There isn’t a better real life example of how social media marketing can propel an independent agency to greatness than Chris Paradiso. While much that we hear and read is from so-called experts, Chris has done the work and can show the results. He built his agency from an almost captive life insurance agency to tens of millions in annual P&C premium in under 15 years. As our featured speaker at our 2018 Annual Meeting on March 21st, Chris shared his process with a full-day of non-stop, specific tips for Kentucky agents. And this guy isn't just talking the talk; he’s living it!
I will quickly admit that it was a lot to take in. “Like drinking from a fire hose”, as they say. But as someone in the process of building two agencies, I came away inspired to put together an action plan to implement the ideas that I feel will most benefit my business. Someone like Chris, who isn’t just making generic suggestions, but has actually built an agency using specific strategies, has something to teach any agent who is serious about facing the transition in our industry.
For those who were not able to attend, I wanted to give you my summary of what I see as the most usable ideas for my agency, as well as to give you a glimpse of the invaluable benefits of attendance to our Annual Meetings in the future. For those who were fortunate enough to join me for this stellar event, I invite you to please also share your key takeaways, as I recognize that our business goals are not all the same, yet we all benefit from hearing different perspectives on which strategies appealed to your specific agency. I’m pretty sure none of us in that room, other than Chris, would be able to implement ALL of the marketing concepts that were discussed, but I’m equally sure that SOME of the strategies would be helpful to all.
For me, the steps I plan on taking based on what I learned include:
Write a Brand Guide
It makes so much sense to put down on paper exactly what (and who) your agency represents. What makes your agency different? What do you offer that other agencies do not? How do we add value? As Chris pointed out, any of us can say things like, “we provide great service”. Of course we do. That’s why we’re independent agents. But that does not differentiate us from one another. In my case, it’s a bit easier for my agency, American Church Group of Kentucky, as that exists to serve a specialized niche market. But for Paducah Insurance Agency it requires digging even deeper to establish ways that we can provide unique benefits to our customers. Some of it we can establish by offering nationally available products that consumers want, on a local basis. Some of it we can establish by making sure customers know who we are and what we believe in, and communicating that to establish one-on-one connections with individuals and groups in the community.
One of the things that Chris pointed out is that we all contribute to the community. We volunteer our time and dollars, serve on boards or minister to those in need. But we don’t tell anybody about it. We’re mostly raised to avoid bragging about ourselves, but in this case it’s to the detriment of our agency. Your contributions are also part of your brand, and you should have a strategy to incorporate that into your marketing messages.
Not only does your Brand Guide serve to outline your agency “persona”, it is where you will identify who you will be talking to with your social media. This involves the process of describing very, very specifically who you want to do business with. It’s not anything like “a business owner” or “high-income prospects”. You will establish their age, gender, neighborhood, income, occupation, hobbies, family make-up, vacation schedules and much more. You may have multiple targets, but each needs to be described as if it’s a specific individual, not a generic group of people. That will allow you to be a much better communicator, as you will craft all of your marketing as if you are speaking directly to this individual you’ve described.
Once I’ve developed our Brand Guide, it will be our marketing bible. This will make it possible to have a fully-fledged plan to implement the ideas I want to incorporate in a cohesive plan. It’s easier to just scattershot one idea, then move on to something else, but without that plan it’s not likely to be very effective, and worse, we’re unlikely to know what’s working and what isn’t. The Brand Guide will also make sure that everyone on my team also knows who we are and what we stand for. Everyone at your agency is in marketing, because they are the personal representative of your brand. It’s important that they all tell the same story.
Fortunately, Chris was willing to share both his Brand Guide, as well as a contact person who can help you develop your agency’s if you find that task daunting. See that information, and much more, in the resource section below. I’m giving the Brand Guide a shot myself, and will keep you posted on my efforts.
