Create a Sales and Marketing Plan for Your Agency

The current market conditions for insurance are rather ambiguous. It seems that the “soft market” is on its last legs, but the uncertainty of political changes and issues like mold, asbestos and terrorism make it difficult to guess at long term trends. So, what can the typical independent insurance agent and broker do in order to succeed? What are the basic ingredients to a well written sales & marketing plan?

Know Thyself

The best starting point is to first define the insurance agency’s “personality.” The “personality” of an agency is the book of business and it will in turn define what to look for from the various markets and the selection of new markets to represent. For example, a large urban agency that sells only very large commercial accounts will have different expectations than a small town agency that sells all lines of insurance.

Start by finding out what the split of business is along each line: personal, commercial, life, group benefits and program business, etc. Then calculate the average size of account for each line. Also, how much of the agency business comes from the top ten accounts? Finally, analyze the distribution of business and identify the top five industries.

List the breakdown of the current book of business by line of business, top ten accounts and key industries. Calculate the current percentage of the overall book for that line of business. Is the mix of business healthy for the agency? This is a judgment call for the owners. Niche selling is usually more profitable, however, it is also riskier. If the agency has a lot of small accounts, the procedures in place for selling and servicing them are critical in order to make a profit.

It is important to distance oneself from the book of business and objectively ask the question “is this book valuable enough the way it is or should its composition be changed?” If it needs to be changed, what should the agency target? This depends on the expertise of the producers and service staff, as well as the appetite of the firm’s current markets. Write down those future targets next to the current composition. This thought process is what separates the entrepreneur from the average person.

How Much Can You Grow?

It is important to review the new sales for the agency overall and for each producer. An experienced producer in a typical agency should generate at least $30,000 to $50,000 in new commission dollars each year, depending on their size of book. For large firms with large accounts, the amount would be much higher, maybe even $100,000 in new commissions.

The hit ratio of each producer needs to be determined. Hit ratios less than 25% to 33% costs the agency a lot of time and money. The technique of producers with low hit ratios needs to be checked and adjusted. Often, the producer fails to pre-qualify the prospect. Sometimes producers just are not approaching businesses that match up with the products the agency has expertise in writing, nor markets that are competitive for those classes of business. Use the successful producers as a model.

The agency may have tremendous sales, however if there is loss of business through attrition, much of the effort for new sales is wasted. Calculate the attrition rate for the agency and each producer. The goal should be around 10% or less attrition for the typical property/casualty insurance agency. Higher attrition rates are usually an indication that the business the agency writes is transient and either the clients are price shopping or not good risks.

When writing a sales & marketing plan, list the current overall hit ratio, average new business produced and the average book of business in the agency. Write next to those numbers the target for next year. Below that list write two or three actions that need to be accomplished to reach those goals.

Market Relations

If the current uncertainty in the marketplace continues, the insurance carriers will be making a lot of changes, such as tightening up on underwriting or pulling out of certain markets. Today’s agent or broker needs to have a clear understanding of what the carriers can do for them and how this fits into the overall agency plan.

Run a list of all of the carriers with volumes, commission rates (or commissions), loss ratios and contingents received. Analyze how the agency’s book of business stacks up with the existing markets. Compare all the carriers and their products against what the agency has with the top ten industry groups the agency writes.

Some of the questions that should be asked include: will volume commitments be met and how will it be done, are there new markets the firm should seek out, is the volume spread too thick or too thin, is the agency maximizing profit sharing agreements?

In the sales & marketing plan also list the five most important markets (not necessarily the largest) and the agency’s volume with them. Write realistic agency production goals for the next 12 months next to those numbers. Then, list one or two markets that you do not have, but feel the agency could use. Write down next to those names the date you will approach them. Finally, list two or three markets that the agency has outgrown and should get rid of.

Take Responsibility

Agents & brokers are dependent upon insurance companies for the insurance products that the agency sells. A strong relationship with the carriers is imperative. The key to any good relationship is communication. Agencies must have a well-organized plan to communicate with each carrier. Some insurance companies communicate better than others do, so the independent agent needs to take full responsibility to ensure a dialogue occurs.

