As we enter the sixth month of the global COVID pandemic, some businesses have already failed and others are weakened and will fail in the next few months. In the insurance industry we've been lucky, because everyone still needs our product and it is relatively easy to continue our operations even if we must do it virtually, because we're highly automated industry. Other industries have not been so fortunate, and they've had to re-engineer. As an example, dine-in restaurants have become experts at carryout and delivery and some have become local grocery stores.
Many businesses have had to re-engineer themselves in order to survive. While the insurance agency business has not had to be re-engineered, perhaps this is the ideal time to do just that.
One way to re-engineer your business is simply to reimagine what your marketplace looks like. If your agency is like most, you sell almost all of your business within a very small geographic radius; this is what the traditional agency does. With consumers increasingly reliant on research, purchasing through the internet, and most people becoming very comfortable with video communication technologies like Zoom, it's now possible to reimagine your agency as a regional or even national business. The barrier to entry to a wider marketplace is ridiculously low. It only requires an internet connection and around a $100 investment in a nonresident license.
It's also not a hard strategy to execute. Whatever marketing you're doing online can be expanded to new territory for very little money. Or if you market in more traditional ways, you merely must expand that marketing to new zip codes. The most effective way to expand your market is with niche marketing. As you think about your current book of business, is there an area in which you have a specialization? Perhaps it's in a certain kind of business or it may be as simple as an income stratum for personal lines accounts. Regardless of what it is, it has never been easier to expand your agency geographically than right now.
Another way to re-engineer your business that has become eminently practical today is to go virtual. Independent agencies have never needed an office for marketing reasons. Very few clients ever come to see the agency. The only reason that agents have traditionally had offices is their need to provide a place for people to work. What COVID has shown is that offices are no longer necessary. In fact, many insurance organizations, mine included, have discovered that they are more productive in a virtual setting than in the office. They have discovered that managing employees using KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) is more effective than managing them by attendance. Tools like Microsoft Teams and Slack make interoffice communications instant and easy.
With all this new capability and successful trial runs completed in the spring as many agencies became virtual, you could consider re-engineering your operation to be completely virtual. The advantage is not only productivity, it's also cost savings. Those savings in expenses for office space and related costs can be shifted into marketing to grow the agency. Whether you move your agency 100% virtual or a large part of it virtual, this may be the time to re-engineer the fundamentals of the way you do business.
Another re-engineering possibility isn't new, but perhaps now is the time for implementation. If you're an exclusively personal insurance agency this may be the time to add commercial lines capability. Or if you have a personal and commercial insurance agency focused on property and casualty insurance, perhaps now is the time to add employee benefits capability. Broadening your expertise skill sets and product offerings is a great way to re-engineer.
Crisis always creates opportunity. Smart entrepreneurs are always looking for those opportunities that give them an edge. Perhaps COVID's opportunity for you will be fundamental change in the way you operate. It's certainly something worth thinking about. If you'd like to visit with me or any of my colleagues at One Agents Alliance about how re-engineering your agency might work for you, specifically, please feel free to reach out to us.