Marketing is rapidly separating successful, growing agencies from the pack. As I’ve explained in an earlier article about the critical importance of insurance agency marketing, it is no longer a nice-to-have, but has become a must-have for sales success and business survival.
I truly get that marketing is challenging. Trust me. We have always been deep into marketing for ourselves and are now taking that on for our agency clients, as well. We know very well how difficult and time consuming it is.
There are many things involved in effective marketing and most all of them are well beyond the scope of what an agency has ever tackled. We see this in the smallest agencies and the largest. No one seems immune from the lack of understanding about the critical role that branding and marketing play for attracting clients and filling your pipeline.
I also know that just adding marketing activities is not the easy fix to this problem that many seem to think it is. Deciding that you’re going to “do marketing” or “do social” is a terrible move. All it will do is waste your time, frustrate you at the complete lack of results, and then further your likely ingrained beliefs that marketing does not actually influence or improve your selling efforts. In addition to all those negatives, it will just make your readers and potential buyers believe that you don’t have good follow through. Overall, it’s not a brand-building move to just jump into marketing activities.
The mysteries of marketing
Understandably, agency leaders feel anxiety about marketing because it’s perceived as a difficult mystery. However, marketing is simply communication across different mediums. When it’s done right and done well, it prepares your buyers for a conversation with your sales people; it creates a strong mutual attraction between the buyer and your brand; and it allows you to get relationships off to the right start by building trust with the buyer before you ever have the first face-to-face meeting.
But, here’s the kicker – for that communication to be effective, it has to be the right message, delivered to the right audience, and it has to be focused on quality messages that are delivered consistently.
Insurance agencies are notorious for bad communication, which is why marketing seems difficult. We make it overly complicated by not properly preparing for what we want to say and then being terribly inconsistent in the delivery of the message. Marketing should be an ongoing effort that once started, doesn’t ever stop, but rather it’s something that we make changes and adjustments to along the way.
Good messaging starts inside
Creating the right message to use in your marketing starts with clarity about your business and your brand. Leadership needs a clear picture of who the company is and what it stands for in order for the rest of the team to have a clear picture. And I promise you, if you don’t make this incredibly clear to your team, there is no way they’ll ever communicate it effectively, or even correctly, to your clients and prospects.
Everyone on the team is a sales person – either selling prospects on why they should become clients, or selling clients on why they should remain clients – and everyone needs to articulate your company message with energy and passion for what you do as an organization.
Define your brand for business clarity
We help our Q4i agencies define their brand so they can make consistent decisions across the entire business model. Items that we explore and help define for their businesses include:
- Culture | What is your organization like internally? What is the personality?
- Why/Purpose | What is the driving cause of the company? Why do you do what you do? What is the bigger idea you are working to help your clients achieve?
- Values | What beliefs and behaviors are expected and that everyone must exhibit as a part of being on your team?
- Ideal Client | What types of clients benefit the most from what you do? How do they view the relationship with their insurance consultant and with their own employees?
- Value Proposition | How do you work with your clients? What about your process differentiates you from your competitors?
- Client Challenges | What are the biggest issues that your clients are facing and need help with? How does your Value Proposition help clients with those Challenges?
- Vision | Where do you see yourself going as an organization? What does your company look like three years from now?
Once we have well-thought-out answers for all of these ideas that define their business, this definition can now be used as the guide to make leadership decisions: Who makes a good cultural fit for the team? What employers make good clients? Which services are the right fit for your value proposition?
Without taking the time to think through all of these areas of your business, then every time you are faced with a decision, you have a make up an answer and reasoning for why it is or isn’t the right decision. Not having this clearly defined makes every decision more difficult and time consuming.
When over-sharing is actually a good thing
After you’ve clearly defined your brand – what your business stands for – then it’s time to communicate it repeatedly to your team. Talk about it in each meeting, incorporate it into job descriptions and performance reviews, use it as a filter for making all company decisions. You will get tired of talking about it, absolutely. But it’s necessary to reach that point of exhaustion with your own message to make sure everyone else understands it as well as you do.
When the team knows this brand definition inside and out, it allows them to also make better decisions on behalf of your company. Because if the team doesn’t know your intent and values, unfortunately everyone is left to using their own personal values as a guide for decision-making on your behalf. They may have strong values, but this mish-mash of values will always result in disparate decision-making for the company. This creates a messy brand in the market, which results in confusion for your clients and potential buyers.
Strong beliefs become attractive to buyers
If your message is not clear in your mind, it will not be clear in your communication. And if you don’t believe it, no one else will either. Yet, when you and your team do believe and live out your brand definition with sincerity in every decision you make about the business, you allow others to witness it, believe in it too, and begin building feelings of trust toward you. This is what directly influences your buyers and your sales cycle. Messaging based on your company belief system and value proposition becomes very attractive to potential buyers with similar beliefs.
A strong message will also repel people who are looking for a different value proposition and set of beliefs. Don’t let this upset you. Instead, let it give you confidence that your prospects are self-filtering, making your face-to-face conversations that much more productive.
The danger of going off-message
Everyone on your team represents your company. Everything they say and do reflects your business and your brand. If you’ve got people saying, behaving, and making decisions for your company the way they want rather than the way you want, you’ve lost control. Continuity throughout all behaviors, decisions, and messages is imperative for a consistent, recognizable brand.
Owning the brand
Modern business owners need to be the chief brand officer. You need to own that definition and be(come) obsessed with the consistent use of that message both internally and externally. You need to be(come) obsessed with how it influences and shapes your culture and connects your team members and clients together through a single purpose.
Spend time thinking about the brand definition ideas I outlined above. Discuss them with your team and start putting some shape to them. Define them in the way that balances who you are today and reflects who you aspire to become. Write them in present tense saying “We are…,” or “We do…” Give yourselves every opportunity to all accept ownership of the ideas.
Once the brand ideas become ingrained for everyone and it becomes who you are, then you’re ready to tackle outside marketing activities that are properly reflective of your brand. The quicker you define your brand and get to a solid place of brand leadership for your team, the quicker you’ll become the feared competitor in your market.
Photo by Daria/Epicantus.