6 Value Drivers I Will Implement After Brand Camp 2010

I recently attended a wonderful insurance and financial services conference called Aartrijk Brand Camp 2010 in Austin, TX.  We stayed in the wonderful (And haunted) Driskill Hotel right on 6th street in downtown Austin.  Brand Camp was two days of energized engagement by participants in conversation on every thing “Branding”.

From the Aartrijk website:

“Aartrijk Brand Camp 2010 focused on how insurance agents, companies and associations can effectively transform their brands from the inside out.”

We had some of the brightest and most forward-thinking minds in the Insurance Industry sitting in one room discussing the future of customer communication, retention, and conversion for the Independent Insurance Agency.

There were times during certain sessions the ideas were flowing so fast I couldn’t process the information and take notes fast enough.  These are only six of the hundreds of potential takeaways an Agent such as myself could have gotten out of Brand Camp.

6 Value Drivers I Will Implement Immediately

The following list are Agency Value Drivers that I plan to start implementing immediately.  It may take me a year or more to have them all in place and functioning, but in a world where image is everything, I encourage you to take control of yours.

  1. Focus Branding Efforts on Niche Market Strength
    • The power of branding is telling consumers what you do and having them relate through an emotional response, what YOU do to what THEY need.  The mistake that most Agencies make is trying to Brand their business as “We Write All Insurance.”  Unfortunately, insurance consumers don’t equate All Insurance to their specific need, be it Homeowners, Auto, Health, Business.  An insurance consumer with a specific need is going to contact an agency which Brands itself as the provider of that specific need.
  2. Strong Branding Can Drive Agency Through Crisis
    • Think about how you make your own purchases, especially now that the US economy has been quantitatively eased into turmoil.  When you make a decision on a Financial Adviser, or a Mortgage Broker, or a Real Estate Agent do you choose the company that is constantly talking about how bad business is?  Or publishes material on the difficulties of the current economy? Or doesn’t have a plan from riding out downward trends?  NO! You choose the individual and company that takes a position of strength, of experience, and of advanced business acumen.  The economy and market is the same for everyone.  How you Brand yourself in that market is up to you!
  3. Service Staff Buy-In Amplifies Brand Reach
    • Branding your business is not just your logo, or your letterhead, or the radio spot you run on talk radio, or tag-line your producers use at chamber mixers.  Your Agency’s image and brand needs to be a corporate culture that every employee embodies with every client experience. I know that this sounds very pie-in-the-sky, but think about this.  If you asked 100 Agency owners to name the top three things that make their business different from competition, I bet 100 out of 100 would include customer service.  So if everyone’s customer service is the best than really your Agency is no different than your competitors.  Only your service staff can validate the “Best Customer Service” branding.
  4. Brand Your Business So Customers Know What You Sell
    • I love to work with Not-for-Profit and Human Service organizations.  Its something intrinsically inside that draws me to this market niche.  However, on my marketing materials it says that I specialize in Business Insurance.  What the heck is Business Insurance?  By writing on my marketing materials that I specialize in Business Insurance I am saying that I have just as much experience and ability with manufacturing as I do with food service, as I do with technology, as I do with transportation, etc… No business owner is stupid enough to think that I have that many specialties.  If I want Not-for-Profit organizations to know that I WANT to write their business I need to Brand myself as an “Not-for-Profit Insurance Adviser”.  Yes, some other risks may not immediately approach me, but a heck of a lot more Not-for-Profit risks will, and that’s what I want, right?
  5. Image & Brand Mean Nothing if Culture Doesn’t Back it Up
    • This goes back to some of what #3 was talking about.  You can say all you want about what your business is and what your business isn’t.  If the culture of your Agency does not back up the Branding statements you make all the Branding effort doesn’t mean anything.  Fool me once shame on me, fool me twice shame on you.  If you Brand your Agency by saying you re-market every account every year you may acquire some new clients who are interested in the service.  However, if you then do not re-market every account every year, for whatever reason, your clients are going to find out and they are going to tell all their friends that your Agency is full of fertilizer.  Only say what you are able to do or change what you do.
  6. Diligence to Consistency in Brand
    • We saw some really interesting examples of this during a presentation from Orange Element.  Look around your office.  How many different logos, symbols, and slogans are being sent out into the world.  Do some people in the office use letterhead and others just blank paper?  Do some people have your tag-line on their business card and others do not?  Consistency is KING (and Queen for that matter) when it comes to Branding your Agency.  You Brand your business so people know what you do, but if the message isn’t consistent, the public’s perception of your business becomes confusing.  When you are trying to grow your business in a more and more commoditized market the last thing you want is a confusing brand. Remember always, Consistency… Consistency… Consistency…

The Rub

No matter if you have spent money or not or if you’ve ever even put a second of thought into it, your Agency has a Brand.  Your Brand is the public’s perception of your business.  I laid the gauntlet down to myself, that over the next twelve months I am going to take control of my individual and agency Brand and direct it towards how I want to be perceived as a professional.  For the success of your business I encourage you to do the same…

Thank you and Good luck,

I am Ryan Hanley