Independent insurance agency owners are facing many big questions about how to adapt to changes in the industry.
As an agency owner myself, I love getting to discuss ideas and best practices with other independent agents. So I was excited to attend this year’s Insurance Agency Owners Alliance (IAOA) Innovat19n conference.
The conference, which took place in Las Vegas at the end of January, brought together independent agents from all different stages in their careers. The conference is run by agency owners, which makes it a prime breeding ground for discussions about best practices for running an agency.
Everyone came with great ideas, and it was clear that we can all learn from one another and grow together to make sure our agencies survive and thrive in the future.
Between the speakers, breakout sessions and networking events, there were plenty of takeaways for agents at any level.
High-tech and high-touch
We’re moving into an era with more millennial consumers, who expect businesses to be high-tech and have a strong digital presence.
At the same time, we have an older generation of consumers who like the convenience of technology but still want things to be personal and high touch.
How can agencies meet both of those needs without spreading budgets and staff too thin?
At the conference, agency leaders shared their strategies for implementing technology so their agencies can run more efficiently and still provide opportunities for meaningful interactions with clients. Ideas included virtual assistants, mobile apps, online marketing, automated communications campaigns and partnering with carriers who are moving in more high-tech directions.
I came back from the conference thinking through how to get to that next level to do more tech-savvy things within my agency that benefit my team and my clients.
These days, most people buy their insurance online. Gone are the days where you book appointments and people take time off work to come meet with you and sign applications.
So if you don’t have that face-to-face piece, how do you make your agency stand out?
One of the main ways is by getting involved in the community, then giving people electronic ways to get ahold of you.
Several sessions at the conference addressed different ways of doing this. For example, Brandon Smith of Glidewell Investments & Insurance Group talked about how he coaches his son’s softball team. His name is on the team’s shirts and hats and trophies. And by building relationships with the kids on the team, he’s also able to build relationships with their parents, who then are more likely to think of his agency when it comes time to buy insurance.
I’ve sought to be an active part of my community by serving on the boards of some local nonprofits, and I’ve found that many leads come from the relationships I’ve built through those.
Basically, the idea is to get involved with your community in one or two focused areas that reflect what you’re passionate about. That helps you build relationships and give back to the community, which, over the long term, can result in positive press and leads for your agency.
Staffing and internal processes
I was an HR manager prior to getting into insurance, so I especially enjoyed the presentations about hiring and managing employees.
Finding qualified staff can be difficult, especially since younger employees want different things in a workplace.
If you want to hire a millennial staff person, you need to have technology in place. What do you have ready for new employees on their first day? Do you have a welcome kit for them? Do you have their computer and email set up?
You also have to set the proper expectations on both your parts of what the job entails. We are no longer in a market where people want to stay in the same job and do the same thing for 20 or 30 years. The average person moves seven to nine times in their career.
You want eager people in your agency—that’s how you grow and keep your clients. To attract and keep those employees, you have to make sure there’s a clear career path in your agency that shows them how they can grow and develop.
To me, the IAOA conference reinforced the benefits of networking and talking with my peers in the insurance industry. I left the conference with plenty of practical ideas about how to improve my agency. And I’m excited to keep the conversations going with other independent agents and industry experts.