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Have You Approved Your Message: Part One

As I’m sure you are painfully aware, this is a presidential election year, which means the airwaves are flooded with political messages (increasingly malicious ones, at that). During one of the way too many broadcast commercials airing recently, I heard the legally required tagline, “My name is __ and I approved this message.” Recorded in the candidate’s voice, this phrase is meant to show that the candidate agrees with what the ad is saying, thereby discouraging false claims.

That got me thinking about the message independent agency owners and their producers are putting out to their “voting public.” Do owners really know what message is out there about their agency and, if so, would they approve it?

Shortly before sitting down to write this article, I was talking with an agency owner and his son (the heir apparent) about our new producer training program, ProducerFit. I began the conversation by asking them about their approach to the marketplace. I wanted to know what they were doing that is unique and how they were conveying their message. Although they thought they had a pretty good message, their major concern was their lack of potential customers; they wanted to get in front of more prospects. There is definitely a conflict if you think you have a good message but your prospects aren’t hearing it! It’s also a clear indication that you should be scrutinizing the message you’re putting before the public.

Like most agencies, the approach at the abovementioned one is that they are independent, provide great service, offer prices that save people money and also provide some value-added services. When I asked about these services, I was told that they do “a great job on certificates of insurance. We really understand the wording on those, and we do an excellent job on overall coverage reviews.” I had to break the news to them that those kinds of services are not “value added;” they are expected!

They’re what most clients assume are automatically provided.

It was obvious to me that this agency had no message of differentiation—and this was based on what I heard from the two owners! There was nothing they could tell me off the top of their heads that differentiated theirs from other agencies. (Which reminds me, what have you done to create a standard message of differentiation?)

I hope this makes you question what “messages” your agency’s team members are putting out to the public. Do you know what those messages say about your agency and, if so, do you want to be associated with them? Have you “approved” them?

Keep in mind that messages come in many forms, from the way the phone is answered to how your agency acquires new clients. It might be a good idea to review my recent article on client experience (see “What Do You Owe Your Clients?” in the August 2015 issue of Rough Notes), which discusses this topic in depth.

Your message = your brand

I think it all boils down to your brand—the clear, powerful and (ideally) positive thoughts you want people to have about your agency. Typically, their impression of your brand will stem from the numerous ways you convey your message, sometimes without even knowing it.

  • 30 SECOND COMMERCIAL This should briefly summarize what you do for clients based on your unique model, its design and focus. For example: “We have a unique model known as RAMP: Risk Assessment and Management Planning. It is designed to help clients control their total cost of risk and look more attractive to the insurance marketplace. It focuses on providing risk assessment and value-added services that other agencies don’t provide.”
  • TWO MINUTE INFOMERCIAL Expanding on your 30-Second Commercial, can you explain your unique approach to the marketplace in two minutes? Try it at your next sales meeting. Ask your producers to present a Two-minute Infomercial that explains what they do. What would their message be? What is their message if they can’t deliver a Two-minute Infomercial—that they are independent, give great service, etc.? In that case, there is no approved message.
  • Website Messaging I’m amazed at the number of agency owners who never look at their own website or don’t view it through the eyes of a first-time visitor or prospect. Most sites are nothing more than electronic brochures that offer: “Click here for a free, no-obligation quote.” All they’re doing is automating practice quoting and losing a lot of money doing it!
  • Executive Briefing ( A or B Accounts ) We firmly believe that if you’re out there selling an A, a larger B or a VIP personal lines account, an executive briefing should start the selling process. This is your message of differentiation that explains the WHAT you do, HOW you do it and WHY you do it. (Please note: the “how” is not Look, Copy, Quote and Pray!)

Tools to Use

Agency Results Sprint: Day Six: The No's

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