Filed Under:Agent Broker, Sales & Marketing

4 Things I’ve Learned About Branding from Agents

I find independent agencies to be fascinating brand laboratories. They are venerable faces on an otherwise fairly faceless, distant insurance industry. They are well liked by their constituents—sort of like how Americans view government (“I hate Congress, but like my congressman”). 

And sometimes they’re their own worst enemies when it comes to seizing branding opportunities. 

As I’ve watched agents over the years, I’ve observed a few concepts and ideas: 

1. Don’t overdo continuing education at the expense of communications. To be sure, insurance contracts are dense and complex, but there is more to playing this game of success. All the insurance knowledge in the world means nothing if you can’t communicate with constituents. Check the E&O records: Most claims originate from basic client-relations issues. (“They never told me I needed that endorsement.”) 

Pursuing insurance designations as trophies for the agency and communicating well with prospects and clients are not mutually exclusive. I’ve met some incredibly smart insurance geeks who also understand how to keep it simple, conduct written risk management checklists, explain things patiently, etc. 

2. Young agents are the future. (Duh, Peter.) But the future can be now if you can hire them and get out of their way. Provide some direction, some accountability and some vision—even if you have to swallow some pride or take a deep breath. They’ll do things differently than you’ve done—so what? That’s life. Younger folks will offer a lot to freshen up the brand. 

3. The brand called “you” is as important as the agency’s brand. Smart young agents already know this. The combination of a strong individual (the producer) and a strong entity (the agency) is powerful. 

Who knows where the online world is headed, but in this nutty environment, you have to pay attention to you, the individual, every bit as much as the firm to which you hitch your wagon. 

Idea: If you haven’t done so already, grab your name as a URL (e.g. petervanaartrijk.com). If you don’t know what to do with it, point it to your bio on your company’s website. Or have it redirect to your Facebook or LinkedIn page. 

4. Clean up the office to attract the best and brightest. Where you work is as important as anything for your key brand ambassadors—the employees. Is it time for an office overhaul? Check this out for some ideas:

http://aartrijk.com/2012/04/extreme-makeover-agency-edition/#more-8400

Peter van Aartrijk (peter@Aartrijk.com) is CEO of insurance brand firm Aartrijk, which will host Brand Camp in Boulder May 7-9: http://aartrijkbrandcamp2012.com/.

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