Another Day, Another Data Breach...
An article posted last month by businessinsider.com, reported at least 14 retailers were hacked and likely had information stolen from them since January 2017. Many of the data breaches were caused by flaws in payment systems taken advantage of by hackers. The list includes Sears, Kmart, Whole Foods, Sonic, Delta, Best Buy, Panera Bread and more. The article said, “Data breaches are on the rise in both retailers and other businesses...Data breaches are a real danger for both brands and customers, and can affect customer's trust in brands.”
Last month I received a Notice of Data Breach from Usinger’s. (They are famous for sausage). Now I can include them in the list of notices I have received from other companies informing me of a data breach. Watching the news it seems like there is another report of a data breach at least once a week.
You’re Risking Financial Devastation
As an independent insurance agency, you’re collecting a lot of personal and sensitive information from your prospects and clients. It’s critical that you protect your data and your clients’ trust or risk financial devastation if you allow hackers to steal the information as a result of a data breach. With the growing use of wireless connections, hackers can manipulate your network and gain access to your data in various ways.
Consider These Security Threats:
Consider These Security Steps:
In order to keep your valued clients' sensitive data safe, it’s essential to implement a security program at your independent insurance agency. Leaving any of these security measures unchecked puts your agency’s financial security at risk.
It’s time for another AccuAgency Employee Spotlight!
Mark Etheredge, Infrastructure Manager
You be asking yourself, what is an infrastructure manager? An infrastructure manager plans, directs and coordinates the design, installation and connectivity of computer systems and network infrastructure to insure the stable operation of the organization’s IT assets. The role is also responsible for telephone, data center, security systems and other electronic infrastructure.
But our infrastructure manager is always stepping in and contributing much more. We asked Mark about working at AccuAgency in addition to a few fun questions.
How long have you worked at AccuAgency?
13 years. Also did part-time work more than 30 years ago when the company was first getting started.
What do you love about your job?
I enjoy working for a smaller company and wearing lots of hats, getting involved in different aspects of the business.
What is something about you that would surprise people?
I'm a pretty open book, but one thing is I much prefer preparing a meal at home to going out to eat. I enjoy cooking and I like to know exactly what I'm eating and how it is prepared.
What is one of your guilty pleasures?
Even though sugar is on my 'bad' list, I have to have a sugar fix now and then.
What is something you would like to learn to do?
How to professionally shoot, edit and produce videos for social media. And fly a drone for even more video footage!
What is the best piece of advice you ever got?
Summer is soon approaching which means summer break, summer vacations, graduations, college kids returning home and, of course, road trips.
Here are 5 summer related blog topic ideas for your independent insurance agency website blog page.
Keep cool this summer and keep on blogging!
In 2015, Microsoft began encouraging companies that use its Silverlight media format on their web pages to dump the tech in favor of newer, HTML5-based media playback systems. Microsoft and others now recommend that web developers handle video and other media playback via a number of new protocols introduced in the ongoing HTML5 standardization effort.
The Microsoft Silverlight plug-in promoted proprietary technology rather than open standards. You had to develop on Windows. For our customers it means the Microsoft Silverlight version of AccuAgency can only be used on Internet Explorer.
Last October we released the HTML5 version of AccuAgency that we’re calling AccuAgency5. We’ve posted some blogs about some of the great new features. We’d love to share more about the features and benefits you get with AccuAgency5. Here’s a recent Q&A session we had with Roger Walker, Vice President of AccuAgency, who can tell you even more.
What is AccuAgency5?
This latest version of AccuAgency uses the latest HTML5 web technologies to deliver the same great AccuAgency experience with increased speed and flexibility.
What does this mean for me as an agent?
Faster and more flexible means that AccuAgency is designed to run on any modern browser including Chrome and Edge. The system has been optimized to adjust to any size screen and we've tried to streamline the interface to make using AccuAgency as easy as possible.
Can I use my preferred browser, tablet, or phone?
Yes. Call us to discuss in more detail. While we can't support every option and haven't tested every device and browser out there, the cutting edge technology of AccuAgency5 is designed to work on mobile devices and modern browsers regardless of the type of device. Let us know what your needs are and we will check the compatibility.
Will I have to update or change anything?
No! Provided your PC is up to date your AccuAgency5 experience should be fairly similar to what you’re currently used to.
When you say “fairly” what do you mean?
While most things should be in the same place you’re used to finding them, we’ve simplified some of the menus and the dashboard.
