Will your agency wither on the vine? Running an agency can be a tough row to hoe. You have to know your product, carriers and underwriting guidelines. You must have mad-great sales skills and be expert at customer service too. Perhaps you manage staff and premises as well. And on top of all that, you have to know how to generate leads. Heck, without a way to attract new prospects, your row will become little more than a patch of weed.

You want an ever-growing, thriving garden, not a weed patch. If your agency resembles a healthy garden, the clients soak up all your advice like rays of sunshine, put down strong roots to stay long, buy everything you offer that fits their needs and they cross-pollenate by referring their friends and family. Here are nine tools to help you grow your own blossoming agency:

1. Make a marketing calendar

Marketing is one of the most important activities of your agency. I’ll go out on a limb here and say this: After you have a solid understanding of your products, marketing is the most important activity to engage in. Why? All the knowledge in the world won’t earn you one red cent unless you have someone to sell to. You make money by helping people protect or create their ideal lifestyle. That requires a steady source of prospects and referrals plus a cross-sell program. Make sense?

But, if you are doing marketing by the seat of your pants with no plan or forethought, chances are you are needlessly missing opportunities. Even a simple marketing calendar is better than none at all. What should go on your marketing calendar?

  • Community events to participate in (think booth)
  • Your ad schedule
  • Client birthdays and anniversaries
  • Agency anniversary
  • Your client newsletter mailing
  • Holidays.

Every month there are dozens of wacky holidays and celebrations that can be used in your promotions, such as:

  • January is Financial Wellness Month;
  • February first is Car Insurance Day;
  • Third Tuesday in March is Companies That Care Day;
  • April is Financial Literacy Month.
  • April is International Customer Loyalty Month”

What can you do with these holidays and your marketing calendar? Engage your customers and prospects. Send cards, postcards, sponsor a coloring contest for kids, Send interesting information relating to the holiday, hold an open house or customer appreciation events. The point is, don’t be boring. Be interesting. Be a topic of conversation.

list2. Build a list

Your mailing list is one of the most valuable assets of your business. Collect the name and contact information of every prospect, no matter how they found you. Use an industry-specific contact management software like Applied, Advisors Assistant or a generic one like IContact (or even something as simple as Excel.)

Add other meaningful categories to the data stored about each person. What kind of data should you collect?

  • Birthday
  • Marital status and anniversary
  • What they purchased
  • Homeowner/renter
  • Expiration dates of policies with other agents
  • Term life expiration
  • How they found you (which ad, referral source, etc.)
  • Interests and hobbies, etc.

The more information you have, the better.

With the additional data, you can segment your list and send promotions specifically targeted to sub-groups while excluding others. Here are a few examples:

  • Term life insurance offer to young adults and permanent life insurance offers to older adults.
  • Home insurance offers to auto insurance clients who own a home; renters’ insurance offers to the others.
  • Send Medsup offer to all clients who are turning 64.
  • Send annuity info to Medsups clients without an annuity.

Note: Sending poorly crafted advertisements, even to a segmented list, is always a waste of money. How to write a good ad is beyond the scope of this article. If you need that data, email me.

Those are examples of cross-selling your client base but the same rules of list building and promotion apply to prospects.

3. Develop relationships

You have built a list and collected detailed information about your customers and prospects. That gives you a jump start on developing a relationship with the people whose premiums pay your commissions. Send birthday and anniversary cards, hold customer appreciation events. Send a client newsletter (like the one I offer, hint, hint). Use the marketing calendar you’re going to develop to communicate with them often.

4. Track results of promotions

You have two choices:

  1. Spend your advertising dollars willy-nilly; or
  2. Track the results of every promotion.

Option A means you have no clue if your money is well spent. Plan B allows you to treat every ad like a flesh-and-blood salesman who is hired to get you customers. Fire the slackers and find replacements.

And please, don’t just count up the leads generated. You also want to know how many of those converted to sales and the dollar volume of those sales. Spend your money where you know it gives you a return on your investment.

experience5. Create an experience

Truth be told, your clients are having an experience of your business whether you purposely orchestrate it or not. How about giving that experience some thought? How is your phone answered? What does your office look like? What do they receive in the mail? Are their questions answered promptly? How does it feel to be a client or prospect of your agency? It doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg to improve their experience. Doing even a few of the relationship-building actions of Point 3 will improve the experience of doing business with you. Think about what it is like to come into your agency then make that better.

6. Give them something unexpected

It would surprise most customers to receive a handwritten thank you card. A fun, themed open house or customer appreciation event would shock them. How about sending an article relating to their hobby or interests, or a new-client or policy anniversary shock–n-awe package? Use your imagination to come up with something that brings a smile to their face when they think of doing business with you.

7. Make it fun

Insurance and investments do not rank high on the fun scale. Sure, it may be satisfying for you to help someone but still… it doesn’t induce giggles in them. You can induce fun and interest into your client experience. Point 1 listed ordinary celebrations. If you want to do marketing that will stand out, get noticed and a great response, here are a few wacky holidays and ideas for celebrating them:

  • Feb. 20 — Love Your Pet day (You could sponsor pet funny photo contest, the winner receiving a PetSmart gift gard.)
  • March 4 — Toy Soldiers Day (One idea is to cite the day, send a pre-approach or cross-sell letter using soldier-themed words and put a plastic soldier in the envelope. Lumpy mail gets read.)
  • April 22 — National Jelly Bean Day (Perhaps fill a jar with the multicolored gems for a contest to guess how many.)
  • Sept. 9 — Talk Like a Pirate Day (Maybe you send a pirate-themed cross-sell offer on a postcard.)
  • The third Friday in May is National Pizza Party Day (Hold a referral contest with a pizza party for a prize.)
  • July is National Ice Cream Month (You could send a thank you to your “A” list with a Baskin Robbins ice cream gift card.)

Those may seem silly and unprofessional but please, set that thought aside. Ninety-nine percent of the advisors are doing the same old boring stuff hence they create no connection with their prospects and clients. Do their customers even remember the advisor’s name? If you’ll shake things up a bit, add some fun, not only will your workday be more pleasant but you’ll generate more revenue, too. Remember, the first step to a sale is getting their attention.

8. Take action

If this list of things to do sounds like a lot of work, you are right. But please keep in mind that the rich got rich by going the extra mile when no one else would. The prosperous people do some of the extra work and those that are just scraping by financially do the bare minimum… and complain they are not wealthy. The three-part formula for achieving success is:

  1. Be someone;
  2. Be someplace; and
  3. Do something.

These nine tools touch on all three. If you need help implementing these actions, try one of these resources:

  • Fiverr.com
  • Elance.com
  • Guru.com
  • Me

9. Don’t hang around stupid people

If you make changes, someone will complain — your assistant, a relative or a friend. Here is my advice on that: If they haven’t built a successful business themselves, tune them out. Do not be swayed by the opinions of the uninformed and unsuccessful. Nod. Be polite. But if they don’t shut up, fire the employee or make your time scarce with friends or family. That piece of advice alone makes reading this entire report worthwhile. Now go cultivate a thriving agency.

Additional blogs by Victoria Eden: