In today's insurance marketplace,agencies face heavy competition from digital insurance channels as well as theGEICOs and Progressives of the world, whichadvertise lower prices and limited services and products forconsumers to purchase.

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So what does the future look like forthe thousands of carrier and independent agents; proponents ofhuman engagement who realize that all the digital insurancechannels in the world can't replace the human connection?

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Independent and carrier agents can enhance andbuild on their strengths to compete head-on with the riseof the competitive insurance channels. Agents who give personalizedadvice and advocacy when needed represent the great upside and thefuture of the agency channel.

Insurance is a security blanket

People want to know they will becovered appropriately in their time of need, and that an advocatewill be there to support them when things don't go quite asplanned. Certainly people want to know a live human being can bethere when their basement floods, but being a trusted advisorrelies on really "knowing" the policyholder — being in thelife of that person with quality, frequency, and continuity.

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The challenge for the agency channel isbuilding a velocity of contact with current and prospective policyholders in the insurance industry, which undeniably has the highesttouch and highest volume requirement for interactions by its salesprofessionals.

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When we accomplish the role of trusted advisor, it results inhigher retention, cross-sell, and referral business. This isbeing evidenced by proponents of the agency model whostudy the insurance industry.

Why human contact still matters

Bain & Company's research shows that agency/agentconnection is unique to earn customer loyalty, and that aloyal insurance customer — measured by Bain's NetPromoter Score — delivers a whopping seven times the lifetime valueof a low loyalty customer and three times the value of a neutralcustomer. And loyal customers reward their agents by buying25% more insurance at higher prices, staying with and consolidatingtheir insurance with one provider and even referring friends andfamily.

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But we are not out of the woodsyet! Ernst & Young Global Customer Survey found that 86% ofinsurance consumers are 'not very' satisfied with communicationsfrom their provider. A whopping 44% report remembering 'zero'communications from their insurance provider in the last 18months.

What does all this mean for agents?

The most important task for the agencychannel is to focus on what they do best: offering 'peace-of-mind' to their customers.

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To earn customer loyalty, drive growth andattract new customers, agents are adopting and mastering newertechnology that can provide continuous engagement —connecting to people on email, text, phone, and social media.These are the new ways consumers shop for insurancetoday.

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In this way agents are partnering withtechnology to manage leads and organize r marketing programs toguide consumers through an elevated, sequential customer journeygeared at building relationships that are very highly valued byfuture insurance policy holders.

Research tells the story

Top insurance executives in a recent Accenture poll on the "FutureInsurance Workforce" survey found that artificialintelligence is here to stay and will create workplaceopportunities that will help agents work more efficiently tohelp drive growth and attract new customers.

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In fact, the only economically feasibleway to scale agency-policy holder relationship-building todayis through connecting technologies that consumers now use andexpect of their vendors.

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Savvy agents know their customers'values well — and are in a strong position todeliver original contentthrough technology that best expresses the value of the agency inways that are most meaningful to each customer. Contemporaryinsurance marketing automation solutions —integrated with agency management systemsthat maintain volume and feature sequential and automated practices— will make insurance agents more valuable in today's market.

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When it comes to marketing insurance,the agency connections coming from trusted advisors remaininvaluable to policy holders who must choose between this and afaceless organization which relies on advertising. An agencyequipped with appropriate technologies elevates the message toa much higher level! It grabs consumers and keeps them coming backfor years to come.

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Sam Fleming is vicepresident, product marketing at Imprezzio, the provider of automated marketingsupport for insurance agents. To reach this contributor, send emailto [email protected].

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These opinions are the writer'sown.

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See also:

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5 social marketing trends for insurance agents in2018

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3 digital marketing hacks to drive more insuranceleads in 2018

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5 easy-to-implement social media strategies forbusy insurance agents

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