I recently read An Empire of Wealth by John Steele Gordon, a fascinating look at the history of the American economy.  One specific passage, discussing the simple brilliance of Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt’s steamboat business model struck me profoundly.  Gordon writes:

“The Commodore’s business model was simplicity itself: (1) run the most efficient, lowest-cost organization possible; (2) compete fiercely by means of price […]; and (3) live up to your agreements.”

Cost-efficient, competitive pricing, keep your word – could not be clearer or more effective.  These basic principles made Vanderbilt one of the world’s wealthiest men in his lifetime.  Vanderbilt’s model stood out to me because these are the ideas that we are coincidently using to built our insurance agency marketing and lead generation business nearly 200 years later.

StartUpSelling, as a completely virtual business, pays for no infrastructure and therefore has incredibly low costs.  This in turn allows us to offer highly competitive pricing.  The last of Vanderbilt’s pillars speaks for itself, as we of course do everything possible to deliver on our promises.

In the 1800’s Vanderbilt was able to provide the greater New York City area with affordable steamboat service using his model of competitive efficiency.  Today, we are by no means as successful as the Commodore, but are employing the same principals to achieve significant growth for our business and for our insurance agency marketing and lead generation clients.

Low costs, competitive pricing, keep your agreements – three simple ideas to apply to your business.

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Posted in: B2B Marketing, Insurance Agency Lead Generation, Insurance Agency Marketing, Virtual Business
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Insurance Agency Marketing

Join us for this brief, complimentary web seminar on Blogging, Social Media and SEO – New Marketing Tools for Lead Generation & Growth. We will review the new rules which apply to marketing and why sooner is better when it comes to social media marketing. Guest speaker, marketing expert and author of Your Virtual Success, Alan Blume, will touch upon subjects including SEO, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, ePublishing, Blogging and social media marketing. Topics include:

*  Blogging for Leads
*  ePublishing or Blogging – which is better and why?
*  Search Engine Optimization – SEO or PPC
*  Should my company Link, Friend or Tweet?  
*  Social Media Marketing or eMarketing for your business

June 17th at Noon ET:  https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/864983264
 
For more information: info@startupselling.com
 
Sincerely,
 
John Scranton
VP & Licensed Agent
StartUpSelling, Inc.
(518) 222-6392
johns@startupselling.com
startupselling.com

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Posted in: B2B Marketing, eMarketing, Insurance Agency Lead Generation, Insurance Agency Marketing, Search Engine Optimization, Social Media, Telemarketing, Virtual Business, Web Seminars
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This is a story you have probably seen several times. It is sort of a business proverb. Most famously shared by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras in ‘Built to Last’ – this is a story told to new Nordstrom employees and exemplifies the superior customer service they are expected to deliver. At first glance this story shocks most of us. It defies capitalism.

I recently read ‘Made to Stick’ by Chip & Dan Heath. They examine this story from a different perspective. Why does the statement convey its message so effectively? They argue that the act is unexpected and powerful – so powerful that it changes the service paradigm in the mind of a new employee.

Reading their thoughts triggered two questions: 1 – Should I be shopping more at Nordstrom? 2 – Do we provide service at this level in the insurance business?

The first question is up to my wife, so we will skip that for now. But the second question is one we should all examine carefully. To be candid, my experience with insurance agencies indicates that we do not. This would be equivalent to servicing a policy for a competing agency while they are receiving the commission. An idea that makes most of us cringe.

So I will throw down a challenge to you all and to myself – seek out an opportunity to provide unexpected, superior service to a client or prospect. This is something you can do this week. And if your good deed is powerful enough – you might shift your organization’s service paradigm for the better.

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Posted in: B2B Marketing, Insurance Agency Lead Generation, Insurance Agency Marketing
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As promised – some more tips for your telemarketing success. But first a quick story…

The last time I hired a telemarketing firm while I was working as an insurance agency producer, I had horrific results. We selected a firm with “insurance expertise” and asked them to set up conference call appointments for us to sell a national P&C program that was unique to our agency. I hoped for activity – and they delivered plenty.

I had conference call appointments who wanted to discuss benefits, conference call appointments who thought I was supposed to be there for an on-site appointment, conference call appointments that were incorrectly scheduled due to time zone differences, and conference call appointments with people who had never heard of me or my agency. The ROI for this project was close to zero, and the telemarketing firm could not understand why the project had failed. They had promised activity, but I guess they didn’t mean sales activity.