The Utility, Home, Admin, and Account menus have been reshuffled to allow greater ease of access and use.
What are some of the general changes and improvements from Silverlight to HTML5?
Overall the new platform is easier to navigate than Silverlight. It’s touch screen friendly for devices that allow users to interact with a computer by using their finger. Users can save login credentials in their browser so they don’t have to login with their username and password every time.
In addition to the “under the hood” optimizations, there are a lot of improvements to the user experience. Improved search options, dashboard improvements, drag and drop capabilities, utilization of browser tabs and stored form fields, simplified rate display and bridging, and much more. There are a lot of new features on the horizon too including integrating ability to send and receive text messages, enhanced certificate of insurance management, and more carriers available for quoting and downloads.
What management feature are you most excited about?
Management Plus and Management Premium customers can drag and drop attachments. It’s a nice time saving feature that agents have been asking for and we’re excited to have.
What are agents saying about the new AccuAgency5?
Our technical support team is getting a great response. Agents like that it works on multiple browsers and operating systems Modern, popular browsers all support HTML5 (Chrome, Firefox, Safari and Opera).
It’s mobile and responsive. Responsive means AccuAgency5 can detect the user’s screen size and orientation and change the layout to accommodate the device making use of cascading style pages, flexible layouts and flexible images.
Any other new features?
Yes. When you are ready we will walk you through the improvements so you can be comfortable with them. Remember you can run AccuAgency5 and the current version at the same time. There is no conversion process so you can try it out and switch back and forth until you are comfortable.
Who is using AccuAgency5?
New customers are getting the latest AccuAgency5 version of AccuAgency. We’re ready to switch our Louisiana customers over now. Our inside Sales team is available to train our current customers so they can start taking advantage of the great new features.
HTML5 is faster, more flexible and it’s the future. You don’t want to get left behind. HTML5 is here to stay as more and more elements get adopted more and more companies will start to develop in HTML5.
Give us a call and get switched over to our new system or for a free trial as soon as today. You’ll discover a world of difference with the many features the new system employs. Plus, it’s the same great price!
Contact us to learn more. We think you are going to love it!
Tax season is almost over and you’ve probably filed your business taxes for your independent insurance agency. Could you have done a better job of tracking your business expenses and deductions?
According to the IRS, your business expenses must be ordinary and necessary to be considered a tax deduction. An ordinary expense is an accepted and common expense as an insurance agency. A necessary expense is one that is appropriate as an insurance agency.
The 2017 Department of the Treasury IRS Business Expenses Publication 535 discusses common business expenses and explains what is and what is not deductible.
Anything used for both home and business must be divided up into percentages. If you have a 3,000 square foot home and your home office is 300 square feet, you can deduct 10% of your mortgage payments and other home expenses including insurance, utilities and repairs.
Reference Publication 535 for a checklist of tax deductions for your insurance agency including car allowance, mileage, gasoline, repairs, oil changes, registration fees and tolls. Deduct your Continuing Education expenses including classes, state licenses, renewals and subscriptions insurance related publications. The list goes on detailing deductions for insurance, office space, office supplies and equipment and more.
Consider apps to help you organize and track your expenses and receipts. There are smartphone apps that let you scan receipts and organize them for you. These applications make it fast and easy to search and retrieve your receipts.
There’s a great free app called Evernote that will track your receipts. For expense reports, try Expensify which automatically creates reports from a photo of a receipt. Shoeboxed lets you scan receipts with your smartphone’s camera and extracts the information where you can then organize and store it. Receipts by Wave scans your receipts and makes them fully searchable. It can link receipts to your bank records automatically.
These are just a few suggestions to help you make next year’s tax preparation for your independent insurance agency a little bit easier and hopefully a lot more organized.
5 Ways To Help Save or Generate More Money For Your Insurance Agency
1. Printers & Paper
Generate More Money
4. Curb Appeal
What do people see when they drive by your insurance agency? Potholes in the parking lot? Peeling paint? Dirty windows? Old, discolored signage? It only takes a second for a potential client to form an impression. If your independent insurance agency looks run down, you’re probably losing potential customers.
Spruce up your physical space AND spruce up your web presence. It’s important to freshen up your web presence on a regular basis.
5. Your Insurance Agency Website
Have you recently made significant changes to your agency? Share what you’ve done to freshen your agency or your agency’s website.
