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For Agents: Commit To Your Strategies

— Reprinted with permission from PIA Management Services Inc.—

Louis Pasteur famously said, “Fortune favors the prepared mind.” The year ahead presents many new opportunities for professional, independent insurance agents to grow and provide greater value to clients. These early days of the new year are the opportune time to reflect on your professional goals and commit to the strategies you will use to accomplish them.

Focus on these five key areas and you can make your agency more successful in the year ahead.

No. 1—Reflect and plan

It may sound simple, but the first step toward making this year a success is to carve out time to analyze last year’s performance and reflect on what can be improved.

Evaluate your agency performance holistically— and be painfully honest with yourself. Identify what helped you accomplish your goals and what set you back. Then, write down a detailed plan that commits you to new professional goals. Replicate the practices that contributed to your success in the past and figure out how to change the ones that didn’t.

No. 2—Strengthen your connections

The new year is the perfect time to re-establish old business contacts and broaden your professional network. PIA and other associations can be an excellent place to start. Set goals for attending networking and continuing-education events each quarter. If you already are an active participant, seek out a leadership position as a committee or board member. In addition to trade associations, your local chamber of commerce or other business groups are good resources for establishing connections that can help you grow your agency.

This also is a great time to review and update your LinkedIn account. Take a look at your contacts and congratulate those who changed jobs or were promoted during the past year. Ask for introductions to your contacts’ primary and secondary connections to identify people who may be helpful for you to know. Use LinkedIn as a resource for others by sharing updates about your agency or relevant news articles about the industry.

No. 3—Map out your CE

As part of your annual planning be sure to focus on your professional development and continuing education. Determine the number of CE credits you need for the year and map out a monthly plan to ensure you’re not scrambling to fulfill requirements at the end of the year.

Seminars, presentations, courses and luncheons can help you stay up-to-date on the latest trends and developments affecting the industry. Several online resources also offer affordable, state-specific courses for insurance professionals that you can complete at your convenience.

No. 4—Refresh your marketing

If you’re selling your services with the same brochures and website you had in 2009, make 2014 the year your marketing gets a facelift.

Start with your website. Is it up-todate with the latest news and information about your agency? Are you adding new content regularly to your website, blog and social-media channels to make them great resources for your customers and prospects? Can your agency be found easily on the popular search engines?

How is your agency’s service rated on Yelp or Angie’s List?

In addition to your online marketing, check with your carrier partners for specialty marketing resources they may have available. Some carriers provide customizable, co-branded brochures; advertisements; direct-mail campaigns; event marketing/trade-show materials; and safety materials that can help you explain coverage options and value-added services to your existing clients and prospects.

If you don’t regularly send customers and prospects an electronic newsletter, there are many cost-effective resources available to help you get started. Several of them cater to small business owners.

They provide easy-to-use mailing list management and mass email distribution services, as well as campaign analytics that enable you to see how resourceful your information is and who is relying on it.

No. 5—Use online policy management tools

While insurance always will be a people-oriented business, carriers are investing heavily in new technologies that make it easier to work with them.

This year, make a point to become familiar with the valuable online policy management resources your carrier partners provide. A wide range of these types of digital tools are now available.

In addition to leveraging the online tools available from your carrier partners, load the new smartphone or tablet you may have received during the holidays with productivity-enhancing apps that can help you become more organized and productive.

Get ready for success

There’s a lot to be excited about heading into the new year. With a little bit of thoughtful planning and focused execution, you’ll be on your way to growing your agency and accomplishing your goals.