Agencies need to take a proactive approach to managing company relations. Good relations cannot be allowed to stagnate, and weak relations must be built up. Agency owners need to evaluate which companies they should do business with to meet their needs for competitive, responsive markets.

Both parties need to grow, and relationships of the past may no longer meet the needs of today, especially if either party has targeted certain classes of business that aren’t of interest to the other. Resources should not be wasted on maintaining relationships with carriers that offer little benefit to the agency. Companies continue to limit the number of agencies they do business with, often to better utilize their resources and to reduce costs.

Take Action

So how does an agency keep the communication open with its markets and perhaps become a “preferred” agent? Create a process that makes it easy for management to focus on company relationships. The first step is to assign an individual or two from the firm to each carrier as that carrier’s “relationship manager.”

Responsibilities for the management of the firm’s top carriers should be divided up among the owners and/or a key non-owner producer or CSR, depending on whom has the best relationship with each carrier. Overall carrier relationship management should always be a major focus for all owners; however, dividing up the duties with others in the firm will insure that the steps are implemented.

A specific action plan should include job assignments, planned visits, information and data to communicate, and a budget to implement the plan. Keep in mind that it takes time and money to nurture a successful company relationship. It’s important to keep track of the plan and make sure it is followed. Even a strong relationship will eventually die if it is neglected.

The collection and presentation of information and data is a significant step since it will set the tone of the communication. Agencies that are prepared and well informed will create an immediate interest in the company representatives, since unfortunately, most agencies fail to do their homework.

Stop By to Say Hello

Take the Sales & Marketing Plan directly to the insurance company representative. Set an annual meeting to discuss agency goals and future opportunities. In this annual meeting, the agency principal in charge of markets and the relationship manager for that carrier should meet face to face with the regional vice president or branch manager of each contract company and the main underwriter assigned to the agency.

There are three objectives for this meeting: 1) inform the company’s management about the current status of the agency and future plans; 2) find out where the company stands now and its plans for the future; and 3) discuss how the agency and the company can do more business together in the future.

There should be follow-up meetings to discuss progress on the agency-company game plan on at least a quarterly basis.

Both parties need to be open and frank. The agency Sales & Marketing plan should be reviewed and discussed at the meeting. Reasonable goals and commitments for future business need to be established. Relay the highlights of the meeting back to the agency staff.

Plan ongoing carrier “schmoozing” activities to enhance the relationship. It is easier to develop a relationship if parties meet often, and social visits are especially effective. The whole agency needs to be involved with fostering good relations with the markets.

Ask the companies to fill out a report card on the agency in order to identify the carriers’ perceptions of the firm. Discuss what the firm can do to improve the existing relationship and to write more business. Determine how the agency can take advantage of the value-added services offered by the carriers, such as financing, training, etc.

SUMMARY

Now, more than ever before, it is extremely important for insurance companies and owners of agencies/brokerages to build partnerships that are responsive to the business plans established each year by each party. Building improved relationships needs to be a two-way street.

It is easy to get this relationship-building program underway and it really works. Responsibilities for this program must be shared and communication needs to be flowing within the firm, within the carrier and between each other. Improved communication and a focus on improving relationships will save time and will make both parties more money, guaranteed.

Agencies without a sales & marketing plan are totally reactive to their environment and have little control over their future. Firms that incorporate an annual planning process tend to be more efficient, more profitable and highly valued businesses. The choice is yours. Take the time to plan ahead and be successful or be at the mercy of the winds of change.

How to Create an Effective Marketing Plan

Marketing is the soul of your business, it means anything you do for the promotion of your business comes under marketing. However, without a plan or strategy your marketing campaign will not deliver the desired results. Therefore, creating marketing plan for any business is vital.

Now the question arise; how to create an effective marketing plan for a company? We all know the format of a marketing plan. Whether you make a formal or informal proposal, a plan should be such which touches all the essential points to deliver the targeted goal.

To make an effective plan, there is a famous rule called 4P’s. Here, P’s stand for Price, Product, Promotion and Placement. In this another P is added called People. Today while doing digital marketing or the traditional marketing one should understand people or the customers you are dealing with. It’s important to figure out what is significant for the business, and later make a plan accordingly.