Tips For Attending Insurance Conventions & Trade Shows
This year AccuAgency is exhibiting at more than a dozen insurance conventions throughout the United States. Convention season is a busy time. Most conventions take place in the Summer but more and more associations are adding shows in late Winter, Spring and early Fall. This year we’re attending conventions beginning this month (March) through October.
We love attending. We enjoy speaking with agents to learn what makes their agencies successful and sharing what we do to help independent agents be more efficient, productive and successful in an increasingly competitive market.
Trade shows can be hectic. As exhibitors, we arrive early and set up our booth making sure we have all of the documentation to discuss our products and services. We have to make sure we have brochures, business cards, etc. as most trade shows last at least a few hours and most conventions have trade shows at least two days.
We have a checklist of to-dos before each convention. We always learn something new after each. We always ask, what can we do to make the next convention better?
So here are a few tips we suggest agents consider when attending an insurance convention.
Plan Your Day In Advance
Are you planning to expand and write new lines of business? Are you looking for new appointments? Most associations post a list of exhibitors on their website convention page. In addition, they link the exhibitor listing to the company’s website. Find out who will be exhibiting and do a little research to familiarize yourself with the companies and service providers you want to meet with at the trade show.
Make a list of the top exhibitors and booths you plan to attend. Most associations include a trade show floor map in the convention program. Map out your list on the trade show floor map. Once you have visited your list of companies/vendors, visit the remaining booths. You may discover a company or product that’s a perfect fit for your agency or that can fill a need your agency can benefit from.
Attend The Social Events
You’ve paid to attend the convention, get everything out of it. The social events like dinners, cocktail parties, pool parties, hostipitality suites and happy hours are great places to meet and talk to other agents, people working in the insurance industry and special guests and speakers. These social events are more relaxed and excellent places to network.
Relax & Have Fun
Most conventions have free time worked into the schedule. Don’t feel like you have to work the entire time. Get out to the pool or beach. Go shopping or play miniature golf. Go out to dinner. (TIP:Some exhibiting companies are encouraged to take agents out to dinner. Would you like to talk to a company one-on-one? Feel out the company representative and see if they would be interested in taking you out to dinner.)
Agent Spotlight - Deenah Torres, Insurance World of SWFL
In our latest agent spotlight we’re featuring Deenah Torres, owner of Insurance World of SWFL in Fort Myers, Florida.
Here’s what she shared about her agency, herself and a nice, unsolicited compliment about AccuAgency. (Thanks, Deenah!)
Before opening my own independent agency, I managed a company owned agency for almost 10 years. During that time, I built that agency from a newly acquired acquisition, to a multi-million dollar book of business. But in the end, I wanted more than just a typical 9-5. As a mom of 4, I felt like my kids were growing up in the blink of an eye and I was missing it.
Now owning an agency gives me the flexibility to work a schedule that allows me to be there for my kids more, and that’s what I love most about AccuAgency. Because it is web-based, I can access it from anywhere, and still be there to help my clients. Just last week, I quoted two policies while sitting on the bleachers watching my son’s first high-school baseball game. I may have had to apologize to the client for the cheering (lol) but in the end, my son took the W, and my clients were able to get the coverage that fitted their needs, and their budget!
How many years have you been an insurance agent?
11 years and counting!
What is your favorite thing about being an insurance agent?
I love that I can help people get something they have to have at a price that is affordable for them, without sacrificing the level of customer service they receive.
What advice would you give someone who wants to be an independent insurance agent?
It isn’t easy, but it is what you make it. There are still days that I wonder if I made the right decision, but with perseverance I have built an agency that I am proud of.
What is one of your guilty pleasures?
Wine. Oh, and WINE! lol
What is something about you that would surprise people?
I am the third generation of siblings born on the same day, but in different years. So I have a “twin” brother that is exactly 2 years older than me. He said I was the worst birthday present he ever received! haha
Where’s your favorite place in the world?
Italy! I love the culture there, the food, the history, and the sheer beauty of it!
If you could visit anywhere in the world you’ve never been, where would you go?
Hmmm, that is a tough one! On my bucket list is Alaska – to see the northern lights and go whale watching,
What’s the best meal you’ve ever had?
That would definitely be my husband’s steak and lobster! Always marry a man who can cook! ;)
5 Blog Tips for Your Insurance Agency’s Website
A blog is a regularly updated website or web page written in an informal or conversational style. The word “blog” has been shortened from “weblog”.
