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Brokers at the forefront

Today's broker needs to stay ahead of change, or drop out of the race. We talk to four brokers about getting it right...

Disruptors. New technology. Peer-to-peers. Directs. Standing at the forefront of change that is enveloping the insurance industry, at a pace never before seen, is not an easy task. So how do brokers lead the way? We asked four brokers how they’re leveraging the value proposition to stay ahead of the curve…

Surprise and delight

“We’re in the experience business,” says Jeff Roy, CEO of Excalibur Insurance Group.

“We look at how to show up and wow our clients at every touch-point. How can we be different? We’re trying to create the ‘insurance experience 3.0’”.

What does that actually look like? Smart process, good people, effective tech and a strong brand: Roy believes this all equals a result that clients will either embrace or reject. “Your brand either has the power to attract or offend. If my brand is neither attracting or offending somebody, it’s in the messy middle,” Roy says.

For Adam Hare, vice-president of Ont.-based Insurance Jack, it’s about going above and beyond to surprise and delight clients with a proactive rather than a reactive approach, he says. “Whether it’s a client who’s just had a baby and you send them a parenting book, or ordering clients a pizza when the Toronto Blue Jays are in the playoffs. [It’s] really [about] popping up out of nowhere, and not just waiting for the opportunity.”

To stand out, Adam Mitchell, president of Mitchell and Whale Insurance Brokers Ltd., stresses the necessity of a fighting spirit. “I think if you stop being scared of the shadow of a direct writer, and stand up, throw a punch and actually compete, you’ll find you can be pretty effective.”

Use the right tech

Knowing which tools and technology you need, instead of investing in every new thing on the market, is key, says Dario Battista, president of iSure. “We’ve said no to a lot of tech over the years. When you have the vision and the strategy, you can invest in the right tools for your business, of which not all are necessary tech-based, as opposed to jumping on the next bandwagon.”

If you want to talk to us via fax machine, then that’s fine. It’s not about forcing change.”

Similarly, Mitchell believes in testing out a number of new technologies before choosing the right one/s.

“We on-boarded a marketing partnership that started giving us 200 leads a day, but we only had a sales team of three people. So this became impossible to manage, the team became stressed, exhausted, and we lost a bucket of money,” he says. “Once we got rid of that, we were left with a much tougher, stronger infrastructure that was ready for the next beast. Then we started to diversify the lead sources (…) to hedge against the idea of any one being a runaway success or failure again,” he says. “Since then, we’ve tested dozens that haven’t worked and we give them the full-out try. Be relentless to your metrics, and manage to that. Don’t have so much pride that you’re not willing to start, at least from the baseline of what’s already working,” Mitchell adds. “If someone has already put 10 years of research into something, start there.”

70%
The percentage of consumers who use some form of digital research (e.g., social media scans or price comparisons), before buying insurance.

Source: Deloitte Property & Casualty Insurance Re-imagined: 2025

451%
The percentage increase in leads experienced by businesses using marketing automation to gain potential clients.

Source: Annuitas Group

It’s about “very carefully listening to what our clients want,” says Hare. Whether that means meeting the client on Facebook Messenger, having an A.I. livechat on your website, texting with clients or providing the option to confirm a policy with an e-signature, the client should be able to do business the way they are most comfortable.

“If you want to talk to us via fax machine, then that’s fine. It’s not about forcing change.”

There’s also no “one perfect solution,” he adds. “Everyone’s looking for the so-called ‘secret sauce,’ where you’re going to invest in one piece of tech that’s going to change your business, and that’s not true,” says Hare.

Think like a customer

Several brokerages have tried to create successful apps in the hopes of staying on top of the trend; however, none have paid off yet. “It’s great to have an app, but if nobody’s using it, it hurts you more than it helps,” Battista says.

Mitchell tried and got rid of an app, choosing to focus on a successful mobile site instead, while Roy believes in the viability of developing an app where the actual transaction could start within the app.

But asking the right questions, from a customer’s perspective, is key, says Battista. “Why would an ideal customer want to download and use the app? What’s in it for them? Currently, apps aren’t adding any value. It’s more gimmicky than anything else.” Hare agrees. “I don’t want an app for our company unless it can sit on the home screen of someone’s phone, and I still don’t believe that an insurance app belongs on a home screen,” says Hare. “I’m about creating things that actually make sense and that are meaningful to a customer.”

Knowing which tools and technology you need, instead of investing in every new thing on the market, is key.”

Get social

Recognizing you need an online social presence as a source for leads is one thing, Roy says, but you have to build up a relationship with your online community.

One way to do this, Battista says, is to build on your brand personality and awareness through a social strategy. “We’re posting a bunch of digital content, some of which is educational: for example, a three-part series on how to store your car for winter. Whether it’s on social media or any of our online marketing, I identified it as a core competency that we need to build internally. We now hit way above our weight when you look at the online metrics in terms of ranking.”

Using many social media tools can help give a brand broader scope, Hare says. “Everyone looks at Insurance Shack like we’re this massive brand and we have a huge call centre in Toronto.” In reality, there are three people on his team ensuring customers are served through Facebook, livechats on their website, MailChimp and texting.

Hook the new (and old) fish

Brokers need to look at exploring smaller, niche offerings and turning them into bigger or long-term ones, says Hare. “You may grow that client, who walked through your door wanting only iPhone insurance of $5 a month, into a huge opportunity.”

Getting rid of preconceived notions about customers and their needs is essential, too. “We thought that by having a younger, modern brand, and trying to digitize more, we would attract a 25- to 35-year-old customer. But it’s amazing that we’re on the phone with 70-year-olds who are completely fine with walking through an e-signature document,” he says.

Don’t have so much pride that you’re not willing to start, at least from the baseline of what’s already working.”

“We’re obsessive about analytics,” he adds. “We get granular on the data of every single person who wants to make contact with our company. Even if you didn’t want to buy insurance from us, we don’t just consider you gone. You’re now in a drip marketing campaign where we’ll still stay in touch with you.” Eventually, a new client may be interested at a different time in their life.

Price is nice, but relationships matter

Online research has created a more savvy customer than existed before in a traditionally obtuse market. This is changing the way in which these brokers do business, from expanding operating hours to after hours and weekends, says Battista, to finding innovative ways of differentiating themselves in a sea of readily available choices.

“We don’t have a conversation with a client where we don’t talk about having policies bundled, upselling, cross-selling, making sure we can offer every product,” says Hare. “Our customer-facing communications has been so carefully crafted. However, it’s frustrating when someone calls and says, ‘Everything’s been awesome, but I found something for $5 a month cheaper.’ It then becomes a matter of reminding the clients that, 95 per cent of the time, the discount we can offer for bundling products, for example, makes sense not just from a financial standpoint, but from a relationship standpoint.” After all, while the face of the industry is constantly changing, the broker business remains one that is built on trust, relationships and expert advice.

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Copyright © 2017 Transcontinental Media G.P. This article first appeared in the January/February 2017 edition of Canadian Insurance Top Broker magazine