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FAIA and Industry News

A look back at the first three years of TrustedChoice.com

(Insurance Marketing, Trusted Choice) Permanent link

On June 30th, 2016, TrustedChoice.com celebrated the launch of its website, the only referral generation platform focused solely on growing the independent insurance agency channel. This video is a look at just how far they've come. If you like what you hear, learn more about the TrustedChoice.com Advantage subscription.

Trusted Choice announces marketing reimbursement guidelines for 2016

(Insurance Marketing, Trusted Choice) Permanent link
There’s never been a better time to co-brand your agency with Trusted Choice. For 2016, agencies that take advantage of all three Marketing Reimbursement Program options are eligible for a maximum reimbursement of $1,500, and agencies that are first-time MRP applicants or are new to Trusted Choice may be eligible for additional funds.

Three tiers are available:

  1. Use of the Freedom Campaign materials.
  2. Use of a web developer/vendor to provide a digital upgrade to an agency’s website, social media, or mobile app.
  3. Use of digital advertising/marketing provided by Trusted Choice.

Check out the guidelines (PDF) for more information.

Deadline for digital ad flight is Feb. 1

Time is running short to sign up for the next Trusted Choice digital ad flight. Choose either a three-month or five-month flight of banner ads on websites and social media ads on Facebook. The flights are geo-targeted to pre-selected zip codes to adults ages 25–54. The deadline to purchase these online packages is Feb. 1. Have questions? Contact Kiescha Cherry for more information.

2016 MRP Graphic 

Invest in technology, lots of it, and know how to use it

(Insurance Marketing) Permanent link

By Sue Ray
FAIA Communications Director

Ernst & Young is out with its 2016 Global Insurance Outlook for U.S. property and casualty insurers. The report predicts and ranks, on a scale of one to 10, the impact of external forces on the P&C market in 2016, and provides a road map for transformation. It is a must-read.

“Driven by their interactions in other digitally enabled industries, such as retail and banking, property-casualty customers are increasingly demanding a more sophisticated and personalized experience—including digital distribution, anytime access, premiums accurately reflecting usage and individual risk, and higher levels of product customization and advice.”
—2016 US P&C Outlook

The report can be summed up like this: Invest in technology and use it to improve the customer experience. Do it now.

If the report’s advice to carriers sounds familiar, it should, because this very same advice has been doled out to agents for years.

A digital strategy that fully incorporates technology touches almost every aspect of the insurance business:

  • Marketing (social media, website, SEO, digital communications);
  • Distribution (how “paperwork” gets done; hint, it’s not paper work anymore);
  • Customer service (web-based, in real time); and
  • Pricing (collecting and using data to evaluate and inform pricing, and doing so with transparency).

Investments in technology improve back-end operational efficiency, which almost always leads to better customer service. And in the “Internet age,” meeting customers' expectations has never been more important.

Carriers (and agencies) that won’t or can’t meet customer expectations do so at their own peril. You are sadly mistaken if you think Internet-age customer is some kid in his 20s, hardly worth bothering with because he has yet to reach his peak earnings potential.

I am a married, working mother of two who is nearing a milestone birthday (let’s just leave it there)—I am an Internet-age customer. And chances are good that most of you are, too; you just don’t realize it. Many of us are so set in our workplace ways that we don’t realize we’re doing the very things that annoy us about doing business with others.

Do you buy shoes from Zappos? Don’t you just love how easy they make it, how they seem to know what you are looking for the minute you open your browser? How shipping is free—both ways!? Zappos' high level of customer service is built from the ground up on technology; is why its customers are so loyal. Would you love buying shoes from Zappos if when you found the shoe you were looking for, the next step involved printing out a PDF to select the size and color?

Another example: If you have children, doesn’t it drive you crazy when you have to fill out dozens of similar paper forms at the beginning of the school year? Why does every class, after-school activity, and athletic team need a separate form when they are all asking for the same information?

That's so 20th Century, and it’s bad customer service. 

When it comes to school, there aren’t a lot of alternatives (and changing schools based on that alone could be perceived as petty). But there are a lot of alternatives for insurance consumers. If a customer’s online experience is lacking, they will look for, and find, one that is not. 

A customer experience is lacking if it requires customers to:

  • Use a pen
  • Find a stamp
  • Write a paper check
  • Download and print a PDF
  • Use a fax machine (provided they can find one!)
  • Scan and email a document

Alone, none of those things seems like a big hassle. Taken together (as they often are), each step you make a potential customer take is like another tiny orange cone on the road to giving you their business.

Baby steps: This, you can do 

At the very base level, customers expect their emails to be answered. If your agency uses a “contact us” form to collect information from its website, potential clients may be falling through the cracks. Get answers to the following questions as soon as possible:

  • Who receives the information generated through the form?
  • If the information goes to a general e-mailbox (info@myagency.com), who is responsible for checking it? Anyone?
  • Does your agency have a policy for handling inbound email? Such a policy might include how often it should be checked and number of days (it should be minutes) before inquiries are handled.

