in both places in the late 1600s, through the Texas Revolutionary War against Mexico, to the current $41 billion per year in Texas exports to Mexico.

So it’s no surprise that in Texas any major “celebration of Mexican heritage and pride” is celebrated widely.

It may be a surprise to you, though, that while Cinco de Mayo, the 5th of May, commemorates the victory of the Mexican militia over the French army at The Battle of Puebla in 1862, it’s NOT Mexico’s Independence Day, which is September 16. Given the long and rich history Texas and Mexico share, though, it probably should not be surprising that the victorious commander of The Battle of Puebla, Gen. Ignacio Zaragoza, was born in Goliad in 1829.

Cinco de Mayo is primarily a regional holiday celebrated only in the city and state of Puebla, and “is a holiday that is virtually ignored in Mexico”.

You Never Know What Will Catch Fire

The Battle of Puebla was a relatively insignificant event. The French forces were beaten back, but they did capture Puebla only a year later. It’s not even a national holiday in Mexico. Yet on this day each year millions of people, of Mexican heritage and not, will celebrate the day in the United States.

What has caught fire with your clients? Are you trying different ideas? The only way to know what will work is to test many options. When one does catch fire – run with it! Next thing you know you may have a surprise holiday of your own.

What has surprised you? What has resonated with your clients that you didn’t really expect? Share your experience in the comments.

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.

Last week we talked about how we’d been called “second best” and – in this case at least – didn’t mind at all.

We’ve just added a page to our web site where we share more about what agents have to say about iMGA.

What do your customers say about you? Do you know? Are you collecting that and sharing it with prospective customers? How? Share your experiences and thoughts in the comments.

Oh, and if you’re an iMGA agent we’d REALLY appreciate it if you’d add your testimonial.

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.

No one enjoys things that are out of date.

Sour cream past its expiration date.Prospective insureds coming to your agency’s web site are looking for reassurance, rapport – a reason to trust you with their business. Having no web site is terrible – you’ll never even be considered. Having a web site with no information is really bad – they won’t see the reasons to trust and want to be in business with you. But having a little info that is very old is just as bad – and may be worse.

This is why online marketing experts strongly suggest having a blog. A blog is the easiest way possible to add fresh new content to your web site on a regular basis.

Adding fresh content via a blog causes a helpful cycle to start:

  1. One of the ranking items from search engines is how recently a page or site has been updated. Having fresh content means that when someone searches for words that are found on your site the link to you will come up higher than it would have if you had not had recent updates.
  2. That higher ranking causes more people to come to your site.
  3. When those people come to your site they see that you’re active, that you care about providing relevant information, and that your information is not old and stale. This increases their confidence in you and therefore will increase your conversion ratio (the percentage of those people who will call, email or otherwise contact you to proceed through the sales process.

Doing a blog takes effort. You may not feel up to the challenge. In all likelihood you already get more than enough good ideas from your current customers and their insurance questions to fill hundreds of posts. At iMGA we get great ideas from our agents constantly, and we use those to make sure we produce at least one new post each week. It’s not setting the world on fire, but it is consistent, and after a year or so we’ll have 100 posts. That’s 100 pages of content on our web site, 100 updates to Google and the other search engines, and 100 pieces, some of which will have value to each visitor who finds us, especially if they’re Texas Independent Insurance Agents looking for a great personal property market. 🙂

Last, but not least, it keeps our web site fresh.

Nice park in Lubbock, TX.

While out visiting agents in west Texas yesterday I stumbled upon this lovely scene in Lubbock. I don’t know what preconceived notions you may have about the home of Texas Tech, but I could easily imagine that many people wouldn’t picture this.

It just goes to show that if we keep our eyes open there are pleasant surprises – and good opportunities all around.

The same is true in business, though at iMGA we’ve found that it’s not only important to keep our eyes open (looking at things like what impacts retention and what products and coverages are selling best or worst), it’s even more important to keep our ears open.

Our independent agents give us great ideas every day. Some we aren’t able to implement, some we haven’t been able to implement yet, but many we have, and thanks to them we’re seeing growth in spite of the economy.

How about you? What opportunities have you seized lately? If it feels like there aren’t any, or that there aren’t enough, maybe you just need to look – or listen – more intently. You might be surprised by what you find. I was.

Closeup of tree in park in Lubbock, Texas

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?

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.

This display at the side of the road definitely caught my eye.

A photo of a wrecked plane with the saying, 'There's no such thing as a perfectly good airplane' at a skydiving business in Texas.

My initial reaction was, “Why in the world would a skydiving company show a picture of a wrecked plane? Why would they remind people of the danger that exists even before you jump out of the plane?”

Looking more closely at what they said, it becomes very obvious why they did it.

Clearly they’ve heard too many times the old saying, “Why would anyone be crazy enough to jump out of a perfectly good airplane?”

In fact, they probably realize that this joke was costing them a significant amount of business. More importantly this joke – like most good humor – included an element of truth and was revealing a more basic, more serious limiting factor to their business: fear.

To them this was not just a joke and it most certainly was not funny. It was a meaningful limiting factor on their business’ potential. So they attacked it head-on. They didn’t go halfway. They made a statement that is impossible to miss – one that’s worth remarking about.

What about you?
What is keeping your prospects from using your service?
What does “everyone” “know” in your market?
Are you willing to attack it head-on? If not, it may forever be a limiting factor.

If you are willing to tackle it, though, you may not only make it over the hurdle – you may become remarkable in the bargain.

It’s worth thinking about.

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