Blog 3 x a Week
Chris made a compelling case on blogging as a cornerstone of an on-going social media marketing program. I’ve made a commitment to start posting a blog three times a week. Instead of trying to come up with something brilliant to share as I sit down at my computer we will develop a content calendar for at least six months going forward, so we can proactively identify resources well in advance.
Blogs are an important part of getting your agency found online. Then you can turn your blog posts into content for the other social media outlets you choose to use. Chris touched on almost every one that you’ve probably heard of, but there is no way I have time to be active on all of them. I’m going to start with Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, as I think they match up best with our target markets.
Per Chris’s recommendation, we’ll be doing a higher percentage of “organic” vs. “marketing” content, meaning we’ll post more about things we’re doing in the community or local interest topics than directly insurance-related content. Finding content is always challenging, but again, I feel that developing our content calendar will make that much easier. And PIA, both national and Kentucky, provides copious amount of content that we are free to share. Pay attention to the emails, the website and our blog posts to find much that you can use for your own posts. Links to PIA resources are below as well.
Again, if this is not your strong suite, it’s probably worth hiring someone to write your blog posts for you. Just make sure that they have and understand your Brand Guide, so that everything that goes out reflects your persona.
On-boarding = Marketing
Chris has an established series of automated emails that are sent to every new client, and we are going to implement the program using our management system. For one thing, this type of communication is one of the reasons most of us make the investment in these systems to start with, so I feel like it’s time to make full use of this technology. The emails build customer relationships, increase referrals and they will make sure that our clients know the full range of the products we offer. There is nothing more frustrating than learning that a client went elsewhere for coverage because they just didn’t realize that you offered that product!
This is also the opportunity to introduce new clients to our brand, so they get a feel for who we are, beyond the policy we issue. It also gives new clients many opportunities to ask questions before they have problems, as well as the ultimate cross-selling platform. I’m excited about getting started on this! Again, find more resources below.
Another idea of Chris’s that I really liked was the “video proposal”. Every time a proposal goes out, the agent records a personal video, reviewing the proposal line-by-line. Wow, talk about more personal! The proposal is also sent as an attachment, so the client has a reference document as well. Even when also planning a face-to-face presentation, Chris recommends sending the video in advance of the meeting. He’s found that often the business is already closed once the prospect has viewed the video, and they are able to spend the meeting time building the relationship.
As fellow attendees will attest, there was much, much more covered in Chris’s presentation. These are just the tactics that I feel we can implement for our agencies in the shorter term, and by shorter-term, I’ll be happy if we have everything I’ve mentioned in place by the end of the year. I recognize that this requires a serious time commitment (and a serious budget commitment) but I’m serious about my business and believe that following this plan will yield significant results.
I look forward to hearing about the strategies you plan on implementing, as well as about your progress as you put them into action. Please comment on the blog post to share your thoughts and suggestions.
Chris Paradiso Links
Chris graciously agreed to share links to marketing resources that he has either developed, or uses within his own agency.
PIA offers numerous member marketing resources on both the state and national level providing guides, expert tips, training, content for your social media and website and customizable consumer info to share with clients and prospects.
- PIA Agency Marketing Guide - updated annually, the Marketing Guide allows members to learn how fellow members use text messaging to service policies and generate new business, how public speaking can be used to generate leads, how to make use of technology in their agency's marketing and much more.
- Consumer-friendly issue papers - an ever-growing library, PIA has prepared a series of issue papers that can be distributed to your clients, or used on your website, emails or blogs.
- Consumer brochures - Kentucky-specific printable brochures to share with clients and prospects.
- PIAK newsletters and emails - offer up-to-the minute tips from industry leaders for members and non-members alike.
- PIAK digital marketing blog posts - a curated collection of the best-of-the best tips and articles for your agency's on-line advertising.
- Discounted marketing assistance for your online presence - if you're not ready to go it alone, or are ready to take your marketing program to the next level, Sally Advertising, LLC, PIAK's marketing partner provides discounted personal service for PIAK members. Contact Sally at firstname.lastname@example.org or 859-361-5004.