What a Contractor is Teaching me About Great Customer Service

Posted on

November 30th, 2011

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Whenever I have a commercial interaction, I try to glean a few insights into why it was enjoyable or why it was annoying.  My most recent endeavor has been the engagement of a contractor to make some home improvements.  As my wife and I researched vendors we heard many horror stories of dishonest contractors delivering a shoddy product or poor customer service.  So far the product appears to speak for itself, and I have noticed a few things that make the service superior:

  1. They Never Bother Me – Working virtually, I am in the same building, so it would be easy for the contractors to interrupt me to ask questions or review specifications.  They never do.  The only interactions I have with them are on my terms.  Imagine if this was the case on a car lot?  How can you avoid bothering your clients?
  2. They Deliver a Little Extra – One of the contractors noticed the felt pads on the feet of some of my kitchen chairs had worn off.  Replacing them will require a $5 purchase and 10 minutes of labor.  This is an infinitesimal task relative to the project scope, but it makes my life just a little easier at no additional charge.  What extra value can you deliver to your clients?
  3. They Simplify Billing – We only meet once per week to talk about money.  On Fridays I pay for what has been completed and they tell me what will be completed the following week and what the cost will be.  There are no surprises.  This relieves any anxiety I might have about the financial plan for the project.  What are your clients prospects worried about?

Insurance Agency Marketing 2.0 – Chapter 2: Prospect Identification & List Generation

Posted on

June 6th, 2011

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Prospect Identification

Who do you wish to sell to?  Who are able to sell to?  Who will be profitable to sell to?  Why will they buy from you instead of your competition?  These are all questions you must answer accurately before entering any business.  If you cannot come up with good answers, you might want to consider a different product/service/solution.

Begin by identifying your ideal client.  If you are P&C commercial agent, this might be a manufacturer with 50 employees or a contractor with $5,000,000 in revenue.  A life agent might seek households with at least $150,000 in total income or couples nearing the retirement stage.  Lastly a general agency might prefer to try selling everything to everybody.

So how crowded is your space?  If there room for you?  Does your value proposition create room for you in that marketplace?  Perform a careful analysis, because I personally know dozens of agents who would love to write that 50 person manufacturing business.  Many of them have deep and unique expertise and access to a vast array of markets – you must be able to explain why you deserve the business instead.

I suggest you seek a unique niche.  Start a program or find an area of specialization.  If you have a great opportunity to compete for the above manufacturer – quote it.  But if there will be significant competition that provides markets or services you do not, pass it up and invest your time in what you know you can do better than anyone else.

Your specialty could be a vertical, like restaurants or auto repair.  Or a horizontal, like benefits programs for businesses with 10 to 20 employees.  Or a line of coverage, such as worker’s compensation or professional liability.  How many agents in your market are a true expert in D&O?  Likely not nearly as many as those who want to compete for the manufacturer.

For example, my company provides marketing services.  We could sell to anyone, but I know that we can do a better job helping a $10 million dollar insurance agency sell benefits programs than we can helping Apple sell iPhones.  So I make my outbound calls to agency owners, not Steve Jobs.  This is one of our key verticals, and there is plenty of room in the space for our deep expertise, unique web marketing focus and compelling value proposition.

Prospect List Generation

Now that we have decided who we would most like to sell to, how do we find them?  Begin my acquiring quality prospect lists.  This can be accomplished online without a great deal of effort.  Although, there are challenges and pitfalls, so be careful when you make your selection.

There are many, many providers of lists that can be found on the web.  They will provide data in all shapes and size, and of varying quality.  Find a source that can offer you the detail you need in a convenient format, like an Excel spreadsheet.  Fields like first name, last name, phone number and email sound like obvious items to include, but some low-cost or low-quality vendors will not have all fields populated or will lump all the data into a single field – making an upload to your CRM or email engine impossible.

Seek a reputable vendor that will provide you with a sample of the list you will procure.  Make sure you they have all the information you need (employees, revenue, industry could be necessities to some agents and useless to others).  Also confirm the list count prior to  engaging with a vendor.  When we enter a new vertical target market, I like to start with around 5,000 contacts that have email addresses.  Buying 500 would not create enough opportunity, and buying 50,000 would be wasteful as that is a far greater number than I currently wish to prospect (as a boutique shop we seek steady and incremental growth).

For a young business, purchasing a prospect list is critical.  You have limited resources and need to begin hitting your targets immediately.  Find a vendor or a marketing professional who will consult with you and make certain your investment is not wasted.  A client once told me he purchased 30,000 prospect emails for a significant sum of money.  These led to no opportunity – only SPAM trouble.  Do not make the same mistake.