In my last two articles about “Surprised by Insurance,” I talked about surprise as a distinguishing feature of your brand. I want to broaden the concept this time. I’d like to suggest getting surprised by insurance as a way of re-imagining or re-inventing how you do business — and more importantly, how your customers perceive doing business with you.
Surprise is partly about seeing the familiar in a new way: Associating an insurance company with the pure enjoyment of watching an amazing series of imaginative little events unfold the way State Farm did with the Rube Goldberg video starring OK Go … or engaging with your trucker target market by creating a Facebook page that features photos of custom big rigs and plays trucker tunes along with driving and safety tips … or even promoting your agency with your logo on bowling balls instead of golf balls.
But in addition to the pleasure of experiencing something unexpected, the effect of surprise is to create a stronger bond with your customers and potential customers. When clients and prospects see you and your brand in a new context, it reinvigorates and engages them. For insurance agents, the ultimate goal should be to deepen the relationship with the customer so strongly that it transcends the traditional transactional nature of the relationship. Customers no longer see you as merely the seller of insurance commodities; you become their trusted advisor, risk consultant or risk manager. Customers come to appreciate the value of your service, not the price of your products.
Of course you can’t take the surprised by insurance concept all the way to “trusted advisor” just by printing your logo on bowling balls. But if you have an overarching strategy that focuses on reinventing the concept of how your insurance customer perceives you, placing your logo on bowling balls might be a good way to reinforce that perception.
So what are some strategies that might help you take the surprised by insurance concept all the way to reinventing how customers see their relationship with you? I’ll give you two: one this time, one next. The first one involves the Internet.
I say only “involves the Internet” because the problem with the Internet is that it’s easy to mistake the medium for the message. Half the agents who have websites don’t know what to do with them. And then there are all those agents who have social media sites and don’t know what to say on them.
They need an epiphany. Think of Newton’s epiphany when he observed the apple falling from the tree, how it fell perpendicular to the ground and not upwards or sideways. The clarity of his insight at that moment helped him define the laws of gravity.
Here’s what an Internet epiphany moment would boil down to for an insurance agent observing the Internet: it’s not about the technology, it’s about using technology to establish and nurture relationships.
Developing relationships is something insurance agents are supposed to be good at. We always say it’s a people business.
So here’s the surprised by insurance take-away from this: savvy insurance marketers use Internet tools to build relationships. They don’t put quote engines on their websites; they don’t communicate with clients strictly with invoices and only at renewal time; they don’t make empty promises about superior customer service with no intention of ever doing anything to follow through.
Instead, they use their social sites to support their community; they add value to their customer relationships with newsletters and other frequent communications; they take extra care to make sure their clients know they’re appreciated. Do you have a Facebook page dedicated to your target market? Do you post the local bowling league or little league scores on your site? Or send birthday cards to clients? Do you celebrate local businesses?
The Internet isn’t about the Internet; it’s about relationship-building. Once you get that, you can start to use the Internet as transformational tool, to change how your customers and those whom you would like to become your customers, see you — you might say to surprise by insurance.
More surprises next time.