Generally, in a marketing plan the following points are considered –

  • Market Analysis: First analysis your broader market, where are the opportunities that you can look for? What are the scopes in the current market? After analyzing the broader scope of the market; target on the niche values.
  • Identify the Target Customers: Unlike the broader analysis of the market; here you aim on the targeted customers. You look for the scopes where you can promote or market your product to get the higher returns and acceptance. Here from targeted customers to clients, you also find out the needs and demands of the audience. Once you know, who all are your customers and what exactly they are looking for then you can jump to next step.
  • Marketing Plan: In this you perform, precise activities which helps in achieving the goals and objectives you are targeting at. Here, you plan how you will promote the product/service? What are the specific areas of promotion? What would be the budget of this plan execution? Etc. Plus, you also estimate the ROI of this marketing strategy.
  • Competitive Edge: It’s important to define your competitors too. One should know, what strategies are being used by the competitors to reach to the potential customers. If you know what your competitors are doing, you will be able to modify the plan and maybe your marketing analyst will come with something more innovative that can capture the mass attention.
  • Sales and Strategy Forecast: If you have a target to achieve you can plan out your work according. It’s just like keep the figures real and amenable. Unrealistic figures would not help you ever to get the target on time. Secondly with these forecast, you can compare your marketing strategies and come up with the best solutions for future activities.

These above tips are vital or the stepping stones for any business, but in reality, companies need to incorporate multiple web channels for their business marketing plans. Below are popular web channels that business uses for their planning and strategies:

  • Social Media Marketing: One of the most promising way of marketing in today’s date. From LinkedIn to Facebook and from Twitter to Google+, companies use these platforms to target the right set of customers. From a survey by social media – 93% of marketers use social media for business.
  • Mobile Marketing: Another most prompting way of marketing which is used in today’s digital world. The acceptance of smartphones and tablets has helped to change the way companies used to target their customers earlier; these days they implement strategies that reach customers on their devices itself. From a survey via Our Mobile Planet, 89% of smartphone users notice mobile ads.
  • Email Marketing: The marketing plan via email is quite an old one. It is an effective and popular way of promotion for many small business owners. Get the email data of your possible customers and send them your customize business emails to let them know what you are offering.
  • Blog Marketing: Blogging is a big focus when it comes to content marketing. Blog provides a personal touch and advantage to your social media marketing too. Here you have a freedom or control over the product or service you are marketing for. Companies are hiring full-time bloggers for this job. Although, 62% of marketers blog or plan to blog in 2013, only 9% of US marketing companies employ a full-time blogger.

These are the points you should remember while making plan and strategies and how to reach the customers for a booming business.

Marketing Plan Schedule Implementation – Scheduling Your Home Business Workload

Marketing plan schedules are important in any business, and a home business is no exception. In fact the way that you implement a marketing plan schedule is even more important with a home based business, either one that you run by yourself or with only your family, simply because of the limited number of people actually doing the work! So here we take a look at the best way to plan your marketing schedule for every week, and also look at the websites and services you should be using.

Your marketing plan schedule should ideally fit in around your work and family commitments, yet still leave plenty of time to adequately complete all of the tasks you need to each day, week in week out. Of course in the real world that is easier said than done, and it sounds great when you read it in an article, but how do you actually implement such a schedule?

Firstly you need to start by taking a moment to analyze your day to see when you have quiet periods of time that you can actually get some work done without being interrupted. It’s no good starting a complicated task if you are not going to have the free time to finish it without being called upon to do something else.

You actually need to do this for every day of your week, so that you can see what free time you have available, as it is likely some days will be busier than others. If you are still working whilst running your own home business, then your days off will contain the most free time available to you and the days you have in work will contain the least, obviously.

A smart marketing plan schedule will allow you to do most of your work on your days off, and some of your promotional work should be setup to automatically complete whilst you are in work. This will give a more consistent feel to your promotional efforts, and will help to avoid the feeling that you absolutely must get something done even after a hard days work, because you will already have done it in advance when you had the chance!

