This post, written by Justin Goodman, originally ran on IAMagazine.com.
Brand awareness is a critical component for insurance agencies' success and for the success of the agents who work in them. Access to the right marketing can be the difference between reaching your target audience and missing the mark altogether.
For the marketing to be effective, agencies need to dedicate time, money and effort. However, a marketing plan that lacks design and planning will fall flat with little generation of sales, which is a big waste of your resources.
Here are three questions to ask when developing a marketing plan:
1) What is the ideal audience and where do they hang out?
Selecting and understanding an audience is vital to the mission. Without this information, the only option is to start throwing different marketing at the wall and seeing what sticks.
One of the problems you'll quickly discover is that it's impossible to track what is working and why and replicating the most effective parts becomes nearly impossible. This approach is ineffective and expenses can start to add up very quickly with no direction or clarity gained from the outcome.
Instead, choose a focus. Decide on your target client. If it's personal lines, start narrowing prospects down to a specific demographic. If you're working on business accounts, start looking at specific classes or types of businesses, an ideal premium size and other characteristics that help create a meaningful marketing plan for that type of client's specific needs.
2) What cost is involved and what is the desired return?
Marketing can be costly. Even items that seem minor can come with a hefty price tag. Without parameters, it can quickly start to eat into the agency budget.
Agencies must be focused and intentional with marketing spending. Understanding who you want to reach and where to find them will help reduce waste in marketing efforts, be it time or money.
During the client research phase, it is essential to figure out the best way to reach them. If most of your audience is located outside of your community, taking out billboard ads will not generate much activity. It would be much better to invest in a digital strategy. Knowing how and where you can get your audience's attention is critical to ensuring you get the most bang for your buck.
A marketing plan also needs to include the expected return to understand its level of success. The expected return could be an estimated number of leads and the percentage of closed sales desired. But failing to define these parameters will leave an agency guessing what is useful and what is not.
Taking time to specify anticipated outcome means agencies have a marker for measuring results. It also means agencies can identify what methods are working, where adjustments are needed, and any marketing efforts generating little to no return. Once this happens, future campaigns can be more focused, further reducing wasted time and money invested.
3) How much is the agency willing to invest and how should expenses be handled?
Knowing how expensive marketing can be, there must be budgetary guidelines set by the agency. Unmonitored marketing will start to eat at company resources very quickly.
Agencies can allocate budgets in several different ways, but anyone relying on marketing to grow the business must know the structure, including producers.
Providing support for a marketing campaign is essential, but there should be controls. Producers do not necessarily know what will or will not be effective. Guidance from an individual with marketing expertise paired with a spending limit is necessary. Whether an agent is joining associations, attending meetings, taking out digital or paper ads—all of this is part of marketing. Setting a budget will help keep the producer in check and protect the agency's bottom line.
If a producer feels the budget is too low to fit their needs, consider negotiating this with a reduced commission, or allow them to invest their own money. When producers add their own money to the pot, they have an increased interest in seeing their investment pay off. It provides flexibility in the budget and allows the agency to maintain necessary control, which protects the interest of the agency and the agent.
Marketing is an essential element of agency growth. Developing a marketing plan with appropriate guidelines can help agencies and their agents work together to identify and achieve common goals.