Blogging is a great way to attract customers. Blogging helps validate your expertise as an insurance agent. You’re able to show off your knowledge and help your agency convert website traffic into leads and leads into customers.
These are just several tips. You need to drive traffic to your blog so be sure to share your blogs on your agency’s social media pages. Tell your friends to follow your blog. Link to your blog page on your email auto signature. Ask your employees to like and share your blog. Ask your employees to add a link to your blog on their email auto signatures.
The more you blog, the more you establish authority in insurance and financial services. Take a few minutes and check out your competition. If your insurance agency’s website doesn’t have a blog, add one and set up a schedule. Set aside some time each week and write a blog. You’ll find it becomes something enjoyable once you sit down and start writing.
PDF Form Flattening
The acronym PDF definition (as related to Adobe Acrobat) is Portable Document Format. A PDF is a file format that makes it possible to display text and graphics in the same fixed layout on any computer screen.
PDF files might have interactive fields the user can edit. These fields include checkboxes, text boxes, radio buttons and lists. Users are able to click on these fields and make edits. For example, open ACORD form 36 in your agency management system. The Agent/Broker of Record Change form includes text fields and radio buttons. If you save the form, you can go back and re-open it and edit the fields.
The data for these forms (checkboxes, text boxes, radio buttons, etc.) is stored in a separate area from the text on the page. PDF Form Flattening is the process of marrying the text and the data. You might compare it to the data on one plane and the text of the form on another. PDF Form Flattening combines the two on one plane. The PDF will look the same but the user cannot make changes to the form once it has been flattened.
There are several advantages to this:
PDF Form Flattening is an added benefit to your E&O risk management. Your file documentation is secure and creates a culture where your staff understands their attention to detail and forms accuracy can prevent (or cause) the agency from being sued.
The new HTML5 version of our agency management system AccuAgency, AccuAgency5, offers a considerable number of new features including PDF Form Flattening. Once a user has completed the form, the PDF fields can be flattened converting the contents of the fields from the original into a permanent, read-only part of the client‘s information.
5 Content Ideas For Your Insurance Agency Website Blog Page
Do you need some blog topic ideas for your independent insurance agency’s website? Here are 5 ideas to help you get the creative juices flowing.
It’s February and Valentine’s Day is only a couple of days away. People give loved ones chocolates, teddy bears, candy hearts and big ticket items like jewelry. Homeowners insurance generally covers valuable and precious items such as jewelry, but these policies have limits. Blog about homeowners insurance and what is covered and what isn’t. Offer tips for protecting and insuring jewelry like having the item appraised, keeping the receipts, taking a picture, etc.
Cleaning Your Dryer Vent Can Prevent a Fire
Keeping your dryer vent cleaned after each use is a great way to keep your home safe. Each year over 17,000 fires are caused by dirty dryer vents. Blog about keeping it clean and other ways to prevent fires.
Why Your Auto Insurance Rates May Go Up
As an insurance agent you’re familiar with the many reasons why auto insurance rates go up. But your customers may not be aware of those reasons. Write about why moving, buying a new car, your age, your marital status and other life events may cause rates to go up. And don’t forget the big ones, being involved in an accident or getting a ticket. Remind customers to contact you if they want to shop around and find lower rates.
Daylight Saving Time - Sunday, March 11, 2018
This year Daylight Saving Time is Sunday, March 11, 2018. This is a great time to remind your customers to set their clocks forward, test, check and change the battery in their smoke detectors. According to the National Fire Protection Association, nearly two-thirds of home fire deaths occurred in properties without working smoke alarms. A smoke alarm only protects you when it is maintained and since most fires occur late at night and early in the morning, an early warning significantly increases your chances for survival.
St. Patrick’s Day - Saturday, March 17, 2018
Erin Go Bragh! (Ireland Forever). Blog about St. Patrick’s day and share some recipes for Irish dishes like corned beef and cabbage, Shepherd’s pie, or how to make green beer.
Drag and Drop in the New AccuAgency5 HTML5 Version of AccuAgency
HTML5 Drag & Drop
Recently we released the latest version of AccuAgency. We’ve been calling it AccuAgency5. It has great features we’re excited to offer. One of the features you’ll find on the agency management side is drag and drop.
What is drag and drop?
In computing, drag and drop involves moving your cursor over and object, selecting the object by clicking the mouse, holding the mouse key down as you drag the object and drop it the to new location.