To better visualize your marketing plan schedule we will take my own personal schedule as an example. This schedule was originally based upon my 4 days on 4 days off shift pattern in work, giving an interesting 8 day week plan (8 day weeks previously only existing in Beatles songs) which had the added benefit of my work never appearing in the same place on the same day each week. This meant people could not simply visit once per week for content, they would have to visit more often than that to find my updates.

I would do most of my promotional work (things such as writing blog posts, articles, press releases, classified ads etc.) on my 4 days off, and schedule as much of it as possible to be posted during my 4 days on. This would have the appearance of me working away and being consistent despite the twelve hour shifts, and look to all as though there was a constant stream of content coming from my website.

My marketing plan schedule worked quite well for me, at least as long as I stuck to it, which was until circumstances changed beyond my control, and yours will work well for you provided you implement a schedule you can actually stick to, hence the earlier reason for analyzing quiet periods in each day of the week. So do this now before reading any further!

In this section of the article we will look at the websites and services you should be using. Which service you use, and even the particular day that you use them is entirely up to you. No doubt there is extensive research on the particular day of the week to complete certain tasks, but that is beyond the scope of this article. You can always adapt your schedule later if you experience better results on different days for the individual tasks in hand.

Adapting my marketing plan schedule to your own.

(Please note the difference between the major tasks and the minor tasks as we go through my schedule below. A major task, for me at least, was one that required more time and research to complete, the minor task version was one that could be done without any research at all and on only a moments notice)

FIRST DAY ON

On my first day on I would look into posting a Yahoo answer (a minor task). For those that don’t know Yahoo answers are a wonderful place to post questions others can answer usually in minutes. The fact that they can answer them in minutes is excellent, because this means that Yahoo answers gets indexed by the search engines very quickly indeed. You can get links back to your own website once you get enough points built up by answering questions. You can also get quite a lot of traffic this way, provided your answers are good enough.

The truly great thing about Yahoo answers is the fact that it is usually placed very highly in the search engine positions if individual keywords matched. So if you work it well enough, you can get your answers to be displayed at the top of Google for a search, and get most of the people that find your answer over to your website! Yahoo answers should be part of any successful marketing plan schedule implementation strategy.

In addition to Yahoo answers I would also send out an email through AWeber (another minor task) to my email subscribers. The AWeber email archive page is indexed by the search engines, is a good source of traffic in itself and also helps to improve the positions of pages linked to it from there. The email could be about anything I was planning to do with my website or other announcements. Sending out a simple email and answering one question doesn’t take up much time, and so that’s the reason for including it on a busy work day.

SECOND DAY ON

On my second day I would upload a video to YouTube (another minor task). Usually the video was largely completed on one of my days off and simply needed some tweaking before uploading. YouTube is an excellent source of traffic and the videos are again indexed extremely quickly. Commenting on videos was another quick and easy way of getting traffic over from popular videos.

Additionally I would also make a small post on the Yearn2earncash.com blog (another minor task). This would be nothing special, often only something as simple as stating the fact I had uploaded a new video to YouTube, and rewriting the description of the actual video slightly. The reason for making small posts is to keep the search engines robots coming back to the blog as often as possible. (By the way, always use free services to “Ping” your blog, unless your blog already automatically uses ping services like WordPress.org self hosted blogs do)

Again both the uploading of YouTube videos and posting of small blog posts are something that could be done even after a busy day in work.

THIRD DAY ON

On my third day on I would create a classified ad (another minor task), usually through Craigslist and also a website called USFreeads. The search engines really like classified ads and they index them very quickly. They can be a very good source of traffic; they get placed quite highly in the search engines results, and are really quite easy to write. Choose good keywords as your ad title.

FOURTH DAY ON

On my fourth day (the last of my 4 on, 4 off work schedule) I would simply find some do follow blogs to comment on (another minor task, with the right software). For those that don’t know do follow blogs give you SEO benefit, and so they are they best blogs to comment on. If you comment on blogs then make sure that you don’t spam them, simple leave normal helpful comments on subjects you are interested in. In addition to getting SEO credit from do follow blog comments you can also get some traffic if your comment is good enough and helpful enough.

Additionally on my fourth day I would create another short blog post, usually just about how good one of the other do follow blogs was, or something I had just discovered on one of them. Again, just something quick and easy would do to get the search engine robots back to the blog.

