Marketing will rock the independent agency world in 2016

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Insurance agency marketing and branding will emerge as the clear point of delineation between agency competitors in the coming year. It’s going to create ripples through the industry like we’ve never seen before, and it will be the single most critical contributor to agency success.

Marketing has largely been swept aside as unnecessary. But old-fashioned ways of thinking about marketing and a lack of understanding about branding have made it seem unnecessary.

Defining brand: Your brand is the essence of who you are; it’s the soul of your agency. Your brand is a reflection of your organization and its culture; your values and what drives choices and behaviors; and the clients with whom you choose to work and how you choose to work with them. When properly defined and communicated, your brand pulls your audience to you.

Also see:Communication and education are more than just buzzwords.

Defining marketing: Marketing is the communication that tells your audience why they may want to be a part of what you offer. It shows your employees and clients what drives your business. Those who share your drive and are compelled by your message will want to either be a part of what you’re building or will want to have you be a part of what they’re building. Those who aren’t compelled by your message will move on. Better for them and you.

Content-driven marketing is key.Stop using marketing to sell and start using it to educate.

We’re not talking about self-serving ads, billboards and direct mailers anymore. Now we’re talking about quality content marketing through websites, blogs, LinkedIn pages, speaking engagements and thought-provoking emails. Focus on educating readers and teaching something new about their business.

Agencies must school themselves in what educational marketing means to their agency, sales process and client experience. The game has changed and you need to learn the new rules.

The great divide

Agencies will become divided into those who “get it” and those who don’t.

Those who don’t make the change will find themselves actually losing ground because clients will find nothing compelling.

Agencies who “get it” will undergo a seismic shift, creating content to connect through empathy with their audience. They’ll see marketing become an active part of the sales process, setting conversations up for success. They will feel in control and empowered.

It’s going to be shocking how quickly these agencies move ahead — far ahead of their competition — because this content compounds and lives as an ongoing resource to share socially. Talk about creating a competitive advantage.

Also see:Social sellers trump offline peers in engagement and quotas.”

When the organization has a clear purpose, so does everyone on the team.

Embracing clear, defined, consistent communication as the first step of any activity — from selling to recruiting to internal changes — is going to be the clear differentiator between those who thrive and those who slip into irrelevance.

Your brand definition and internal communication come first and that message has to be the filter and the definitive word — period.

Agencies have to make difficult decisions about people they hire, clients they accept, and services they offer. These decisions aren’t for the faint of heart, but they are critical for those hell bent on surviving.

Keneipp is a partner and coach at Q4intelligence, driving agency transformation. Learn more at Reach her at, on LinkedIn, or Twitter @WendyKeneipp.

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