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Stand Out to Rise Above

Steve Clements

By: Steve Clements, CPIA, PIAW Board Member

One of the first things we are told when learning to run a successful business is that we need to set ourselves apart.  What makes us different (i.e. better) than the next business down the street?  What can we do that uniquely adds value to our customers?  Companies large and small have responded to these questions with creative offerings ranging from off-the-wall ice cream flavors to futuristic automobile features to exotic lodging experiences. Drones to deliver your pizza?  Sure! What could go wrong?

But for those of us who make our living in the insurance industry, we might feel a bit stuck in a vanilla rut of policies and paperwork.  It’s not as if we can get “creative” with, say, policy language (unless of course we are yearning to get to know the insurance commissioner on a first-name basis).  Does this mean we are relegated to the eternal deductible doldrums and cookie-cutter agencies?  That we are resigned to being indistinguishable in a sea of so many other businesses who write insurance policies? While not as flashy and instantaneously visible as hamburger-serving robots and flying cars, there are concrete ways we can set ourselves apart as agencies in the saturated and hyper-competitive world of insurance. Let me offer five suggestions:

  1. Do your job and do it well.  Seriously, this alone will set you apart from a huge number of other agencies in our industry.  Focus on being an advisor more than making a sale.  Get back to people right away.  Do what you say you’re going to do.  Pay attention to what people really need and work hard to find the right coverage solutions for them.  If you focus on helping people, you won’t have to worry about how to grow your business.
  2. Be an independent agent.  I know, since this is on a PIA blog, that describes almost everyone reading this.  But don’t lose sight of how significant of an advantage this is for you and your clients.  Talk about it in your marketing.  Instead of trying to fit a client to one company, independent agents are able to find the best company to fit the client.  Huge difference. This alone sets you apart from every captive agent out there.
  3. Identify and solve clients’ pain points.  There are a lot of them – just ask the average insurance consumer.  While we can’t be all things to all people, we can be most things to most people.  Ask questions and listen to what is important to your clients.  If they haven’t heard from their last agent in 5 years, make a note to touch base at each renewal.  If they’ve been burned on a claim due to lack of proper coverage, spend time assessing what they really need.  If they hate seeing renewal premiums increase, recommend they carry higher deductibles and pay smaller claims out of pocket to help keep rates stable.  There are endless other examples, but the bottom line is: pay attention to what the client is telling you and be a balm to their pain points.
  4. Blend the advantages of technology and service.  Online insurance typically boasts of offering the conveniences of technology, but it cannot provide the personal service and individualized attention an agent can.  Today’s agency should strive to balance in-person service with technology offerings for their clients.  If you are still using carbon paper and Rolodexes, it’s probably time to make some upgrades.  Your clients (and your staff) will thank you!
  5. Get involved outside your agency.  Many people define success not only by what is gotten, but also by what is given.  Generosity and community involvement are of tremendous importance in today’s marketplace.  Support your favorite nonprofit.  Buy a spot on a local school team t-shirt.  Hold a brat cookout for veterans.  Do something to demonstrate care and support of those who need it.  Another great way to get involved outside your agency is through professional organizations.  For example, the PIA has abundant opportunities to help you grow as an insurance professional. You may even consider giving back to the industry by serving on a PIA committee or attending one of the fundraiser events to support PIA initiatives such as insurance career scholarships or important legislative efforts.

While none of these suggestions are earth-shatteringly new, it is startling how many agencies do not take action on such things.  Maybe the agency owners don’t know where to start or what steps to take.  There could be a perception of these initiatives taking too much time or effort to implement.  The good news is that PIA has member resources to assist in all of these areas any many, many more.  If it’s been a while, take a moment to check out some of the abundant PIA resources to help grow your agency:

https://www.piaw.org/member-benefits/

https://www.pianational.org/member-benefits

By using all the resources available, even small efforts can have a big impact on your business.