A "Love" letter
When the going gets tough….
By John Love, CPCU
I know it's been a challenging year and you are planning for 2012 with the hope that it will be easier, or at least better. You tried hard to focus on the most important aspects of your job in 2011, but the continued soft market cycle and the clients' obsession with finances and economic survival made you work harder just to stay even.
You're a little tired at this point and need a bit of encouragement and motivation regarding the future. Let's talk about some things to be excited about and a reason to get up each day in 2012 with a smile and a sense of optimism.
First of all, you survived. This has been the most challenging economy of your lifetime, but you've made it this far—congratulations! Insurance buyers still have to make their purchase and in 2011, you increased the number of people who know and like you. That'll pay dividends in 2012 if you work those new contacts. The "new normal" of the U.S. economy may be a little intimidating, but remember that those companies who invested heavily in marketing during the severe recession of the early 1980s were market leaders when things turned positive.
You have probably bought, or are about to, the greatest tool for producers since the cell phone: the tablet. Whether you go with the iconic iPad™ or a competitor, you are now in possession of the perfect device for your job. It turns on instantly and you can load it with incredibly useful things for your appointments.
In the next month plan a half-day for yourself in which you are going to develop the following items for your tablet:
• Logos of five to seven clients you can use as references. Arrange them in a PowerPoint™ slide or store them in iPhoto™ or similar.
• Download and use Prezi™ (www.prezi.com) to create a 12- to 16-scene presentation that describes your process for the prospect. There's an app for Prezi you can load on the iPad to view and play them.
• A couple of images of your agency's resources and assets. This can be a list of your various services and their value, or resources from outside vendors. Your prospects don't know anything about them and if you show them they will begin to appreciate your value.
• A couple of client testimonials in videos of 45 seconds or less. Nothing is more powerful than a client looking the camera "right in the eye" and talking passionately about what a difference you've made in their company.
• Consider video bios of your service team so you can introduce them to your team.
• Consider a video that summarizes and hits the highlights of your agency's value proposition.
In fact, maybe your planning time will be spent developing a list of the assets you are going to put on your tablet—and then you can delegate those to others on your team with a six- to eight-week delivery timeframe.
Now review your successes over the past year in terms of winning new accounts. How many came from referrals? How many from your network or affinity groups? Were you successful cold-calling or did you find you got more return from your interpersonal relationships? Whatever the facts, consider how you are going to focus on what worked and do more of it. Plan your coming weeks accordingly.
Another thing you have to be thankful for is the growth of social media sites and services. Finally! Technology is making it really easy for you to cement your connections and make them work for you. However, you will need to change your weekly work habits to take advantage of all this potential. Your goal by the end of the first quarter of 2012 is to have all of your current clients connected with you on LinkedIn™, plus your top referral sources, and then to check in weekly with a post to your blog(s) and invite new contacts to connect with you.
Learning more about the tools, including the premium ones you pay for, in LinkedIn is critical to making it pay off for you. Consider an online Webinar to learn more or e-mail me to discuss ideas. It's a pretty spectacular tool that insurance pros are just starting to use effectively—don't miss the boat!
You should also review your strengths and weaknesses and put together a plan for self-improvement. The most valuable approach to self-improvement is to identify the one or two opportunities for improvement that will help you and that are attainable. Most producers could improve their public speaking and software skills—or how they perform at networking events.
Also give a healthy self-inspection to the process you are using to cross-sell and upsell accounts. The acres of diamonds around you can make the difference between a status quo year and a year of meaningful growth for you and your agency. Every agency could double or triple in size, at least, if they simply captured all of the premiums paid by existing clients for all lines.
Be thankful as well that your clients are surviving the economy and be sensitive to how it has changed them. They have more to do now. If you are not great at personal thank-you items, get some help from a support person or vendor. Make 2012 the year that you are a bright spot in the lives of your clients and prospects. They are tired of the stress of the last few years and your concerted effort to be a positive influence on their day will be felt and appreciated more than ever.
These ideas, and the other inspirations you get from Rough Notes, are designed to inspire you—and not to feel overwhelmed with a feeling of, "I can't do it all." Please pledge that in 2012 you will be easier on yourself with regard to the burden you carry about all the things you didn't get done each week. Learn to focus on what you did do. At the end of each week, look at the list of what you did accomplish and focus on the positive.
You are in a great career, a long journey of continual self-improvement. Make the small, achievable improvements that you are capable of. Start today, but accept that as long as you make a little progress each week it'll be good enough. If you want to be bolder in your plans—great! But set goals you can achieve. Enjoy your life!
To watch the video presentation of this article, with examples and more ideas, please use your smart phone and this QR code:
John Love, CPCU, is president of Cazador Associates, which provides Web sites, video and other forms of Web site content for insurance organizations. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or comments. John has been a producer and agency principal for more than 20 years and serves as executive director of TechAssure (www.techassure.com).