This post by Carrie Reynolds originally ran on the National Association of Professional Insurance Agents.
Branding is a common buzzword, but do you know what it really means? And why you should care? And why it’s the MOST critical piece of your marketing strategy?
Let’s start with some definitions of branding. A brand’s job is to make you the first choice when a customer needs your product or service. Here’s another definition: Your brand helps establish why people should do business with you or pay attention to you versus someone else in your industry (do I have your attention yet?).
Branding is critical to everything you do in your insurance agencyYou can quickly see that branding is the jumping off point for about everything you do in your business. From website design, marketing materials you distribute, interactions you have with customers, all the way to invoicing your clients — the brand you’ve established and communicate to others should be consistent throughout your organization.
It’s critical to get it right from the beginning. Whatever your brand promises becomes the expectation.
To build a successful brand, you MUST do two things:
Without these two things, you’ll end up a commodity in an already highly commoditized industry. And whether we consider insurance a commodity is irrelevant. This is already the consumer’s perception and we have to fight it every day. Building your brand will help beat this perception.
Not only that, but insurance agencies face competition from many different sources — it’s not just the agency next door or even in the next town. It’s the direct writers, the banks and other complementary industries and even companies that aren’t insurance companies but still want to get in the game. Let’s face it — everyone wants to sell insurance. Your brand is one of the few things that will differentiate you from the competition.
How you can create your insurance agency brand
Start by talking to your own customers. I know — sounds all too obvious right?
But here’s the thing — your customers are a wealth of information. Ask them the following questions to begin to figure out your brand:
What if you have an existing brand?
The exercise above taught me that the brand you have now doesn’t necessarily need to be scrapped. Instead it can become the things you do well — you just have to put it into words, educate your staff, and communicate that brand through your actions and marketing materials. And that’s the most important thing — you have to live your brand every day. Your staff must live it as well. It needs to become bigger than you, almost taking on a life of its own.
Talk to your staff. If you also gather your employees together to brainstorm what you do well and what differentiates you from your competition, you will get a very useful list. It takes the pressure off you to come up with everything (because we know how crucial time is to the time-strapped small business owner). And, employee contributions help establish buy-in of the brand. If they have “skin in the game,” it’s much easier to believe the message. I did this with my own staff and their input (along with customer input) became the basis of the “Galvez Guarantee,” our written promise as to expectations and duties to our customers. It’s on our website and given to all new customers.
You need both parts because you and your staff are too close to the situation to make impartial decisions. A disinterested third party like your customers will keep you honest.
Give strong consideration to working with a graphic designer who can take the results of Part 1 and Part 2 and pull that into something that’s visual and tangible. I learned a long time ago that your greatest successes are achieved when you do the work you’re good at and outsource the rest.
Working with a designer also allows for consistency across whatever platform you’re using. So no matter if it’s a letter, email, Facebook post or whatever medium you choose to share your message, your brand must look and feel the same every time. It broadcasts one clear message to customers and prospects and means you don’t have to recreate the wheel each time (i.e. saves you time).
What is NOT a brand
I see many insurance agencies loudly proclaim what they think is their brand. Unfortunately, it’s just a list of characteristics. Here’s some examples:
Let’s face it; consumers don’t care about the above facts unless they know how these facts benefit them. All marketing should answer the consumer’s fundamental question, “What’s In It For Me?”
So instead of stating these facts, show how each benefit the consumer (and answer some of the fundamental questions posed earlier):
What we discovered for our own agencyAfter questioning our customers and talking with the staff, we discovered that the best brand for us centered on Family & Community — we are a family-based business and love to help other families. Our welcome emails also talk a lot about joining our insurance “family” and we are proud of our commitment to community service and projects that benefit the community.
Corollary points of distinction include our ability to explain difficult insurance concepts in ways our customers can easily understand, our responsiveness and timeliness, our honesty and our ability to live up to our promises. All points are addressed in our Galvez Guarantee.
So we scream this from the rooftops (figuratively speaking). You’ll see lots of pictures of our staff, including my own kids (who spend time at the agency), our office cat, and community service participation. We ask customers to include the reasons they do business with us and how we make the insurance process easier for them in their testimonials. Our marketing helps reinforce and communicate our brand.
And best of all, when you have an established and clear brand, it makes all your marketing that much easier to create and promote.
When you brand your insurance agency, you can establish the following:
You get the ultimate choice to scream from the rooftops who you are, what you, how what you do is better than the competition, and why people should choose you.
You get to articulate once and for all, the soul of your business. And in an industry that is overrun with commoditization, isn’t it refreshing to have a way to fight back and perhaps even have some fun at the same time?
So go on, tell your story. Your agency’s success depends on it.