I recently had the pleasure of attending a local lunch-and-learn presentation on the current state of Insurance in relation to technology and how independent insurance agents will compete with direct writers in the future. The presentation was very well done and I took some excellent ideas away that I hope to implement into my own online presence at www.RyanHanley.com. Presentations like these are type of collaborative discussions that our industry needs more of in order to be successful in the future business world.
After the presentation I went back to my office but it was hard to concentrate on work. There were two specific conceptual ideas brought up during the presentation that had my brain tweaked. I needed to get the thoughts down on paper. That is what this is.
But before we dig into the two ideas I want you to understand something about me, (since many of you reading this do not know me personally), so that you can hold a frame of reference throughout the article. I am very passionate about the ideas I believe in and my personal vision of how independent insurance agents will succeed through technology. When it comes to Insurance my vision quest is destroying the mis-conception that insurance is a commodity. I believe technology will allow us to do that.
Passion for the value of insurance and the importance of the independent insurance agency is what allows me to consistently pour my heart out about an industry I adore and career I cherish. I affectionately refer to this as Bleeding on the Keys…
I hope, with the preceeding introduction, you will understand why as a thirty year old insurance agent, a future standard bearer of the insurance industry, I am in such vigorous disagreement with the following two beliefs I’ve happened upon circulating throughout our industry:
- The Millennial Generation does not value the service independent insurance agents provide and prefers to deal with direct writers.
- The ability to provide Online Quotes is essential to competing with online direct writers.
Could it be that these are the prevailing ideas of Insurance Industry’s thought leaders?
I hope that I am wrong… But in case I’m not, let’s attack these two statements.
1. The Millennial Generation does not value the service independent insurance agents provide and prefers to deal with direct writers
I’ve heard this statement packaged a couple different ways:
“Millennials grew up with computers and want to buy through computers…”
“Millennials associate anything with an “Agent” as more work and more expensive…”
“Millennials have been marketed to their entire life and don’t respond to brand value…”
Have you ever heard these arguments or some variation of them? I bet you have. When hear and read something that is expressing this viewpoint such as those above I cringe.
The problem is not that Millennials do not relate to Independent Agents… The real issue is that Independent Agents do not relate to Millennials.
Too many of us are sitting in our agencies ignoring the Internet, marketing as if it’s 1979, and selling with the same tired pitch we’ve always used. Coverage this… Price that… Review once a year whatever… It’s all bullshit.
What Millennials want is the same thing that your Baby Boomer clients want, a relationship. But Ryan, how can you say that when these people make insurance buying decisions based on conversations they’ve had on Facebook? I didn’t say that Millennials want the same type of relationship that Baby Boomers want.
Actually I’d say that Millennials want a different type of relationship all together (that is a conversation for another time). The reason your independent agency is struggling to attract Millennials is because you are either unaware, unable or unwilling to provide the type of relationship that Millennials seek. That my friend, is a YOU problem, (an US problem really), not a Millennials problem. Some of you are saying, “We’re old school here.
We’ve been successful doing business the same way for 30 years. “We work on referrals…” Do you think technology is going away? Do you think that technology is going to become any less integrated with our daily lives? Please tell me you don’t believe the whole “The World is Swinging Back to 1950’s Cold Calling and Direct Mail Marketing” thing.
Let me answer both those questions for you, No technology is not going away and No, technology is going to become even more a part of everything we do. To pretend like that is not the truth is like saying the sun won’t rise tomorrow.
Just because YOU don’t like technology doesn’t mean you’re prospects and clients don’t like technology. Millennials want a relationship and they are going to seek out that relationship with whoever is willing to provide the relationship.
But here is the trick, as long as that relationship is provided on their terms. So far direct writers are the only companies within the insurance industry willing to attempt to provide Millennials with the relationship they want. But there is hope, they stink at it.
2. The ability to provide Online Quotes is essential to competing with online direct writers
Lately I’ve been reading a lot about online quote integration for independent agency websites with idea being today’s consumer wants to be able “shop” online for insurance themselves.
Go back and read the last two sentences of the third paragraph of this article. If that is too taxing a task, (I don’t blame you), here it is again:
“When it comes to Insurance my vision quest is destroying the mis-conception that insurance is a commodity. I believe technology will allow us to do that.”
Do you think that as independent agents we have any chance of competing with big-budget direct marketers if our Value Statement is “Come to our site where you can Shop for your own quote?” You might as well walk outside your office right now and scream “PRICE” as loud as you can into the air. Then go back inside your office and hope someone comes running to buy insurance from you… Crazy? A marketing strategy of yelling into air will have approximately the same results as playing the direct writers game of self-service online quote shopping.
OK, that was pretty aggressive and I’m sure some of you reading this have some form of do-it-yourself-online quote system that you pay some amount of money for and you’re completely offended by everything I’ve written so far. So let’s skin this cat a different way.
As independent insurance agents how do we differentiate ourselves from direct writers? What is our value statement? What makes doing business with a human being a more advantageous insurance experience for the consumer than doing business with a computer?
At its simplest form… WE CARE!
We care that our clients have proper coverage.
We care that our client’s service needs are met in a manner they appreciate.
We care that our clients receive the competitive price in the market.
We care that our client’s insurance carrier will respectfully and dutifully respond to a claim.
How do you establish that value when insurance consumers are quoting their own insurance through an online rater? If your answer is “After they purchase a policy,” you are so sadly mistaken. You’re an order taker now… Your first impression has come and gone.
“Now process my change or I’m shopping my insurance for something cheaper. All I have to do is go online… NOW I SAID!”
Not me Compadre, I want to establish relationships of trust and respect with my insurance consumers.
The Future of Insurance and Social Media
True I don’t believe in online raters, but I freaking love the Internet. I extra freaking love the marketing, communication, relationship and trust building potential held within the online world of social media.
The thing is, I don’t see myself as an insurance agent, as I’m sure many of you do not. You are a relationship builder, just like me. That’s what I do, I build relationships with people, it just so happens that the service I provide is insurance (or risk transfer for you old school cats).
And I know to be true that so many of you feel the same way. That is why you are so successful at selling insurance. And that is what social media is all about, building relationships.
Yes these relationships are built through a computer, but they’re certainly not meant to stay there. I try, if geographically feasible, to sit face-to-face with every client I have and I sell a decent amount of insurance to people my first contact with is over the computer.
What I’m trying to say is great relationship builders, (YOU!), absolutely kill it on social media. This is what Millennials want, a relationship, they just want to build it on the computer first. Millennials still want to know that there is a living, breathing human being who gives a crap about their insurance program on the other side of that computer looking out for their needs.
This is why we as independent insurance agents we should not be using online self-service quoting platforms. We’re not building the relationship upfront that sets us apart from the machines.
But if done correctly, with diligence and dedication, an online social media presence can build the trust and respect necessary to establish a quality agent / client bond.
Oh, now you want the technical side on how to use social media? Purchase The Social Tools Book
That will get you started.
Thirst not quenched? Hire me to speak on these topics and much more visit my Speaking Page.
I’m hoping that this article stirred up some emotions. Let’s hear your thoughts! This is an extremely important topic facing our industry. The debate is crucial.
P.S. Looking for FREE help? Download the No Bullshit Guide to a Successful Blog.If You Work in Insurance, This Should Be the Only Article You Read on the Future of Social Media by Ryan Hanley