I’m More Local and More Mobile, Now What?

Last week I wrote about the use of technology by agencies to streamline office procedures, enable greater document sharing, and facilitate communications among their personnel as well as with insurance companies and customers. (Click here to read last week’s post.)  The second, equally important use of technology by today’s agencies is to brand themselves and drive customers to their business. 

There was an article in today’s AJC about the use of social media to accomplish these objectives.  The author used the phrase “tri-branding” to describe how a business can use social media technology to connect their brand to their products’ brand, and to get their customers to reinforce these brands by praising the business and/or their product on social media sites.  The author acknowledges the potential problems with turning employees loose on social media sites to create brands for a business and its products and try to connect with its customers.  However, as the author notes, “Unless you take control of social media, you risk social media taking control of you.” (Click here to read the complete article.)

For those agencies who are leery about having their employees use social media for this purpose, or don’t know where to start with social media, or maybe have made an attempt to use it to promote their business but have run out of steam or ideas, the Big I has just announced program that can fill this gap in an agency’s marketing program.  Known as “Agents Go Digital”, the Big I, working in conjunction with the IIABA’s Project Cap, now provides a way for an agency or a producer to manage a social media branding and marketing campaign for a monthly fee.  

“Agents Go Digital” will set up and maintain a Facebook page and make regular posts to it, register the agency with Google Places and set up and monitor Google Alerts for any information about the agency or its key personnel that gets posted on the internet, create a YouTube channel and promotional video for the agency or producer, run contests and other promotions to drive potential customers to the agency or producer, set up a LinkedIn company page for the agency and profiles for its key personnel, create an agency or producer Twitter profile, and perhaps most important of all, integrate all these social media tools so that posts and other activity on one will be reflected on all the others.  “Agents Go Digital” can also create a custom blog and website for an agency and provide both with custom content. (Click here for the home page and go to the Facts Sheet for specific information on the services provided and their cost.)

For those agencies or producers looking for a way to navigate the many social media sites and integrate their branding and marketing activity among them, “Agents Go Digital” offers a way to do so that will enable the agency or producer to keep their primary focus on maintaining and growing their business. 



Is Your Agency More Local and More Mobile?

The cover story in this month’s edition of IA Magazine is titled “More Local, More Mobile.”  It explores the various ways that independent insurance agents are adapting their business practices to meet the expectations of their customers from the older generations who like face to face contact with their insurance agent to the younger generations who are comfortable with doing business online and corresponding via e-mail.  As described by Angelyn Treutel, the president of SouthGroup Insurance (Gulf Coast) in Bay Saint Louis, Mississippi,  “Today’s consumer is demanding convenience, choice and advocacy. We offer choice in our products, and also in the ways that consumers communicate with us, whether it’s face-to-face at the office or their homes, or virtually via webcasts, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and email. The client rules.”

One way Ms. Treutel’s agency offers its customers convenience is by having  a main office in Bay Saint Louis and two other offices in nearby towns, with all three offices being connected using internet based IP phone technology.  This allows for the use of one receptionist for all three offices and makes contact among the staff at each office much easier.  It also makes it easier for the offices to assist each other in the event of a disaster or other problem at one office.  An agency in Washington state has six offices connected technologically.  Its president looked to the example of the investment firm Edward Jones in constructing its business, “They put optimal people in optimal locations, while providing the systems and workflows they need to effectively and seamlessly conduct business.” (Click here to read the full cover story.)

You may ask what systems and workflows are needed to make such a business model work.  Fortunately, an agency in Georgia has recently made the transition from a number of unconnected offices with their own telephone, e-mail, and computer systems to an integrated system of offices that are connected through the internet, or in the “cloud”.  Jim Schubert, the President and COO of Southern States Insurance, has recently posted an article on his agency’s blog describing the challenges that he faced and the solutions he found to those challenges by moving his agency’s operations to the “cloud.”  In that article, Mr. Schubert describes how his agency made use of an online agency management system, Google e-mail and Apps, and a VoIP telephone system to integrate, streamline, and standardize the activities of his agency’s seven locations (six in Georgia and one in Florida). (Click here to read the article.) 

I would be interested to hear what other agencies in Georgia are doing to make use of the technology now available to provide their customers the services they want, while still maintaining a presence in the communities they serve.  Tell us about your experiences.

Are You a Good or a Bad Boss?

Last week, I wrote about the habits of successful business people. (Click here to read the post.)  This week I thought it would be a good idea to look at what makes a good or a bad boss.  You might think that there is no difference in successfully running a business and properly managing people, but it turns out that the two require somewhat different skill sets.  For example, while the successful business person should be focused on the wants and needs of the customers of the business, the good boss is focused on the wants and needs of his or her employees.  How you determine those wants and needs and what the appropriate responses to them are will differ.

As with successful business people, I have come across articles that discuss what makes a good boss and what makes a bad boss.  It turns out that for good bosses, its the little things that count the most, giving unexpected attention and praise for something an employee has done or even an undeserved compliment to show your faith in the employee. (Click here to read about other traits of good bosses.)  As you might expect, bad bosses engage in the opposite kind of conduct, they are detached from their employees and display an arrogant attitude, among other things. (Click here to read about other traits of bad bosses.)  

While it seems intuitive that a good boss would make a business a better place to work and thereby, increase its value, it turns out that the effect of a good boss can be measured in economic terms.  Three researchers from Standford University and the University of Utah have recently published the results of a study they did to measure the impact of a good boss.  According to their research, replacing a bad boss with a good one can increase the productivity of the supervised employees by up to 10%.  In addition, their study found that the impact of having a good boss can stay with an employee even after the good boss is gone, due to the the better work habits that a good boss instills in their employees.  Perhaps most surprisingly, the study found that the best use of good bosses was to pair them with the best employees, as the increase in productivity was greater when the best employees were being supervised by the best bosses. (Click here for more information on this study.)

How do you measure up as a boss?  A review of the articles mentioned above should give you a good idea, as well as some ideas on how to improve any deficiencies you may have.

Habits of Successful Business People: How Many Do You Have?

I recently came across two articles on Forbes.com that were posted within a week of each other and addressed the habits of successful business people from two perspectives.  First, was an article on the ten resolutions that successful business people make and keep (which means they become habits).  As you might suspect, they ranged from the familiar, focus on your customers wants and needs, don’t be afraid to think outside the box, to the unexpected, plan all your vacations at the beginning of the year and let your work fill in around them, create a not to do list of things that you will avoid doing so that you can focus your energy on the most productive activities.  (Click here to read the entire article.)   

The other article approached the subject from the opposite angle.  It focused on the seven habits of unsuccessful business people, providing the reader with a ready made not to do list.  Again, some of the habits were predictable, thinking you have all the answers, getting rid of anyone who doesn’t completely agree with you, and some seemed counterintuitive, identifying completely with their business, being the consummate spokesperson for their business.  This article came complete with warning signs for how to identify when these habits were being practiced. (Click here to read the entire article.)

Taken together the two articles provide a good road map for how to be a successful business person.  They offer both a what to and what not to do checklist to which you can add items from your own experience.  Please feel free to share those items from your own experience, as you may have a different perspective from the authors of the above two articles.  Post a comment about them.