Drag and drop can be used for multiple purposes. You can drag and drop a file from one location to another. You can drag and drop an icon from your computer’s desktop and move it to a folder. It’s a simple and intuitive way to quickly move objects, images, files and folders.
How does it work in AccuAgency5?
In policy management, open a client, select attachments and you can now quickly and easily grab documents, images, spreadsheets and more and drop them into the attachment area. Simply locate the file you would like to attach (from your desktop, folders, etc.), hover your mouse pointer over it, click it and drag it to the white area of the attachments and drop it to attach. Voila! You’ve just moved a document into the client’s attachments.
If you have moved something in error, you can click the trash bin image to delete the file and then drag and drop the correct file to your client’s policy or quote attachments.
This is just one of many great features we now offer with the new AccuAgency5 version of AccuAgency.
Goodbye Silverlight and Hello More Flexible and Faster AccuAgency5 (HTML5)
Back in 2007 Microsoft introduced Silverlight, a development tool for creating interactive user experiences for web and mobile applications. AccuAgency’s first web-based iteration comparative rater and agency management system was developed using Microsoft Silverlight. In order to use our web-based rating and management system, the Microsoft Silverlight plug-in had to be installed on each user’s computer.
In 2012, Microsoft announced the end of life for Silverlight. In 2013, Microsoft announced they had ceased development of Silverlight except for patches and bug fixes. Silverlight has now been given a support end of life date of October 2021.
What is HTML5
HTML5 is the fifth major revision of Hypertext Markup Language (HTML). It’s used for structuring and presenting content on the worldwide web.
It was published in October 2014 to improve the language with support for the latest multimedia, while keeping it easily readable by humans and consistently understood by computers and services such as web browsers. It improves the markup available for documents and introduces markup and application programming interfaces (APIs) for complete web applications. It is also a candidate for cross-platform mobile applications, because it includes features designed with low-powered devices such as smartphones and tablets.
Many new syntactic features are included. To natively include and handle multimedia and graphical content, the new elements were added and support for scalable vector graphics (SVG) content and MathML for mathematical formulas.
Enough with the technical talk…
For several years AccuAgency and our development team have known the Silverlight demise was on the horizon and we’ve been preparing for this with something even better. Our new AccuAgency5 HTML5 comparative rater and management system is now available to new and current users. Users get a better, more flexible and faster version that no longer requires installing a plug-in. Give us a call and get switched over to our new system as soon as today. You’ll discover a world of difference with the many features the new system employs.
Identifying Backlinks To Your Independent Insurance Agency’s Website
What Are Backlinks?
Backlinks are hyperlinks from other websites/domains that point to your website/domain or pages on your website. Backlinks are also called inbound links. Backlinks or inbound links are important in determining the popularity of your website. Search engines like Google consider websites with more backlinks more relevant to search results.
Are Backlinks Important?
Google considers backlinks a strong search result ranking indicator. In the past it was quantity over quality. You could pay someone to generate hundreds of garbage backlinks to your website. Google squashed that tactic with link scoring. A backlink should come from a high domain authority page that has a high quality score or Page Rank. The more you have the better, but you don’t want low quality (spam) links to your website.
Create a list and make the connections.
Make a list of high quality authority websites where your agency can be listed. In all cases, make sure you receive a backlink to your agency’s website.
These are some suggestions to get you started. Do you have other backlinks suggestions for your fellow agents. Please share in the comments section below.
Grammar, Spelling, Proofreading and Your Content Marketing
Grammar and spelling aren’t just elementary school subjects. They play a very important part in content marketing. From your insurance agency website to your blog, grammar and spelling should be given a great deal of attention.
Bad grammar, misspelled words and incorrect punctuation can ruin first impressions. For example, when a visitor comes to your website, your Facebook page or your insurance agency’s blog page, the last thing you want them to do is leave because of poorly written content.
Here are a few tips to remember:
1. One of my pet peeves is the misuse of You’re and Your.
It’s really easy if you say it in your head before typing it out. You’re is short for “You Are”. If you read your sentence out loud, say “you are” instead of “you’re”. Does it make sense? If yes, you’ve used it correctly.
Your indicates something belongs to you or is related to you. Your home, your auto. Your precedes a noun or a pronoun and shows that it belongs to you. Your is a possessive adjective.
(P.S. - Don’t forget to double-check for any grammatical errors with There, They’re and Their)
2. I Before E, Except After C (Unless it sounds like an A)
This is one I say in my head quite often. I’ll admit, I don’t always get it right.
