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?
How To Use Facebook Live
Would you like to increase the number of likes and followers you have on your insurance agency’s Facebook page? Would you like more exposure for your insurance agency?
Mark Zuckerberg introduced Facebook Live videos on April 6, 2016. He said, “Facebook Live is like having a TV camera in your pocket.” He noted, “When you interact live you feel connected in a more personal way. This is a big shift in how we communicate, and it's going to create new opportunities for people to come together.”
Video is growing fast. Really fast. 500 million people are watching videos on Facebook every day and 45% of people watch more than an hour of Facebook or YouTube videos a week. Consider using Facebook Live video.
You might try one of the following:
It’s easy to go live on Facebook. If you want to be mobile, log into Facebook from your phone. If you have a webcam on your computer, use the Google Chrome web browser. You’re limited to a single view on your computer’s webcam. For the suggestions above, use your mobile phone and access Facebook Live.
To go live:
That’s the easiest and fastest way to go live. For the Best Practices visit the Facebook Live “Tips for using Facebook Live” page. Get tips on how to tell people you’re going live ahead of your broadcast, broadcasting from a strong connection and writing a great description before you go live. You’ll find a bunch of examples of Facebook Live videos to check out.
Employee Spotlight - Alex Velez, Technical Support
Today we’re talking to Alex, as many of you have called in for support or chatted online and talked to Alex. Many of you might know he's one of the nicest guys you'll ever talk to and he's great at solving your technical support issues. But did you know he plays the ocarina? Let’s get to know Alex a little better.
How long have you worked at AccuAgency?
I've worked at AccuAgency for 6 years.
What do you love about your job?
There is always something new. Whether it is troubleshooting a new issue, learning something new while testing bugs, or finding more efficient ways of doing an existing job. There is always some new surprise that can be found.
What is something about you that would surprise people?
I am an avid musician. I've been playing saxophone for more than 12 years. On top of that, I’m always looking to learn new instruments. I already have considerable experience with saxophone, oboe, and ocarina; I'm currently working on guitar. Others on the list are accordion, piano, theremin, trumpet, and the drumset.
What is one of your guilty pleasures?
I love watching Twitch, especially E-Sports. From Starcraft and Dota to Hearthstone and Quake, I could watch those for hours.
What is something you would like to learn to do?
I’ve always wanted to learn more languages. I’m currently learning German, but Japanese is the one I’ve always wanted to learn the most. Also, learning to do visual arts such as drawing and painting better.
What is the best piece of advice you ever got?
My brother Santiago told me the best way to change is to be uncomfortable. It has helped me push myself to do more and to find what things I can improve in my life.
Time To Write The Blog
Your independent insurance agency should have a website and if you have a website you should have a blog page you post to weekly, if not more often. A blog is a way to share information. You aren’t promoting your insurance products and services, you’re stimulating interest in your agency and the insurance products and services you offer.
Drive More Traffic and Get More Leads
You may ask, how does blogging benefit my agency? Bottom-line, blogging drives more traffic to your website. How often do you update and refresh your website content? Probably not often. When you blog you’re updating your website and adding more content. Search engines like Google like to see that you are actively updating your website. When they see updates, they index these updates and it improves your search engine visibility. More organic search engine visibility means more website traffic and therefore more leads.
Here are 15 blog topics you might consider writing about:
Writing your blog:
Publish at least one blog a week every week. It can be overwhelming and time consuming to write a blog but your efforts will really pay off. Once you start writing and publishing you’ll be on a roll. You’ll see things in the news and online and get inspiration. Follow other insurance blogs for ideas.
Use images to make your blog look more professional. Set up a stock photo account and purchase images that will make your blog stand out. Make sure you have the rights to the images you are posting on your blog.
Always share your blogs on your insurance agency social pages (Facebook, twitter, LinkedIn and Google+).
This month we’re spotlighting Ken McFeeters, Agent and Owner of PAC Insurance Agency, Inc. PAC Insurance has locations in Hoover, Roebuck and Bessemer, Alabama.
PAC Insurance Agency, Inc. was incorporated in 1981. By focusing their efforts and caring about their customers they have become one of the largest personal lines insurance agencies in Alabama.
How many years have you been an insurance agent?
What is your favorite thing about being an agent?
Working with and helping people. Ken really likes helping people with issues or problems that might occur and feels his experience can help him better serve his customers when they have trouble. He also likes working with the Alabama State Legislation and the Big I legislative committee to help the insurance industry. Ken helped with the electronic verification bill and the agent's fee bill in Alabama.
What advice would you give someone wanting to be an insurance agent?
Be patient. Building an agency takes time and renewals are the key to longevity.
What is one of your guilty pleasures?
Ken enjoys adventure boat trips. Recent trips include taking his boat from Destin to Fort Lauderdale and another trip from Destin to Key West.
What is something about you that would surprise people?
Ken recently adopted a 2 year old German Shepherd (pictured above) from the local shelter. He named her Carlee. Carlee is now a regular at his office in Bessemer, Alabama.
Know Your Competition
Mark Sanborn, a best-selling author, motivational speaker and entrepreneur said, “If you aren’t a little different than your competition, you’re in trouble.”
Do you know your competition?
Is your agency located in an area with other independent insurance agencies? If the answer is yes, do you think you are different than the other insurance agencies? Can you honestly say you provide your customers a better customer service experience? Better products and services?
Keeping up with your competition is a great way to grow your business. Identify the markets that aren’t being met by your competition. Then consider offering products and services they don’t.
Compile a spreadsheet and note your products and services vs. your competitor’s products and services. What do you offer that they don’t? Find your differences and market those. “We sell boat insurance!”. Compare your operating hours. Are you and open Saturdays and they aren’t? “OPEN Saturdays!” Compare the number of companies you represent. “We’ll find the best coverage for your insurance needs. We represent 12 top rated insurance carriers.”
