Monthly Archives: June 2017

Tech Talk: How to Use Digital Body Language

“When the eyes say one thing, and the tongue another, a practiced man relies on the language of the first.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Agents pride themselves on their sales skills — to meet a prospect face-to-face, take their measure, and craft an insurance package to fit their needs. Many studies show today’s insurance buyers, including millennials, want a relationship with an insurance agent they know and trust. The problem, however, is that the vast majority of buyers start their journey online. In too many cases, a prospect will decide to move on and the agent never gets the chance to look them in the eye.

Aside from creating a compelling digital presence that attracts prospects to an agency website or social media, agents possess another powerful tool in their marketing kit – the data that can be derived from these sites. The fact is, prospects and clients send out a lot of signals about what they are looking for, are interested in and willing to take action on when they visit online. Call it “digital body language,” a phrase coined by Steve Woods and Paul Teshima, two of the co-founders of Eloqua and now of Nudge Software.

Digital body language comprises everything an online visitor does with an agency. For the agency website, this includes questions such as: How long does a visitor spend on the site and what do they look at? How does a visitor’s behavior change on the site? After the first 10 seconds, what clicks, scrolls, and mouse movements take place and over what period of time? What pages do visitors linger over most and what actions are more likely to produce a phone or email inquiry? To what extent does the agency’s social media activity drive traffic to the website? Taken together, these actions can guide agents in understanding how to frame their online messaging and adjust accordingly. Unfortunately, too many agents don’t take the time to access this information or if they do, to understand fully its implications and what actions to take.

Without this information, agents are “marketing in the dark,” according to Brian Bartosh, president of Top O’ Michigan Insurance Agency Inc. in Alpena.

Marc McNulty, vice president of Insurance Operations for The Uhl Agency in Dayton, Ohio, adds that he is not aware of any agency in his area that actively tracks website and social media activity.

So why don’t more agents access this information?

“I think business intelligence and use of it is new and ‘scary’ for many,” said Bartosh. “It appears that they have under-utilized technology and have not seen the value of data.” Bartosh says use data – it is searchable and mineable.

Another possible explanation: agency management systems generally do not access this data. Agents must collect it from other sources such as Google Analytics and then import to track the characteristics of prospects and clients.

“We don’t monitor this as closely as we probably should,” McNulty said. However, the data he collects is helpful. “I like to see the numbers regarding pages/session, average session duration, and what the most visited pages on our site are.”

Bartosh is an advocate for using data. “We want to know as much as we can so that we can pinpoint our marketing efforts,” he said. “This has taken our results from the traditional 1 percent to 2 percent response to double-digit response because we know more and can target our messages.”

It’s also important that the data be current to be useful, he added. “We are mining data monthly for various purposes including cross-sell, win-back and new prospecting efforts.”

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Tech Talk: Why Real-Time Binding Delivers Immediate Value

For independent agents, optimum use of technology delivers a multitude of benefits, including streamlined back-office operations and more effective marketing outreach. Yet one benefit, arguably the most powerful, is often overlooked — that of producing tangible and immediate value to the customer. An agency-branded mobile app that facilitates easier premium payments and claims filing is one example already in use. While not yet a reality, real-time binding is another innovation that produces value any buyer can appreciate.

The National Association of Professional Insurance Agents (PIA) has been a champion of real-time binding with its “Buy Button.”

“Our biggest challenge as agents is not the decision whether or not to go digital,” said Mike Becker, PIA executive vice president. “Our biggest problem is insurance sales, both online and off-line. The fact is, we need to be in a position to sell insurance in real-time.”

Becker says the Buy Button gives agents the ability to bind a policy in a “once and done fashion” using their agency systems for both clients and prospects who walk in the office, call on the phone or visit online. Agents could also bind outside the office using mobile technology.

“Real-time binding in the agent’s office can enhance the customer experience, improve conversion rates, and help with retention and cross-selling,” said Bill Pieroni, ACORD chairman and CEO.

Experts agree the technology is already available. However, deployment is complicated by how current systems are set up.

“Independent agents operate in a

multi-carrier environment in contrast to direct writers,” said Keith A. Savino, partner and chief operating officer for Warwick Resource Group and a PIA board member. “Directs operate with one system while each of our companies have their own systems. In the manual world, the best we can hope for is being in position to provide estimated annual premium to prospects. We need to be able to offer real-time, exact and findable quotes.”

Carriers will tell agents they can provide binding on their proprietary systems but what agents need is to be able to offer binding through their own agency management systems, Savino said. “Instantaneous binding puts more pressure on an agent to ask all the right questions in taking an application, however the payoff is huge. It can be a game-changer for independent agents.”

PIA’s Becker said there will always be agents who are “latecomers to the party.” But making the change to real-time binding in an agent’s office is critical to the future of our agency system. “We have the better products and pricing but this one piece is a huge impediment.”

As important as real-time binding is, Pieroni cautions that seeing technology as the only answer to addressing the current competitive climate misses the mark.

“Agents face three key challenges as it relates to digitization — leveraging technology to address emerging consumer demands, successfully incorporating digital technology into their office operations, and rethinking strategy and overall value proposition moving forward,” Pieroni said. Digitization of the value chain can, if done correctly, reduce costs and increase effectiveness for the agent, while strengthening the value proposition. “It requires a rethinking of the whole capability model — processes, organization, as well as technology. Solely focusing on technology will impair full realization.”

Digital challenges facing agents falls into three buckets — streamlining back office functions, mastering the use of customer-facing tools such as a website and social media and delivering as many services as possible to the policyholder in real-time without sacrificing quality. This last challenge is perhaps the toughest but is becoming an absolute necessity.

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