I Before E
It’s a piece of cake. Believe me.
Except After C
We received your payment after we gave you the receipt.
Unless it sounds like A
The weird clown yelled, “seize the day!”.
3. The plural of words that end in -s, -ss, -z, -ch, -sh, -x
Words would look quite odd if it weren’t for this rule. Adding -es to these words prevents the clashing of letters. Here are a few examples:
Box - Boxes
Quiz - Quizzes
Watch - Watches
English Is Hard!
It’s often said that English is one of the hardest languages to learn. Many say spelling is hard because words that end in the same combination of letters aren’t always pronounced the same. I can’t imagine learning how to speak and spell English as a second language. I’m very impressed by those who have.
These are just a few tips to consider when you write and publish any content for your agency. I highly recommend using spell check and always proofread your content several times before publishing. I’m guilty of not taking the time to proofread. It’s not uncommon for me to publish a blog and later have to go back to correct a mistake and then republish. I'm going to make a 2018 proofread resolution!
What are your potential clients looking for on your insurance agency’s website?
Keep in mind most fresh leads who contact your agency have already done a search and somehow found you online. What are these potential clients looking for when they search? Here are a few must-haves for your independent insurance agency’s website.
It seems simple enough but not all insurance agency websites make it easy to find the phone number. Your insurance agency’s phone number should be visible on every page a user navigates. It should be prominent and glaring at them right in the face. Consider using a call to action in addition to your phone number. “CALL US NOW 800-555-5555”
Of course, you also want to make sure your insurance agency’s location including your address, map of your agency and contact names are easy to find on your website.
Do you have what they’re looking for?
Your insurance agency’s website must list all of the products and services your agency offers. If a potential customer is looking for something you don’t have listed, they will move on to another search listing result that does. List all of your products and services on the home page of your website. If a potential customer has to search and navigate multiple pages to find what you have to offer, they will move on. Add links to your product list items which will take them to learn more. Bottom line, make sure your website is simple and easy to navigate.
Is your insurance agency website designed to look modern and up-to-date on any screen size or device?
Your insurance agency’s website should be optimized for any sized screen or layout orientation. Visitors aren’t just coming to your website on a desktop computer. Visitors are using tablets, iPads, laptops and, of course, cell phones. Your website design should be responsive. This means your website can detect the visitor’s screen size and orientation and change the layout to accommodate the device making use of cascading style pages, flexible layouts and flexible images.
Check out our latest Employee Spotlight!
Karen Dillard, Human Resources and Accounting Manager
If you’ve ever called us regarding your AccuAgency account, you may have had the pleasure of speaking with Karen. And if you ever meet Karen in person, you’ll find she’s probably got a smile on her face that could soon be followed up with her bubbly, contagious laugh.
I asked Karen the usual questions and here’s what she told us.
How long have you worked at AccuAgency?
I’ve worked at AccuAgency for 18 years.
What do you love about your job?
My job has given me so many opportunities over the years and I get to talk to a lot of interesting people.
What is something about you that would surprise people?
I went to school to be an interpreter for the deaf.
What is one of your guilty pleasures?
What is something you would like to learn to do?
Play the guitar.
What is the best piece of advice you ever got?
To focus on the positive and not the negative in life.
After the Equifax data breach which put 145.5 million people at risk for identity theft people were struggling to get their credit reports frozen at Equifax as well as TransUnion and Experian. If you were able to freeze all of your reports, you know it was a big hassle.
Now if you want to buy a house or car or apply for a credit card, you will need to contact the credit reporting agencies to have them turn your credit report back on so they can pull your credit and get a credit score. If you have to do this, I suggest you find out which credit reporting agency they use so you can temporarily unfreeze just the one. Speak with the credit reporting agency to find out how long it will take to temporarily unfreeze your report so you can give the financial loan company lead time before they pull your credit.
But what about insurance credit scoring? In states where carriers are able to use credit scoring for rating, does the rate reflect a no hit for everyone who has put a freeze on their credit reports?
I posed this question on LinkedIn:
Question for my insurance industry friends:
With the Equifax data breach and everyone freezing their credit reports, how are insurance carriers quoting potential and current customers? Are people getting dinged for a no-hit on their credit report? If yes, how is this getting addressed with the agent and insured?
Sadly, no one on LinkedIn responded to my questions. So I checked with our Business Development Project Coordinator who works closely with our carrier partners and asked her to reach out to a few carriers.
