Agency Marketing Technology
Software, Web sites, and other tools can increase efficiency and improve client relationships
By Steve Anderson
We often come across ideas, software programs, Web sites, and various other tools that can help agency staff become more effective in their jobs. Below is a list of some tools that may help producers.
Every producer knows (or should know) that it is important to document the results of sales calls to both prospects and existing clients. If no one in the agency knows what the producer promised during the call, at best the client will wonder about the competence of the agency when those promised items are not completed. At worst, the lack of documentation can lead to a messy E&O claim.
Copytalk is a dictation/transcription service that is accessed by phone. You call, usually from a cell phone (but it could be a landline), and start dictating your message. Each dictation can last for up to four minutes, with multiple dictations allowed per call. At first that seems like a limitation, but my experience has been that the average time spent on a call is a maximum of two to three minutes. When you finish your dictation, you simply hang up. The recorded dictation is sent to a real person who transcribes the call.
The results then are sent to an e-mail of your choosing. Because up to five e-mail addresses are available in the setup options, you can send the message to multiple people. In my case, I send it to my assistant and myself. The dictations are sent in either text or HTML format. The promise is that dictations in the morning come back that afternoon, and afternoon/evening dictations come back the next morning. My experience is that dictations during normal business hours come back within a few minutes. The cost is $60 per month for an unlimited number of four-minute dictations. More information is available at www.copytalk.com.
E-mail voice notes
If you don’t want the ongoing cost of a monthly service, VoiceMinder may be a simpler and less costly solution. VoiceMinder is a utility that allows you to quickly record a voice note on your mobile phone and have it sent on its way to your e-mail address of choice with just two button presses. No user interface to mess with. No complexities. Just drive/walk/whatever and press the user-configured hotkey to start recording and then press the hotkey again to stop. The audio note is sent from your phone immediately. The program is currently available only for the Windows Mobile 2003/5 Smartphone and Pocket PC. The cost is $10. We use it and have found it to be one of the most useful applications on our SmartPhone.
Google news alerts
The information age that we live in has made it increasingly difficult to sift through all of the “stuff” to find just what we need. Google News Alerts is a free tool that sifts through thousands of newspapers and magazines on a daily basis and flags articles containing words and phrases you would like to track—people’s names, special events, company announcements, just about anything you can think of.
Whenever there is a match, you receive an e-mail with the matching phrase and a link to the actual article containing the match. You receive the alerts as often you request—as soon as the story appears, once a day or once a week—your choice. There is no limit to the number of alerts you can create. Google News Alerts provides you a ready method of monitoring news about (or of interest to) clients, prospects, networking contacts, competitors—whomever (or whatever) you want to keep tabs on. And the best news is that the service is free. It is a feature of Google News, a news aggregation service that continuously taps more than 4,500 news sources around the world.
Be prepared to play around with your search terms to determine what works best. Experiment with different word combinations. Put quotation marks around names or phrases (“ABC Manufacturing”); doing so narrows your results. Try synonyms—”wealthy” or “high net worth” if you’re seeking stories about the affluent, for example. The more you know about a client or prospect, the better able you are to understand that person’s needs. Google News Alerts is a fabulous way to improve your odds of doing just that.
Client retention tool
The more times you contact a client, the longer the client will stay with you. The problem is finding the time to make those contacts. LongTermClients.com is a resource that can help you automate the process of staying in touch. Want to send anniversary cards on the date each one began doing business with you? Or “Thank you for your business” cards at Thanksgiving? The process is simple. Once you open an account, you simply choose the specific card you want to send from the gallery of existing cards. You create a personal note, upload a list of names and addresses and the completed cards will be mailed to you, arriving within 10 days. You simply sign the cards and put them in the mail.
Pricing is based on the number of cards you order at one time (with a minimum of 50). The site is geared to financial advisors, so don’t be put off by some of the terminology. This is a simple and easy way to streamline the process of creating personalized contacts with your most important prospects and clients.
Free directory assistance
(800) FREE-411 is a service offered to Internet and cell phone users in which the usual directory assistance fee is defrayed by advertisers instead of callers. When you ask for the number of, say, a particular local restaurant, you first hear a brief, roughly 10-second ad for a competing restaurant. At the end of the message, you are offered the option of connecting to either the restaurant you wanted or the one highlighted in the ad. Though it may be confusing at first, many 411 users (me included) will happily sit through the commercials instead of paying the fees. *
Steve Anderson has been a licensed insurance agent for more than 25 years and is executive editor of The Automated Agency Report (www.taareport.com). He helps agents maximize productivity and profits using practical technology. He can be reached at (615) 599-0085, e-mails are welcome at Steve@SteveAnderson.com or visit his Web site at www.SteveAnderson.com.