So many benefits agencies are wrestling with a common question about the software platforms they need for their agency. What should they be tracking and what software should they use to track it?
I have this conversation repeatedly, and decided it was time to share with everyone else. And your choice - you can either watch the video or read the article to get the same message.
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Let's talk about agency software platforms. The question we get all the time is “What do I need?”
The platforms that tend to be in question are for client management and for marketing and sales tracking. A couple of terms that you probably hear quite a bit are AMS or Agency Management System, and this is used for tracking current clients, policies, and commissions.
Another term you probably hear quite a bit is CRM, which is Customer Relationship Management.
In this industry, we tend to use the CRM primarily to refer to sales and marketing activity.
So, AMS for current clients, policies, commissions, and CRM for sales and marketing - putting people into the pipeline and working them through to becoming clients.
For this conversation, we're going to assume that you have an AMS, and we're going to focus on the sales and marketing portion of it.
Do you need both AMS and CRM?
So, the next question then becomes “Well, do I need both systems?” The answer is, “Probably, but it depends on your circumstances.” If you're not really doing a lot of prospecting or if you're a single producer agency, then using your AMS to track your prospecting might do just fine.
You can track the companies and the individuals within those companies and track them through the buying process. You can add probably a few additional properties to your system and pull some basic reports.
If you're really serious about the pipeline, or if you have a number of producers on your team, then yeah, you probably do need to have a CRM to allow insight into the pipeline and integrate your marketing activities into that tracking and reporting.
For pipeline filling, marketing must be a consistently present set of activities. It's there to pique the interest of the buyers and to be available when people go look you up. The producers go out and they stir up their activity with the prospecting, and those buyers go out and they look you up.
Marketing alone is not going to fill the pipeline for you, at least not initially. Prospecting alone is going to be a slow road to filling the pipeline because people want social proof, and you are demonstrating your social proof through your marketing activity.
We really need to have those two things together, and that social proof comes in a number of different ways.
It's reviews that people leave for you, but it's also about the information that you share, what people say about you and that information, how you interact back with them. What do those back-and-forth interactions look like? Then you can get really specific and share case studies, whether it's in written form, or video form, providing a really strong testimonial.
But all of the social proof comes from a combination of your marketing activities. Some of it comes from social media. Some of it comes from your website.
And if you have a complete prospecting and marketing platform, then you can promote and track all of this activity in a single location, and it really gives your producers a huge advantage to be able to see not only the notes they've left from conversations that they've had, but they can also get the advantage of seeing all the interaction those buyers are having with your marketing activities as well.
Choice of CRM platform
So, this is where your choice of platforms comes in. Do you need to track prospecting only, or do you need to have a platform that will combine both the sales and the marketing and then consolidate and track all your efforts into that single location?
These are the questions to ask yourself, but the bottom line is if you're ready to up your game and get serious about your prospecting and marketing efforts then, yeah, you are probably ready to get serious about a separate system to help you manage those activities.
There are a great number of platforms out there that can meet your needs exceptionally well. So you need to make the choice, make the financial commitment to it, and most importantly, make the time commitment and the accountability commitment and investment that is going to take to follow through with this and make it really stick within the organization.
Connecting the systems
The last question we get is:
“Okay. we're talking about AMS and CRM. How do these two systems connect?”
And right now, there are not a lot of connections between AMS and CRM systems in this industry.
But the question that I always come back and ask is, “Does it really matter?”
If your producers are only tracking basic contact information through that CRM, then is it really a heavy lift to enter that information into the AMS? Now if you are entering a lot of information and you're getting really in-depth with it, or if you want to use your new CRM system to do all of your communications for your clients and your prospects, then yeah, it might be a situation where it's really important to have those two systems talk to each other.
The problem is that your options are really pretty limited at this time in terms of what systems are available that offer that kind of connection, but I continue to hold out hope that the industry is going to recognize this need and open up compatibility for agencies.
But regardless of what you choose, the best system for your agency is the one that you will use.