Several responded to our inquiry. One response came from a large carrier who reached out to their insurance score department to ask about frozen credit files. In the states where they are able to use credit scoring, if a credit file is frozen, the rating system treats it the same as a No Hit score which does generally result in a higher rate. They suggest customers with a frozen credit file will need to contact Equifax to have the freeze lifted, call their insurance score department to pull the file while the customer is still on the phone and re-rate the policy. Then the customer can contact Equifax to turn the credit freeze back on.
Are you noticing higher rates since the Equifax data breach and mass credit freezes? Are you asking your clients if they have put a freeze on their credit? Are your clients receiving notifications from the carrier that their credit was returned as a no hit?
Facebook Advertising - Audience Insights
Facebook Audience Insights is a tool used in selecting your Facebook advertising target audience. Using the tool you can find people who, for example, like motorcycles. Target the select audience and advertise motorcycle insurance.
Once you have identified your target group, you can advertise your agency’s insurance products on Facebook’s Desktop and Mobile feed, Facebook right Column, Instagram and more. Or as Facebook puts it, “Get to know the people who matter to your business, so you can understand what matters to them. Learn about their locations, interests and behaviors, so you can create messages that will help your business grow.”
Facebook Audience Insights Steps:
One step that deserves a lot of attention, selecting interests. As an exercise I created an audience who likes motorcycles. It would be easy to select only “motorcycles” under interests but think about what you follow and like on Facebook. Is it a broad like? If you own and love your Ford F150, you don’t just like cars or trucks on Facebook. You like Ford Motor Company.
There are many different makes of motorcycles. My new audience generated 1500 - 2000 monthly active Facebook users. Here’s what I selected.
Location: Norcross, GA
Interests - Hobbies and Activities - Vehicles - Motorcycles
Interests - Additional Interests:
Expand the audience by adding additional motorcycle makes. Unfortunately, Facebook doesn’t allow you to directly target your ad to people who are connected to Pages that you do not admin. (I would love to be able to target fans of Harley-Davidson's dealerships in the area if you could.)
I saved and named my audience and can now access it in Facebook’s Power Editor where you create the ad. From here you can tinker with the audience. I see my estimated audience is too specific and the reach is low. Since Norcross is just north of Atlanta and near other well-populated cities I’m going to expand my demographic audience and add some more locations.
Audience is too specific and narrow:
By adding more cities I find my reach is still too low. The motorcycle brands list is too narrow. Once I add more makes of motorcycles my potential reach is now in line with my reach goal. My audience is defined to give me a potential reach of 580,000 people. My estimated daily results show a reach of 1,900 - 5,000 and 27-100 clicks per day.
So now that I have my audience, I’m ready to create my ad and ad content.
Facebook advertising is very affordable. It’s a great web marketing tool for your independent insurance agency.
Remember! Your Facebook ad and landing page should be well designed. Your goal is to get clicks as well as conversions.
How long has it been since you launched your insurance agency’s website? How long has it been since you made updates to your insurance agency’s website?
Your website is like a grocery store to Google. They are looking for freshness. Google and other search engines look at the freshness of your website content. Over time your website will become stale as content becomes older.
Google’s search algorithms look for factors as they sort through hundreds of billions of webpages in the search index to give people relevant results. Google loves to see fresh content and updates.
Here are 5 ideas regarding fresh content for your insurance agency’s website:
After you have updated your website, log into your Google Analytics account. Compare your before update sessions to after update sessions. You should see an increase in session visits over time.
Inspiration can be hard to come by so here are 5 blog topic ideas to consider writing about:
Insurance Agency Websites - Do It Right Because When Will You Have Time To Do It Over?
You’ve probably heard the saying, “If you are going to do something, then do it right”. Then there’s a quote by John Robert Wooden who was an American basketball player and head coach at the University of California at Los Angeles who said, “If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have the time to do it over?”.
I don’t believe there is a perfect website on the internet. It’s subjective, but it’s easy to spot bad ones. There is a lot going on within a website that we don’t see, but what we do see can either make a great impression or a bad one.
Here Are 5 Elements of a Good Website
Design - Is it aesthetically pleasing? The design of your website will be the first thing a visitor will see when they arrive on your agency’s website. You only have seconds to grab a visitor’s attention before they leave your website. Use a website theme or template, uncluttered layout, appealing colors and make use of white space.
