Four independent agents share how their agencies use digital to connect with clients, expand their reach and scale their business.
Highly digital agencies grow revenue faster.
That was one of the findings of Rise of the Digital Insurance Agency, the recent Agent for the Future research report by Liberty Mutual and Safeco Insurance. Agencies that were high digital adopters grew revenue 60% faster than low digital adopters.
The fact that digital is tied to revenue growth isn't surprising given the rising expectations of consumer expectations around digital. In a survey of more than 600 U.S. consumers, 82% believe a company's digital experience is either somewhat or very important when they are considering doing business, according to the report.
Providing a great digital experience can help your agency attract prospects and close sales. It can also help you streamline agency operations, save time and money, make strategic business decisions and more.
Want to learn how to unlock the power of digital in your agency? The new, research-backed interactive experience from Agent for the Future was created to help independent insurance agencies navigate digital transformation. Take the three-minute assessment to learn where your agency stands on your digital journey and get personalized recommendations and resources on next steps based on a framework of 15 digital capabilities.
Here are five ways going digital can benefit independent agents, from four that already have:
1) Expand your agency's capacity. During her days as a captive insurance agent, Majda Baltic was expected to use only paper documents and meet with every client physically in the office.
As she grew her book, she realized meeting with everyone in person limited her time and ability to take on new clients.
So, when Baltic launched her independent agency, Majdas Touch Insurance, she made it 100% digital. Tools such as e-signature, texting and automations helped her scale her business.
“With the digital setup, everything is automated and streamlined," Baltic says. “For the first few years, I was able to grow my client base and got to a point where I was managing 1,500 clients by myself. That would have been nearly impossible in my analog days."
2) Broaden your reach. According to the Rise of the Digital Insurance Agency report, 47% of high digital adopters said they had increased the geographic area in which they acquire new clients. That's compared to just 12% of low digital adopters.
Tools such as social media, search engine optimization (SEO) and Google Ads can help your agency reach a wider audience online. Modern consumers often conduct research online when looking for businesses and products. Over half (54%) of social media users used social media to research products, according to GlobalWebIndex. If your agency shows up in web results, it can help you attract customers who might not have found you otherwise. Google found that 76% of people who search on their smartphones for something nearby, visit a business within a day.
So how do you make sure you're reaching the right kinds of prospects online? Agency marketer Dshanya Reese suggests creating digital marketing personas to identify and target your agency's ideal customers. She starts by defining demographics and interests for each persona, then conducts keyword research on sites such as AnswerThePublic and Google Trends. That way, she can craft specific marketing messages that answer the questions her agency's ideal customers are researching online.
“No matter who you're targeting or what platforms you're using, digital tools can help you reach the right audience where and when they want to be reached," Reese says.
3) Connect more personally with clients and prospects. Digital capabilities not only help you reach new clients—tools such as video calls, texting and email marketing can also help you connect with current clients when you can't meet in person.
During COVID-19 lockdowns, the staff at POWERS Insurance & Risk Management knew that their hospitality clients would be struggling. The agency's president, JD Powers, a restaurant owner himself, started issuing a series of educational emails to the agency's hospitality clients and created content with advice for restaurant owners.
The goal was simply to connect with clients and help them survive during a tough time. But a few of the clients liked the emails so much that they forwarded them to friends in the industry. The agency ended up writing three new franchise restaurant chains who reached out after seeing the emails.
Tim Davis, director of operations at POWERS, says it was a great example of how a personalized digital touch can lead to growth.
“Just taking care of our clients helped us gain more in sales than any sort of marketing plan I could have created," Davis says. “The email series was not at all a sales effort, but it turned into quite a bit of production for us."
“Your clients really are your best referral partners," Davis adds. “And digital tools can help you easily strengthen your relationships with your clients by sending those personalized communication touches."
4) Make things easier for your clients. The quality of digital interactions can make or break your relationships with clients and prospects, with 68% of consumers feeling satisfied after a good digital experience with a company and 67% feeling frustrated after a bad digital experience, according to the report by Liberty Mutual and Safeco Insurance.
Tools such as online quotes, self-service portals and live chat give customers the instant access and service they have come to expect.
Majda Baltic of Majdas Touch Insurance says her agency grew exponentially during COVID-19 in part because clients were able to get hold of her agency through many different channels. Her agency was able to accommodate people's needs in many different ways and make it easy for people to do business remotely.
Her clients appreciate how easy it is to do business with her agency.
“Far from taking away from relationships with clients, digital actually deepens client relationships, because they feel like you are going the extra mile to make things easier for them," she says.
5) Make strategic decisions. Using digital tools for marketing and other agency operations can make it easier to track metrics to get a full picture of what's working for your agency and where you might want to change tactics.
Jeff Roy, CEO of Excalibur Insurance Group, suggests tracking metrics such as response times, close ratios, acquisition cost and more.
“Knowing those metrics and numbers gives you a baseline from which to improve your agency," Roy says. “By learning those numbers and looking at that data over time, you can drive costs down. You can figure out how to improve conversion rates and make sure you're driving the kinds of leads that convert."
Want to learn how to more effectively use digital in your agency? Explore Agent for the Future's new interactive framework for digital transformation and take the assessment for personalized advice on which capabilities to implement next.