What can be done to avoid this situation?

• Employ a Caller with Insurance Experience – This does not mean a professional telemarketer who made calls for CreditUSA last month but also called for an agency last year. I mean actually hiring a caller who has worked in an agency or company. I promise they are out there. Maybe a CSR looking for sales experience, maybe a producer looking to get off the road. My story above used a young man who “primarily called for agencies” and we saw how he crashed and burned. Make the investment in someone who understands the business, and the increased appointments per hour will be your dividend.

• Clarity in Appointment Requirements – Often agencies will allow callers to schedule any kind of appointment at any time for any line of business. This comes from our hubris as producers. We assume if we have a lead, somebody will get there and make the sale. The problem is an appointment from a telesales rep is still a lead that needs to be nurtured before it becomes a prospect. This job is much easier when you only accept one type of appointment (ie: conference calls for your P&C program). Removing ambiguity in the format of the meeting and the products that will be discussed decreases the chances you nip the bud of your lead.

• Big 3 Differentiators – This is a stolen idea, but it works. On a cold call, you will have the chance to share 3 big differentiators about you and your organization. More likely 1 or 2, but 3 at the very most. Invest time and effort in determining and refining the big 3 for you. Make them simple and compelling. For example: We insure truckers, we have for 30 years, and our service is outstanding. A telemarketer will never have time to discuss more than 3 and probably will not have an opportunity to explain them if they are vague. This is critically important.

Hope you all find this commentary useful in building your business and refining your lead generation campaigns. Please feel free to contact me with any questions. Happy selling.

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Posted in: B2B Marketing, Insurance Agency Lead Generation, Insurance Agency Marketing, Telemarketing
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Cold calling and telemarketing have gone hand in hand with the insurance agency market for many years. Successful agents have built their books with cold calls and successful agencies have employed telemarketers to take their organization to the next level. When I was an insurance agent, cold calling was like a rite of passage – something that had to be done before you could advance and excel.

Since we are all busy with the day job of servicing clients, presenting quotes, and closing business – telemarketing services have been employed to supplement our personal cold calling efforts. Whether these services are performed by an in-house employee or an outsourced solution, here are a few points we have found to be critical for a successful telemarketing campaign.

• Avoid Callers in a Bullpen – Many telemarketing services throw callers in a bullpen and say go. We all know what these calls sound like because we hear them coming from other vendors – a delay after you answer as their computer system connects the call, then lots of background noise. Hire a caller who will be alone in a quiet office using a traditional phone. The improved quality will pay for the additional overhead many times over.

• Use a Simple Pitch – Your callers will have little time to deliver your pitch and value proposition, and likely no time to explain the details. Avoid nebulous tag lines like “Total Cost of Risk” or “Benefits 24/7.” Direct, unambiguous pitches are far more effective. An example could be as basic as “I am calling for John Scranton. He insures many contractors like you in this area, and would like an opportunity to review your insurance and determine if there are ways to improve coverage or cut costs – are you available next week?” Honest, straightforward, easy to deliver.

• Use Female Callers – This comment may run the risk of an EPLI claim, but we have studied cold calling results and metrics for literally millions of dials, and over the long term our conclusions indicate female callers consistently produce better results than their male counterparts.

These are just a few simple suggestions to help you and your insurance agency or B2B organization procure better results from telemarketers. They should be effective for both in-house callers and outsourced services. I have more basic, actionable suggestions and will continue to post them over the next few days. Please feel free to contact me with any questions. Happy selling!

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Posted in: B2B Marketing, Insurance Agency Lead Generation, Insurance Agency Marketing, Telemarketing
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Join us as Alexander & Alexander Agency VP David Huff reviews the results of his cold calling and appointment setting lead generation program which is yielding five in-profile appointments per week. Alan Blume, agency marketing expert and author of Your Virtual Success, will discuss the design of the campaign and how he has created these programs for several agencies. Topics for this 20 minute, complimentary webinar include:

* Defining the specific target markets
* Agency prospect list generation
* Call script and pitch refinement
* Cold calling campaign design
* Appointments per call hour & other metrics

May 25th at Noon ET: https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/987894729

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Posted in: B2B Marketing, Insurance Agency Lead Generation, Insurance Agency Marketing, Telemarketing
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Referrals have traditionally been a premier source of new business for insurance agencies.  When I was an agent, I loved referrals.  It was an opportunity to build my business without actually selling.  Just visiting with somebody who would likely buy.  A great tool that all salespeople need to take advantage of and cultivate consistently.