Content - In my experience, this is the one independent insurance agents struggle with the most. Think about the quote, “If you don’t have the time to do it right, when will you have the time to do it over?”. If you have decided to build a website for your independent insurance agency, you don’t have to rush to get it published. Take time and think about what your agency offers and how you stand out from the crowd of other local agents in your area. Answer the questions your potential customers want to hear, why they should contact you for their insurance needs.
Call To Action - They like what they see. Make sure they know exactly how to contact you no matter what page of your website they’re on. Examples of calls to action, “Get A Quote Now”, “Click Here To Call”, “Directions To Our Agency”.
Continuity (Page Navigation) - When a visitor comes to your website, it should be easy to navigate to the information they are looking for. Page navigation should be clear, concise and uncluttered. Don’t bury pages deep within other pages.
Mobile - Your website should be mobile-friendly. Period. If your website isn’t mobile-friendly, you are losing mobile visitors immediately. Most people will visit your website from a mobile device. If they have to use their fingers to zoom in to see your page and content, they are leaving.
These are just a handful of tips. Don’t forget to keep your website fresh. Update your website with fresh content, blog, use real photos of your agency, use your brand and logo to prominently stand out and separate you from your local competition.
As an independent insurance agency owner, you want your agency’s name and brand to stand out in the local crowd.
Does your agency have a logo? If yes, does it help represent your agency’s brand, products and services?
I recently came across an agency’s website that uses a bird in the logo. The name of the agency includes a bird species in the name, but as a standalone logo you would never know it was the logo of an insurance agency. But together, the logo and text were very memorable. I saw that logo and name a couple of months ago and I still remember the name of the agency. To me, that is great brand recognition.
The goal of a logo is to build brand recognition.
Here are 5 reasons why your independent insurance agency (small business) needs a logo for the agency’s brand:
These are just a handful of reasons why your independent insurance agency should have a brand. The brand and logo should be used consistently on all marketing materials including your independent insurance agency’s website, your web marketing business listings, marketing materials, email signature, forms, and anything with your insurance agency’s name.
In Journalism they used to teach the 5 WHs for writing a news article: The Who, What, When, Where, Why and sometimes How of the story. Think about your independent insurance agency’s website as the story people are searching to read.
Your agency’s website must have all the important elements to be a successful insurance website.
Within seconds of that first look, a visitor should be able to see who you are, what you sell, when you are available, where you are located and why people should do business with your agency. Your website might have beautiful pictures and fabulous design but if the content isn’t there to show a potential customer those 5 WHs, then you will lose them before they look any further.
Does your agency’s website make it easy to:
If your website is optimized and people are searching for the products and services you offer, your agency’s website is the first thing people will see. Remember, a majority of your clients and potential clients will visit your website before they make contact with you or your staff. Does your insurance agency website have the who, what, when, where and why of what they are looking for?
Take some time and audit your website. Make good notes and make improvements where necessary.
Insurance Shopping Around
I’m currently shopping around for a better rate on my auto, home and umbrella policies. I requested a copy of all of my declaration pages from my “big” captive insurance company where I’ve been a customer for over 25 years. My rates just went up on my auto policy so I decided to shop around.
I chose my agent years ago because of the company’s reputation and the local agent’s proximity to my house. I’ve stayed with them because I felt loyal to the company. My loyalty has since subsided. They sent me the dec pages I requested and the email salutation said, “Dear Policyholder”. How cold.
Now I’m working with one of AccuAgency’s Georgia agents to find a better rate. He’s been fantastic. He said he will be there to fight for me if ever there is a claim. That really means a lot. I’ve called on my big captive company agent over the years and I’ve never heard them say they would fight for me. As a matter of fact, I’ve never heard them take a personal interest in any of my insurance needs for all of these years. I just get a tiny plastic business card sized calendar in the mail every December.
So I’m going independent insurance agent. I’m confident I’ve found the right insurance agent who can save me money and find the protection I need. I feel like I’m going from just another number or just another policy to an agent who cares about my family and my insurance and financial needs and goals.
If a customer calls or emails and requests a copy of all of their dec pages, does that throw up a red flag at your agency? Do you oblige and send it without question or do you dig and find out more. Why do they need the dec pages? What can you do to help them?
Vikki Thomas has been working in the insurance industry since 1995. Vikki has worked for several carriers in customer service, quality assurance, underwriting, product management and marketing. Vikki has worked at AccuAgency since 2008.