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Internet Marketing

Blame yourself and do something

The growth of your agency is your responsibility

By Topher Grant and Adam DeGraide

Over the past three years, has your agency's revenue grown, become stagnant, or declined?

Answer this question honestly. While your reply may not be what you'd like, you know that your revenue is the benchmark that determines the true health of your business. As an agency owner, you are solely responsible for the growth of your agency—no employee can effectively hold this responsibility. If your agency is not growing, it's your fault, and you need to do something about it.

Take responsibility

Many business owners fall into the habit of blaming people, events, circumstances, and basically anything other than themselves for the decline of their business. It's easy to do, but the effects of this type of thinking are destructive. Excuses we often hear are directed towards the bad economy, the soft insurance market, unmotivated employees, or direct writers' advertising budgets. Simply stated, this kind of thinkingis poison to you and your company. If you recognize this negative thinking in your life, killing it now is the first step towards a positive shift. You can't expect positive results until you change your negative and (let's be honest) old-fashioned thinking.

In order to be successful, the first battle you must learn to fight is between your ears. Your thinking will dictate your actions, and your actions inevitably dictate your results. For example, if you think that external forces are causing the decline in your business, your actions will align with this thinking, and you'll focus on minimizing the damage of external forces rather than focusing on making changes to move forward. If, however, you shift your thinking to take complete responsibility for the success and growth of your agency, you'll take action to generate better results. You cannot change the final outcome without first changing your thinking.

We're not saying that external forces never have a dramatic impact on your business. The economy, regulatory policies, soft insurance markets, and competition are all things that affect your business and are largely beyond your control. On the other hand, champion agency principals see these outside forces as opportunities for advancement rather than as obstacles. While they are unable to change the effects of external forces on their business, they are able to change the way they respond to them.

Problems like a soft insurance market and a slow economy are all cyclical. Many agency principals have long believed that they can ride the wave until everything turns around. But that doesn't work anymore. The Internet has become a force to be reckoned with for many independent agencies around the country. Gone are the days of the Yellow Pages, newspapers, "penny saver" flyers, and direct mail being components in an agency's marketing plan. The soft market and bad economy are merely exposing the real problem at hand—traditional forms of agency marketing have become ineffective, and many agencies simply haven't created a new strategy for how to combat this problem.

During meetings with thousands of independent agencies around the country, it has become crystal clear to us that many of them are struggling to stay afloat—let alone grow—in today's digital age. The Internet has changed more than the independent insurance industry; it has changed the world. These changes are absolute, permanent, and are continuing to gain more presence daily. Agencies are now facing a marketplace that is driven by quickly advancing technology, e-commerce, new software, mobile devices, and communication tools that are changing faster than the latest clothing trends.

Do something

If your revenue isn't growing, then your business is shrinking. And it's shrinking because your customers have been adapting rapidly, and you haven't. Agencies that have already made the shift to focus all their time, money, and effort towards serving these modern consumers are reaping the benefits. Working with the top "e-agents" in the country, we've seen staggering success. While a majority of the industry has flat-lined over the past three years, agencies that are focusing on selling and serving the modern consumer have seen the most productive years in their history.

The early adopters of Internet marketing will have incredible advantage and will consistently dominate their market. The effectiveness of the area will diminish for the second, third, and fourth generation of adopters until having an Internet strategy will no longer be an option at all. Agencies that are not actively utilizing the Internet to move forward will be consumed by those that are.

If you're looking to get out of the business, you're not exempt. You know that if you're not seeing consistent organic growth in your book, your agency's value is declining more and more every year.

As was mentioned earlier, the first step to growth is to change your thinking. As an agency principal, you must already realize that using the Internet to sell and serve the modern consumer is the correct next step for your agency. However, the main focus needs to be your state of mind. If you do take steps towards online marketing but don't believe that you can have success this way, you will fail.

Once you believe that the Internet will be the main source of generating revenue for your agency, you need to take immediate action. How are you going to grow using tools like the Internet, search engines, e-mail marketing, social media, Web sites, blogs? How are you going to train your staff on how to sell and serve modern consumers, who now have more options than ever and the greatest research tool—the Internet—at their fingertips? How do you plan on keeping your customers when they are constantly bombarded with messages from direct writers?

If you don't have a clear and consistently evolving strategy when it comes to using the Internet to sell and serve the modern consumer, the time is now.

The authors

Topher Grant is vice president of sales and marketing at Astonish Results. A seasoned Internet marketer, he travels the country sharing with agency principals how to achieve incredible success in the digital age.

Adam DeGraide is a veteran Internet marketer, sales guru, entrepreneur, record producer, and motivational speaker. In 2006, he founded Astonish Results, a digital marketing company for independent insurance agencies, and since then he has been encouraging agency owners across the country to "join the Internet marketing revolution, or get left behind!"


In order to be successful, the first battle you must learn to fight is between your ears. Your thinking will dictate your actions, and your actions inevitably dictate your results.











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