So now we are halfway through my own personal marketing plan schedule, and hopefully you are now well on your way to implementing your own schedule. This is where the work really starts though; because once I was on my 4 days off I had to really start creating the work in order to have some that could be scheduled to post even on the next set of work days!

FIRST DAY OFF

On my first day off I would write an article (a major task), usually to be posted on EzineArticles although occasionally posted on Isnare for massive article distribution. Although articles have become slightly less important in the search engines eyes of late, they should still form a major part of any successful marketing plan schedule implementation strategy. They still draw a lot of traffic over to the websites linked to from them.

Not being the best writer in the world I would find writing the article to be somewhat time consuming, due to the amount of research often required, and it was for the best that I did this on a day off.

SECOND DAY OFF

On my second day off I would research and create my main weekly YouTube video (a major task – lesser ones can be created and uploaded anytime, but I always like one important one each week) plus make a forum post (another major task, requiring some research on the subject matter). The forum used was often warrior forum, although any popular one will do.

The warrior forum is perhaps the most important forum for internet marketers and can be an excellent source of traffic. I have also noticed some good SEO benefit from having links coming from forum posts and signature links, and so ideally you should use more than one forum. Google really approves of forums, and the posts get placed quite highly in the search engines results. So always make time for forum posts in your marketing plan schedule.

Additionally I would make another small blog post, this time a rewrite of my forum post answer so that I could effectively use the same content twice, but hopefully get even more traffic by implementing different keywords.

THIRD DAY OFF

On my third day off I would write a press release (a major task, not so much because it required any research as such, but mostly because it really requires writing in the “third person” – which was a skill I never really got the hang of). I have only ever used PRlog for my press releases because I have been amazed by the speed with which traffic was generated by them. I had hundreds of views very quickly (within minutes for my best efforts!) and could get indexed by the search engines quickly too.

Given that press releases can now contain images and also videos they should be the most important factor in the implementation of your marketing plan schedule. If you are prepared to pay for it, you can even have the extra feature of keyword anchor text in the links back to your website – One of the most vital link types you can get.

Again writing press releases for me was time consuming, and so best left to one of my days off.

FOURTH DAY OFF

On my fourth day off (my last day off work, sadly) I would create my major blog post. This would be the most important blog post of the week, and would contain the sum of my discoveries and experiences online during the week. It would also contain any announcements I wanted to make to my visitors. As Google loves blogs you absolutes must have one and post to it regularly, regardless of the home business you have or the type of content you plan on posting.

Thus completes my marketing plan schedule. It is important to note that although some tasks were only mentioned once per week, they were actually repeated more often than that. For example, my yahoo answers postings were sometimes made more often than once per week. The schedule above was only the minimum number of times I would do it per week. Often I would try to post on yahoo answers more often than that, but never less.

Additionally as partly mentioned earlier in the article you should note the minor tasks. For example I would create small blog posts as often as I liked, even every day if I felt like it, provided I had made one at least every other day that was fine. I also made smaller YouTube videos that required no research and simply contained my reactions to something that had happened that day. Provided I made at least one major YouTube video in the week, again that was just fine.

In the implementation of your marketing plan schedule you must attempt to reach a happy balance between not getting enough done, and having so much on your schedule for the day that you feel overwhelmed and decide not to do anything! Try simply to create a minimum schedule of work that contains all of the tasks you want done each day/each week, and then do more if time allows.

One good option would be to print out copies of your marketing plan schedule so that you can tick off completed tasks each day, then after the week is complete start again on another copy. Better still, have a whiteboard so that you can write on it and wipe it off after the week is complete.

The final area to be covered is the sharing of your own content through social media. I would share through Facebook and twitter all of my posted content from the week before. I would also click on the Facebook like button, and any other sharing buttons available in order to get more of my marketing content out there. You should be sure to share your own content through as many networks as possible, usually a week later in order to give it time to be scheduled, indexed and seen by a few people. Plus that avoids the issue of having all of the same subject matter appearing in your status updates in the same few days.

Now its time for you to implement your own marketing schedule. Whatever work schedule you have simply adapt my plan schedule above to suit and use all of the mentioned websites and services, plus as many more as you have time for. Get going!