The pandemic has forced agencies to go digital, and a balance is needed to move forward by appealing to digitally-savvy audiences without alienating more traditional customers.
The pandemic has forced insurance agencies to go digital, and while younger customers may have adapted to going virtual seamlessly, it's not so easy to get everyone on board—from long-term clients who are firmly in the brick-and-mortar camp to older family members who love a good piece of paper and aren't so thrilled by social media.
An agency must strike a balance, which means moving forward in a professional way that its digitally-savvy audience will appreciate without alienating its more traditional audiences.
Once you've decided you want to go digital—or that you want to evaluate your current digital strategy—take a look at these three areas:
1) Don't take a one-size-fits-all approach. When I think about successful communications and marketing for agencies, I recognize that everyone has different needs and preferences. A smart digital strategy reflects those needs and preferences and can help you understand how best to approach and grow your relationships.
Start with research. Not everyone loves email, not everyone wants to be on Facebook, not everyone responds to texts. The easiest way to find out what they want? Ask! You can even survey your clients and ultimately help make sure you have the right mix of digital tools to support them.
Based on your findings, build a digital strategy and supporting “ecosystem" that gives you the flexibility to communicate with your clients in the way they want, whether they prefer email, phone, virtual meetings, texts or social media.
And don't forget to include those tools that make it easier for clients to do business with you, from upgrading to an easier quoting platform to adding simple perks like giving clients the ability to download their policies.
Creating a thoughtful digital ecosystem will help establish trust; make clients and prospects feel like more than a number to your business; and can lead to a mutually beneficial long-term relationship.
2) Strike the right balance between automation and personal communications. Relationships are not built based on emails or social media posts alone. While these can be highly effective tools in your client nurture strategy, they cannot be the only tools.
My advice? Find a reason to call your customers or send them handwritten notes. Whether it be a renewal date, a birthday, or an anniversary, there are moments better left to actual direct communication.
Recognize that it takes constant follow-up and nurturing of a book of business to make it successful. And the value of personal communications in this process is often underestimated today. A good, well-maintained customer relationship management system and digital communications can inform and empower you, but “old school" forms of communications can also be key to retaining customers and building your business.
3) Train your staff. After you do all of the research and invest the money, take the next step and make staff training on that technology a priority.
After all, they are most often the ones doing the follow-up and quoting the business. You could have all the digital systems and strategies in the world but they will mean nothing if your staff does not also know how to use them or maximize their potential.
For example, I know one agency that invested in a cloud-based project management system with all kinds of amazing bells and whistles to keep the team on track. It also came with an annual price tag that the owner thought would be well worth it from an efficiency and productivity perspective.
Fast-forward six months and the owner was dismayed to learn that 90% of their staff was only using the spreadsheet feature and not taking advantage of the other tools—because they didn't know how.
There are too many training sources at our fingertips, many of which are on-demand, to skip this step. Agency owners can connect their staff with tools like custom tutorials and online videos from the technology vendor or encourage them to tap outside resources like professional development classes through associations, general online learning platforms or even YouTube. A relatively small investment in training can deliver significant returns.
The pandemic has rapidly accelerated digital transformation, and it's easy to get caught up in the moment and make knee-jerk decisions that take you off course. But with a thoughtful, professional approach, you can build an online presence that keeps you connected with your clients in a way that's meaningful for both of you.
Lex Daniele is the assistant vice president of marketing at Aon Programs, a broker-centric program that offers tailored insurance solutions to more than 300 specialty insurance programs. Daniele specifically leads the development of broker-centric marketing strategies while also helping individuals execute multichannel digital campaigns.