I was recently speaking to a mid-size agency’s VP of Marketing who explained they follow a referral based system of selling.  They do not cold call, they rarely advertise and do not leverage any other marketing tools or outreach program.  He explained this system has yielded some success, but agency principals were not satisfied with annual growth rates.  I told him referrals should always be one of the legs of your stool, but how do you expect to grow consistently standing on one leg?

You always need a three legged stool.  Referrals, referrals and more referrals do not meet this criterion.  Never ignore these opportunities – they close faster and more often – but make sure they are only one piece of the puzzle.   Exclusively chasing referral business puts a governor on your growth.

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Posted in: B2B Marketing, Insurance Agency Lead Generation, Insurance Agency Marketing, Telemarketing, Virtual Business
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Simple Formula for a Great Web Seminar

  • Posted on May 18, 2010
  • by John Scranton

We just ran an excellent web seminar. High attendance from in-profile prospects. I will share 3 very simple suggestions for you to run a successful web seminar:

1.) Discuss a current and educational topic
2.) Use a guest speaker
3.) Invite the right people

Very simple ideas that when executed properly yield a great webinar.

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Posted in: B2B Marketing, eMarketing, Insurance Agency Lead Generation, Insurance Agency Marketing, Web Seminars
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Book Review: Small Giants by Bo Burlingham

  • Posted on May 17, 2010
  • by Andrew

Small Giants, by Bo Burlingham, is an excellent read for all proponents of small business. Following the framework of Built to Last, Burlingham studies a series of companies who have been tremendously successful. However, he instead investigates companies that choose to be great rather than gigantic – hence the title Small Giants.

This idea first appealed to me because I have always believed that small businesses are the backbone of the American economy. The vibrant entrepreneurial culture is one of the characteristics that has made the United States the richest country in world history. The inventions and innovations that have molded our history have often come from what we would define today as the small business community.

Celebrating companies who have successfully become great at what they do, but then choosing to limit their growth strategically to maintain the character and values of the organization also directly appeals to me because that is what we are striving to achieve at StartUpSelling, Inc. As a boutique marketing firm, we are most interested in excellent service, innovative ideas and superior solutions – not explosive growth. Of course we set growth goals, but only in a manner that allows us to maintain our core values and continue our primary focus of being great.

I would call Small Giants (as well as The Knack by Burlingham & Norm Brodsky) a must read for any small business or solopreneur. It provides an education as to how organizations attain tremendous success by focusing on core values, community and their people – often sacrificing growth to achieve greatness.

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Posted in: B2B Marketing, Insurance Agency Lead Generation, Insurance Agency Marketing, Virtual Business
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I Want Leads Like I Want My Morning Coffee

  • Posted on May 14, 2010
  • by John Scranton

When I was an agency producer, I wanted leads like I wanted my morning coffee. I craved them and sometimes could not function well without them. The only problem was – most of the leads that came across my desk were a waste of time.

“John – Call my buddy Bob. He needs insurance for his business. 555-1212. He is expecting your call.”

Um, ok. What does Bob need? Is he in-profile? Is he calling every agency in town? Who knows.

So, I would call. Maybe find out he needs insurance because he was cancelled for non-pay or losses. Maybe find out he doesn’t have a business, just an idea that he is researching. Maybe have a great conversation, get a competitive quote, only to find out he won’t leave his current agent. Rarely did a “lead” from someone within my agency or my professional network result in a sale.

Fortunately my sales and marketing methodology has matured over time. I no longer want leads – although I crave coffee more than ever. Now I only pursue prospects in my target profile. I only make warm calls. I only talk to people that have a level of interest in my organization’s solutions and that I know I can help.

How? Highly targeted prospect lists, eMarketing, web seminars and warm calls. No more chasing bad leads – only chasing quality prospects identified through an integrated marketing strategy.

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Posted in: B2B Marketing, eMarketing, Insurance Agency Lead Generation, Insurance Agency Marketing, Web Seminars
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