Insurance agency owner, set 5 goals to help you succeed this year
Ask any property and casualty insurance agency owner what his or her goals are for the new year– and they always have an answer: to grow, to bring in more business. But figuring out the blueprint – just how to grow – isn’t nearly as easy or intuitive. For that reason, we’ve scoured the wisdom of a number of business growth gurus and have settled on five goals we think you should consider, in order to move your agency into the new year – and beyond.
Start with a SWOT Analysis
Before we launch into the five goals, we need to lay a little ground work. First, it is important not only to create goals, but write them down, and make them SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timed. That way, you can check your progress throughout the year to see how well you’re doing or where you’re falling short. According to an Inc.com story, more than 80 percent of 300 small business owners surveyed said they don’t keep track of their goals. Not a good way to grow.
Next, you need to create what we in marketing call a SWOT Analysis: a survey of your agency’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.
- Strengths. What makes your agency unique from your competition? What do you do better? Is it in the wide range of products you offer, the various product lines, the relationships you enjoy with various carriers or Program Managers like Arrowhead, the caliber of your sales team, the level of service you’re able to offer, your high profile in the community, business relationships your agency enjoys, etc. And how can you leverage those strengths to help you grow in this year – and next?
- Weaknesses. Conversely, what is it about your agency that sometimes handicaps you, or causes you to lose business to a competitor? And what does your competitor offer, or do better than you can do? As you examine these issues realistically, you’ll realize there are some that you can solve – and some that you cannot. Set goals towards solving the issues that you can; then determine how you can work around those that you just can’t tackle in 2016.
- Opportunities. Looking outside your agency at influences such as your competition, the industry, the overall economy and state or local government, what opportunities do you see on the horizon that you need to position your agency to take advantage of? What new product lines or programs can you add to your agency’s offerings? What major businesses have finally given you a chance to bid? What programs is your key competition no longer offering? How could you take advantage of their reputation for poor customer service?
- Threats. Looking at those same outside influences, which have the potential to hinder your growth and how? Did a large agency just open a satellite office down the street from you? Has your favorite carrier now turned their attention (and their favor) to a competitor? Has a key carrier pulled out of your state? Has there been a slew of lawsuits causing state regulators to look more closely at some of your clients?
Your SWOT analysis will help you create your specific goals, based on what you see coming down the road, and the strategies you create to take advantage of, or minimize key issues.
One agency broker bemoaned, “My agency’s in a smaller town that has a couple of major employers. For years we had an ‘in’ with one of the key players in the largest company who was a golfing buddy, so we never had to do much advertising or marketing. We were a ‘preferred agency’. But when he left earlier this year to go to work for a larger company, we found ourselves scrambling to make up the potential loss. That’s when I added marketing as a growth goal to help us uncover new prospective clients.”
Enlist key members of your sales and customer service teams to help you create your SWOT. Use that time to also bounce goal ideas off the group. Their feedback will be invaluable – and they now have ‘skin in the game’ as investors in your goals.
For example, one agency wanted to improve their customer service ratings, but they used an automated phone tree that passed customers from level to level before they could finally speak with a live person. By the time a CSR took the call, it was nearly impossible to move that customer from being irate back to satisfied. Client services can point out this and other roadblocks when you enlist their help.
Consider these five goals to grow your insurance agency
Now that we’ve laid the groundwork, here are five goals (with examples) you should consider:
- Sales growth: This year, we will grow our sales by __ percent or by __ percent per month. We will do this by:
– Adding these new services (list them)
– Increasing our cross-selling to existing customers by __percent
- Client retention: This year, we will increase our client retention from __ percent in 2015 to __ percent in 2016. We will do this by:
– Surveying our clients to see what we’re doing well, what we’re doing not-so-well, and how we can improve
– Embark on a customer appreciation campaign
– Create a customer referral appreciation campaign
- Marketing: This year we will increase qualified leads by __ percent to our sales team by:
– Improvements to our website, email marketing and inbound marketing
– Creating campaigns that run 1-3 months that include multiple channels such as direct mail, special events, webinars, local community events, social media, print materials and more
- Staff development and retention: This year, we will grow our staff through:
– Recruitment of __ new sales and __ new CSRs, and development of new hire training
– Further development and training of the sales and customer service teams
– Motivate teams to achieve quarterly goals with incentives tied to their goals
– Retain staff through culture-building events and initiatives
- Carrier and Program Managers relationship growth: This year, we will solidify our relationships with existing carriers, MGAs and Program Managers – and look for new relationships that can extend our reach
Once you’ve determined your five (or more) goals, your work has only just begun. It’s time to break them into manageable, doable quarterly goals. You know the old saying, “How do you swallow an elephant? One bite at a time.” The same holds true for your goals. Bite-sized quarterly goals are easier to plan and strategize for.
Lay down strategies to help you meet your growth goals
Again, enlist the help of your star sales and client services people, along with your marketing and HR reps, if you employ these folks. They can help you set priorities and quarterly strategies, and then list the various tactics that will help your insurance agency meet those growth goals.
“You hired them as functional experts, and their perspective is critical,” said Pam Horan, president of Online Publishers Association as quoted in a FastCompany.com article. “As the business leader, you have to drive the final decision but their input should be where you begin.”
Start now by creating your SWOT analysis with the help of a hand-picked team. Once you have a final analysis, share it with your team and begin building your goals – both annual and quarterly. After goals are set, then assign them to create quarterly strategies for their groups. When all strategies are determined, then they can help create the various tactics, activities, events, purchases, etc. that will be needed each quarter. Before you know it, you’ll have a specific, manageable, achievable, relevant and time-lined set of goals all ready to launch your agency into the new year.
While planning ahead for the year, now’s the time to also create your business continuity plan. Learn more here.