Attend trade shows to find more markets and products. Companies and carriers want your business. The more you offer, the more you’ll stand out compared to your competition. In addition, you’ll network with other agents, carrier marketing representatives and insurance association representatives to learn about things that are working for them and their agencies.
Here’s a basic example of a tracking spreadsheet. Add to this and find areas where you stand out. Market to your potential customers and promote what makes your independent insurance agency shine compared to your competition.
Is Your Agency Customer Friendly?
Is your office easy to find? Is your office tidy and inviting?
Here are some things your independent insurance agency can do to make your office more customer friendly:
You see your office almost everyday. Get an outside opinion on things you can do to spruce up your agency. Ask your spouse or a friend to tell you what they think of your office.
There are other things you can do to keep your office looking ship shape. Ask your employees keep a clean and tidy desk. You want to make a good impression on your customers so they will feel welcomed. If they feel good about coming into your agency, they will come back to see you when they need additional products and services that you offer.
Do you do anything special at your office that may benefit other insurance agents? Maybe you offer snacks or you have a cooler with sodas and waters for your clients. Do you offer free Wi-Fi? Do you update your furniture as it gets worn and outdated? Do you subscribe to sports related magazines for sports fans? Do you have some cool artwork on your walls?
We’d love to hear about some things you do that makes visiting your insurance agency a pleasant experience. Please tell us in the comments section below.
Optimize Landing Pages for Lead Generation
A landing page is defined as a web page a visitor arrives at after clicking on a link. Typically you arrive at a landing page after clicking on a link on a website home page. Let’s say your insurance agency website has a button to “Get A Quote” or “Get An Instant Auto Quote”. When a visitor clicks the link, they are taken to a landing page.
A landing page should be designed using the KISS method. The acronym KISS stands for “Keep It Simple, Stupid”. The principle was designed by the U.S. Navy in 1960. It states that most systems work best if they are kept simple rather than complicated. The goal is simplicity and unnecessary complexity should be avoided.
15 Things to consider when designing your landing page:
Once you have built your landing page and your campaign is live, be sure to track your campaign. Is it successful? If your campaign needs improvement, consider making changes to your landing page and test other versions.
Slow Load Times Can Mean Lost Customers
People are impatient. Everyone wants everything fast. When you do a search online you expect fast results and slow load times can mean lost visitors and lost customers.
42% of people expect a web page to load in 2 seconds or less.
40% of people abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load.
A one second delay in page response can result in a 7% decrease in conversions.
Does your insurance agency’s website load in less than 2 seconds?
If your insurance agency’s website doesn’t load fast, your potential customers will click the back button and return to their search to find another result.
There are websites that will tell you how fast your web page is loading. Google “web page speed test” and you will find a number of services that will tell you how fast your web page is loading.
Check your mobile and desktop page load speeds. You may need to address both once you get the results.
If you manage your own website, you should look at the following factors that impact web page speed:
Improving website performance can be a bit overwhelming, but once you fix some of the main culprits you’ll see a noticeable improvement in page load time.
Insurance Agents Are…
It won’t come as a surprise to hear that insurance agents have a less than stellar reputation. I have Google alerts set up for certain phrases that appear online in the news. I set one up for “insurance agent arrested”. I recently received Google notifications for stories including, “Grifton insurance agent charged again with embezzling from elderly”1, “Two Former Agents Face 55 Felony Counts in Life Scheme”2, and “Loris insurance agent arrested for scamming customers”3.
Here’s something that may make you laugh or cringe, go to Google and type in “insurance agents ar”. Google’s autocomplete search predictions returned the following:
I would never say insurance agents are scum or crooks. But if Google predicts that is something people will search then someone has to be writing about that topic. Now consider if one of those two phrases took you to a page about you and your agency.
Does your agency have a good online reputation? As an agent you want to know what is being said about you online. Think about your entire insurance agency’s internet marketing presence. Will potential clients see your insurance agency as reputable? Engaged? Knowledgeable? An authority on insurance products and services? An independent agency with a clean and unique insurance agency website?
Manage your brand reputation
Managing your agency means managing your brand reputation. Monitor what people are saying about you online. People trust online reviews. So needless to say, you need positive online reviews. When you get a review you should be notified so you can respond to the review.
Manage your notifications in Google My Business
Google says, “You can choose which kinds of Google My Business notifications you receive on your mobile device and in your email inbox. Notifications can help in a variety of ways, like letting you know when customers leave photos or reviews for your business listing, alerting you to product news from Google, and reminding you to keep your listing up-to-date.”
Turn on Google My Business customer reviews notifications:
Manage your notifications on Facebook
If you have elected to allow people to leave reviews on your Facebook business page, you can get a notification each time there is activity on your page.
You can adjust a number of settings and get a notification each time there is activity on your agency's Facebook page or an important page update, get a notification every 12-24 hours on all activity and updates on your page during that time or turn off all notifications.
Never turn off your notifications. Closely monitor all of your online social activity.
I mentioned Google Alerts at the start of this blog. I have alerts set up for work related and non-work related notifications. At the least, I suggest setting up an alert for your name, your agency’s name and your competitor’s agency name(s).
Setting Up Google Alerts
Freshen Up & Tune Up
Once you have set up alerts and notifications on Google and Facebook, take some time to freshen up and tune-up your social media and internet marketing. Do you have products you would like to showcase? Facebook allows you to showcase multiple products. Take some time and create a unique product or services page. In Google, add more photos, add a video testimonial, check your business hours and business categories and update your listing as necessary.
Now go help Google’s autocomplete to say, “Insurance Agents Are Awesome”!
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.