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Internet Marketing

Your agency's path to success

Amp up your sales culture and develop an effective lead conversion strategy

By Adam DeGraide

Running a local insurance agency certainly has its challenges. It also has potential to be exciting and full of possibility each and every day. However, all of that excitement can quickly turn into stress and anxiety if you don't keep your eye on the prize. What's the prize? Lead conversion. As an agency owner, you know that converting leads into sales, and then turning those sales into repeat customers—or, more important, customers who bundle policies with your agency—is essential to your success.

Lead conversion should be one of your ultimate goals because it can drive growth for your agency. The challenge: Your insurance agency is only as successful as the sum of its parts. And when the parts are not working cohesively, you will find it difficult to reach your goal of conversion.

How to get the conversion

As a local insurance agency, you have a distinct advantage over the major carriers—you are local. Doing business with people you know, and that unique sense of camaradarie and concern you feel for those people, is what sets your agency apart. The thing about that is, every independent insurance agency says those words. So how can you truly set yourself apart?

Over the last 15 years, I have been helping independent agencies with their sales process. What I have discovered, in most cases, is that local agencies are the last to adapt to change. Here's the thing, though. You have to. Here's why: Consumers want to do business differently in today's modern environment than they have in the past. This means that in order to stay relevant, your agency has some challenges to overcome, such as:

• Leadership: Owning an insurance agency is more than just delegating tasks. Get involved. Be more than a manager; be a mentor. A positive culture and a defined mission statement is the first step to setting attainable goals.

• Service vs. sale: As a business, your job is to sell insurance to prospective customers and sell more insurance to your current customers. The local insurance agency is too service-centric. The only way your agency can grow is if you incorporate a sales culture into your existing service culture.

• Resistance to change: The way in which businesses operate has changed dramatically. Your agency needs to change, too. Local agencies must focus on branding, marketing and effective communications strategies to continue to reach their target markets. The Internet has made things a lot more competitive, so you need to adapt to survive.

This is just a sampling of what I see to be the unique challenges that insurance agencies face. However, no matter how you slice it, all of your challenges can be overcome. Here's how:

Pursue leads, however…The most important key to your success does not lie, entirely, in how many leads you generate. I might actually argue that the last thing you need is a new lead—seriously! It is common to believe that leads are where we should start; however, they truthfully should not be the first step. Instead, the first thing you need is a clearly defined sales process. Everyone in your agency needs to understand this sales process. Figure out a place for each one of your employees and make sure they know where they fit in.

Next, figure out what will constitute success for each piece of the puzzle. Success should be quantifiable—this will help you determine effectiveness. You will be able to successfully convert leads into sales only if you know how you plan to do it. Once you have figured this out, you can move onto leads. Pursuing your leads is actually very simple after all of this. Be relentless. Follow up and follow through. Don't quit until the client is yours—and then, work on getting that client to buy additional policies with your agency!

Adapt to the modern consumer. You already know that the Internet has changed the way modern consumers do business. What you need to do now is focus on adapting your agency's sales model to use this to your advantage. Due to the amount of information the Internet has made available, and the speed at which consumers can access it, modern consumers have less patience, less trust and less brand loyalty than ever before. For an independent insurance agency that has always focused on a service-centric culture, this can be difficult to overcome. As technology quickens and becomes more efficient, so do the expectations of your target consumer.

This is why your agency needs training. In order to adapt to the modern consumer, your business needs to understand the modern consumer. What media are they using to make their buying decisions? How are they using social media, search engines and blogs? Your agency needs not only to find out how these things are relevant to your business goals, but also how to use them to your advantage.

Once training and education are nailed down, you need to act on it! It is your agency's priority to clearly define and create processes and systems in which you can succeed in marketing and communication via these media.

As a leader within your agency, it is up to you to make this happen! There is no magic widget that can fix your agency—it must start with leadership and making sure your employees are on board with the changes.

Avoid the naysayers. There are going to be plenty of people you encounter on your path to success who will not believe in the changes you are trying to implement. Avoid those people. Avoid the people who want to put in only the bare minimum. I have spent a decade and a half delivering and installing business growth systems, and if I have seen one thing it is this: People will always follow the path of least resistance. This is exactly why, as a leader, you need to be diligent about hiring and keeping people with passion and vision. It will be a lot easier to keep the bus moving in the direction of positive and effective change if everyone on board believes in what you are trying to do.

In the end, the best way to create an effective lead conversion strategy is to effectively adapt to change. You need training, consulting and technology to do it. Once you have the sales process nailed down, understand the modern consumer, and have a team that is on board with you, you will be well on your way to success. The insurance industry is about sales, and sales are made by great people. Once you decide to focus on the challenges your agency faces, the leads will come, and leads are converted into sales effortlessly once everything else is worked out.

The author

Adam DeGraide is the founder and CEO of Astonish, which helps the insurance industry grow by using the Internet. In 2012 Astonish was ranked 267th on the Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing private companies in the U.S. Currently serving over 800 retail brokers in America, Astonish encourages the insurance industry to "join the Internet marketing revolution, or get left behind!"

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