I have failed to get a response from so many businesses after completing the online form that I don’t fill them out anymore. Don’t be that business. Have a plan, or better yet, list your agency staff on your website and include email addresses and phone numbers.

Get Your Trusted Choice Digital Checkup

(Trusted Choice, Insurance Marketing) Permanent link

Trusted Choice will offer a “digital review” for agents who would like to create or improve their social media outlets and websites.  Agents may request a one-on-one consultation by sending an email with links to their website and social media outlets. The consultation service will include:

  • A 15-30 minute telephone or Skype conversation
  • A written assessment
  • Content services referrals
  • Follow-up conversation

To get your FREE digital review contact Patrice Nickols or Kiescha Cherry

 Digital Checkup 

You may not like what your email address says about your business

(Insurance Marketing) Permanent link

By Sue Ray
Communications Director
 

In my role as Communications Czar (David Thompson gets a nickname…), I see countless email addresses, and much to my surprise and dismay, I’ve noticed that a lot—and I mean thousands—of agents use AOL, Hotmail, and Yahoo email addresses. For purposes of this blog, we’ll call them “general domain” email addresses.

I hope these agents are only using them to receive FAIA and other email, because conducting business using a general domain email address makes a business look like it is run out of a basement.

Why? Because it takes no effort and it’s free to set up a general domain email address. Using it to operate a business says, “I’ve just gotten into this line of work,” or, “I do this work on the side,” or “I’ve retired but I like to dabble.” It can make your business look less credible and unprofessional. Unless you are personally known to me or are a very close friend, I’m not doing business with anyone whose email address is thebestpolicybarnone@hotmail.com (used for demonstration purposes only). Would you?

Doesn't matter, because you might not be able to do business with that person even if you wanted to. Our IT department was trying to help a member with a technology issue, but the member didn’t get the message because his AOL filtering blocked our response to his question.

Scam artists and unscrupulous business people regularly set up fake Yahoo and Hotmail accounts to prowl for easy marks. This helps explain why so many general domain email addresses end up in spam filters. It’s very likely that the people you’re marketing to with such an email address will never receive your inquiries.

Get a real domain name

Your email address is part of your small business brand. It lets potential customers know your agency is well established, even if it’s not…yet. In the digital age, your email address is as important, probably more so, than your business card. Would you print off business cards on copy paper, cut them into squares, and hand them out? That’s kind of what you’re doing if you use a general domain email address.

Getting an email addresses that matches your business name isn’t as hard or expensive as you might think. If you already have a domain name for your website, you need to take advantage of the hosting provider’s email service. Most offer at least one free email address for your account. You also can integrate your domain email with Gmail. And for those who can’t let go of their current email client, you can set your “real” email address up to forward messages to your AOL, etc., and no one will know.

If you don’t have a domain, you need one. You can check to see if the domain/user name you’re interested in is available through NameChk. This site is not a domain registrar, but can link you to companies that are. The fee to register a domain name ranges from $10 to $35. If you are are ready to register a domain name, consider reputable registrars such as GoDaddy and Network Solutions. Outlook.com and Gmail offer business email solutions and are worth a look.

Carriers, agents, hungry for TrustedChoice.com’s Appetite Engine

(Trusted Choice, Insurance Marketing) Permanent link

TrustedChoice.com broke two of its own records in August, delivering 7,026 agent referrals and signing up 201 new agents for Advantage subscriptions. Those results coincide with new and expanded participation from carriers.

In August, TrustedChoice.com added six new insurance carrier participants:

  1. Acuity (commercial and personal lines)
  2. Berkley Mid-Atlantic (commercial lines)
  3. Berkley North Pacific (commercial lines)
  4. Berkley Southeast (commercial lines)
  5. Continental Western (commercial lines)
  6. Republic Insurance (commercial and personal lines)

The addition of the new carriers brings the total number of carriers actively participating on TrustedChoice.com to 60.

In addition, five existing TrustedChoice.com insurance carriers increased their participation:

  1. Mercury Insurance
  2. Nationwide/Allied
  3. Preferred Mutual Insurance
  4. Penn National
  5. Sterling Insurance

Appetite EngineThe uptick in referrals and subscriptions is driven in part by the recent release of TrustedChoice.com’s “Appetite Engine”—new technology that matches buyers with the right agents. The technology has helped agencies that have Commercial Lines Advantage subscriptions close more than 40 percent of the referrals generated through TrustedChoice.com.

"The Appetite Engine algorithm is changing the way insurance buyers find the right insurance solution for their needs," said TrustedChoice.com CEO Chip Bacciocco.  "Insurance companies served by independent agents are clearly seeing positive results from their agents participating at the Advantage-level of TrustedChoice.com.  That's driving new, and expanded, insurance carrier participation which creates a better insurance buyer experience and ultimately more new business for independent agents."

Watch this short video to learn more about the TrustedChoice.com Appetite Engine.