Those who can effectively implement social media and e-marketing strategies recognize that understanding the tools and their use are just part of the formula for success. Realizing full benefit also requires diligent management attention. The following tips address key highlights for managing an agency shift toward social networking and e-marketing. Note that they’re not described as The Six Rs; others most certainly exist, as do some As, Bs and so on. Still, by addressing these, agencies and brokers can move their social networking and electronic marketing success along.
Retool: Agencies looking to drive increased sales and retention using social networking and other electronic marketing tools often set as a goal driving traffic to the agency Web site. There, they complete a form or make a call for a quote or more info. Does your agency Web site support quick access? Or do visitors need to search for contact info? Consider tweaking your site to make it easy for visitors to get quotes. Look at agency workflows, as well. Do internal processes lend themselves to speedy response? Do phone calls or emails for quote take precedence? (They should, if you want to reach Internet shoppers.) Can account reps get quotes from multiple carriers quickly? If not, consider how and whether using Real Time (getrealtime.org) quoting might move you forward.
Retrain: An updated way of marketing and managing leads will probably require some new employee approaches. As with any change, it’s important to let staff know the agency’s direction—and why the shift is taking place. Make sure employees support the focus and are prepared to respond. Internal training may be sufficient, but consider outside sales and marketing training resources. If you believe the new direction represents a sizeable enough shift in agency thinking, perhaps change management training, such as is available through ACORD’s POWER of Change (www.acord.org/resources/poc) curriculum, is in order. Regardless of how it’s done, management is responsible for ensuring staff buy-in and enthusiasm.
Recruit: Deployment of an electronic marketing strategy and use of social networking tools need not be a solo endeavor. By dividing the work, managers can get more done. Expertise exists throughout the office; enlist a variety of staff members to write blog content. Find someone—inside the agency or outside—to clean it up, if you wish. Chances are someone within the office is a Facebook or Twitter whiz. Harness that expertise and interest for the benefit of the agency. Encourage employees to share your agency posts, blogs and Tweets with their own circle of friends and ask them to ask friends to “like” your agency Facebook page! Also, encourage employees to write reviews of client businesses they like on online directories that elicit such reviews. This creates stronger customer bonds and contributes to client success—something every agency owner wants.
Respond: Management needs to be ready to meet Internet shoppers’ needs. For the most part, they expect speedy response, whether they’re shopping at 9 a.m. or nine at night. Granted, calling a prospect when most of us are asleep is probably wrong for a number of reasons. However, shooting back an acknowledgement—a real email, not just an auto-response—shows shoppers you think and operate how they do. In the response, tell when you’ll call them directly, and consider stressing the value of dealing with a local agent that represents a number of companies. Then, call when you say you will or have someone on staff do it. Make sure employees understand the need for speed, whether they’re on the receiving end of a phone call or an email query. Keep your management hat on and make sure prospects are getting the attention you promised.
Recognize: As managers, we know the value of recognizing and rewarding the behavior we want. Do you want to increase the number of policies per client? Then reward employees for getting email addresses you can use to send cross-selling messages. Do you want to drive more traffic to your Web site? Then recognize when employees share information with their friends that leads them to do so. Do you expect phone calls from prospects to take precedence? Do you want to increase conversion rates on leads? You get the drill. Recognition can take the form of something as simple as acknowledgment at staff meetings or departmental tracking charts to surprise distribution of gift cards when you see someone exhibit the behavior you want or formal incentive programs designed to boost (fill in the blank.)
Rethink: Finally, look at what you’re doing. Have the management processes you’ve put in place led to the changes you want? Track data, of course, but also engage employees. Ask how changes have affected workflows and processes. See what effect they’ve had on those you’ve asked to take part. Take that feedback and assess next steps. If something is not working, tweak it. Ask employees for suggestions on what to do. If changes are making a difference, let people know. Then consider how your agency might leverage those changes for even greater success.
By learning about the tools and, as important, by devoting attention to management issues and electronic marketing activities, principals will position their agencies for yet another “R”—Reward.